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By Charlie Dunmore | 25 March, 2022

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

Nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population displaced after a month of war. A month into the war in Ukraine, more than 10 million people – almost a quarter of the country’s population – have fled their homes. More than 3.7 million people have left the country in what has become the fastest exodus globally since World War II. A further 6.5 million have sought safety in other parts of the country after being uprooted during the conflict. UNICEF said more than half of Ukraine’s estimated 7.5 million children have been displaced. Intense fighting continues to trigger further displacement, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said on Thursday. An estimated 13 million people remain stranded in conflict-effected areas or unable to leave their homes due to a lack of alternative options or safe routes out. Briefing journalists on Friday, UNHCR’s Representative in Ukraine, Karolina Lindholm Billing, described a massive humanitarian crisis that is growing by the second. Millions are living in constant fear, with many sheltering in bunkers from indiscriminate shelling and heavy bombardments, she said. It is already clear from the devastating effects of the conflict that the people of Ukraine will require assistance “for years, if not decades” to come, Lindholm Billing added.

Ethiopia declares humanitarian truce to allow aid into Tigray region. Ethiopia’s government on Thursday unilaterally declared an immediate truce in Tigray to allow humanitarian aid into the conflict-hit northern province. The government said in a statement it hoped the truce would “improve the humanitarian situation on the ground and pave the way for the resolution of the conflict”, according to reports. Following the announcement, Reuters reported the provisional authorities in Tigray as saying they would respect the ceasefire provided sufficient aid is delivered to the region “within reasonable time”. A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed hope that the truce would result in an effective end to hostilities and allow humanitarian access to the region, which has been cut off from aid since December 2021. According to the UN, more than 5 million people require urgent humanitarian assistance in Tigray, where stocks of food, fuel and medicines are almost entirely exhausted. Prior to the conflict, the region was host to around 100,000 refugees from neighbouring Eritrea and a similar number of internally displaced Ethiopians.

US announces plan to welcome up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine. US President Joe Biden announced plans on Thursday for the United States to accept up to 100,000 refugees from the war in Ukraine. Administration officials said refugees would be admitted through a variety of legal pathways, including the regular US refugee admissions program and a “humanitarian parole” scheme used to welcome tens of thousands of Afghans last year, the Washington Post reported. It said the latter route would offer newcomers temporary work authorization without a pathway to citizenship, unlike the formal admissions program. “This is not something that Poland or Romania or Germany should carry on their own. This is an international responsibility,” Biden said at a news briefing in Brussels where he made the announcement. The New York Times cited White House officials as saying the initiative would focus on Ukrainians with family in the Unites States, which is home to around a million people of Ukrainian descent. Biden also announced $1 billion in aid to help European countries cope with a humanitarian crisis not seen on the continent since the end of World War II.


STORIES TO WATCH

Number of Nicaraguans in Costa Rica doubles in less than a year. The number of Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica has doubled in the last eight months, UNHCR said on Friday. More than 150,000 Nicaraguans have now sought safety in Costa Rica, equivalent to 3 per cent of the country’s total population. The upwards trend follows major socio-political events in Nicaragua, including the country’s presidential elections in November. The sharp rise risks straining the asylum system and support networks in Costa Rica, which kept its borders open to people seeking international protection throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicaraguans are also increasingly seeking asylum in other countries in the region, including Mexico. UNHCR urged the international community to continue supporting Costa Rica and other countries hosting Nicaraguans.

Thousands continue to flee violence in northern Mozambique. Ongoing violence in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province continues to drive thousands of people from their homes. A series of attacks by non-state armed groups between January and mid-March displaced some 24,000 people in the province’s Nangade region, UNHCR said this week. The most recent displacement comes a year after attacks in Cabo Delgado’s Palma district left dozens dead and displaced tens of thousands of people. With hundreds of families still on the move, displaced people require urgent humanitarian assistance, UNHCR said. The World Food Programme warned on Thursday that a lack of funding meant its nutrition and HIV programmes in Cabo Delgado would cease at the end of March, according to reports. Recent extreme climate events pose additional challenges to both displaced people and host communities in northern Mozambique. UNHCR said this week it was working to assist thousands of families affected by Tropical Cyclone Gombe earlier this month.

UK parliament rejects attempts to amend immigration bill. MPs in the UK’s House of Commons have rejected a series of far-reaching amendments the government’s controversial Nationality and Borders Bill. Proposals by the House of Lords to remove certain clauses from the bill – including those criminalizing asylum seekers who arrive in the UK through irregular routes and those allowing asylum seekers to be transferred to a third country for processing – were rejected by a majority of MPs in a series of votes on Tuesday. Another proposal to cut the time asylum seekers must wait before they can work from 12 to 6 months was also rejected. The legislation will now return to the House of Lords for further deliberation in the coming weeks.


GET INSPIRED

From next season, UNHCR’s logo will appear on the back of the iconic FC Barcelona shirts worn by the men’s and women’s first teams, as part of a new four-year partnership between the agency and its national partner, Spain for UNHCR, with FC Barcelona and the FC Barcelona Foundation. The partnership aims to harness the power of sport to help millions of people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes, including children and young people. In addition, the foundation will make a cash contribution of €400,000 each season towards four UNHCR projects on four continents, and provide sports equipment and the technical expertise of the FC Barcelona Foundation’s sports specialists.


DID YOU KNOW?

The number of Nicaraguans currently seeking protection in Costa Rica is now higher than it was during Central America’s civil wars in the 1980s.