[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
IOM announced that it facilitated the voluntary return of 84 Mali nationals by air. Algerian and Malian authorities agreed to temporarily lift travel restrictions for this return operation. The Mali migrants, 73 of whom were men, approached the Mali Embassy and IOM in the beginning of the pandemic and requested to be reunited with their families in their home countries. Upon arrival, the migrants will undergo a mandatory two week quarantine and get tested for COVID-19.
WHO reported on displaced persons and returnees’ deteriorating access to healthcare in Ninewa, Iraq. Over 270,000 returnees have been affected in the province, which hosts the largest amount of returnees in the country. WHO has redeployed mobile clinics that were originally used in Mosul in 2014 to help contain the spread of the virus in rural areas. Travel restrictions in the country make the clinics even more critical to the health of the Iraq people. As of June, the mobile clinic had provided 48,611 consultations.
IRC warned that a lack of COVID-19 testing for migrants intercepted at sea will result in a surge of cases in Libya. IRC claimed that over 3,100 people have been returned from sea since March, and none of them have been tested for the virus. Some of these migrants are COVID positive; 28 who arrived in Italy tested positive in June. IRC reported that it does not have the resources nor the authority to test these migrants before they are placed in detention centers.
IOM reported that over 10,000 Yemenis were internally displaced due to COVID-19 from March 30 to July 18 this year. The agency only has access to displacement data in 12 of 22 provinces due to pandemic restraints, so it estimates that displacement rates are much higher. The pandemic has created fear among the population and worsened the economic crisis, causing more displacement. Most of these newly displaced people are leaving Aden and Lahj due to their high infection rates.
IOM reported that COVID-19 restrictions have led to a 90% reduction of migrant arrivals in Yemen since February, and stranded at least 14,500 Ethiopian migrants in the country. Migrants have become scapegoats for the virus, experiencing verbal and physical violence, and increased detentions. Many are forced to sleep on the streets, which increases their risk of contracting the virus.
UNRWA announced that the KfW Development Bank in Germany donated EUR 15 million for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. The funds will support UNRWA schools and primary healthcare services. A representative from the German government stated that Germany aims for the funds to sustain children’s educational experience during COVID-19 and the Lebanese economic crisis.
IOM reported that it and the Iraqi government are facilitating the voluntary return of over 50 households from the Amriyat al-Fallujah camp to their pre-displacement homes in Anbar. This return occurred between July 19 and 20. This pilot return program aims to return 2,400 IDP households to their homes in Anbar and Ninewa. IOM provides pre-departure preparations and support for returnees throughout their return transitions. IOM acknowledges that the return process will be challenging and long term. The agency emphasizes that this return process will be completely voluntary, informed, and dignified.
The International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reported that 20% more migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Tunisia and Libya in June 2020 compared to June 2019. The Red Crescent has recovered 26 bodies from Libya and 30 from Tunisia this month. More than twice as many migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean this year compared to last year. IRCR suggested that the increased numbers are due to warmer weather and relaxed lockdowns.
IOM reported that its Chief of Mission in Morocco and Finland’s Ambassador to Morocco approved EUR 3.5 million for the third phase of the project, “Fostering health and protection to vulnerable migrants in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Sudan.” The Chief of Mission stated that the funding promotes the inclusion and protection of migrants in healthcare policies. This third phase will occur from August 2020 to May 2023.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) Mladenov briefed the UNSC on the deteriorating circumstances of the Palestinian and Israeli people. Mladenov highlighted three concerns: rising COVID-19 cases, a spiraling economic crisis, and the threat of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank. The Special Coorindator also noted that the Palestinian Authority has lost 80% of its income due to COVID-19 and is at risk of total collapse. He urges a restart of diplomacy between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Qatar Red Crescent, in partnership with OCHA, announced that it is providing shelter requirements and non-food items to vulnerable people in the Dhale Governorate. The project will provide basic shelter to 500 families and pay six month rentals for 1,000 families.
UNSC announced that its members unanimously voted to renew the UN Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) until 15 July 2021 under Resolution 2534. The Mission monitors the city and port of Hudaydah, ports of Salif and Ra’s Issa, and conducts peacekeeping and ceasefire operations.
IOM announced that it distributed a second round of cash assistance to 3,600 Yemeni people displaced by floods and storms in April. Over 25,000 people were affected by the flooding. The cash assistance is meant to help IDPs rebuild their homes and replace their belongings. As part of its emergency flood response in Marib, IOM provided over 100 tents, 150 essential aid items, more than 8,100 plastic sheets, 5,260 sandbags and 2,000 pieces of rope. These efforts reached a total of 5,121 displaced families.
UNHCR and its partners praised the relocation of 49 unaccompanied migrant children from Greece to Finland and Portugal this month. All the children arrived at their relocation destinations in good health. This European Commission program aims to relocate 3,300 migrants, including 1,600 unaccompanied children, from Greece. As of early June, around 4,700 unaccompanied children were in need of either expedited registration, family reunion and relocation.
The New Humanitarian reported on an aid worker’s first hand experience in Hodeidah, Yemen during the pandemic. The aid worker claimed that WFP was unable to secure funding for food rations for the 700,000 Yemenis that it usually serves in the city. NGOs feed around one in six people in Yemen, so the lack of humanitarian funding has severely impacted the population’s food insecurity. Food and oil prices are rising and increasing the likelihood of famine.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Iraqi IDP camps this month. MSF claims that these 1.3 million Iraqi IDPs are some of the most vulnerable people to the virus, as they have suffered from displacement for years. In response to the COVID case in the Laylan Camp, Kirkuk, MSF mobilized a 20-bed isolation and quarantine center. MSF warns that the camps are vulnerable to the rapid spread of the virus due to cramped quarters and lack of health services.
