By Kristy Siegfried | 9 January, 2020
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Aid agencies rush to respond to crisis in Sudan’s Darfur. Humanitarian agencies are rushing aid to some 40,000 people displaced in recent weeks by clashes between rival ethnic groups in El Geneina, West Darfur. Another 5,500 people have fled across the border to Chad, according to UNHCR. Most of those forced to flee had already been displaced by the region’s 16-year armed conflict and were living in camps for internally displaced people. The majority of the newly displaced are sheltering in schools, mosques and government buildings that lack sanitation facilities and water, while those in Chad are staying in the open or under makeshift shelters. The New Humanitarian reports that Sudan’s new civilian-led government will have a difficult task fulfilling its promise to bring “comprehensive peace” to Darfur where heavily armed militias still terrorize citizens and hold on to the land they have seized. IDPs living in camps in North Darfur told TNH it was still much too dangerous for them to return to their old homes.
UNHCR calls on EU to make 2020 “year of change” for refugee protection. As the EU’s newest member, Croatia, prepares to take over the bloc’s rotating presidency for the next six months, the UN refugee agency has issued a set of recommendations for better protecting refugees and stateless people in Europe and boosting financial support to refugee-hosting countries outside the EU. They include moving ahead with asylum system reform, including developing a sustainable system for sharing responsibility for new arrivals between Member States. The new EU commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has said that she wants to break the deadlock in talks over the distribution of asylum-seekers in the EU. At a press conference on Wednesday, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the EU must figure out what level of burden sharing it can handle and that asylum reform would be easier if external borders were strengthened. According to Frontex, the EU’s border agency, arrivals at the EU’s external borders fell last year to their lowest level since 2013 due to a drop in the number of people reaching European shores via the Central and Western Mediterranean routes.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
UK MPs vote down proposal to keep child refugee protections in Brexit bill. The House of Commons on Wednesday voted against an amendment which would have guaranteed the right of unaccompanied refugee and asylum-seeking children in Europe to be reunited with family members in the UK after the country leaves the EU. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s re-drafted EU withdrawal bill removed a commitment to negotiate with the EU on protections for unaccompanied children, although the prime minister’s press secretary said the provisions set out in the so-called Dubs amendment would remain government policy.
“Unprecedented” rise in terrorist violence in Sahel region. The top UN official in West Africa and the Sahel on Wednesday told the Security Council that since July, the region had seen a “devastating” surge in terrorist attacks against military and civilian targets with “alarming” humanitarian consequences. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, deaths from such attacks have risen five-fold since 2016 to more than 4,000 in 2019. Special Representative Mohamed Ibn Chambas said the geographical focus of attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso, where about half a million people are now internally displaced while an additional 25,000 have sought refuge in other countries. Chambas urged leaders in the region to follow through on pledges to tackle the violence.
Multiple crises in Syria expected to continue in 2020. This briefing by The New Humanitarian provides an overview of the many crises affecting Syrians as the country approaches nine years of conflict. While the recent escalation of violence and displacement in Idlib province has grabbed the headlines, the situation in the north-east remains volatile and a devastated economy is making it difficult to restore social services and infrastructure even in relatively calm parts of the country. Talks about a new Syrian constitution stalled at the end of November after a group of negotiators failed to agree an agenda. Meanwhile, neighbouring countries are under political and economic pressure to see some of the 5.5 million registered Syrian refugees they host return home.
Asylum-seekers give new life to remote French village. AFP reports from the village of Chambon-le-Chateau, in France’s thinly populated central Lozere region, where asylum-seekers now make up 20 per cent of a 300-strong population. The presence of a reception centre managed by France Terre d’Asile, an NGO, has kept the village school open and brought income to a municipality threatened by a rural exodus. In other parts of France, authorities have struggled to find accommodation for asylum-seekers, leaving many living in tent camps in and around Paris. The remoteness of Chambon-le-Chateau, and its lack of public transport, mean that few asylum-seekers remain there after obtaining refugee status, but the village’s mayor says their presence has lifted the community.
Fatimetou, a Malian refugee who lives in Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania, is studying construction and learning skills that she hopes will help her provide for her two young daughters.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some 1.9 million people remain internally displaced in Sudan, which is also host to 1.1 million refugees and asylum-seekers.