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By Kristy Siegfried | 29 October, 2019


Venezuela exodus projected to reach 6.5 million next year, conference told. The European Union, UNHCR and IOM have appealed for more support for millions of Venezuelans who have fled their country, and for countries in the region feeling the strain of hosting them. At a two-day conference in Brussels to boost awareness of the needs of countries on the frontline of the exodus, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that UN appeals to respond to the crisis remained underfunded and that “the international community is simply not doing enough”. Eduardo Stein, UNHCR and IOM’s Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, warned that “the challenges for 2020 will be even greater than those faced in 2019”, with the total number of Venezuelans leaving their country expected to climb from 4.5 million to 6.5 million by the end of next year. In a joint statement released at the close of the conference today, the EU, UNHCR and IOM commended the “remarkable solidarity” of countries in the region and called on them to reject intolerance and xenophobia and to preserve access to asylum.

Over 12,000 Syrians flee to Iraq in less than two weeks. Most of the refugees are being sheltered at Bardarash camp, some 150 kilometres east of the Syria-Iraq border, but with the population there now exceeding 11,000 people, more than 800 new arrivals have been transferred to the nearby Gawilan transit centre, according to UNHCR. Spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said UNHCR was working with authorities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq to ready other locations should they be needed. Médecins Sans Frontières, which has opened a health-care centre at Bardarash camp, said that many of the new arrivals were showing symptoms linked to depression and anxiety and that some had early symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Many said they feared for family members left behind in Syria and were worried about their future.


A local conflict flares in DR Congo’s South Kivu. More than 200,000 people have fled fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s South Kivu highlands in recent months, including some 35,000 since September, according to the UN. The New Humanitarian reports that clashes between a coalition of militias, known as the Mai Mai, and the Banyamulenge, a cattle-herding group of Rwandan origin, have intensified in recent weeks and drawn closer to Minembwe town, where thousands of displaced Banyamulenge have sought protection around a UN peacekeeping base. More than 100 villages, most of them Banyamulenge, have been burnt, while the mass theft of cattle has destroyed livelihoods.

Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata dies. The family of Sadako Ogata, who led UNHCR from 1991 to 2000, on Thursday announced her death in Tokyo, Japan, at the age of 92. A respected academic and diplomat, Ogata served as High Commissioner for Refugees during a turbulent decade that saw crises in the Balkans, Iraq, Somalia and the former Soviet Union. From 2003 to 2012, she was the head of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, overseeing Japan’s development assistance. In a statement today, UNHCR’s current chief, Filippo Grandi, said Ogata was “a visionary leader” who had helped the agency play a more prominent role working directly in conflict zones to protect and support refugees and internally displaced people.

Refugee returns from Tanzania to Burundi must be voluntary, says UNHCR. The UN refugee agency repeated its call on Thursday for refugee returns from Tanzania to Burundi to remain voluntary and free from intimidation, following a bilateral agreement between the two governments in August to increase return rates. In a statement, the agency said it had noted mounting pressure on Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers to return home and called on both governments to uphold refugees’ freedom of choice regarding return and to allow UNHCR access on both sides of the border to monitor returns.

How refugees transformed a town in Maine. Somali refugees began arriving in Lewiston, a former mill town in the US state of Maine in 2001. Now 6,000 of the town’s 36,000 residents are African refugees and asylum-seekers. In this long-read for the Christian Science Monitor, Cynthia Anderson, a Lewiston native, tracks how the newcomers have revitalized a town that was in a slow, post-industrial decline and how they have challenged biases in a place with little previous experience of immigration. While some locals still blame the refugees for whatever feels wrong in the town, others view them as the closest thing Lewiston has to a solution to the challenges it faces.


As a young Somali refugee recently resettled to the United States, Anisa Ibrahim was treated at the Harborview Medical Center’s Pediatrics Clinic in Seattle. Now, more than two decades later, she is the clinic’s medical director. She talked to CNN about fighting negative stereotypes and the need to give refugees more opportunities to realize their dreams.


Sadako Ogata was the first Japanese woman to represent her country at the UN and later became the first woman to lead UNHCR.