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By Kristy Siegfried | 5 February, 2020


Resettlement lifeline for refugees drying up. Out of 1.4 million refugees estimated to be in urgent need of resettlement worldwide, less than 64,000 or 4.5 per cent were resettled through UNHCR last year. While the figure represents a slight increase from 2018, when only 55,680 people were resettled, in a statement today the refugee agency said, “a tremendous gap remains between resettlement needs and the places made available by governments around the world”. Based on current projections, UNHCR said it was worried the gap could grow this year unless more countries begin admitting refugees for resettlement or make use of other pathways for admission such as family reunification, work and study programmes. Last year, only 29 states offered resettlement places with the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany accepting the largest numbers of refugees. UNHCR said its goal for 2020 was for 31 countries to resettle up to 70,000 of the refugees it refers.

UNHCR steps up response to escalating violence and displacement in Sahel. Wrapping up a three-country visit to the Sahel region on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi expressed alarm about the rapidly deteriorating security situation across the region, which is forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. “Sahel is the place where we must intervene before this crisis becomes unmanageable,” he said after his last stop in Burkina Faso, where the number of internally displaced people rose ten-fold in 2019 alone and continues to grow daily as people flee new attacks by armed extremists. In an attack on Saturday night, an unidentified group of men killed 20 people in a village in the northern province of Seno. Grandi said he had heard shocking stories of indiscriminate killings and destruction by armed groups in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. He called for better coordination between civilian and military authorities to ensure humanitarian access to those forced to flee and their communities struggling to host them.


North-west Syria violence displaces 500,000 in two months. Fighting in Syria’s last opposition-held enclave has caused one of the largest waves of displacement since the start of the war nearly nine years ago. The UN’s humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, said on Tuesday that some 520,000 people have been displaced from their homes since 1 December, the vast majority of them women and children, compounding “an already dire situation on the ground” as the newly displaced join over 400,000 people displaced between April and August last year. “There are no safe places anywhere in Idlib,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for OCHA. “There is just a sea of people moving in all directions.” Meanwhile, the Times reports that another likely crisis point is approaching as government troops last night reached within a few miles of densely populated Idlib city.

Greece sends more police to Lesvos following second day of protests. Some 300 asylum-seekers rallied for a second day on the Greek island of Lesvos on Tuesday, converging on Mytilene, the local capital, to protest conditions at Moria reception centre, where nearly 19,000 people are now staying in a facility built to house fewer than 3,000. Earlier on Tuesday, local residents staged a separate protest calling for the centre to close. The government reportedly agreed to a request by the Northern Aegean regional governor to dispatch more riot police units to the island. The reinforcements are expected to strengthen patrols around Moria. With tensions high, UNHCR called on the government to urgently implement its plan to move more people to the mainland, improve conditions and ensure fast and fair asylum procedures.

UN chief warns of “wind of madness” sweeping the globe. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned Tuesday that “a wind of madness is sweeping the globe”. Pointing to escalating conflict in Libya, Syria, Yemen and beyond, he said there was a feeling of “growing instability and hair-trigger tensions, which makes everything far more unpredictable and uncontrollable.” Addressing a news conference in New York, Guterres also expressed frustration that legally binding UN Security Council resolutions were being disrespected “even before the ink is dry”. Guterres singled out Libya, calling the current fighting between warring parties “a scandal” and expressing “enormous concern” at the escalation of attacks in Syria’s Idlib. He said that in the year ahead he will “press to break the vicious circles of suffering and conflict and push for a strong surge of diplomacy for peace”.

Half of refugees find work within five years of arriving in Germany. A new study published on Tuesday found that 49 per cent of refugees who have come to Germany since 2013 were able to find steady employment within five years of arriving. The Institute for Labour Market and Vocational Research (IAB), which carried out the study, said that labour market integration for refugees was slightly faster than in previous years. The Institute attributed the progress to Germany’s significant investments in language and integration programmes for asylum-seekers since 2015. The study found that only 29 per cent of employed refugees were women and that 12 per cent are under-employed in low-paying jobs.


When 18-year-old Amiri Ag Abdoulaye closes his eyes, he’s dancing on a stage in Paris or New York. In reality, he dances at a studio called the Termite Mound in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. He fled there four years ago when militants began targeting villages close to the refugee camp where he and his family had fled after war reached their hometown in central Mali. “I forget where I am when I’m dancing,” he told the Washington Post. “It’s how I’m going to get out.”


Over the last decade, some 826,000 refugees have departed for resettlement countries.