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By Kristy Siegfried @klsiegfried   | 7 January, 2019


Pope urges EU to help 49 stranded refugees. The 49 refugees and migrants are stuck aboard two NGO rescue ships in the Mediterranean waiting for a port where they can disembark. One of the ships has been at sea for more than two weeks with 32 people on board, some of whom are reportedly being treated for dehydration resulting from seasickness. Germany and the Netherlands have offered to take some of the refugees and migrants if other EU States do the same. UN High Commissioner for Refugees  Filippo Grandi tweeted on Saturday that “unless a shared system of disembarkation and care is agreed upon” between EU States, protracted negotiations would continue to cause hardship. On Sunday, Pope Francis urged European leaders to offer the stranded migrants a safe port to disembark during his address to 60,000 people in St. Peter’s Square for the feast of the Epiphany. “I make a heartfelt appeal to European leaders to show concrete solidarity for these people,” he said. Meanwhile, Spain’s maritime rescue service intercepted six small boats carrying 350 people on Saturday. Another 199 people were pulled from five boats on Sunday, including two tiny inflatable dinghies, one of which was carrying four children.

Saudi woman seeking asylum barricades herself in Thai hotel room. An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family while travelling in Kuwait has barricaded herself inside a Thai airport hotel room to avoid attempts by Thai immigration authorities to return her to Kuwait. Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has been at Bangkok airport since Saturday when Thai authorities allegedly denied her entry and detained her at the airport hotel. She told Reuters she had planned to travel from Thailand to Australia to seek asylum. She said she feared her family would kill her if she was returned to Kuwait. On Monday, immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told a news conference that Thailand wouldn’t send Qunun anywhere against her wishes because of fears for her safety and that UNHCR representatives would be allowed to talk with her. In a statement, UNHCR confirmed that its staff were meeting with Qunun and assessing her need for international protection.


Syrians flee fighting to drive out last remnants of ISIS. NPR reports from al-Hol camp in north-eastern Syria, near the border with Iraq, has been overwhelmed by new arrivals in recent weeks. For years, the camp has housed thousands of Iraqi refugees, but the new arrivals are Syrians fleeing the battle to retake control of areas held by ISIS. After living for years under ISIS, some of the families interviewed by NPR said they escaped their villages on foot to avoid ISIS checkpoints and that some in their group froze to death during the journey. Others had lost family members to airstrikes meant to target ISIS.

Dozens killed in clashes in Burkina Faso. At least 46 people died in inter-communal clashes in Burkina Faso’s north last week, days after the government declared a state of emergency in seven northern regions under threat from Islamist militant attacks. The first deadly attack took place in a village in Barsalogho district according to news reports, with reprisal attacks taking place the following day, against local ethnic Fulani Muslim herding communities. UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the violence and “deteriorating security situation” in a statement on Friday night.

France steps up efforts to prevent Channel crossings. French authorities on Friday set out plans to prevent people in small boats risking the dangerous Channel crossing to England. Measures include improved cooperation between law enforcement agencies and more surveillance and security on the beaches along the north French coastline. France said 71 crossing attempts were recorded last year, of which 40 were successful and 31 failed. Most of the people were Iranian.

Syrian refugees learn how to survive Canadian winters. As temperatures plunged to -20C in Montreal this weekend, the Guardian talked to some of the Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada as part of resettlement programmes in recent years about how they have adapted to their new country’s brutally cold winters. For many new arrivals, the shock of the unaccustomed cold can drive them indoors for weeks. Others console themselves by cooking Syrian comfort foods while they wait for spring.


NowThis tells the story of how Vietnamese refugee David Tran founded Huey Fong Foods Inc. a year after fleeing Vietnam on a ship by the same name. After being granted asylum in the United States, he started selling chili sauces out of his van. His most successful product, Sriracha, is now an American staple helping rake in US$60 million in profits for the company in 2014.


In 2018, 539 people attempted to cross the Channel from France to England. In comparison, more than 115,000 people crossed the Mediterranean.