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By Kristy Siegfried | 3 October, 2019


Refugees decry conditions at Greek island camp. Reuters spoke to refugees and migrants staying at the Moria reception centre on the Greek island of Lesvos, where a fire at the weekend killed one woman. An Afghan family said they were having to share a tent with 16 people in an overflow camp outside the reception centre. Others spoke of illness, lack of food, water and safety, and fights in food queues. UNHCR this week renewed calls for the government to address dangerously overcrowded conditions on the islands. The agency’s head on Lesvos, Astrid Castelein, told Reuters that “the situation is really critical”. The Greek daily, Kathimerini, reports that Greek migration minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos is in Ankara today to discuss the recent spike in arrivals to the Greek islands with his Turkish counterpart. The two ministers are expected to focus on implementation of the 2016 EU-Turkey statement, which aimed to reduce movements of refugees and migrants from Turkey to Greece.

UN refugee agency takes up case of potential stateless in India. The UN Refugee Agency said on Wednesday it was holding talks with India about its citizenship register in the border state of Assam, amid concerns that nearly 2 million people left off the list, the majority of them Muslims, could be rendered stateless. Indian authorities released the list on 31 August and gave those excluded from it 120 days to prove their citizenship to regional quasi-judicial bodies. “We need to see what happens at the end of this process and whether there will be people still exposed to statelessness,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told a news conference. The agency is midway through a 10-year campaign to reduce statelessness worldwide.


More support needed for refugees and host communities in Uganda. A new report by the World Bank Group comparing living conditions and the socio-economic status of refugees and host communities in different regions of Uganda finds that about half of the refugee population is living in poverty, compared to 17 per cent of the host population. The report finds that refugees have similar access to education and health care as their hosts, while refugees often have better access to water and sanitation than local households. The report’s recommendations include intensifying efforts to help refugees become more self-reliant and improving access to basic services in host communities.

A young couple joins Venezuela’s exodus. The Wall Street Journal followed a young Venezuelan couple as they prepared to leave their country after years of seeing the value of their wages as nurses dwindle, losing family members to gang violence, and watching others leave for neighbouring countries. After a 10-month wait, they secure work visas for Chile, where a relative is already living. A loan from a friend in the United States helps pay for bus tickets to the Colombian border and flights to Santiago. But leaving means saying goodbye to relatives too old to make the journey themselves.

Spanish fisherman vows to keep saving lives at sea. Spanish fisherman Pascal Durá recalls the night in November 2018 when his fishing boat encountered a rubber dinghy packed with people just outside Libyan waters. He quickly made the decision to bring them on board, saving their lives. His father, also a fisherman, had carried out several similar rescues more than a decade earlier, rescuing almost 100 people in total. While back in their hometown, father and son were hailed as local heroes, both men endured long waits at sea while European countries initially declined to give them permission to disembark their passengers. Despite his ordeal, Durá told UNHCR that if he encountered more people stranded at sea, he would not hesitate to make the same decision.


The winner of this year’s UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, Azizbek Ashurov, writes for The Independent about his first-hand experience of statelessness and his work in Kyrgyzstan helping over 13,000 stateless people gain nationality. “Being stateless sounds like a dull bureaucratic term but its effects can be devastating,” he writes. “As a citizen of nowhere, you don’t have the right to participate in the society you live in.”


Uganda is hosting 1.3 million refugees, more than any other country in Africa. The majority (63 per cent) are from South Sudan.