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By Kristy Siegfried | 8 October, 2021

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

Thousands of migrants and refugees detained by Libyan authorities. At least 5,000 migrants and refugees have been detained as part of a security operation launched by authorities in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, last Friday. One person was reportedly killed and at least 15 others injured during the raids. In a statement, the UN called on Libyan authorities to investigate reports of excessive force, end the arbitrary arrests and immediately release the most vulnerable, particularly women and children. Médecins Sans Frontières said their teams had witnessed severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and lack of food in two detention centres they visited this week. The UN has repeatedly condemned inhumane conditions in Libya’s immigration detention centres. On Thursday, UNHCR said it had been forced to suspend regular services at its community day centre in Tripoli after large crowds gathered in front of the building, preventing people with urgent needs from entering. Flights evacuating vulnerable asylum-seekers from the country have been blocked by Libyan authorities since August. UNHCR said the suspension had led to a loss of 162 places on flights out of Libya directly to resettlement countries. The agency called on the government to stop arrests, release detained asylum-seekers and to allow humanitarian flights to resume.

Australia to move all offshore processing of asylum-seekers to Nauru. Australia said on Wednesday it would end its offshore processing of asylum-seekers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) by the end of the year. More than 3,000 asylum-seekers have been detained, mainly on the island of Manus, since 2013. Although most have been transferred to Australia, returned to their countries of origin, or resettled in other countries, 125 people remain in Port Moresby, the PNG capital. In a joint statement, the Australian and PNG governments said they could either seek citizenship in PNG, await resettlement to the United States, or transfer to the island nation of Nauru, which recently extended an agreement with Australia to continue providing offshore processing. UNHCR said the option of moving to Nauru was “not a long-term solution” and that PNG lacked systems for successful local integration. The agency added that it had long advocated for Australia’s offshore arrangements to be ended and more compassionate approaches found, but that Wednesday’s development “will achieve neither”.

EU demands probe into alleged pushbacks. The European Union’s executive on Thursday called for an investigation into the use of illegal pushbacks of asylum-seekers following the publication of an investigative news report documenting such operations being carried out by masked men in Croatia, Greece and Romania. The report produced by Lighthouse Reports, a non-profit news organization, in partnership with Der Spiegel, ARD and several other European news outlets, found that Greek and Croatian special forces sometimes concealed their identity during such operations, which at times were violent. The EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, said that the evidence presented in the report seemed credible and that she would urge the Greek and Croatian interior ministers to take the matter “very seriously”. The report includes video footage of Croatian border police pushing people back into Bosnia, and of the Greek coast guard forcing people back into the Aegean Sea. UNHCR has repeatedly called on European States to investigate and halt the use of pushbacks that violate EU law and the 1951 Refugee Convention. The agency has also advocated for national independent monitoring mechanisms to be set up to ensure access to asylum, prevent violations at borders, and ensure accountability.


STORIES TO WATCH

Panama records over 50 deaths in Darien Gap this year. Panama said that so far this year it has recovered the remains of 53 people who had died while trying to cross the Darien Gap, a stretch of dense jungle on the border of Panama and Colombia. The figure is already far higher than in previous years, when between 20 to 30 bodies on average were found annually. Panamanian authorities said more than 90,000 migrants and refugees, many of them Haitians, have moved through the Darien Gap this year as they attempt to reach Mexico and the US border. The jungle corridor is considered the most dangerous portion of the journey as migrants face not only natural threats from snakes and the difficult terrain, but also the risk of being attacked by criminal groups or extorted by traffickers. The New York Times reports from the Colombian town of Necoclí, where thousands are waiting for their turn to be ferried by boat to the edge of the forest.

UNHCR chief calls for greater international cooperation to solve multiple crises. Speaking at the opening of UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting in Geneva on Monday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned that the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide will top 100 million without greater international cooperation to address multiple crises that “erupt or worsen every day around the world”. Unresolved conflicts have already led to a doubling of the numbers of forcibly displaced over the last decade to a record 82.4 million at the end of last year. Grandi highlighted the need for large-scale humanitarian assistance to be mobilized in Afghanistan to prevent a worsening crisis there and called on parties to the conflict in Ethiopia to abandon military confrontations in favour of political negotiations. The High Commissioner also called out powerful nations that, instead of giving refuge to those fleeing wars, have kept them out with walls and violent pushbacks, and through increasingly restrictive laws.

Former refugee Abdulrazak Gurnah wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. On Thursday the Swedish Academy awarded Abdulrazak Gurnah, who grew up in Zanzibar and arrived in Britain as a refugee in the 1960s, the Nobel Prize in Literature for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents”. Many of Gurnah’s 10 novels and numerous short stories have dealt with displacement and the refugee experience. In an interview with the Academy, Gurnah, 72, said many Europeans misunderstand the idea of migration: “Many of these people who come, come out of both need, and also because, quite frankly, they have something to give,” he said. “They don’t come empty-handed.” In a tweet, Gurnah dedicated the Prize “to Africa and Africans and to all my readers”.


GET INSPIRED

Saleema Rehman has gone by the nickname of “Doctor Saleema” since she was a small child living in a refugee camp in Pakistan. But it took years of studying and determination to become a gynaecologist and the first female doctor in her community. Now she’s running a private clinic that serves Afghan and local women in the city of Attock, Pakistan. Last week, UNHCR recognized her commitment towards her community by choosing her as the regional winner for Asia of its Nansen Refugee Award.


DID YOU KNOW?

Some 41,600 registered refugees and asylum-seekers are living in Libya, of whom about half are in Tripoli, the capital.