By Kristy Siegfried | 6 February, 2020
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Aid agencies warn of “humanitarian catastrophe” in north-west Syria. Eight humanitarian aid groups on Wednesday made an urgent call for an immediate ceasefire in north-west Syria, warning that hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee relentless violence were caught in a “humanitarian catastrophe”. With at least 150,000 people displaced in the past two weeks and over half a million since 1 December, the groups said that camps for internally displaced people were hosting five times their intended capacity and rental prices in towns in the north-west have skyrocketed. The mass displacement has coincided with bitter winter weather and families are sleeping in flooded fields with no running water or proper protection from the elements, burning clothes and trash to keep warm. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council will hold an emergency session today following requests by the United States, France and the United Kingdom. The UN envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, is expected to report on the situation in Idlib.
Libya’s displaced living in unfinished buildings. At least 150,000 people have been displaced since fighting escalated in and around the Libyan capital last April. With housing in Tripoli scarce and expensive, the Telegraph reports that some families are living in the unfinished shells of partially constructed flats that lack plumbing, electricity or even windows. They are dependent on donations from local charities, but Libya’s economy is under growing pressure, particularly since the conflict began affecting oil production last month, which is Libya’s main source of foreign revenue. UN-sponsored talks are taking place in Geneva this week between Libya’s two warring sides in an attempt to turn a nominal truce into a lasting ceasefire. Meanwhile, the UN said that civilians continued to suffer the brunt of fighting in and around Tripoli, with shelling in a residential neighbourhood killing two children on Tuesday.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Despite signs of progress, violence continues one year on from Central African Republic peace agreement. One year since a peace agreement was signed between the government of the Central African Republic and 14 armed groups, the government and the UN Peacekeeping Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement and highlighted progress while acknowledging that multiple challenges remained. The UN children’s agency said that millions of children across the country remain at risk from violence and a lack of access to food, health care and education while Amnesty International said armed groups continued to commit serious abuses against civilians, including killings and sexual violence. Last month, 11,000 people were displaced by clashes between armed groups in the eastern town of Bria.
Hope and anxiety as Congolese refugees return home. Refugees began returning home from Angola to the Democratic of the Congo’s Kasai region last August. At first they made their own way, walking for days and sleeping on roadsides, but since October, when UNHCR and the governments of Angola and the DRC reached an agreement on organized returns, the refugee agency has transported about 2,500 returnees and aims to help thousands of others with transport and cash assistance in the next few months. UNHCR reports that conditions for the returnees are nevertheless extremely difficult with many having lost their land and property when they fled the conflict in Kasai in 2017.
Japanese warm to asylum-seekers despite tough official policies. Japan has begun welcoming more migrants in an effort to address widening gaps in its aging workforce, but the policy has not extended to asylum-seekers, who lack the right to work while their applications are considered. The Japan Times reports that public attitudes towards asylum-seekers are more welcoming. The majority of respondents to a poll taken last month said they thought the government accepts too few refugees, and the Japan Association for Refugees said there is an increased interest in helping refugees in Japan, particularly among younger people.
Abdikadir Abikar is about to complete a master’s degree in education from York University in Toronto, Canada – despite the fact that he lives 12,000 kilometres away, in a remote refugee camp in Kenya. He has been studying online from Dadaab since 2013, walking almost two hours every day to reach the computer lab where he connects online with his classmates and professors. “Education changes a person. It has transformed me,” he says.
DID YOU KNOW?
As of 2018, only around half of countries hosting refugees allowed them to work, meaning that the 3 per cent of refugees who manage to access higher education often find themselves unable to use their qualifications.