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By Kristy Siegfried | 4 December, 2019


Australia repeals medical evacuation of refugees from offshore facilities. Australia on Wednesday withdrew the right of doctors to order sick refugees and asylum-seekers be evacuated from offshore processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru for medical treatment. Since the opposition and independent lawmakers joined forces to pass the so-called medevac bill in February, 179 refugees have been transferred to Australia for health reasons. After weeks of negotiations, the repeal legislation narrowly passed Australia’s Senate, with a vote of 37 to 35. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the medevac law was unnecessary and undermined Canberra’s border policy. Physicians groups had strongly supported the medevac law, arguing that it upheld fundamental rights to health care. Around 500 people remain in PNG and Nauru, many of them suffering from mental health conditions after more than six years in detention.

Record numbers of people expected to need humanitarian assistance in 2020. A record 168 million people around the world will need humanitarian assistance and protection next year, according to estimates in the UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview, which was launched today. UN emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock said that the figure marked a “record in the modern era” and that needs were on the rise largely because of increasingly intense and protracted conflicts and extreme weather events unleashed by climate change. The UN and its partner organizations are appealing for nearly US$29 billion in funding to assist 109 million of the most vulnerable people. Yemen is expected to remain the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, while Venezuela is the country where needs have increased the most in the past year. Lowcock highlighted combatants’ growing disregard for international humanitarian law, resulting in record numbers of children being killed and maimed and a rise in attacks on schools, health facilities and aid workers.


European rights chief demands closure of makeshift Bosnian camp. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic on Tuesday demanded the immediate closure of a tent camp in north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina where some 600 migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees are struggling to survive in snowy, freezing weather. “If we don’t close the camp today, tomorrow people will start dying here,” said Mijatovic while visiting the camp. The UN, the EU and international aid organizations have repeatedly urged authorities to find an alternative to the Vucjak camp, which is located on a former landfill site and has no running water or electricity. Government officials said a new facility near Sarajevo won’t be ready for another 20 days.

New “qualifications passport” scheme breaks down barriers for refugees. The Guardian reports on a scheme being piloted in Zambia by the government and UNESCO to help refugees access jobs and further education by informally verifying their qualifications when they lack crucial documents. The “passport” summarizes the holder’s qualifications, experience and language skills, as well as any paperwork available. The scheme is due to be extended to Iraq and Colombia next year. Last week, UNESCO member states adopted a new convention for “fair, transparent and non-discriminatory recognition” of higher education qualifications.

What makes refugees and migrants vulnerable to detention in Libya? A report released this week by the Mixed Migration Centre draws on surveys of over 5,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants to identify which factors made them more vulnerable to being detained in Libya. Ten per cent of those surveyed between May 2017 and June 2019 reported being detained. Respondents who cited war, violence and a lack of rights as factors driving their movement were found to be more vulnerable to detention than those who did not while those aiming to reach Europe were twice as likely to be detained as those seeking to remain in Libya or move to a non-European country. In addition, refugees and migrants from East Africa were more likely to be detained than those coming from other regions of Africa.

Radio station connects refugees at Kenya’s Dadaab camp to outside world. Operating out of a makeshift studio, Gargaar FM provides vital information to more than 200,000 mainly Somali refugees living in Kenya’s isolated Dadaab camp. Largely cut off from the rest of Kenya, the refugees rely on the station to keep up with local and regional news, while aid agencies use it to communicate messages about health care, education and voluntary repatriation. Somali journalist Moulid Hujale, who spent much of his own childhood in Dadaab, profiles Gargaar FM’s only female journalist – Kamil Ahmed. Unable to attend high school, she enrolled in a youth programme where she received basic journalism training. Now she’s training other young women to work at the station.


Jennie Groff knew that if her small business in the US state of Pennsylvania were going to provide meaningful employment to resettled refugee women, she would need a great product. She came up with “Stroopies” – a cinnamon waffle with a caramel centre, dipped in chocolate. The Lancaster Stroopies Company reinvests its profits into helping support its refugee employees, including through English lessons offered at work.


An estimated one in every 45 people on earth will need humanitarian assistance in 2020.