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By Kristy Siegfried | 8 January, 2021

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

Thousands of Central Africans flee election violence. Over 30,000 Central Africans have fled to neighbouring countries because of violence and insecurity surrounding a general election on 27 December, according to figures released today by UNHCR. The majority, some 24,000, crossed the Ubangui River into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with at least 15,000 arriving in one village following attacks by armed groups on the towns of Damara and Bangassou at the weekend. UNHCR said the arrivals had placed a massive strain on local villagers and it was preparing to relocate people further inland. Smaller numbers have fled to Cameroon, Chad, and the Republic of Congo. Inside the Central African Republic, some 185,000 people have fled into the bush and forests since 15 December, of which 62,000 remain displaced, according to UNHCR, which expressed concern about reports of human rights violations in the country.

Attacks in Niger kill 100 civilians, force thousands to flee. Niger held three days of national mourning this week after at least 100 people were killed at the weekend in coordinated attacks on two villages in the western Tillaberi region. Witnesses said over 100 hundred armed assailants on motorbikes surrounded the villages and began firing indiscriminately. In a statement on Monday, UNHCR said some 1,000 survivors and residents of nearby villages had fled towards the town of Ouallam, around 80 kilometres away, where the agency was preparing to assist them. That figure is now estimated to have reached at least 10,000 as more villages have emptied. The government said an investigation had been launched to identify the perpetrators and that reinforcements had been sent to the area, which is near a region known as Liptako-Gourma which borders Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. The three Sahelian countries are at the epicentre of one of the world’s fastest growing displacement crises with nearly two million people displaced within their own countries and 851,000 refugees across the region.

Ethiopian refugees continue to cross into Sudan. Some 800 people crossed from Ethiopia’s Tigray region into eastern Sudan in the first few days of the new year, according to UNHCR, bringing the total number of refugees to over 56,000 since early November when the conflict in Tigray began. UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said the Um Rakuba refugee camp was now nearly full and that refugees were being moved from reception sites at the border to a newly-opened refugee camp called Tunaydbah, some 136 kilometres from Gedaref town. AFP reports from Um Rakuba camp where many of the refugees marked Coptic Christmas on Thursday with prayers to be reunited with their loved ones, but little of the traditional feasting. Many crossed the border with little more than the clothes on their backs and could not afford to buy food to celebrate. Others said Christmas was only a reminder of their missing family members.


ONE QUESTION FOR…

Dobban Daniel, a 32-year-old father-of-one who fled his native Venezuela for the Peruvian capital, Lima, four years ago

What are your hopes for 2021?  

“I’m really hoping that this year will mark the end of the pandemic, which has brought so much suffering throughout the world.

“The pandemic has made it really hard for me to support my family, so I would love things to get back to normal so I’m able to work as I did before, and so that I can see my friends and family and give them a hug. I’m lucky to have found work as a driver during the pandemic, but it’s not my area. Professionally, I’m an engineer and I hope that I can once again find work in my field once the pandemic is over.

“I was also lucky that I was able to bring my nuclear family to live me with in Peru pretty soon after I left Venezuela, but many other people in my situation weren’t able to, and they’re constantly worrying about their families back home, so I hope the pandemic ends for their sake too.”


STORIES TO WATCH

Bosnia urged to act to help homeless migrants. EU and UN officials have called on Bosnian authorities to relocate migrants and refugees who have been sleeping rough in freezing winter temperatures since their camp burned down on 23 December. Between 900 and 1,400 people, mainly single men, are reportedly living at the burnt-out Lipa camp while another 1,500 are sleeping in abandoned buildings and make-shift camps in Una Sana Canton, on the border with Croatia. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and IOM chief of mission in Bosnia, Peter Van der Auweraert, both noted that there was space for many of the homeless migrants in nearby reception centres, but that national and local authorities had struggled to reach agreement on relocations.

Thousands of Afghan families flee fighting in Kandahar. About 17,000 families have fled their homes in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar Province following months of clashes between Taliban and government forces, according to officials. The Taliban have launched continuous attacks in several districts on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Kandahar City, since October. The director of the Kandahar Refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDP) Department told AFP that about 7,000 families were taking refuge in the capital, where camps have been set up for them, and a further 10,000 had fled to neighbouring villages. Meanwhile, a second round of peace talks between the two warring sides resumed on Wednesday in the Qatari capital of Doha. Afghan government negotiators are expected to push for a permanent and immediate ceasefire.

Four migrants found dead on arrival in Canary Islands. Three men died in a boat carrying 47 people and another died upon reaching shore on Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands on Tuesday. Spain’s Interior Ministry says 23,023 migrants and refugees arrived in the Canary Islands in 2020, up from 2,687 in 2019. More than 480 died attempting the journey. The high number of arrivals has overwhelmed local reception facilities with thousands of migrants living in makeshift tent camps before being transferred to hotels or camps set up by the military. Many of those using the Canary Islands route are Senegalese and Moroccan migrants hoping to find work in Europe, but UNHCR has noted that others, such as Malians, are fleeing persecution, insecurity and climate change in the Sahel. They include some women and children.


GET INSPIRED

Wasil struggled to get to grips with a new language and culture when he first arrived in Belgium after fleeing Afghanistan. Then a social housing project connected him with Bente, a young Belgium who was looking for a flat mate.


DID YOU KNOW?

Nearly a quarter of CAR’s population of 4.7 million was forcibly displaced by the end of 2020, including 630,000 refugees in neighbouring countries and 630,000 displaced internally.