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By Kristy Siegfried | 4 June, 2019

Please note that tomorrow is a UN holiday for Eid Al-Fitr and there will be no newsletter. The Refugee Brief will be back on Thursday. Eid Mubarak!


UNHCR relocates nearly 100 people from Libyan detention centre. A group of 96 refugees and asylum-seekers were relocated on Monday from Zintan detention centre in Tripoli to a UNHCR facility in the capital where they will remain until they can be evacuated out of the country. UNHCR described conditions in Zintan as “dire” and “severely overcrowded” with overflowing toilets and rubbish piled up inside cells with detainees. The agency called for the immediate release and relocation of 654 refugees and migrants who remain in Zintan. Amid ongoing clashes in Tripoli, UNHCR is calling on the international community to help with further evacuations of refugees out of the capital. Currently, people are being brought to detention centres after being intercepted at sea faster than the rate at which detainees are being evacuated.

Demolition of Syrian shelters in Lebanon will make thousands homeless, say NGOs. Lebanon’s planned demolition of concrete shelters housing Syrian refugees in Arsal, near the border with Syria, could make at least 25,000 people homeless, including 15,000 children, three international aid groups warned today. The authorities in Lebanon have set a 9 June deadline for Syrian refugees living in shelters built with materials other than timber and plastic sheeting to bring their homes into compliance with a ban on semi-permanent structures for refugees. In Arsal, more than 5,000 structures made with concrete are slated for demolition. The three NGOs – Save the Children, World Vision and Terre des hommes – say it is unclear where families facing demolitions should go and have urged the government to find an alternative solution.


Cameroon conflict traps displaced girls in servitude. The crisis in Cameroon’s English-speaking North West and South West regions has forced nearly half a million people from their homes since 2017. Reuters reports that as the conflict has forced thousands of schools to shut and families have lost their livelihoods, more children are being pushed into work and are vulnerable to slave-like conditions. In the country’s two main cities, Douala and Yaounde, many girls displaced from English-speaking regions are working as unpaid, live-in maids, according to local human rights groups. If they are paid, it is often with rice, salt or oil that is sent to their families in the conflict zone. For other girls, the only alternative to domestic servitude is prostitution.

Rohingya women risking dangerous home births in camps. Nearly three out of every four babies born in Rohingya refugee settlements in Bangladesh are delivered at home in the bamboo shelters where refugees live rather than in camp hospitals, according to an assessment by Save the Children released on Monday. These home births are often presided over by untrained traditional birth attendants rather than medical professionals who can treat life-threatening complications. The New Humanitarian reports that part of the challenge in encouraging more women to have their babies in medical facilities is countering rumours and misinformation. Aid groups are now recruiting traditional birth attendants as community health workers who visit pregnant women at their homes and encourage them to come to health centres.

Australian minister in Sri Lanka stresses “tough” asylum policy. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton restated Australia’s border policy on a visit to Sri Lanka today amid media reports that the Australian navy had intercepted several boats carrying asylum-seekers from the Indian Ocean island since announcing last week that it had stopped a single vessel carrying 20 Sri Lankans. The passengers were returned to Sri Lanka after being briefly detained on Christmas Island. Reuters reports that Dutton declined to comment on the reports but reiterated his government’s policy of returning boats carrying asylum-seekers. UNHCR said on Monday it was seeking clarification from Canberra on the return of asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka. “We were neither notified of the arrival of the asylum-seekers, nor their subsequent removal,” said spokesperson Babar Baloch.

Yemenis struggle to celebrate Eid. Al Jazeera reports from the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, where many families who once celebrated Eid by buying new clothes and toys for their children, can no longer afford to do so in a country where standards of living have plummeted since the outbreak of war. The World Food Programme estimates that more than 20 million Yemenis lack enough food to fend off hunger, let alone enough to enjoy festive meals. Seven women shared their experiences of extreme hardship during Ramadan. “We fast every day of the year now,” said one woman who collects and burns rubbish to bake bread for her four children because she can’t afford cooking gas. Another woman said she dreaded Eid because she couldn’t afford new clothes for her children.


Venezuelan couple Dayana and Maryory are rebuilding their lives in Ecuador. Maryory has found work in a hairdressing salon while Dayana and her daughter have set up a food stand selling Venezuelan and Ecuadorian specialties. “Our dream is to return to Venezuela,” says Dayana. “But only when everything stabilizes. In the meantime, we’re going to put down roots here.”


More people were returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard in May alone than in the rest of 2019 combined.