[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on the topic of refugees, migrants, and IDPs and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Refugees and Migrants Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. It is updated monthly. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each month's roundup to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Latest Developments on COVID-19
Europe: Migrants’ detention will not stop with the pandemic
Open Migration reported that while many European countries have adapted their prison and detention systems to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the detention of irregular migrants in so-called “administrative detention” pending deportation is still on-going with only minimal changes. The risk of contagion in these centers is really high. Only Spain has adopted what are called “alternatives to detention” and closed all eight of its detention centers. Other European countries still consider detention as the main tool to deal with undocumented migrants in the time of the pandemic.
Italy: Crowding and fear of coronavirus in reception centres
According to Open Migration, the two month-lockdown has left a harmful mark on the lives of the migrants located in the Italian reception facilities. The migrants are all waiting for the territorial commission to approve their asylum application. The situation in the center has been extremely hard—especially due to the lack of personal space—but it worsened when a case of COVID-19 was found inside the centre of Arluno, Lecco.
UN Refugee Agency’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, on the UN Secretary-General’s policy briefing on People on the Move
UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs commented on the policy briefing “COVID-19 and People on the Move.” Triggs stressed that special attention should be drawn to more vulnerable people during this pandemic since the virus compounds many of the longstanding issues faced by refugees. In particular, Triggs adds that this pandemic heightens existing vulnerabilities in three specific ways: from the sanitary and the socio-economic point of view but also for the more difficult access to asylum applications.
Yemen: COVID-19 caseload increases while food import levels remain low
The Famine Early System Network (FEWS NET) estimated that more Yemenis will experience a food crisis (IPC Level 3) due to pandemic conditions. The organization noted that a risk of famine (IPC Level 5) has persisted throughout April, May, and now June. As of 27 May, 249 cases of COVID-19 and 49 deaths were reported in the country. FEWS NET suggests that infections rates are much higher than reported due to an inadequate healthcare system. Additionally, FAO found that food supply chains like livestock, cooking oil, and sugar have been disrupted due to the pandemic.
Yemen receives an 1.35 billion USD in pledges – water, sanitation and hygiene are the highest priorities amidst COVID-19 crisis
CARE reported that the funding pledges for the United Nations’ Humanitarian Response Plan in Yemen only covered fifty-six percent of the requested 2.41 billion US dollars for nineteen million vulnerable Yemenis. The organization claimed that pledges for the UN mission in Yemen have never been this low so late into the fiscal year. CARE stressed that 20.5 million people are in need of water, sanitation, and hygiene services, which is a fifteen percent increase since last year. COVID-19 and recent flooding have contributed to the deteriorating situation.
Yemen: Public and private sectors join forces to deliver lifesaving COVID-19 supplies
OCHA and the UN Country Team in Yemen (UNCT Yemen) announced that 43 tons of laboratory supplies–containing PCR machines, 426 ventilators, 34,000 COVID-19 nucleic acid test kits, 28,000 virus collection kits, 10 centrifuges, and over one million pieces of PPE–were delivered to Yemen on 19 June. The aid was made possible through WHO, the Hayel Saeed Anam Foundation, and the International Initiative on COVID-19 in Yemen (IICY). Prior to this shipment, only fifty percent of Yemen’s healthcare system was functional.
“COVID-19 has made the health system's collapse complete” in Yemen
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported on its difficulties responding to COVID-19 in Yemen due to the lack of infrastructure and lack of willing volunteers and medical personnel. MSF noted that many Yemenis are fearful or in denial about the virus; many infected patients arrive at hospitals in critical condition. MSF staff also reported high infection rates for medical personnel working with COVID-19 patients.
IOM Iraq Provides Cash Assistance to Migrant Workers Affected by COVID-19
IOM announced that it provided a first round of cash assistance to vulnerable Bangladeshi and Fillipino migrants in Iraq who lost their income due to pandemic restrictions. Each migrant received 182 US dollars. IOM plans on distributing additional rounds of cash assistance on a rolling basis via credit cards. Using a vulnerability assessment tool, IOM screened over one hundred potential recipients.
North West Syria: Thousands of children return to destroyed homes amid COVID-19 fears in camps
Save the Children reported that displaced families in northwest Syria are choosing to leave IDP camps and return to their destroyed homes rather than risk contracting COVID-19 in ill-equipped camps. However, returning home poses its own risks due to the recent depreciation of the Syrian Pound and lack of basic services. Save the Children noted that cross-border aid is essential for two million children in Syria, and must continue.
Helping Refugees in Lebanon protect themselves from COVID-19
Doctors without Borders (MSF) reported on its efforts against the spread of COVID-19 in Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon. Its teams are facilitating “shielding” trainings to enable Palestinian and Syrian refugees with the skills and resources to create safe zones in their homes and neighborhoods, as well as provide extra protection to vulnerable individuals.
Other Latest Developments
Number of Refugees Worldwide Has Doubled in a Decade, U.N. Report Says
The New York Times reported that 79.5 million people qualified as refugees, asylum seekers, or IDPs by the end of 2019. This figure represents about one percent of the world population, and has significantly risen from the forty-one million recorded in 2010. The piece asserts that seventy-three percent of refugees seek asylum in neighboring countries. Pandemic restrictions have slowed displacement during 2020, but this has not ameliorated vulnerable people’s situations.
