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By Kristy Siegfried | 8 October, 2019


Thirteen bodies recovered from capsized boat. Italian coastguards recovered the bodies of 13 women who died in a shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa on Monday. They said 22 people had survived the sinking of the boat, which was carrying more than 50 people when disaster struck. Many of the passengers are still not accounted for, including several children. Reuters reports that the boat started its voyage in Libya before stopping in neighbouring Tunisia and then heading north towards Lampedusa. Most of the passengers were from Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa. The latest tragedy in the Mediterranean comes ahead of a meeting of EU interior ministers in Luxembourg today which is expected to include discussion of a temporary “sustainable and predictable” mechanism for disembarking and distributing asylum-seekers rescued in the Central Mediterranean. According to UNHCR, since 2014, at least 18,862 people have lost their lives trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean.

Thousands of Congolese refugees to return home from Angola. The UN Refugee Agency said today it would begin facilitating voluntary returns of Congolese refugees from Angola this week following the signing of a tripartite agreement with the governments of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 23 August. In the coming weeks, more than 4,000 refugees are expected to be helped to return home to the DRC’s Kasai region, where security conditions have improved, but infrastructure damaged by fighting, such as schools and health centres, are yet to be repaired. Ahead of the organized returns, some 12,000 Congolese refugees have spontaneously returned home from the Lovua settlement in Angola’s Lunda Norte province since 18 August. UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley said many of the returnees were facing “extremely challenging living conditions” as the government works to restore basic services and prevent a return to inter-ethnic violence.


“Bigger, broader” efforts needed to tackle forced displacement, says UN refugee chief. Addressing UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee gathering in Geneva on Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, highlighted the increasingly complex, overlapping factors driving displacement, from conflicts fuelled by ethnic and religious differences to collapsing eco-systems and weather-related disasters. “This is why tackling forced displacement calls again for a bigger, broader ambition than we have managed to muster in the recent past,” he said, before identifying seven key challenges that should shape global responses. They include the need for more international support to host countries in the global south and avoiding “policies of deterrence” in response to ‘mixed flows’ of refugees and migrants. He also called for refugee returns to be “driven by people, not by politics”.

Samos mayor warns of tinderbox conditions at centre for asylum-seekers. The Greek daily, Kathimerini, spoke to Giorgos Stantzos, who was part of a search-and-rescue team created by the Samos Divers Club in 2015 and is now mayor of the eastern Aegean island. The Greek government moved several hundred asylum-seekers from the island of Lesvos on Monday, but Samos has also received large numbers of new arrivals in recent weeks and Vathy reception centre is now eight times over capacity, according to UNHCR. Stantzos called on the government to urgently relieve pressure on the island, noting that locals are sympathetic to the plight of refugees, “but the problem has become bigger than us”.

Kyrgyz lawyer honoured for efforts to end statelessness. Azizbek Ashurov, a lawyer who spent over a decade helping the Kyrgyz Republic resolve all known cases of statelessness, accepted UNHCR’s 2019 Nansen Refugee Award at a ceremony in Geneva on Monday night. He described the award as “a symbol of hope” for stateless people all over the world and said that Kyrgyzstan’s efforts, as a small nation, to eradicate statelessness could become “a shining example” to other countries. Al Jazeera reports from southern Kyrgyzstan on the work of the Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders, which Ashurov co-founded and runs. The organization’s mobile legal teams travelled to the most remote areas of the country, some only reachable on horseback, to find stateless people.

Over 153,000 work permits issued to Syrian refugees in Jordan. Since 2016, when Jordan signed a compact pledging to facilitate Syrian access to its labour market, the Ministry of Labour has issued over 153,000 work permits, according to UNHCR. However, of those, only 7,000 were issued to women. UNHCR spokesperson Lily Carlisle told the Jordan Times that refugees are only eligible to work in certain sectors, such as agriculture and construction that are not suited to refugee women’s skill set and preference for working from home. She said UNHCR was advocating with the government to open more jobs to refugees that women want to work in. In the meantime, she said the agency is encouraging women to set up their own home-based businesses.


Statelessness campaigner Maha Mamo talked to UNCHR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett on Monday about her 26-year-journey from being stateless to receiving Brazilian nationality last year. “This single paper that people take for granted is my life,” she said, holding up her Brazilian passport. “If Brazil changed their [nationality] laws… why not other countries as well?”


Climate-related causes are a growing driver of new internal displacement, surpassing those related to conflict and violence by more than 50 per cent.