By Kristy Siegfried | 4 October, 2019
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
UN refugee chief calls on EU to restore search-and-rescue operations. On the sixth anniversary of a shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa that claimed at least 368 lives, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called on EU States to urgently restore full search-and-rescue capacity to the Mediterranean. He also said it was time to “thank and acknowledge” the crucial work of NGO rescue ships in preventing deaths at sea. “Their efforts should be praised, not criminalized nor stigmatized,” said Grandi. He added that amid worsening violence in Libya, the country “cannot be considered a safe place for returning people rescued at sea”. EU interior ministers are due to meet in Luxembourg on 8 October to discuss a joint declaration agreed upon by France, Germany, Italy and Malta last month to establish a temporary mechanism for Member States to share responsibility for people rescued at sea. Rights groups are calling on ministers to ensure the plan does not require rescue vessels to disembark passengers in Libya.
Hundreds of Burundian refugees return home from Tanzania. Nearly 600 refugees left Tanzania on Thursday to return home to neighbouring Burundi – the first group to return home after the two governments announced plans last month to begin repatriating 183,000 Burundian refugees living in three camps in Tanzania. However, UNHCR clarified that the convoy was already scheduled under a voluntary returns programme. Both Tanzanian government officials and the UN refugee agency said all of Thursday’s returns had been voluntary. UNHCR said it had not promoted the repatriation programme but was ready to help anyone who wanted to go back. In a statement, the agency urged the two governments to respect their commitments to international law and ensure that no refugee or asylum-seeker is returned to Burundi against their will.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
New Zealand eases restrictions on refugee resettlement. New Zealand announced changes to its refugee policy today that will allow larger numbers of refugees from Africa and the Middle East to resettle there. The government said it would drop a decade-old rule that only admitted refugees from African and Middle Eastern nations if they could prove they already had relatives in New Zealand. The requirement meant officials had struggled to fill New Zealand’s annual quota of 1,000 refugees, which will rise to 1,500 next year. UNHCR’s regional representative, Louise Aubin, welcomed the policy shift, saying it sent an important message “that every country can make a difference in sharing responsibility for the global refugee situation”.
Shelling of health facility in Syria’s Idlib leaves seven injured. One health worker and six patients were injured on Thursday when a primary health-care facility in Maarat Al Nouman, in north-west Syria, was hit by shelling. The facility, which is now out of service, served up to 300,000 people in the area, according to Save the Children, which supported the clinic. A spokesperson with Save the Children said that since a ceasefire came into force in the region in late August, the area had been relatively calm and displaced populations had started returning. The UN reports that the security situation in north-west Syria remains “fragile and unpredictable”, with clashes and artillery shelling continuing despite a drop in reported air strikes.
Millions in eastern Ukraine suffering mental health impacts of conflict. A recent study found that almost 40 per cent of people living in the conflict-affected regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have experienced trauma resulting in stress, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental health services through the public health-care system are limited, but aid organizations are responding with their own programmes. Proliska, which partners with UNHCR, has 11 psychologists serving frontline communities in government-controlled areas. In a report out today calling for the greater prioritization of mental health in humanitarian emergencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that people in conflict-affected areas are three times more likely than the general population to suffer from mental health conditions.
Manus refugees “under threat” in Port Moresby. Refugees who were transferred last month from Manus Island to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’s capital, are being pressured to move out of hotel accommodations and into the local community, where their safety would be under threat, according to an advocacy group, the Refugee Action Coalition. The group of about 80 refugee men have reportedly been told that their living allowance will be cut off by Friday if they do not leave their hotel and move into other accommodations, details of which have not been made provided. Previous attempts to house the refugees in a Port Moresby suburb have failed, said the NGO, after the refugees were robbed by armed locals.
After struggling to set up a dressmaking business in Domiz refugee camp in Iraq, Syrian widow Amina now earns enough to provide for her seven children. Now she is passing on her skills to other refugee women in the camp so they too can provide for themselves.
DID YOU KNOW?
Just three per cent of refugees were enrolled in tertiary education at the end of 2018, up slightly from the one per cent who accessed higher education the previous year.