By Charlie Dunmore | 28 May, 2021
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Thousands flee DR Congo volcano eruption. The sudden eruption of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano on Saturday night forced thousands of people to flee their homes near the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Authorities there said 32 people died in incidents linked to the eruption, with UN officials adding that 40 people are still missing and 20,000 were left homeless in the city of 1.5 million. UNHCR is preparing to assist those in need with emergency shelter and relief items. Congolese authorities ordered the partial evacuation of Goma on Thursday, after hundreds of earthquakes shook the city this week and raised fears of another eruption. Following the evacuation order, tens of thousands have left Goma, including several thousand who crossed the border into Rwanda. The UN has also temporarily relocated around 250 non-essential staff from the city to nearby Bukavu.
Pandemic worsens plight of older refugees in Latin America. COVID-19 is increasing the suffering of older people on the move across Latin America, according to a joint assessment by UNHCR and HelpAge International. It shows that older refugees and other forcibly displaced people have experienced a worrying deterioration in their physical and mental wellbeing, nutrition, income, and access to rights and services. Of those surveyed in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Peru, more than 40 per cent said they had not received treatment for prior health conditions during the crisis, and a similar number reported reducing their food intake. Of those who had an income before the pandemic, between a third and a half reported losing their jobs, while 5 per cent of those interviewed had been evicted from their homes.
Hundreds of displaced people detained by military in Tigray. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia Catherine Sozi has condemned the arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment of more than 200 displaced people from camps in the town of Shire in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Following the military-led raids on Monday night, Sozi warned that serious violations of human rights law must be investigated, and the perpetrators brought to justice. US President Joe Biden called for a ceasefire and an end to human rights abuses in Tigray, where more than two million people have been displaced by the conflict to date according to the latest figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
STORIES TO WATCH
UN rights agency calls for urgent actions on rescues in Central Mediterranean. The UN human rights agency, OHCHR, issued a report this week calling for urgent reform of search-and-rescue policies and practices in the central Mediterranean Sea. More than 500 people have died already this year trying to reach Europe, with most departing from Libya. The report called on the Libyan coastguard and EU member states and institutions to do more to protect the rights and lives of those compelled to make the dangerous journey. It added that even on arrival in Europe, many face prolonged or arbitrary detention or lack access to adequate food, water and shelter.
Fear of further instability in Mali after arrest of interim leaders. Renewed political turmoil in Mali, coming just nine months after the ousting of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, has raised fears of fresh instability in the West African nation. The country’s interim President and Prime Minister each resigned on Wednesday following their arrest by the military. Both were released on Thursday, when former military junta leader Col. Assimi Goïta declared himself interim President. Instability in Mali is seen as a threat to regional security in the Sahel region, where multiple crises – including armed conflict, poverty and climate change – have displaced more than two million people inside their own borders. The region also hosts more than 850,000 refugees, mainly from Mali.
Mozambicans report paying bribes to escape northern town. The BBC reports that people trapped in a town in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province say they had to pay bribes to leave the area after it was surrounded by security checkpoints. More than 20,000 people fled to Quitunda following attacks by armed groups on the nearby town of Palma at the end of March. According to the report, two women said they had to pay security forces to board evacuation flights to the regional capital, Pemba, while Human Rights Watch say they spoke to people who also reported paying bribes to leave the area. In a separate report, the BBC spoke to displaced Mozambicans on the remote island of Quirimba off the coast of Cabo Delgado, where more than 9,000 people fled to escape the recent violence and now face a shortage of food and other assistance.
Joseph Allen Ruanto-Ramirez, 35, arrived in the United States as a child from an indigenous community in the Philippines. Today, he is a PhD candidate in cultural studies at the Claremont Graduate University. He conducts research and teaches about the complexities of identity, often drawing on his personal experience as a “queer, Indigenous Asian American refugee,” as he has described himself. He shared his story with UNHCR as part of a feature to mark Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US, where anti-Asian hate crimes have proliferated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Racism, he said, is like seeing another community “as a monster, something you need to be scared of.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Studies have shown that if high-income countries focus only on vaccinating their own populations against COVID-19, global GDP could fall by up to US$9.2 trillion this year alone, with half the losses affecting richer economies.