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By Kristy Siegfried | 22 November, 2019


Surge in violence hindering access to displaced in Burkina Faso. A sharp increase in attacks by militants is forcing thousands more people to flee their homes in north-eastern parts of Burkina Faso. In a briefing today, UNHCR said the total number of those displaced could reach 650,000 by the end of the year. According to people fleeing the violence, extremists are forcibly recruiting male residents of villages and killing those who resist. Many are seeking refuge in the town of Dori, close to the border with Mali and Niger. UNHCR said it was particularly concerned about the fate of people living in the north-eastern border town of Djibo, including some 7,000 Malian refugees. Access to the town was cut off in early November after a series of attacks. Spokesperson Babar Baloch said displaced families are in desperate need of food, water and shelter, with many people sleeping in the open. Earlier this week, the UN food agency warned of rising malnutrition levels in Burkina Faso, with one in five displaced children affected.

Spike in boat departures from Libya and Turkey. At least nine boats carrying more than 600 people were spotted in the Central Mediterranean between Tuesday and Thursday, while a tenth boat arrived at the Italian island of Lampedusa. The increase in departures from Libya coincides with heavy shelling in the capital, Tripoli, and improved weather conditions. The Libyan Coast Guard intercepted several of the boats, returning 289 people to shore, according to IOM, which said the passengers were all transferred to a detention centre after receiving emergency assistance. Staff described them as “vulnerable and scared”. Two NGO ships, the Open Arms and the Ocean Viking, rescued another 287 people, while 43 others were picked up by Tunisian authorities. There are unverified reports that another boat sank with dozens of people on board. Meanwhile, Greece’s coast guard said today that it had rescued 400 people in the last 24 hours in 10 different incidents at sea near the city of Alexandroupolis and the islands of Lesvos and Chios.


US begins sending asylum-seekers to Guatemala. A Honduran man was flown from El Paso, Texas, to Guatemala City on Thursday, the first asylum-seeker to be sent there under a bilateral agreement between the United States and Guatemala, reports CNN. Newly appointed acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf confirmed that flights had begun as part of a “phased-in process”. Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart told Reuters his government would process anybody who wanted to apply for asylum, but that he expected some of the asylum-seekers would opt to return home. He added that more flights from the US carrying asylum-seekers are expected next week. UNHCR on Tuesday expressed “serious concerns” about the new policy.

Thousands of Central African Republic refugees to return home from DR Congo. A group of 400 refugees left Mole refugee camp in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo for Bangui, the Central African Republic’s capital, on Thursday. They were the first among 4,000 CAR refugees who have signed up for help to return home from the DRC by the end of the year. UNHCR said today that it plans to assist some 25,000 CAR refugees in returning home by the end of 2020 as part of a voluntary repatriation programme agreed with the governments of the DRC and CAR in June. A similar programme of voluntary returns of CAR refugees got underway recently in Cameroon.

EU rights court fines Russia for stranding asylum-seekers in airport. The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that Russia violated the rights of four asylum-seekers who were stranded for months in the transit zone of a Moscow airport. The men – a Syrian, an Iraqi, a Palestinian and a Somali – were forced to stay in Sheremetyevo Airport’s boarding area between 2015 and 2017 while awaiting a decision on their asylum claims. They spent between five and 22 months sleeping on mattresses on the floor and relying on emergency rations supplied by UNHCR. The court ruled that the asylum-seekers had been deprived of their freedom and exposed to inhumane living conditions and ordered Russia to pay them compensation.

Australia sets target for half of new refugees to be settled outside major cities. The Australian government has set a goal of setting 50 per cent of newly arrived refugees in “regional” areas by 2022 and boosting support to aid their integration. A newly appointed coordinator for migrant services will be asked to promote a “strong positive narrative” around refugees and oversee settlement services. The changes come in response to seven recommendations made in a review of Australia’s refugee resettlement programme by former public servant Peter Shergold. Immigration Minister David Coleman said the successful settlement of refugees was in the interests of the broader Australian community as well as the refugees themselves.


Minwer Albashan, his wife Wafaa and their three children were one of five Syrian families to arrive in Spain’s northern Basque region earlier this year as part of a pilot community sponsorship programme. Their sponsors are helping them with all the practicalities of settling into their new lives. Just as importantly, they’ve also made them feel welcome. “When I got to know the group, I felt that I had another family in Spain,” says Minwer.


Currently, all 13 of Burkina Faso’s regions are hosting people who have fled violence. The Centre-Nord region is hosting the largest number, with more than 196,000 displaced people in one province alone.