By Kristy Siegfried | 24 September, 2021
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Conditions worsen for Haitian migrants and asylum-seekers on the move. Conditions deteriorated this week on both sides of the US-Mexico border, where thousands of mostly Haitian migrants and asylum-seekers have gathered. At one point as many as 14,000 people were staying at a makeshift camp under the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas, but US authorities moved thousands away for immigration processing and since Sunday have deported more than 2,000 people, including families, according to the New York Times. Some have been released in south Texas, but the US government has said it will continue to fly people back to Haiti, which has been hit by recent political turmoil and natural disasters. Others have been expelled back into Mexico under the emergency public health order known as Title 42, and some have reportedly chosen to cross back into Mexico due to the poor conditions on the US side. Commenting on the situation, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said the mass expulsions without screening individuals for their protection needs may contravene international law and constitute forced returns. He reiterated the agency’s call for the US to lift the Title 42 restrictions. Meanwhile, AFP reports that another 19,000 people, mainly Haitians, are stuck on the north coast of Colombia, in the town of Necocli, waiting to board boats to Panama. Once across, many make the dangerous trek on foot through the Darien Gap.
UN calls for investigation into deaths and assistance to those stranded at Poland-Belarus border. Polish authorities said three people were found dead from hypothermia and exhaustion on the Polish side of its border with Belarus on 18 September, and that a fourth body was found on the Belarus side the following day. Since then another death was reported on the Polish side. Several more people found along other parts of the border were admitted to hospital to be treated for exhaustion and hypothermia, according to Polish border guards. UNHCR and IOM called for an immediate investigation into the deaths and access to those stranded to avoid further loss of life as winter approaches and temperatures drop. The two agencies expressed deep concern about ongoing reports of pushbacks of asylum-seekers and migrants transiting through Belarus to seek asylum in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. The three countries have all recently declared states of emergency at their borders with Belarus, effectively denying access to anyone besides border guards and security services. A group of 32 Afghans who have been stuck at the border for more than 40 days have received humanitarian assistance from UNHCR, but efforts to follow up on reports of others stranded at the border have been hampered by the difficulty of tracking their whereabouts.
Hundreds of thousands hit by flooding in Sudan and South Sudan. Heavy rainfall and flash floods have affected over 300,000 people in 14 out of Sudan’s 18 states, according to the UN. Another 426,000 people in neighbouring South Sudan have been affected or displaced by overflowing rivers and submerged homes and farms. In Sudan, those affected include South Sudanese refugees living in camps in White Nile State. AFP reports that thousands of the refugees have been relocated to different camps, while others have taken shelter in villages, but adds that many are now homeless and at risk from outbreaks of diseases, including malaria. Both Sudan and South Sudan were hit by severe flooding last year. According to the UN, around 100,000 of those displaced by last year’s flooding in South Sudan had still not returned home when this year’s downpours began. Funding shortages are complicating the humanitarian response. Earlier this month, the World Food Programme was forced to suspend food assistance to over 100,000 displaced people in South Sudan and warned of further reductions unless it received more cash.
STORIES TO WATCH
Famine-like conditions worsen in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray. More than 10 months into the conflict that began in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, AP and Al Jazeera report that deaths from starvation are occurring in a number of districts, and include people displaced by the fighting. For months, the UN has warned of a hunger crisis in the region and the need for more humanitarian aid to be allowed in, but deliveries of such assistance remain “heavily constrained”. According to the latest update from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only 62 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies were allowed into Tigray on 20 September, the first such convoy since 7 September. The UN estimates that 100 trucks with food and fuel are needed to reach Tigray every day to meet needs on the ground. Al Jazeera reports that famine-like conditions, which were limited to rural areas, have now reached the outskirts of the capital, Mekelle, where the main hospital is treating children with severe acute malnutrition.
Biden administration seeks to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000. President Biden intends to double to 125,000 the number of refugees who can enter the United States in the fiscal year starting 1 October, the State Department announced on Monday. Refugee advocates welcomed Monday’s announcement but noted that government agencies and non-profit resettlement agencies will need additional staff and resources to process more refugees for resettlement. Biden raised the refugee admissions cap from 15,000 set by former President Donald Trump, to 62,500 in May, but only about 7,500 have been resettled in the United States this year, according to the New York Times. UNHCR said that if Biden signs the target for refugee resettlement, after consulting with Congress, it would send a clear signal to the world about the importance of sharing responsibility for the needs of refugees and would “keep hope alive” for millions of refugees around the world.
Thousands flee fighting in Myanmar. Reuters reports that most of the population of a town in Myanmar’s Chin State near the border with India have fled clashes between the military and militia forces opposed to military rule. Most of the town of Thantlang’s 10,000 residents sought shelter in nearby villages, while several hundred reportedly headed towards India. Several thousand people from Myanmar arrived in India’s neighbouring state of Mizoram over past week, according to a civil society group. Addressing the Human Rights Council on Wednesday, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, said there had been a deadly escalation of armed conflict that had resulted in the deaths of more than 1,100 people and the displacement of more than 230,000 civilians since 1 February.
Over the last four years, Nigerian refugees and local host communities in northern Cameroon have planted 360,000 trees, transforming their once desert-like surroundings. The project is part of the “Great Green Wall” initiative, which aims to grow an 8,000-kilometre barrier to combat desertification and drought in the Sahel.
DID YOU KNOW?
Out of an estimated population of 7 million people in Ethiopia’s Tigray, some 5.2 million are in need of emergency food assistance.