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By Kristy Siegfried | 31 May, 2019


More refugees evacuated out of Libya to Europe. As fighting continues in and around the Libyan capital, UNHCR evacuated 149 refugees and asylum-seekers from Tripoli to Italy on Thursday. Many of the evacuees, who included 65 children, were malnourished and in need of medical treatment after months in detention centres, said UNHCR. Earlier this week, 62 refugees were evacuated to a transit centre in Timisoara, Romania, where they will be cared for before travelling onwards to Norway. UNHCR noted in a statement that Libya’s coast guard is intercepting refugees and migrants and returning them to detention faster than the agency can evacuate them out of the country. Meanwhile, the risks of detainees being caught up in the clashes in Tripoli are rising. “More humanitarian evacuations are needed,” said Jean-Paul Cavalieri, UNHCR mission chief in Libya. “They are a vital lifeline for refugees whose only other escape route is to put their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers on the Mediterranean Sea.”

PNG police deployed amid worsening mental health crisis on Manus. AP reports that Papua New Guinea has deployed paramilitary police to a refugee facility on Manus Island amid “daily” suicide attempts and rising tensions there. The unexpected outcome of Australia’s election has reportedly prompted a dramatic deterioration in the mental health of refugees and asylum-seekers on Manus, according to the Guardian, which noted that there have been 26 cases of attempted suicide or self-harm since 18 May, including six since Tuesday. The lack of mental health-care services available to refugees and asylum-seekers on Manus has long been an issue of concern for refugee advocates. SBS News reports that local health providers are now struggling to cope with the influx of refugees needing treatment.


Refugees and migrants stranded in Bosnia in dire need, says Red Cross. About 8,200 refugees and migrants have entered Bosnia and Herzegovina from Serbia and Montenegro so far this year, while some 7,400 are estimated to be in the country, most of them concentrated in the north-west region, which borders EU Member State Croatia. With space for only about 3,500 people in transit centres, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Thursday that thousands were sleeping rough in parks and abandoned buildings. The IFRC said three migrants sheltering in an abandoned building had died recently when a candle they were using started a fire. Another man had set himself on fire in desperation. Despite the efforts of aid agencies to provide food and shelter, the IFRC said that crowded conditions in the transit centres were causing an increase in communicable diseases, while conditions for those living outside the centres were “dire”.

Bangladesh intercepts 58 Malaysia-bound refugees at sea. Bangladesh coast guards on Thursday stopped a fishing boat in the Bay of Bengal with 58 Rohingya refugees on board, reports AFP. The refugees, who were from the Kutupalong refugee settlement, were thought to be attempting the dangerous journey to Malaysia by sea. The coast guard reportedly detained two “human traffickers” who were also on the boat. So far this year, law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have intercepted over 400 Rohingya refugees as they waited to board boats bound for Malaysia, but according to AFP, this is the first time this year they have rescued refugees already at sea. UNHCR has been registering Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and issuing them with ID cards. A UNHCR spokesperson said the registration exercise could help authorities combat smuggling and trafficking.

African migrants and asylum-seekers exploited by Italy’s tobacco industry. The Guardian reports that Italian tobacco producers are paying migrant workers below legal standards to work 12-hour days, often with no access to clean water or safety equipment. More than 20 asylum-seekers who spoke to the Guardian reported rights violations and being given no gloves or special clothing to protect them from the nicotine contained in tobacco leaves. Italy is the EU’s leading tobacco producer. Growers are supposed to adhere to a complex system of guarantees and safeguards to protect workers, but African migrants are often hired without contracts and paid well below the minimum wage.

Entrepreneurs reboot image of refugees. Reuters reports on a wave of social entrepreneurs seeking to help forcibly displaced people by hiring them or devising goods and services to meet their needs. Many, like Syrian software trainer Tey el-Rjula, are refugees themselves. El-Rjula founded Tykn in the Netherlands in 2016 to create secure, digital identities for displaced people who have lost their identity documents. Social entrepreneurs like el-Rjula are rebuilding their own lives rather than relying on handouts, but they still need help to raise capital and support while their businesses are getting established. Impact investment – where investors seek social or environmental benefits alongside financial returns – is helping some refugee-led businesses get off the ground while organizations like The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network in the UK are providing mentoring and technical support.


Mohammed has picked up a few languages on his journey from Syria to Northern Ireland. As well as his native Arabic, he learned some French in Lebanon and is now so fluent in English (check out his Irish accent!), that his teachers ask him to act as an interpreter for other Syrian pupils at his Belfast primary school.


More than 1,000 refugees and migrants have been evacuated out of Libya by UNHCR in 2019, while more than 1,200 others have been returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard in May alone.