By Kristy Siegfried | 26 June, 2020
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Indonesian fishermen rescue nearly 100 Rohingya adrift at sea. A group of 99 Rohingya were found aboard a sinking boat off the coast of Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh by fishermen late on Monday. They were weak from hunger and dehydrated, according to the local police chief. It was not clear whether they had travelled from Myanmar or Bangladesh. Local officials initially refused to allow the group to disembark, citing coronavirus concerns, but local people reportedly protested until authorities allowed the group, which included 48 women and 34 children, to come ashore on Thursday. UNHCR said it was present in the area and ready to work with the authorities in providing any needed assistance to the group which it said had been at sea for months. Earlier this month, Malaysian coast guards rescued 269 Rohingya from a vessel near the island of Langkawi, where they remain in detention. Those rescued said that dozens of other passengers had died at sea.
Yemen sees COVID-19 cases surge as aid dries up. Several senior UN officials warned this week that Yemen is facing multiple humanitarian crises amid a major shortfall in aid funding. The UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, told a closed Security Council meeting on Wednesday that the coronavirus was spreading rapidly across Yemen and that about a quarter of the country’s confirmed cases had died – “five times the global average”. Lowcock said the virus was “adding one more layer of misery upon many others”, including the country’s long-running conflict and rising food prices. UNHCR’s representative in Yemen, Jean-Nicolas Beuze, told Al Jazeera that unless additional funding was found, his agency would have to “drastically reduce” the number of beneficiaries helped with emergency shelter, cash assistance and other programmes. Today, UNICEF said the aid shortfall could increase the number of malnourished children to 2.4 million by the end of the year, a 20 per cent increase. A virtual pledging conference for Yemen earlier this month raised about half of what was pledged last year and was far below what was needed to keep humanitarian programmes running, according to Lowcock.
Investigation into sexual harassment allegations at Cyprus reception centre. Cyprus has launched a criminal investigation into allegations that unaccompanied minors staying at a refugee reception centre have been sexually harassed by adult residents. Complaints emerged on Monday that several boys had been sexually harassed while staying at the Pournara camp in Kokkinotrimithia. UNHCR said in a statement that the interior ministry, which manages the camp, had not implemented a plan to create a “safe zone” for minors in the camp and that boys and girls were sharing facilities, such as showers, with adults. A UNHCR representative has volunteered to give testimony regarding the case while two of the children have been moved out of the camp.
ONE QUESTION FOR…
Rebecca Liron, Associate Community-Based Protection Officer in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
How is lack of funding for humanitarian programmes impacting the assistance UNHCR is able to provide to vulnerable displaced people in eastern DRC?
“In South Kivu Province, some of our recent work has shifted during COVID-19, turning transit centres into isolation centres, and more. The pandemic has brought many challenges to our work, and we are constantly adapting to continue to meet the needs of refugees and internally displaced people. Not only that; refugees, displaced persons and host communities are often finding solutions themselves to fill the gaps.
“That said, even with all our creativity and adapting to the circumstances, our response to bring aid to those in need is seriously undermined by the lack of funding. I hope more financial support will be provided because for us working in the field, it is really hard to accept that we have difficulties to even meet minimum standards in health, water and sanitation, education and other basic needs.”
STORIES TO WATCH
Brussels conference to seek more support for Syrian refugees and host countries. Ahead of a virtual donor conference in Brussels hosted by the European Union next Tuesday, UNHCR has called on the international community to provide “extraordinary support” to help refugees and host communities facing increasing levels of poverty. An economic downturn exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic has hit several countries in the region that have been hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees for years. UNHCR also highlighted the dramatic reduction in global resettlement places for Syrian and other refugees in recent years, noting that the outlook for 2020 and beyond suggested a “continuing downward trend”.
Refugees struggle to find housing after leaving Greek reception centres. The Guardian reports that a growing number of recognized refugees are camping in Victoria Square in Athens after having to leave organized accommodation on the islands and on the mainland to make way for more recent arrivals. Earlier this month, UNHCR expressed concerns that refugees were being asked to leave accommodation before being given effective access to employment and social welfare schemes. Stella Nanou, a UNHCR spokesperson in Greece, told The Guardian that the situation highlighted “the lack of emphasis placed on integration” and said that with a little help, “refugees could really give back to the community”.
Soldiers contributing to violence and displacement in Burkina Faso. This investigation by the New York Times alleges that government security forces have contributed to the violence and chaos that has been escalating in Burkina Faso over the past four years, causing 850,000 people to flee their homes. Across the Sahel, military violence against civilians has surged in recent months, according to reports by international security and human rights groups. Soldiers in Mali and Niger, Burkina Faso’s neighbours to the north, are also carrying out targeted killings, a recent UN report found. Volunteer vigilantes, who were given official status and firearms by the Burkina Faso government in January, are alleged to be responsible for some of the attacks. Survivors are scattered around the country in camps or other people’s homes.
When strict lockdown measures came into force in the UK in March, the Johnson family were providing a temporary home to Kaleab, an Eritrean asylum-seeker. He ended up spending the next several months of lockdown with them, an experience the Johnsons describe as “enriching”.
DID YOU KNOW?
In 2019, 26 countries admitted 107,800 refugees for resettlement, including 64,000 with UNHCR’s assistance. This year only 57,600 resettlement places have been made available by states to UNHCR.