By Kristy Siegfried | 21 January, 2020
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Children go missing as Central Americans attempt to cross Mexican border. Hundreds of Central American migrants and asylum-seekers waded across the Suchiate River into southern Mexico on Monday after being blocked from crossing en masse over the border bridge. In chaotic scenes, some mothers were separated from young children, according to media reports. Mexican authorities attempted to stop the crossings, but the National Migration Institute said it had detained 402 of the mainly Honduran migrants who managed to cross and would return them to their home countries if their legal status could not be resolved. Over the weekend, at least 2,000 Central Americans were camped in the Guatemalan border town of Tecun Uman hoping to cross into Mexico.
Humanitarian hub in north-eastern Nigeria attacked by militants. Heavily armed militants attacked a facility housing aid workers in north-east Nigeria at the weekend in what the UN described on Monday as the latest in a series of recent incidents targeting humanitarian facilities and staff. While staff managed to escape unharmed, much of the facility was burned down and several UN vehicles were destroyed. Witnesses told Reuters that at least 20 displaced people awaiting assistance were killed in the attack, which took place in the town Ngala, near the border with Cameroon. Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said such incidents were having a “disastrous effect” on vulnerable people who rely on humanitarian assistance. In 2019, over 10,000 people arrived in Ngala, having fled violence in their home areas.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Teenage boy latest to die in Libyan detention centre. The Guardian reports that a 16-year-old Eritrean boy died in Sabaa detention centre in Tripoli on 12 January of an unknown illness that went untreated. The boy had reportedly been in detention for more than a year after attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in April 2018. Other detainees at Sabaa told The Guardian there was not enough food and water and said they had been forced to work for the militia running the facility in return for food. UNHCR said its staff had not been able to visit Sabaa since December due to worsening security conditions. Speaking at an event in Berlin on Thursday, UNHCR’s special envoy for the Central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, explained that the agency’s access to detention centres in Libya was very unpredictable.
UK House of Lords set to vote on amendment to Brexit Bill affecting lone refugee children. The upper house will today debate the government’s decision earlier this month to remove an amendment from the EU withdrawal bill that would have required it to negotiate similar arrangements after Brexit to those currently in place that allow asylum-seekers in Europe to reunite with family members in another EU country. Lord Alf Dubs, who sponsored the amendment, writes that the vote will be hugely important for the rights of unaccompanied refugee children stranded in Calais and on the Greek islands, often in grim conditions. Al Jazeera talked to some of the 400 unaccompanied children living in an overcrowded reception centre for asylum-seekers on the Greek island of Samos, including a handful who hope to join family in the UK.
Conflict and refugee returns fuel Afghanistan displacement. More than 437,000 Afghans fled their homes in 2019 due to fighting, according to figures released last week by the UN’s humanitarian coordination arm, OCHA. Meanwhile, 465,000 Afghan refugees returned to the country from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, OCHA said, and another 22,000 were deported from Turkey. Internal displacement and returns are closely linked in Afghanistan, reports The New Humanitarian, with many Afghan refugees returning to find their homes behind conflict lines. In a January report, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre noted that the majority of returnees “live a life of internal displacement” in rapidly expanding settlements around the capital, Kabul, and other urban areas.
How aid groups map informal refugee settlements in Lebanon. Wired reports on an initiative by Switzerland-based NGO Medair to map the locations of more than 6,000 informal settlements in Lebanon which are home to some 300,000 Syrian refugees. Mapping teams criss-cross the country year-round, stopping at each settlement to speak to residents. The coordinates of new settlements or changes in the population are entered into a database that’s shared with UNHCR and other NGOs. Aid workers heading to the field to distribute aid or respond to emergencies can then download maps via a mobile app. The maps were crucial during last year’s severe winter storms, which left many settlements flooded and in need of fresh mattresses and blankets.
This heart-warming twitter thread describes how local people in the Canadian town of St. Johns, Newfoundland, took action to ensure that a recently resettled Syrian boy could play ice hockey with his classmates.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some 440,000 Afghans returned to their country from Iran in 2019, while 25,300 returned from Pakistan.