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By Kristy Siegfried | 8 January, 2020

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Libya crisis intensifies. Libyan rebels seized control of the key coastal city of Sirte on Monday amid criticism about the growing role of foreign powers in fuelling a recent escalation in fighting. Following a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, as well as the EU’s foreign policy chief, issued a joint statement condemning the “continuing outside interference in the conflict”. Intensified shelling and air strikes in and around Tripoli, the Libyan capital, in the past month have displaced an additional 1,600 people and increased humanitarian needs, according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The escalation in fighting has also forced 220 schools and 13 health facilities to close. According to figures released by London-based charity Action on Armed Violence on Tuesday, the number of Libyan civilians killed or injured by explosive weapons rose by 131 per cent last year. Most of the 900 people killed or hurt in explosions in the country in 2019 were victims of air strikes.

Yemen tops list of countries facing worsening humanitarian crises in 2020. For the second year running, Yemen has topped an annual list of countries most at risk of a worsening humanitarian situation over the next 12 months. Some positive signs that diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict may be taking root have not translated into a major reduction in humanitarian need in Yemen, according to the International Rescue Committee’s annual watchlist. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela were the other countries listed as most vulnerable to humanitarian emergencies this year. Nearly all countries in Africa’s Sahel region made the list, including Burkina Faso, which was a new addition this year. The IRC said countries on the list disproportionately host populations in need of humanitarian assistance while being among the states least equipped to respond to crises.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

Malta court overturns rescue ship captain’s conviction. A Maltese appeals court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of Claus Peter Reisch, the German captain of an NGO rescue ship who had been found guilty in May of entering Maltese waters without proper registration. The Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that Reisch did not intend to break the law. It overturned the original judgement and revoked a €10,000 fine. The Mission Lifeline vessel was carrying 234 people rescued from the Mediterranean when it entered Maltese waters in June 2018. Although the passengers were eventually allowed to disembark, the vessel was impounded.

Ten years in immigration detention in Australia. Al Jazeera tells the stories of two men who have been held in immigration detention in Australia for the past decade. Said Imasi, a stateless man who was found abandoned as a child in Western Sahara and does not know where he was born, has been held in detention since arriving in Melbourne in January 2010 at the age of 21. The High Court rejected a bid by his lawyers last year to overturn legislation which allows for the indefinite detention of stateless people. Another man, Ghader from Iran, was detained after attempting to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia in 2009. After two years in detention, he was granted a bridging visa and lived in Melbourne until his asylum application was rejected and he was sent back to detention. He has not seen his daughter in almost five years.

EU asylum agency to double size of operations this year. The European Asylum Support Office said on Tuesday it will double its operational deployments this year by sending more staff to assist national asylum authorities in Cyprus, Greece, and Malta. All three countries have been struggling to manage increases in asylum applications in the past year. EASO said deployments to Italy would decrease “in light of changing needs on the part of Italian authorities”. A total of 2,000 EASO personnel, including case workers, interpreters and security personnel, will be sent to Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta in 2020.

Rohingya refugees consuming less firewood. The influx of Rohingya refugees to Cox’s Bazar in south-eastern Bangladesh has had a major impact on local forests as refugees collect firewood for cooking. But joint efforts by UNHCR, the government and the International Union for Conservation of Nature to distribute liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and cooking stoves are paying off, reports the Dhaka Tribune. The demand for firewood has dropped by an average of 80 per cent per household according to a recent study, which also found that many host community families were switching from firewood to using LPG for cooking.


GET INSPIRED

When actor and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ben Stiller sat down with model and former South Sudanese refugee Adut Akech recently, they didn’t just swap supermodel stories. Adut, who was named “Model of the Year” at the 2019 British Fashion Awards in December, talked about the promises she made to her mother when they were resettled to Australia from a refugee camp in Kenya and how different her life might have been if they had remained in the camp.


DID YOU KNOW?

More than 140,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in and around Tripoli since clashes broke out in April 2019.