By Kristy Siegfried | 8 April, 2022
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Civilians in eastern Ukraine urged to evacuate while they still can. Ukraine tried to evacuate as many trapped civilians as possible on Thursday as the country braced for a battle to take control of the eastern region. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said agreement had been reached with Russia on the opening of 10 humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians, mostly in southern and eastern Ukraine, although residents trying to leave the besieged southern city of Mariupol would have to use their own vehicles. UNHCR said today it was working closely with local authorities in Ukraine to increase their capacity to receive those fleeing. The agency is delivering relief items and providing protection services at centres set up to receive the internally displaced, who now number 7.1 million. Spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh said delivering aid to parts of the country where there is active fighting remained challenging, but that a humanitarian convoy reached Luhansk in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday and other convoys have reached Sumy and Kharkiv. Poland remains the country receiving the largest number of refugees. Although the pace of new arrivals is slowing, more than 2.5 million people fleeing the war have arrived in Poland since 24 February.
Rights groups allege crimes against humanity in Ethiopia’s Tigray. Alleged abuses against civilians in the western part of Ethiopia’s Tigray region since the start of the conflict in November 2020 amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to a joint report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released on Wednesday. Based on interviews with 400 people over 15 months, the report finds that hundreds of thousands of Tigrayan civilians have been forced from their homes using threats, killings and sexual violence as part of “a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing”. Amnesty and HRW also accused officials and forces in the neighbouring Amhara region of denying humanitarian aid to civilians in western Tigray. Last week, the UN said the first convoy of aid in 100 days had reached Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, following the announcement of a “humanitarian truce” by Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed. Ethiopian authorities said on Wednesday they were “carefully examining” allegations in the report.
Ukrainians shelter in Mexico as they wait to cross US border. The New York Times reports that more than 2,000 Ukrainians had made their way to Tijuana on the Mexican border with the US over the course of 10 days. Dozens of Russian-speaking volunteers, religious organizations and private groups have rushed in to provide food, shelter and medical support, but the arrivals present a challenge for US border officials already bracing for an expected increase in asylum seekers amid plans to lift Title 42 public health restrictions on 23 May. The Biden administration announced last month that the United States will accept 100,000 Ukrainians, but limited details have been revealed and appointments at US consulates in Europe are scarce. Meanwhile, Ukrainians can fly into Mexico without a visa. Volunteers told AP about 200 to 300 Ukrainians were being admitted daily at the San Ysidro crossing in Tijuana this week.
STORIES TO WATCH
Australia releases refugees from detention. Australia on Thursday released 26 refugees from detention facilities across the country. In a statement welcoming the government’s decision, UNHCR called for an end to Australia’s policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers who attempt to reach the country by boat, noting that the average period refugees are held has increased to 925 days. The agency said its monitoring of detention facilities over the past decade found that such extended periods of confinement were detrimental to the health of people seeking protection. Most of the released detainees had previously been held in offshore detention facilities on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea before being medically evacuated to Australia. Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said those released would have the option to return to Nauru, seek resettlement in New Zealand or the United States, or return to their home country, but would not be allowed to settle in Australia.
Thailand returns Myanmar refugees to danger. AP reports that Thailand has sent back thousands of people fleeing escalating violence in Myanmar, forcing some refugees to move back and forth across the river which marks the border between the two countries. Thai government sources estimate over 19,000 Myanmar refugees have sought safety in Thailand since the military takeover last February, but only around 2,000 have remained on the Thai side of the border. Thai authorities say the refugees returned voluntarily, but those interviewed by AP said Thai officials had sent them back and they are now living in a flood-prone encampment on the Myanmar side of the river. Others are staying on the Thai side of the river where food and other supplies are scarce, with Thai authorities not granting UNHCR and international NGOs full access to the refugees. UNHCR has said that refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar should not be forcibly returned there.t significant numbers of Venezuelans are also heading south to Chile, but that they face difficult journeys through high altitudes and increasing controls at Chile’s border with Bolivia, including a heavily guarded trench.
Yemen ceasefire raises hopes amid peace talks. A UN-brokered two-month ceasefire went into effect in Yemen on Saturday – the first day of the holy month of Ramadan – offering a glimmer of hope that a political process aimed at ending the six-year conflict could resume. The terms of the truce include halting all military operations across Yemen, allowing ships carrying fuel into the port of Hudaydah and allowing two commercial flights a week into the capital, Sana’a. The ceasefire coincided with separate talks between some of the warring parties in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. UN special envoy Hans Grundberg stressed the importance of building on the ceasefire agreement to restore trust and begin full peace talks. The conflict has displaced some 4 million Yemenis and left more than 20 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
Eighty-year-old Luba fled her village outside Kyiv carrying only a small bag. Now she is living with her daughter, Larysa, in her tiny studio apartment outside Warsaw. The pair recently visited a centre set up by UNHCR in the Polish capital to register vulnerable refugees from Ukraine for its cash assistance programme. Larysa says they will use the cash to buy Luba some crutches and other medical supplies. “We’re praying for the war to end so she can return home.”
DID YOU KNOW?
The war in Ukraine is having a ripple effect on millions of vulnerable people in other parts of the world that rely on imports of grains and cooking oil from Ukraine and Russia. Global food prices rose at their fastest rate in 14 years last month, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.