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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   | 22 January, 2019


Nearly 400 rescued refugees and migrants returned to Libya. In a statement on Monday, Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, said “393 immigrants picked up by the Libyan Coast Guard yesterday are all safe and sound and have been taken back [to Libya]”. The figure included 144 refugees and migrants who were picked up by a merchant vessel on Sunday after 24 hours at sea. At a press briefing in Geneva on Monday, UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley said the passengers were disembarked last night in Misrata under instructions from the Tripoli Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre. “In Libya’s current context, where outbreaks of violence and widespread human rights violations prevail, no rescued refugees and migrants should be returned there,” said Yaxley, who also highlighted the nearly 170 lives lost in the Mediterranean over the weekend. “Politicians must stop using human beings for political point-scoring, and instead address this as a humanitarian issue, with saving lives the priority,” he said. The returns to Libya came on the same day Human Rights Watch released a report detailing the “extreme abuse” experienced by refugees and migrants held in Libyan detention centres.

WHO study dispels myth that refugees pose health risk to Europe. A new World Health Organization report on the health of refugees and migrants in Europe finds they are likely to be in good overall health when they leave their countries, but risk becoming ill during displacement or transit and may face further threats to their health when they arrive in European host countries due to unhealthy living conditions, poor diet or lack of access to health care. While they were found to be less affected by noncommunicable diseases such as cancer and heart disease on arrival, their risk increased the longer they stayed in conditions of poverty. The study also found that refugees and migrants were more affected by depression and anxiety than host populations.


Nigerians fleeing violence in north-east arrive in Chad. Since 26 December, when clashes erupted between Nigerian government forces and non-state armed groups in Baga town in Nigeria’s restive Borno State, 6,000 people have crossed the border into neighbouring Chad, according to figures released today by UNHCR. Many of the refugees paddled across Lake Chad and arrived in the village of Ngouboua, where efforts are under way to move them to Dar-es-Salam refugee camp, 45 kilometres away. Inside Nigeria, the same clashes have caused massive internal displacement, with 30,000 people fleeing to the state capital, Maiduguri, where the capacity of camps for internally displaced people is already severely stretched.

Thousands of Central Americans apply for humanitarian visas at Mexican border. Al Jazeera reports that immigration officials at Mexico’s border with Guatemala have registered several thousand humanitarian visa applications in the past week. The overwhelming majority are from Honduras, but there are also applicants from El Salvador and Guatemala, and a small number from Nicaragua. Many of the Hondurans are fleeing extreme violence at home. Once processed, the visas will allow the refugees and migrants to live, work and travel in Mexico for a period of one year, with the possibility of renewal. Meanwhile, several hundred more people reportedly left San Pedro Sula in Honduras on Monday morning, hoping to catch up with the caravans that left last week..

Aid agencies fear for those affected by fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Seventeen international NGOs issued a joint statement today expressing deep concern for civilians in Rakhine State affected by the upsurge in fighting between government forces and the Arakan Army. With the exception of the World Food Programme and the Red Cross, aid agencies have been blocked by the government from responding to the needs of some 5,000 displaced people in five townships in northern Rakhine since 10 January. The UN’s human rights expert on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, on Friday described the blocking of aid as “a serious violation of international humanitarian law”.

Little help for traumatized survivors of South Sudan’s conflict. Five years of civil war in South Sudan have not only killed almost 400,000 people, but they’ve also left countless traumatized survivors in their wake, many of whom are displaced and living in camps for refugees or internally displaced people, where conditions can add to the mental and emotional strain. IRIN reports that the government’s entire mental health programme consists of one hospital ward with eight beds and one psychologist. Aid agencies are trying to offer psychological support, but the needs are overwhelming, with more than 40 per cent of people across six states showing symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a 2015 study.


Years after their mother left Eritrea in search of safety, Kedija and Yonas embarked on a quest to find her in Europe. They crossed four countries before being kidnapped and sold to smugglers on the border between Sudan and Libya. UNHCR found them in a Libyan detention centre and helped them to finally reunite with their mother in Switzerland.


Already this year, 4,507 people have crossed to Europe by sea and 185 are dead or missing.