Human Rights Watch reported that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) security forces, known as the Peshmerga, are preventing 1,200 Arab families from returning home to five villages, yet it is allowing Kurdish residents to return. HRW interviewed Arab residents, who claimed that the Peshmerga had refused their entry since October 2017. HRW emphasized that the government’s restrictions are unjustified and unlawful.
This article argued that the prevalence of nationalistic priorities worldwide is indicative of the fragility of the global refugee regime. The authors used the Canadian and American responses to the Syrian refugee crisis to demonstrate the preference of national interests over multilateralism. The acceptance or dismissal of Syrian refugees seemed to be determined by general public sympathies towards refugees, anti-immigrant policy trends, and the electorate’s opinion of contemporary immigration policy.
This paper found that direct cash transfers to Syrian refugees in Lebanon did not increase anti-immigrant violence, and if anything, reduced violence. These findings do not reflect the prevalent theory that refugee aid increases locals’ hostilities towards refugees. The authors found that the aid allows recipients to indirectly compensate locals through higher demand for local goods and services, sharing aid and resources with locals, and reducing contact with potential aggressors.
The World Food Programme published its report on the progression of the pandemic in the MENA, Central Asia, and Eastern European regions. As of July 12, there were 735,702 reported cases of COVID-19 in these regions, with a 21% increase in cases over the past two weeks. Several states like Algeria, Armenia, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey are relaxing lockdown restrictions. On 29 June 2020, WFP launched its Global Response Plan to COVID-19 to address the additional 12 million people who have become food insecure due to the pandemic.
UNHCR published an update on the Jordan Refugee Response Coordination project. The Ministry of Interior decided to renew all expired UNHCR-issued Asylum Seeker/Refugee certificates until the end of 2020 in light of the pandemic. The Ministry also decided to give all non-Syrian refugees and asylum seekers who possessed certificates access to healthcare services run by the Ministry of Health at the non-insured Jordanian rate.
IOM published its Iraqi displacement data for May and June 2020. As of the end of June, 4,718,130 former IDPs have returned to their homes. During the latest recorded period, only 12,948 new Iraqis returned, which is the lowest number since the project in 2015. The agency suspects that the low rates are due to COVID-19 movement restrictions. There are still 1,381,332 IDPs in the country, which is an 8,208person decrease since the previous report.
WHO, Health Cluster, and WASH Cluster published a guide for streamlining and delivering health and hygiene messages to Iraqi IDPs in camps and throughout local communities. The guide recommends that interventions are properly resourced and fully staffed before their commencement in order to ensure the programs’ maximum effectiveness. Full time staff should oversee Outreach Workers and Community Mobilizers, who are generally local to the area and work on a community level.
OCHA published an infographic outlining the continuation of the Iraqi government’s restrictions on humanitarian aid programs since November 2019. In January, 2.2 million Iraqis were affected by the administration’s decision, and the severity of the backlog has only increased since then. OCHA and NCCI worked with the National Operations Center to submit 154 requests for access; 81% were accepted. The general rate of acceptance is 57% for all NGOs.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) published a report detailing migrant workers’ mental health crisis in Lebanon during the pandemic. Migrant workers are tied to a sponsorship system, which restricts their access to healthcare resources and protection from abuse. In April, MSF began a medical hotline program for migrant workers. The hotline has received over 400 calls, most of whom are women, who described physical, sexual, and emotional abuses. MSF urges the Lebanese government to give migrant workers access to comprehensive healthcare services.
As of July 8, OCHA reported that nearly 28,000 people have been forced from their homes in southern Tripoli, Tarhuna and Sirt due to fighting. COVID-19 cases have increased dramatically since June, and most cases lie in southern Libya. There has been an increase of humanitarian aid access restrictions since March. Most recent reasons for the restrictions are COVID-related.
Mixed Migration Center (MMC) published an infographic on the pandemic’s effects on the “Northern Route” from East Africa, North Africa, to Europe. A field study focusing on Ethiopian migrants, which constitute a minority of East African migrants in Tunisia and Libya, have limited access to COVID information and health services. The report recommends that organizations in Libya and Tunisia use social networks to disseminate information about the virus, as well as distribute information and provide services in migrants’ first languages.
OCHA updated its Yemen situation report on July 2. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly and aggravating the country’s economic crisis. Migrant arrivals from East Africa have plummeted due to anti-migrant abuses and pandemic restrictions. Thousands of migrants destined for Gulf nations are stranded in Yemen. UN agencies still do not have the funding or resources to continue their operations as usual; 31 of 41 of critical UN programs have been reduced or closed. OCHA warns that if current trends continue, 19 million people will lose access to healthcare in August.
IOM Yemen published an update on its national programming. Few new displacements occurred during the first half of July, but the situation remains volatile due to fighting in south-western Marib. The agency continues to provide COVID-19 services in Marib City, Al Wadi and Sirwah districts as well as IDP camps and migrant centers in the governorate. Due to COVID-19 mobility restrictions, 60 community members and six international staff are currently in Marib leading programming.