Amid Funding Shortfall, Life-Saving Aid Operations for 24 Million People in Yemen Risk Closing within Weeks
Following this month’s Yemen pledging conference, Secretary-General António Guterres gave a speech advocating for greater funding resources. He stated that aid agencies received the lowest amount of their requested budgets in years at this conference. Without a significant increase in funding, Secretary-General Guterres warns that thirty-one of the forty UN programs in the country will be forced to close by the end of the month. The situation in Yemen is further deteriorating; eighty thousand additional people were displaced so far in 2020, COVID-19 testing rates are very low, and the city of Aden has one of the highest mortality rates from the virus in the world.
For Yemenis on the brink, aid funding gap spells disaster
UNHCR confirmed that Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with some 24 million people requiring aid, and more than 3.6 million people forced to flee their homes. Overcrowding makes social distancing and handwashing extremely difficult. Of the total 211.9 million US dollars that UNHCR needs to sustain its operations, only 63 million US dollars have so far arrived and without an urgent increase of funds UNHCR will be forced to withdraw their operations even if it does not seem an option for the United Nations.
Yemeni women will die, aid workers warn, as U.N. cuts maternity services
Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on the risks for Yemeni women due to UN funding cuts from reproductive health services. Since UNFPA stopped providing reproductive services at most of its 180 clinic locations last month, at least two women have died in childbirth. The closings left 320,000 women without reproductive care. In Aden, at least two reproductive health specialists and six midwives have died of the virus.
Restoring Sudan’s forest cover, one tree at a time
UNHCR announced that its joint project with Sudan’s Forests National Corporation (FNC) successfully planted over a million trees on 2,500 hectares of land since the project began in 2017. The reforestation project takes place in the semi-arid locality al-Jabalain next to the White Nile River, which hosts a quarter of Sudan’s refugees. The project provides employment for refugees and the host community, in addition to sustainable firewood.
Supporting the UN Refugee Agency and Asylum Seekers in Tunisia (French version)
UNHCR, in partnership with the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, announced a program to provide basic services to refugees and asylum seekers in Tunisia from 2020 to 2021. Services will include access to education, legal assistance, mental health services, and housing. The project is a continuation of UNHCR’s collaboration with members of the Tunisian community, the Tunisian authorities, and its donors.
Death toll from Tunisia migrant shipwreck rises to 54
AP News reported that a migrant vessel sank on 6 June off the coast of the Sfax, Tunisia. Tunisian search teams recovered multiple bodies at sea, and at least twenty bodies washed up onshore. Most of the victims originated from Sub-Saharan Africa. The agency noted that migrant crossings have increased by 150 percent in Tunisia during the first four months of 2020.
UNHCR calls on Greece to investigate pushbacks at sea and land borders with Turkey
UNHCR urges Greece to investigate reports of Greek authorities returning migrants and asylum seekers to Turkey after reaching Greek territory. The reports came from multiple NGOs and direct testimonies in the media. Around three thousand asylum seekers have reached Greece since March, which shows a decrease in migration over the years; yet, unlawful return allegations, especially at sea, have increased. The agency acknowledges that Greece has the right to control its own borders, but that under humanitarian law, it must provide protection and due process for asylum seekers.
Greece must ensure safety net and integration opportunities for refugees
UNHCR provided a summary of the 2 July press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. UNHCR expressed concern about the government-arranged exit of some nine thousand recognized refugees from Greece’s reception system; the grace period for refugees was reduced from six months to thirty days due to overcrowding in Greece’s reception system. UNHCR is worried that assistance for many refugees is ending prematurely, pushing them to a situation of poverty and homelessness.
Europe has turned a blind eye to deaths in the Mediterranean
This Human Rights Watch opinion piece published in Politico asserts that the more than twenty thousand people have died or gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014 are evidence of European governments’ indifference to brown and black lives. Rather than trying to save people, they use inaction, detention, and forced return as a deterrence. They have obstructed and criminalized groups that are trying to assist migrants. These policies, they assert, are the structural racism that began with the enslavement of Africans and that still seeks to regulate their movement. They advocate the importance of rethinking human mobility, meaning the creation of more secure and legal pathways to minimize the need for people to resort to dangerous journeys.
Libya: School rehabilitation and peace education
Swedish International Development Cooperation Fund (Sida) and UNICEF announced that they rehabilitated and reopened two schools in Tawergha and Misrata, Libya. The schools will serve 1,170 children. The UNICEF education program in these areas aims to improve students’ learning environment, as well as provide school supplies, non-formal educational opportunities, recreational activities, and life-skills classes to promote peace and recovery. The program offers training for educators to support vulnerable students affected by conflict or displacement. Funding for these schools comes from Sida and the Republic of South Korea.
