By Kristy Siegfried | 23 April, 2021
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
More than 100 people feared dead after reported shipwreck off Libya. At least 120 people are feared dead following reports that their rubber boat capsized in stormy seas off the coast of Libya. According to a statement by the NGO rescue group SOS Méditerranée, the boat had been reported in distress with 130 people on board on Wednesday morning. The SOS Méditerranée’s ship, the Ocean Viking, as well as merchant vessels, headed to the area and found several bodies, but no survivors. The volunteer-run Mediterranean hotline Alarm Phone provided a detailed report of actions they took to alert authorities. The Ocean Viking spent Wednesday searching for another vessel with 40 people on board with no success. This latest tragedy comes a week after at least 41 people died in a shipwreck off the coat of Tunisia. Before this incident, some 391 people had died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year, 290 of them on the Central Mediterranean route between North Africa and Italy. UNHCR and IOM have repeatedly called for State-led search-and-rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean to be expanded.
Climate and displacement on the agenda at Earth Day summit. Addressing a virtual gathering of more than 40 world leaders in an Earth Day climate summit that began on Thursday, U.S. President Biden unveiled a pledge to cut his country’s emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels and called on other countries to raise their ambitions on addressing the climate emergency. The Biden administration also announced a plan to double the amount of funding the US gives to developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Other countries pledged their own emissions-reducing goals, including Japan, Canada and Brazil. Ahead of the summit, UNHCR released a data visualization showing how the climate emergency is converging with other threats to drive new displacement and increase the vulnerability of those already forced to flee. Disasters linked to climate change are already worsening poverty, food insecurity and instability in a number of countries, magnifying the risk of displacement. AP reports that early in his presidency, Biden ordered his national security advisor to examine how people displaced directly or indirectly by climate change can be identified and resettled. A report on his findings is due in August. This week, several media outlets also made the link between extreme weather events in Central America – in particular two back-to-back hurricanes in November – and arrivals of migrants and asylum-seekers at the US southern border.
Thousands flee fresh clashes in Central African Republic. Fighting between government forces and rebel groups in northern CAR has forced more than 2,000 refugees into Chad over the past week, UNHCR said on Tuesday. Those arriving in Chad said they had fled fighting and acts of violence as well as pillaging and extortion by rebel groups as government forces closed in on them. Chad is hosting close to 11,000 of the 117,000 Central African refugees who have fled their country in the wake of violence surrounding presidential elections in December. The majority crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a smaller number into Cameroon. Another 164,000 people have been displaced inside the country during the past four months, bringing the total number of displaced Central Africans to nearly 1.5 million. Chad is facing its own crisis this week following the death of President Idriss Déby, who reportedly died during a battle with rebel fighters seeking to overthrow him, a day after his re-election to a sixth term of office.
STORIES TO WATCH
Refugees in South Africa offered repatriation or reintegration. South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Monday that refugees and asylum-seekers who have been staying at two temporary shelters in Cape Town for just over a year will have until the end of April to either accept voluntary repatriation to their home countries or reintegrate into local communities. The two sites initially housed more than 1,500 refugees and asylum-seekers who began a protest in October 2019 about violence affecting foreign nationals and documentation issues. Local media report that many among the group had already agreed to reintegrate locally with UNHCR support, including food and rent for a period of three months. Others have chosen to return to their countries of origin with UNHCR assistance, leaving about 360 people at the two sites. UNHCR and the South African government launched a project in March to clear a backlog of 153,000 asylum claims by 2024.
Somalia braces for more displacement as drought takes hold. Aid agencies warned this week that drought conditions are spreading throughout Somalia, a country with already high levels of displacement from conflict and disasters. According to the UN, more than 1.3 million Somalis were displaced in 2020, while 112,000 more people were displaced in the first three months of this year, about a third of them due to drought conditions. The Norwegian Refugee Council said the lack of water and pasture was forcing people to abandon their homes and search for better conditions. Last year, flooding was the main driver of displacement. The UN’s 2021 aid appeal for Somalia to assist 4 million people in dire need is only 13 per cent funded.
Denmark faces growing criticism for revoking residency for some Syrian refugees. Denmark is facing growing international criticism for revoking the residency permits of some Syrian refugees, arguing that the Syrian capital, Damascus, and neighbouring regions are safe for them to return to. A 2019 report by the Danish Immigration Service classified these areas as safe, but this week some of the experts and organizations interviewed for the report denounced its conclusions, noting in a letter published by Human Rights Watch that “many of the key drivers of displacement from Syria remain”. The Washington Post reports that since 2019, the Danish Immigration Service has revoked or refused to renew the residency permits of about 200 Syrians from Damascus and Rif Damascus. The Refugee Appeals Board has so far sided with the authorities in 39 cases its reviewed. Without residency permits, refugees cannot legally work or study and rights groups fear they could remain in return centres for months or years because Denmark lacks an agreement with the Syrian government on returns.crossing between New York State and the Canadian province of Quebec. Refugee advocacy groups who brought the case said they had not yet decided whether to bring the matter before Canada’s Supreme Court.
Syrian refugee Ali works as a volunteer at Jordan’s Za’atari camp, scouring the streets for items that can be tossed into his cart and taken for recycling. Every day, he and other volunteers collect 4.2 tonnes of recyclable materials from the camp that are then sold to Jordanian companies. In return, they earn a small income while helping to care for the local environment.
DID YOU KNOW?
Over the past decade, weather-related events triggered an average of 21.5 million new displacements each year – more than twice the number caused by conflict and violence.