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By Kristy Siegfried | 4 February, 2020


Asylum-seekers protest “dire” conditions on Lesvos. Hundreds of asylum-seekers marched from the Moria reception centre on the Greek island of Lesvos on Monday to protest dire and overcrowded living conditions. Their progress to the city of Mytilene was blocked by police officers who reportedly used tear gas to disperse them. Newsweek reports that children were among those affected by the tear gas. UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov said thousands of people were forced to wait for months at Moria, while staying in small tents without access to power, heating or hot water. “We’ve long called on the Greek authorities to move thousands of people to the mainland,” he said. “The situation has become critical.” The Greek government said it has begun to enforce fast-track procedures for new asylum applicants and is stepping up deportations to Turkey. Under a new asylum law that took effect on 1 January, asylum applications on the Aegean islands are to be adjudicated within 28 days, including appeals. Al Jazeera reports on concerns that asylum-seekers are struggling to prepare appeals and access legal aid within the new time frame.

Medical flights start from Yemen’s Sana’a. Flights carrying patients needing urgent medical attention began leaving from the Yemeni capital on Monday, after two years of diplomatic efforts. Supervised by the UN, flights from Sana’a will go to Amman and Cairo, with some 60 patients and their relatives expected to leave this week. The World Health Organization said the majority of the patients were women and children suffering from cancer or needing organ transplants or reconstructive surgeries. The BBC reports on the first medical air bridge flight from inside Sana’a International Airport’s deserted departures hall. Meanwhile, renewed fighting in Marib, Sana’a and Al Jawf governorates has forced at least 3,825 families to flee in the last two weeks, according to the UN. Many of them had already been displaced and were living in camps. Most of the displaced have fled to Marib, a governorate already hosting hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and where many families are now sleeping in the open with no protection from winter conditions.


More than 50 health facilities in Syria’s Idlib forced to close. The World Health Organization on Monday warned that hundreds of thousands of Syrians forced to flee fighting in Syria’s north-west are facing critical health threats. In the month of January, at least 53 health facilities were forced to suspend services due to the insecurity. With more than half a million people displaced since 1 December, the WHO said Syrian families on the run now have very limited access to basic health care and less protection from communicable diseases. The health agency said it was increasing the number of mobile clinics that can follow the movements of the displaced and are less likely to be attacked.

Brazil’s only shelter for LGBT refugees under pressure. The Conversation reports on Casa Miga, a shelter in the Brazilian city of Manaus which provides refuge to LGBTQ+ refugees. The shelter was made possible through a partnership between a local LGBTQ+ charity and UNHCR, but with limited resources, it can only house between 10 and 20 people at a time and is often forced to turn away refugees and migrants arriving from Venezuela. Those interviewed by researchers said they had experienced xenophobia and homophobia in Manaus or during their long journeys to the city. One trans woman from Venezuela said she was traumatized after being targeted by a group of men who beat her and publicly shaved her head.

Two Rohingya women killed in Myanmar shelling. Reuters reports that two women, one pregnant, were killed and seven other people wounded when shells hit a Rohingya village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on 25 January. The military has rejected allegations that it was responsible for the night-time shelling of Kin Taung village two days after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered Myanmar to protect the Rohingya against further atrocities. A military statement confirmed the deaths, but blamed the Arakan Army, a Rakhine ethnic rebel group which has been fighting the military for greater autonomy in a conflict that in recent months has displaced tens of thousands. Myanmar on Monday re-imposed an internet shutdown in five townships in Rakhine and Chin states for three months citing security concerns.


A choir of Yazidi people displaced from northern Iraq are in the UK this week to perform their distinctive choral works and hand over a musical archive to the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. They are part of a British Council initiative to protect heritage in conflict zones, but The Guardian reports that the project also provides important therapy for Yazidi people still living in camps who have been through a collective trauma.


At least 32,000 Yemenis are estimated to have died waiting to get specialised medical treatment abroad, according to the Ministry of Health in Sana’a.