U.N. Expresses Horror at Mass Graves in Libya
The New York Times reported that eight mass graves were discovered in Tripoli and Tarhuna, Libya after Khalifa Hifter’s military campaign to capture Tripoli collapsed this month. UN. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed shock at the discovery, and urged the Tripoli government to begin identifying and returning the bodies to loved ones. The retreat resulted in the displacement of at least sixteen thousand people from southern Tripoli and Tarhuna.
UN says dozen migrants feared drowned in capsizing off Libya
AP News reported that a vessel carrying three dozen migrants capsized off the coast of Zawiya, Libya. At least twenty migrants were rescued and returned to Libya. A dozen were still missing as of 13 June. The vessel reportedly had no life vests or safety equipment, and support groups had difficulty contacting the boat after the initial distress call.
A new sense of freedom: Some 200 refugees and asylum seekers in Libya released from detention
OCHA announced that around two hundred refugees and asylum seekers were released from Azzawiya detention center in Libya. Some former detainees reported running away, and that the authorities at the detention centers simply did not pursue them. The released detainees still feel unsafe in Libya, as they fear that the police will return them to detention centers at any time. Many asylum seekers from these detention camps have been registered with UNHCR and given medical check-ups and aid in Serraj. UN agencies estimate that over two thousand people still remain in eleven official detention centers across the country.
UNHCR, WFP join forces to reach thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Libya with emergency food aid
UNHCR and WFP announced a joint project to provide emergency aid for ten thousand food-insecure refugees and asylum seekers in Libya this year. The recipients will include migrants recently released from detention centers. A national curfew and rising food prices have made it difficult for these vulnerable groups to support themselves. WFP’s rapid needs assessment in early June found that about half of all refugees proposed for assistance could not meet their basic food needs. Within the past month, seventy-percent of respondents lacked the funds for food. The program began on 15 June, distributing food items to an initial two thousand individuals in Serraj.
Airstrikes again hit Syria’s rebel area, displace thousands
On 9 June, AP News reported that suspected Russian air strikes displaced over 5,800 civilians from southern Idlib and the western Hama countryside in less than twenty-four hours. This event is the largest violation of the March ceasefire thus far. Local activists and aid organizations documented between fifteen and forty-five air strikes in the following days.
Coronavirus: A window of opportunity for action on migration?
The New Humanitarian reflected on global trends of states’ migration and asylum seeker policies during the pandemic. The news agency highlighted that the United Nations and migration policy advocates have recommended that countries provide healthcare, social services, and residency extensions to undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in order to best promote public health and protect human rights. The article notes that Saudi Arabia and Qatar claimed they would provide free healthcare to all migrant laborers during the pandemic, and several European countries extended residency permits and public services for migrants. However, as of the end of May, 161 countries closed their borders and 99 of them made no exception for asylum seekers. Countries like the United States, Algeria, and some Gulf states continue to deport migrants.
Parental Suffering and Resilience Among Recently Displaced Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
This study from the Journal of Child and Family Studies explores the barriers that displaced Syrian parents face when raising their children, as well as possible practices to improve their parenting skills under the stress of conflict and displacement. The study found that parents’ top priority is the protection of their children, regardless of whether they are experiencing displacement or resettlement. Prominent practices for Syrian parents in Lebanon included limiting their children’s mobility, increasing family closure and communication, and heavily supporting their children’s education. The study suggests that the mental health of caregivers and family units must be factored into child protection programs.
Child Repatriation in the Time of COVID-19
The Refugee Studies Centre published an article on the lack of child protection services in government and international organizations’ migration policies and programs. The article emphasized that even before the pandemic, the United States and European countries involuntarily repatriated the most children in the world. The article claimed that more data and research should focus on this issue, as the child repatriation processes in these countries are murky and frequently violate human rights. Additionally, forced repatriation generally leads to further displacement, creating a vicious cycle.
Yemen: the implications of forced immobility
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) published a policy paper arguing that restrictive migration policies have aggravated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen by exposing Yemenis to repeated internal displacement. The study carried out 147 interviews with displaced Yemenis during 2019. The study found that cost was a large factor for emigration. Yemen’s neighbors have implemented strict migration policies and regularly deport undocumented migrants; these policies also restrict Yemeni emigration. IDMC offered policy recommendations for the European Union to support the Yemeni people.
Educational Pathways for Refugee Students: Comparing Germany and Lebanon
George Washington University and Platform for Education in Emergency Responses published a report on refugees’ transition from non-formal education into formal higher education in Germany and Lebanon. The study drew from twelve case studies of informal, hybrid, and formal education providers in Germany, and seven case studies of the latter in Lebanon. It found that the language barrier and lack of psychosocial support were the main challenges for refugees in Germany. In Lebanon, the cost of tuition created the largest general barrier.
World Refugee Day Summary: COVID-19 One More Setback for Refugees in MENA – Especially Women and Girls
CARE published a report on the effects of the pandemic on women and girls in MENA. The report found that although men suffered worse cases of COVID-19 itself, women are more deeply impacted financially. There are also reports of increased gender-based violence in pandemic conditions. Economic recessions and quarantine restrictions threaten women’s financial independence and force them into domestic roles. This situation is particularly disastrous for female-headed refugee households. The report claimed that local governments are not addressing gender-based needs and inequalities in their official COVID-19 responses.