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By Kristy Siegfried | 4 September, 2020


COVID-19 threatens to reverse hard-won gains in refugee education. In a new report released on Thursday, UNHCR warned that the coronavirus pandemic is further threatening the potential of millions of young refugees, only half of whom were in school even before the emergence of COVID-19. The report cautions that the pandemic has worsened poverty levels and the ability of many refugee families to send their children to school or to help them participate in remote learning. The outlook is particularly worrying for refugee girls who already have less access to schooling than boys. The Malala Fund estimates that half of all refugee girls who were in secondary school will not return when classrooms reopen in many countries this month. Data in the report from 12 countries hosting more than half of the world’s refugee children found small improvements in the number of refugee children newly attending school in 2019 – gains that are now in danger of being reversed without urgent action from governments, civil society and the private sector.

UK under mounting pressure to resume refugee resettlement. The Independent reports that charities have been urging the UK Home Office to restart refugee resettlement schemes that have been paused since March because of the coronavirus. A Home Office plan to resettle 5,000 to 6,000 refugees in the 2020-2021 financial year has not yet started and community sponsorship is also on hold. According to UNHCR, at least nine resettlement countries are now receiving refugees and just over 10,000 refugees departed for resettlement countries in the first half of 2020. Campaigners have warned that a recent rise in dangerous crossings of the Channel by asylum-seekers could be linked to the lack of safe routes for them to reach the UK. Some 5,000 have made the journey by boat from northern France so far in 2020, including 416 on Wednesday. A Reuters report highlights the plight of thousands of refugees approved for resettlement whose lives have been in limbo since resettlement programmes were suspended.

Sudan signs peace deal with rebel alliance. Sudan’s government and a coalition of rebel groups from the country’s western Darfur region and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile signed a peace deal on Monday to end 17 years of conflict that has left thousands dead and some 2.5 million displaced from their homes. The agreement was signed in Juba, in neighbouring South Sudan, which has helped mediate the peace talks since late 2019. It comes following recent attacks in Western Darfur that saw several thousand people seek safety in neighbouring Chad and displaced thousands more internally. Observers cautioned that at least two rebel factions had not joined the peace talks but described the deal as a critical first step towards breaking past cycles of violence in the region. Separately, UNHCR warned this week that flash floods caused by heavy seasonal rains have left an estimated 125,000 internally displaced people and refugees in Sudan in desperate need of shelter and assistance. Rains have been particularly heavy in North Darfur and on the outskirts of the capital, Khartoum, where many South Sudanese refugees were living in makeshift homes.


Everlyne Lobar, community-based protection assistant with UNHCR at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya

How has COVID-19 impacted the education of young refugees at Kakuma? 

“When the first [COVID-19] case was reported in Kenya, all schools were closed, including in the camp. We have some programmes running to engage the students through radio lessons and teachers are engaging the older children using WhatsApp and giving them physical materials, but there are challenges for those who may not have phones or radios. We’re handing out radios, but we don’t have enough for everyone.

“Some have lost a lot in terms of education. The girls are the most affected because their families want them to help around the house so they can’t participate in the radio lessons. We’ve also received information from community leaders that there are more cases of girls who are out of school getting pregnant or married. We’ll encourage them to go back to school [when they reopen in January], but some parents may keep them at home and those who are married or pregnant, most likely they won’t return.” 


Renewed violence in DR Congo’s Kasai region triggers growing displacement. UNHCR warned today that a resurgence of violence and tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Great Kasai Region could trigger another wave of mass displacement in the country if the situation does not improve. In the past month, more than 24,000 people have fled three separate conflicts related to disputes over land and resources and confrontations between different ethnic groups, authorities, and militias. Violence in the Kasai region displaced 1.4 million people in 2017, but until recently the region was relatively calm. The majority of those forced to flee killings, rape, torture and the burning and looting of homes have sought refuge in the Demba region of Kasai Central and the Mweka region in Kasai. UNHCR said it was distributing relief items and promoting peace negotiations to prevent further clashes.

Migrants and asylum-seekers increasingly attempt Atlantic crossings to Canary Islands. AP reports that increasing numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers are attempting dangerous Atlantic Ocean crossings to reach the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago near West Africa. While about 4,000 people have survived the journey so far this year, another 250 are known to have died or gone missing, according to the International Organization for Migration. It is common for passengers to run out of food, water and fuel while they attempt journeys of up to 10 days to reach the islands. The increase in arrivals to the Canaries comes after Moroccan authorities stepped up efforts to intercept migrants trying to reach southern Spain via the Mediterranean. UNHCR’s representative in Spain, Sophie Muller, told AP that those arriving to the Canaries increasingly include people in need of international protection from countries such as Mali and elsewhere in the Sahel.

Seven killed in attack on village hosting displaced people in Cameroon. Seven people were killed, and 14 others wounded in a suicide bomb attack on a village hosting internally displaced people in Cameroon’s Far North region on Tuesday. The attack took place in Goldavi, close to the border with Nigeria, where some 18,000 people have sought refuge from violence perpetrated by Boko Haram and other armed groups in recent years. It was the second such attack in a month, according to UNHCR which estimated that 7,000 Cameroonian villagers have fled their homes near the border with Nigeria since 11 August in response to a significant rise in violent incidents.


News outlets in the UK reported this week that former English footballer and TV host Gary Lineker has signed up to host a refugee in his house through the charity, Refugees at Home, which matches those with a spare room to refugees and asylum-seekers in need of a play to stay. Gary also appeared in this video for the International Rescue Committee explaining the refugee origins of fish and chips.


Even before the coronavirus pandemic, 48 per cent of all school-age refugee children were missing out on education.