By Charlie Dunmore | 29 April, 2022
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
US$1.85 billion needed to help refugees from Ukraine in 2022. UNHCR and its partners this week urged donors to provide US$1.85 billion to support up to 8.3 million refugees who could flee Ukraine by the end of the year. The appeal is part of a Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) involving 142 organizations including UN agencies, national and international NGOs, civil society and others. The plan will support countries already hosting more than 5.3 million refugees in providing access to protection, food security, health care and education, as well as cash assistance to help refugees meet their basic needs. “Until we see an end to this war, humanitarian needs will continue to grow, and displacement will not cease,” UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday. “The scale of refugee arrivals and the breadth of their needs requires further support.” Visiting Kyiv on Thursday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the UN was planning for a worst-case scenario in which up to 25 million people may require humanitarian assistance by the end of the year inside Ukraine, where 7.7 million people have already fled their homes to other parts of the country. Guterres pledged to keep working for an end to the conflict and the establishment of effective humanitarian corridors to give Ukrainians “an escape route out of the apocalypse”.
Fears that new UK immigration law will dramatically weaken refugee protection. New immigration rules adopted by the UK on Thursday will undermine established refugee protection law and practices, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned this week. The UK’s Nationality and Borders Act seeks to deter people from seeking asylum in the country by relegating most refugees to a new, lesser status with few rights and the constant threat of removal. “This latest UK Government decision risks dramatically weakening a system that has for decades provided protection and the chance of a new life to so many desperate people,” Grandi said in a statement following approval of the bill. He also expressed concern at the UK government’s intention to externalize its obligation to protect refugees and asylum seekers after it announced plans to send some migrants to Rwanda for processing of their asylum claims. “Such efforts to shift responsibility run counter to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention, to which the UK is a party,” Grandi added. Earlier this week, lawyers for the UK government announced the withdrawal of plans to force people trying to enter the country on boats via the Channel back to the country of departure, days before a scheduled high court hearing on the policy.
Urgent action needed to prevent soaring deaths on sea routes to Europe. More support is urgently needed to address a rising number of deaths on the main sea routes to Europe, UNHCR warned on Friday, after the number of people who died or went missing attempting the journey rose sharply last year. More than 3,000 people were drowned or lost at sea attempting to reach Europe via the Central and Western Mediterranean and Atlantic routes in 2021, compared with 1,776 the previous year, according to a new report. An additional 478 people have died or gone missing on these routes since the start of this year. Of the 2021 total, 1,924 were lost trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa, while a further 1,153 perished or disappeared attempting to reach the Canary Islands from countries in West Africa. “Most of the sea crossings took place in packed, unseaworthy, inflatable boats – many of which capsized or were deflated leading to the loss of life,” a UNHCR spokesperson said. To address the rising number of fatalities, the agency launched an updated strategy to deliver meaningful alternatives to such dangerous journeys, calling for US$163.5 million to provide humanitarian assistance, support and solutions for people in need of international protection.
STORIES TO WATCH
Surging needs among 35,000 refugees arriving in Uganda since start of 2022. More than 35,000 refugees require critical humanitarian assistance having arrived in Uganda since the start of this year after fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. UNHCR on Friday said US$47.8 million was needed to provide food, shelter, health care and other essential services to the refugees, a third of whom have arrived from the DRC in the past three weeks fleeing fighting in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. UNHCR is working with the Government of Uganda and humanitarian partners to provide assistance in border areas and relocate refugees to safer settlements as soon as possible, the agency added. Uganda already hosts the largest refugee population on the African continent at over 1.5 million refugees –– a figure that could continue to rise amid reports of further violence in South Sudan and eastern DRC.
US judge temporarily blocks phasing out of Title 42 border policy. A federal judge in Louisiana on Wednesday issued a restraining order temporarily blocking the Biden administration from gradually ending pandemic-related border restrictions until the policy is officially lifted. The US government plans to lift Title 42 – a public health order that has seen most migrants, including asylum seekers, turned away from the US border for the past two years – on 23 May. In the meantime, Judge Robert R. Summerhays granted a request supported by more than 20 states to prevent border authorities from taking early steps to disregard Title 42 for certain migrants and process them under immigration procedures. Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has filed a separate case seeking to block the lifting of Title 42. A federal judge in Texas has yet to rule on that case.
States agree to step up support to 1.4 million displaced Central Africans. Ministers from seven countries signed a declaration on Wednesday pledging more concerted action to help nearly 1.4 million people displaced by successive crises in the Central African Republic (CAR). Adopted at a ministerial conference organized by UNHCR in the Cameroonian capital, the Yaoundé Declaration will establish a regional coordination mechanism to provide solutions for Central Africans with the support of the international community. Solutions will include the removal of legal barriers to employment opportunities, training, and access to social services in six neighbouring countries that together host around 700,000 Central African refugees. CAR’s Minister for Humanitarian Action, Virginie Baikoua, thanked partners for their support and reassured them of her country’s determination to restore peace and stability.
In a welcome explosion of music, dancing and costume, Rio’s world-famous Carnival parade returned last week after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining the colourful throng at this year’s extravaganza were 20 refugees from Syria, Angola, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, invited by the Salgueiro samba school as part of a partnership with UNHCR to promote integration of refugees into the country. “For most people, being a refugee seems like something sad, but this is pure happiness,” 30-year-old Congolese refugee Yves Abdalá said after strutting his stuff.
DID YOU KNOW?
With more than 1.4 million people forced to flee successive crises since 2013, the Central African Republic is currently experiencing one of Africa’s largest displacement crises.