By Kristy Siegfried | 26 November, 2021
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Shipwreck in English Channel claims 27 lives. At least 27 people died on Wednesday, including a pregnant woman and three children, when their packed inflatable dinghy sank in the English Channel in the worst tragedy to date in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Crossings by boat between France and the United Kingdom have tripled this year compared to 2020, with more than 25,700 people undertaking the journey since January. Hundreds of people live in precarious conditions along the French coast. Previously, many stowed away in trucks to reach the UK, but recent measures by French and British authorities have made this option more difficult. A statement from UNHCR noted that many of those in Calais and elsewhere along the coast come from conflict-affected countries and need access to international protection. UNHCR said a coordinated response was needed on both sides of the Channel to save lives at sea, provide dignified reception centres and to expand “safe and predictable routes to safety for refugees”. French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have both expressed horror at the tragedy and agreed to step up joint efforts to prevent the sea crossings but have also accused each other of not doing enough. Planned weekend talks between ministers from several EU States hosted by France that were to include UK Home Secretary Priti Patel are now slated to go ahead without her.
Rising flood waters threaten camp for displaced in South Sudan. The Telegraph reports that a camp for internally displaced people in South Sudan is surrounded on all sides by rising flood waters. Mud dikes have so far kept the water back, but aid workers told the Telegraph that water levels have been rising daily and the dikes could soon be breached. Bentiu camp in South Sudan’s northern Unity State usually houses around 100,000 people displaced by conflict but the camp’s population has reportedly swelled to 120,000 as people have fled there from surrounded waterlogged areas. Across South Sudan, over 800,000 people have been affected by flooding which has hit eight out of 10 states since May. Unity State has been particularly hard hit with an estimated 32,000 people forced to flee their flooded villages now living in four makeshift camps in Bentiu town, according to Médecins Sans Frontières. Both MSF and UNICEF warned this week that the floodwaters were breeding grounds for outbreaks of waterborne and infectious diseases.
Asylum seekers evacuated from Libya to Italy. A group of 93 asylum seekers who had been living in precarious conditions in Libya were evacuated to Italy on Thursday in the first such flight between the two countries in two years. The evacuees were the first of 500 who will be airlifted to Rome on UNHCR charter flights under a new mechanism which combines emergency evacuations with the humanitarian corridors that have been established in Italy since 2016. UNHCR said a total of five such flights would be organized over the course of one year. After their arrival in Italy, the evacuees will be able to apply for refugee status. Those flown out of Tripoli on Thursday included children, survivors of violence and torture, and people with serious medical conditions. Some had only recently been released from detention while others had been held in captivity by traffickers.
STORIES TO WATCH
Fighting intensifies in Yemen’s Marib. Some 40,000 people have been forced to flee Yemen’s central Marib governorate since September. UNHCR said it was gravely concerned about the safety of civilians in Marib, including more than one million people displaced there from other parts of Yemen since the start of the conflict. Fighting is moving closer to densely populated areas, endangering lives and access to humanitarian aid, according to UNHCR which said rocket strikes near sites hosting displaced people were causing fear and panic and forcing more people to flee their homes. Staff report that the sound of heavy fighting in the mountains surrounding Marib City can be heard day and night. A new UN Development Programme report released this week projected that by the end of 2021, Yemen’s war will have claimed 377,000 lives. Nearly 60 per cent of the deaths will have been caused by indirect impacts such as lack of safe drinking water, hunger and disease.
Cambodian refugees jailed after being deported by Thailand. Three Cambodian refugees deported by Thailand have been jailed on charges of conspiracy and incitement, police said on Monday, as pressure grows on Thailand to protect activists at risk of persecution back home. Two of the refugees were returned earlier this month while a third was sent back to Cambodia on Saturday. All three were members of Cambodia’s disbanded opposition party. UNHCR said the deportations contravene “the principle of non-refoulement, which obliges States – including Thailand – not to expel or return people to a territory where their life or freedom would be threatened”. Al Jazeera reports that violence against political dissidents has surged in Cambodia with another activist slashed to death in Phnom Penh on Sunday.
Dozens killed in clashes in Sudan’s Darfur. At least 43 people have been killed and 46 villages burned and looted during fighting between Arab nomads and farmers in the Jebel Moon area of Sudan’s western Darfur region. The fighting broke out on 17 November, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which said some 4,300 people have been displaced from the area with some fleeing to nearby villages and others crossing the border into Chad. The UN mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) said it had received reports of women and girls being raped during the violence and of 20 children missing. UNITAMS said clashes had also been reported in several areas of North Darfur. In January, violence in Darfur killed 470 people in one of the worst episodes since the conflict there in the 2000s.
Americans sat down to Thanksgiving celebrations with refugees and asylum seekers across the United States this week, among them Arizona Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz. He opened up his home in Scottsdale to newly arrived families from Afghanistan and Venezuela, calling the feast a “chance to hear their stories and more deeply connect with them and the needs they have, so we can be advocates for them at large.”
DID YOU KNOW?
One in five forcibly displaced women have experienced sexual violence.