By Kristy Siegfried | 9 July, 2021
Please note that The Refugee Brief will be taking a summer break for the next three weeks and will return on 6 August.
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Afghans flee as Taliban advances. Tens of thousands of Afghan families are fleeing to escape the Taliban’s rapid advance across the country’s northern region as the US and its allies pull out the last of their troops ahead of a 11 September deadline. The new wave of internal displacement – largely across the provinces of Badakhshan, Kunduz, Balkh, Baghlan and Takhar – comes as the Taliban has captured large swathes of rural territory in the region following battles with Afghan forces. On Wednesday, the Taliban attacked Qala-e-Naw, the capital of western Bagdhis province, the first direct assault on a provincial capital since the US troop withdrawal began. Separately, Human Rights Watch alleged in a report released on Wednesday that Taliban forces evicted residents of a town in northern Kunduz province and burned their homes as apparent retaliation for cooperating with the Afghan government. HRW said it interviewed former residents of the town of Bagh-e Sherkat by phone in early July. Meanwhile, envoys from the Afghan government and the Taliban movement met in Tehran this week for talks. They released a joint statement saying the Taliban does not support attacks on civilians, schools, mosques and hospitals and wants a negotiated settlement on Afghanistan’s future.
UK’s Borders Bill includes new powers to turn back asylum-seekers at sea. The UK’s new Nationality and Borders Bill, introduced to Parliament on Tuesday, includes provisions that provide the State with powers to intercept small boats of migrants and asylum-seekers attempting to cross the Channel and take them to any place (on land or on water) in the UK or elsewhere. The bill would also make it a criminal offence punishable by up to four years in prison to knowingly arrive in the country without permission. Another provision would allow asylum claims to be processed outside the UK, although no agreement has yet been reached with a third country. Civil society groups and lawyers warned that, if passed, the legislation would likely breach the UK’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which requires States to grant individuals access to asylum regardless of how they enter a country. At a briefing at Chatham House on Thursday, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs said the UK proposals presented a “profound threat” to the international protection system and were part a trend towards the “externalisation” of responsibility for refugees by western, developed countries.
South Sudan faces humanitarian crisis a decade after independence. Today marks 10 years since South Sudan gained independence and became the world’s youngest nation. Several media outlets used the anniversary to reflect on how the hopes of South Sudan’s citizens for peace and prosperity have been shattered by years of war and the largest displacement crisis in Africa. Since conflict broke out in late 2013, over 2.2 million people have fled to neighbouring countries and another 1.6 million have been internally displaced. A fragile peace deal has encouraged some 375,000 refugees to return since November 2017, but continuing bouts of violence, a deepening economic crisis and extreme weather events fuelled by climate change have led to what the UN describes as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Some 60 per cent of the population is acutely food insecure and the child mortality rate is among the highest in the world, according to UNICEF. In a briefing today, UNHCR’s representative in South Sudan Arafat Jamal called for urgent action from humanitarian agencies, development partners and peacebuilding actors to help returnees start afresh and live in safety and dignity.
STORIES TO WATCH
Italy allows rescue ship carrying 572 people to dock in Sicily. Italy on Thursday evening authorized The Ocean Viking rescue ship to dock in Sicily two days after SOS Méditerranée, the charity that operates the vessel, urged the European Union to find a port where it could disembark 572 people rescued over several days in the Central Mediterranean. They included numerous minors and at least two children with disabilities. Before the announcement, SOS Méditerranée had warned that conditions onboard were “worsening by the hour”, with cases of psychological distress and tensions rising. One man who had jumped overboard was rescued and video footage shared by the charity showed people crowded on deck. Another 552 people reportedly reached the Italian island of Lampedusa on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in four different boats. One of the boats, a fishing vessel, was carrying 420 people.
Attacks by militants intensify in northeast Nigeria. Suspected Islamist militants killed 18 people when they attacked a village in the northeast Nigerian state of Adamawa on Wednesday, according to local officials. Reuters reports that such attacks have been intensifying in recent months, with dozens of soldiers killed and thousands of civilians displaced. Last week, the UN warned that insecurity and conflict in the north-east has contributed to looming food insecurity for an estimated 4.4 million people, 775,000 of whom are at extreme risk. Meanwhile, northwest Nigeria is facing a spate of school kidnappings that is disrupting the education of hundreds of thousands of children. About 125 students are still missing after an attack by armed men on a boarding school in Kaduna state on Monday night. Since December, heavily armed criminal gangs have abducted and ransomed more than 1,000 school children.
Crisis in Haiti deepens following president’s assassination. The assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenal Moïse by armed gunmen who broke into his private residence early on Wednesday dramatically escalated a crisis that has been building for months. Moïse had been ruling by decree for more than a year and many, including prominent jurists in Haiti, contended that his term had ended in February. The country has been rocked by protests against his presidency as well as a surge in violence by rival gangs in Port-au-Prince that has displaced more than 14,700 people since the start of June. With the prospect of greater turmoil looming as two competing prime ministers claimed the right to run the country on Thursday, the New York Times reports that international observers are worried that a growing humanitarian crisis could ignite further violence or prompt Haitians to flee the country.
Danielle Ngo and her family settled in the US state of Massachusetts after fleeing Vietnam when Danielle was just 3 years old. Now she is a US Army Colonel and the highest-ranking active-duty Vietnamese American woman in the US Army.
DID YOU KNOW?
Conflict in Afghanistan has forced nearly 223,000 people from their homes since the start of 2021.