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By Kristy Siegfried | 30 April, 2021

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

Kenya and UNHCR agree on roadmap for Dadaab and Kakuma camps. Kenya said on Thursday that it is working with UNHCR to find solutions for some 430,000 refugees living at two refugee camps that are now scheduled to close by June next year. The announcement came following a meeting in Nairobi between President Uhuru Kenyatta and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. In March, Kenya’s interior ministry gave UNHCR two weeks to come up with a plan for closing the Dadaab and Kakuma camps. UNHCR responded with a roadmap that includes voluntary returns, departures to third countries and options for some refugees from East African Community countries to integrate into Kenyan communities. In a joint statement, the Kenyan government and UNHCR said they would form a team made up of government and UNHCR officials to implement the roadmap. Citing the Global Compact on Refugees, they also expressed agreement that “refugee camps are not a long-term solution to forced displacement” and committed to working together to find alternative solutions. Dadaab was established 30 years ago and hosts nearly 200,000 mostly Somali refugees. Kakuma is in Kenya’s northwest and is home to about 195,000 refugees, mainly from South Sudan.

Clashes in Myanmar’s border regions displace thousands. An attack by ethnic Karen fighters on a Myanmar army outpost near the border with Thailand in Kayin State prompted air strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday that sent some 15,000 villagers fleeing into the forest, reports Reuters. Some reportedly sought refuge on the Thai side of the border, while hundreds of Thai villagers living close to the border also fled inland. Figures released by the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs on Monday revealed how clashes between Myanmar security forces and regional armed groups have displaced thousands of people in several regions since a military coup in February, not only in Kayin State, but also in Kachin and Northern Shan States. Meanwhile, there are fears of a sharp rise in hunger and desperation across Myanmar due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the political crisis. The World Food Programme estimates that 3.4 million people will struggle to afford food in the next three to six months.

Another 24 lives lost in boat tragedy off Canary Islands. A boat found drifting in the North Atlantic earlier this week was towed to the Spanish island of Tenerife on Wednesday. Spain’s maritime rescue service initially said the boat held 17 bodies, but once in port, said the remains of 24 people had been found on the vessel, including those of two minors. A Spanish Air Force helicopter found only three severely dehydrated survivors on the vessel who were airlifted to a hospital in Tenerife. In a joint statement with IOM on Tuesday, UNHCR said an estimated 200 people had already died this year attempting to reach the Canary Islands and Spain from the coast of West Africa. The route is long and dangerous, and boats often run out of food and water. Since January, more than 4,300 migrants and refugees have arrived by sea in the Canary Islands, including more than 200 people who arrived last weekend. UNHCR and IOM called for States to strengthen safe and legal pathways that would provide alternatives to dangerous sea crossings.


STORIES TO WATCH

Nearly 30,000 displaced by attacks in northern Mozambique. Some 30,000 people have fled the coastal town of Palma in northern Mozambique since it came under attack by armed groups on 24 March, according to UNHCR. Spokesperson Babar Baloch said many more were believed to still be trapped inside Palma, with escape routes largely cut off. UNHCR said it had recently collected reports of people trying to flee by boat suffering physical assaults. Those who have made it to safety in Pemba and other towns are arriving traumatized and exhausted, often with injuries and other health issues, including severe malnutrition. Among them are hundreds of children who have been separated from their families. UNHCR said it was working with UNHCR and other partners to help such children reunite with their families and get mental health support.

US pledges aid and cooperation to address Central American migration. US Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled an additional US$310 million in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras on Monday following a virtual meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. Harris said Washington would strengthen cooperation with Guatemala to manage migration in a “humane manner”. The aid will be used to address food insecurity in the region, deliver disaster relief services, support literacy programmes for school children, and improve the safety and protection of refugees, asylum-seekers and those displaced within their countries. Back-to-back hurricanes last November together with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the number of people facing hunger this year in the three Central American countries to 7.8 million, according to the World Food Programme.

Up to 100,000 flee violence in Mogadishu. Fighting that started on Sunday in the Somali capital has forced between 60,000 and 100,000 people from their homes, according to a UN estimate released on Wednesday. The fighting followed a move by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to extend his term, which officially ended in February, by two years. Mohamed promised to appear before Somalia’s parliament on Saturday to debate the issue. Those who fled the violence included people displaced by previous violence and disasters who had sought refuge in Mogadishu. The UN’s acting humanitarian coordinator, Cesar Arroyo, said the fighting had also disrupted humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people across the city. Somalia is already grappling with a drought, a desert locust infestation, and a significant rise in COVID-19 cases.


GET INSPIRED

Before he lost his leg to a bomb blast in Syria, Ibrahim al-Hussein used to dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer. Now living as a refugee in Greece, he is training for a place at the Tokyo Paralympics as part of a refugee team to be finalized in June. “Anything is possible,” says Hussein, who competed in the Rio Paralympics in 2016 as part of the first ever Refugee Paralympic Team.


DID YOU KNOW?

Out of 157 countries currently developing national COVID-19 vaccination plans, 124 countries (79 per cent) have committed to include refugees and 31 are already doing so.