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By Kristy Siegfried | 26 February, 2020


Ten schools hit by shelling in one day in Idlib. At least 20 people, including nine children, were killed by strikes in north-west Syria’s Idlib province on Tuesday, according to a Syrian human rights monitor and NGOs. Ten schools, including two nurseries, and the Idlib Central Hospital were hit by air strikes and ground attacks. Save the Children said classes were underway at some of the schools, while others had finished for the day or were being used as shelters for the displaced. One girl was killed outside her school, and dozens of other children were injured. At least three teachers were also killed, along with four people who were sheltering at a school. According to Save the Children, 22 schools in the region have been hit by strikes since the start of the year. “Schools must be safe havens for children, even in a conflict zone,” said Bill Chambers, Save the Children’s president and CEO. “Today’s attacks are another sign that fighting in north-west Syria has reached catastrophic levels of violence against children and civilians which go far beyond what is acceptable in conflict.”

EU asylum requests increase with more applications from Latin Americans. More than 714,000 people applied for asylum in EU Member States in 2019, an increase of 13 per cent over 2018, a report by the European Asylum Support Office released today showed. EASO said it was the first time since the peak in refugee arrivals in 2015 that applications had increased from the previous year. The report largely attributed the increase to asylum-seekers from Latin American countries with visa-free access to the Schengen zone. The number of Venezuelan applicants, for example, roughly doubled between 2018 and 2019 to reach more than 45,000, making Venezuela the third biggest country of origin after Syria and Afghanistan. Applications from Afghans also increased substantially, particularly in the second half of the year. EASO said irregular arrivals of asylum-seekers were down from 2018. One third of those making asylum claims were granted some form of protection, similar to recognition rates in 2018.


Greek islanders strike as protests against new reception centres intensify. The Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos staged a general strike today as protests against the construction of new centres for asylum-seekers intensified. All regional and municipal authorities and most businesses were shut. AFP reports that protesters on Lesvos faced off against riot police for a second day near the town of Mantamados, close to the site of one of the planned centres. Small groups of protesters reportedly threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas and flash grenades. After weeks of fruitless talks with local officials, the government on Tuesday shipped riot police and excavating machines to Lesvos and Chios.

Locust outbreak spreads to eastern DR Congo. UN agencies said on Tuesday that a swarm of desert locusts arrived on the western shore of Lake Albert, near the town of Bunia in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Friday. It is the first time the insects have been seen in the DRC since 1944. Their impact could be devastating in a region of the country already grappling with Ebola, conflict, high levels of displacement and chronic food insecurity, UN officials said in a joint statement. Locust swarms have moved rapidly across East Africa since January, affecting more and more countries. Last week, a swarm crossed into South Sudan, a country where roughly half the population already faces hunger after years of civil war. “The time to act is now,” said the UN officials, warning that governments need urgent help to control the pests before the next generation hatch and take flight.

Digitally connected schools to benefit half a million refugee children. Instant Network Schools, a programme set up by the Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR in 2013 to give young refugees, host communities and their teachers access to digital learning, received a boost on Tuesday as footballer Mohamed Salah became its first ambassador. Plans were also announced to expand the programme to reach 500,000 refugee and host community students and 10,000 teachers with the addition of 255 Instant Network Schools by 2025, including 20 schools planned this year. The project transforms existing classrooms into online learning hubs with internet connectivity, solar power and a teacher training programme.

Afghan refugee pursues dream of boxing at Tokyo Olympics. Young Afghan refugee and boxer Farid Walizadeh will compete in a qualifying tournament in London next month in a bid to join the IOC Refugee Olympic Team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in July. Walizadeh fled his hometown in Afghanistan at the age of seven and ended up in an orphanage in Istanbul for several years, where he learned kung-fu and taekwondo to defend himself against bullies. UNHCR then resettled him to Portugal, where he was taken in by an NGO that cares for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. After taking up boxing, he became the national cadet boxing champion after only five months. Last March, he received a scholarship from the International Olympic Committee to train full-time for the 2020 games. “I want to show people there’s always a second chance if they want it,” he told Reuters.


Dr Joseph Shnoudi provides free medical treatment to 100 refugees a day at the UNHCR-supported Caritas Clinic in Amman, the Jordanian capital. “We help anyone who comes to us, of any nationality,” he said. The rising cost of health services in Jordan has put medical treatment out of reach for many refugees.


More than half a million children are among some 948,000 people displaced by violence in north-west Syria since 1 December.