[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 email@example.com.]
Latest Developments on COVID-19
Save the Children reported the first case of COVID-19 in Syrian Al Hol camp on August 10. Over 65,000 people live in the camp, and as many as 43,000 children will be affected by an outbreak. Al Hol is overcrowded and low on hygiene supplies. The organization considers the situation very dire.
IOM and the International Chamber of Commerce released an employer’s guide for protecting migrant workers during the pandemic. IOM highlighted that migrant workers make up 3.5% of the world’s population and are a crucial component of the global economy. The two groups urged business owners and employers to treat all migrant workers with “equality, dignity, and respect,” as well as recognize these people’s unique challenges during the pandemic.
Save the Children announced that eight children under the age of five died during the first few days of the COVID outbreak in Al Hol camp. Operational health facilities have been reduced by 40% during the pandemic, and only one of three field hospitals are functional.
UNICEF reported that the European Union donated €1.5 million to UNICEF’s COVID response in Syria. The funding will support over 350,000 children and mothers with nutritional supplements and health counseling, 450,000 people with safe water, and 36,600 vulnerable out-of-school children with educational materials.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) announced a 1000% rise in COVID cases during the month of August. As of August 26, there were about 522 tests per million people in Syria, and only 13 ventilators available to the public. The border crossing Yaroubiya has been closed since January 2020, so 75% of NGOs do not have enough PPE or hygiene equipment to last until 2021. IRC urged the UNSC to reopen the crossing in order to give Syrians access to necessary medical supplies.
UNICEF reported that the European Union contributed 44 tons of PPE and essential medicines to the agency in Sana’a and Aden as of August 5. The agency mentioned that the EU contributed an additional €4 million to a community shielding program for high-risk people.
AP News reported that over 30 participants in an international aid conference want to support a third party investigation of the August 4 explosion in Beirut. Donors across the globe are refusing to deploy USD300 million in humanitarian aid to rebuild the capital until such an investigation and political reforms are made. The Lebanese government announced that it is defaulting on its debt, and many cabinet members and officials have resigned in the wake of the explosion.
UNHCR reported that around 34 of the 200 fatalities from the Beirut blast were refugees. An additional seven are missing and 200 are wounded. The agency announced that it will give USD12 million to support the hardest hit and most vulnerable victims. It estimated that 10,000 households have been affected by the explosion.
IOM reported that it is mobilizing its resources to address homelessness caused by the Beirut explosion. The agency successfully facilitated the scheduled relocation of over 50 refugees from Beirut the evening of the blast. Before the explosion, 77% of migrants in Lebanon reported having no source of income. IOM is increasingly concerned for the 400,000 migrant workers’ wellbeings in the country following the blast.
Emirates News Agency (WAM) announced that The Big Heart Initiative (TBHI) launched an emergency aid campaign for victims of the Beirut blast. WAM reported that the campaign aims to rebuild 485 homes, which will support 2,900 people, including 225 refugees. TBHI and Chairperson Sheika al Qasimi of Sharjah are collaborating with UNHCR to accomplish their shared rehabilitation goals.
The Qatar Fund for Development announced that it is partnering with the Qatar Red Crescent Society to distribute aid to Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps following the Beirut blast. The campaign distributed food baskets to 1,000 victims, and aims to support a total of 27,800 vulnerable families in Palestinian refugee camps over the course of the project.
UNICEF reported that children in half of the households interviewed in Beirut following the blast exhibited changes in behavior, signs of trauma, and extreme stress. Adults in one third of households showed similar symptoms. As of August 21, UNICEF has distributed psycho-social first aid and counseling to hundreds of children and adults, and imported USD 3.5 million in PPE.
IOM announced its partnership with Nadia Murad’s NGO, Nadia’s Initiative for Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Program, to strengthen psychological support systems and financial stability for Yazidi women in Sinjar, Iraq. The Government of Japan and Danish NGO Mission East are also providing financial support for this program.
UNHCR announced that the Federal Republic of Germany donated €8 million to support IDPs and refugees in Iraq. The funding will go towards initiatives like protection services, cash assistance, child protection, and prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. Germany has been a long standing supporter of humanitarian work with UNHCR Iraq.
UN Iraq reported that the International Labor Organization and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Kurdistan signed an agreement to support the formal employment of IDPs, refugees, and host community members. The program will provide financial and technical support at employment service centers. UNHCR and UNICEF are collaborating on the project to prioritize young people and in-camp refugees.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement on August 19, announcing USD 204 million in humanitarian aid for refugees and host communities in Iraq. This assistance will contribute to critical shelter, essential healthcare, emergency food assistance, and water, sanitation, and hygiene services. The funding will also go towards legal services, health facilities, educational services, and employment opportunities.
IOM announced that it is collaborating with Greek authorities on the voluntary return of 134 Iraqi nationals. The nationals departed from Athens on August 6, and disembarked in Baghdad and Erbil that day. The migrants were given individual counseling and medical appointments before their departures. IOM emphasized that this is the first large voluntary return of migrants from Greece since pandemic restrictions were initiated.
MSF announced that it is working with NGO Sea Watch to reinstate search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean Sea. MSF will provide medical care for rescued people aboard the vessel Sea Watch 4. Both organizations emphasized that these migrants’ lives matter, and that the EU needs to do more to protect these individuals human rights.
UNDP announced that France committed €1 million towards the resettlement of Libyan IDPs back to South Tripoli, which has suffered the brunt of fighting. The funds will go towards equipment, vehicles, and trainings to protect civilians returning to the area. The parties aim to resettle 200,000 IDPs in the next seven months.
IOM announced that it launched its first Voluntary Humanitarian Return Program since Libya implemented pandemic restrictions five months ago. On August 20, 100 Ghanaian migrants flew home. Health precautions and protections were implemented before and after the flight. Over 2,300 migrants in Libya have registered to voluntarily return to their countries of origin since March.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported that a 4.9 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Algeria and the area of Mila on August 7, and 122 houses were initially damaged. The government declared Khirbat, a neighborhood in Mila, a disaster zone on August 20 but has not provided relief as of August 25. Two days after the earthquake, 1,675 families were already hosted in four emergency camps.
WAM reported that the Emirate Red Crescent launched its annual Eid clothing project for vulnerable people in the Taizz Governorate of Yemen. The project distributed Eid clothing to 400 families, sent 50 tons of food, and 500 date packages.
Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) announced that it implemented a Eid clothing project for vulnerable youth in Yemen. It provided prepaid vouchers for 2,400 families to purchase Eid clothing for their children in the Taizz Governorate of Yemen. QRCS plans to reach 3,800 families by the end of the project in both Taizz and Dhale.
UNHCR reported on the devastation of flooding in Yemen over the past three months. The Marib, Amran, Hajjah, Al Hudaydah, Taizz, Lahj, Aden and Abyan governorates were hit the hardest, resulting in 148 deaths. Dam infrastructure is inadequate for controlling intensified flooding in much of the country. Many Yemenis affected by the flooding had been displaced previously by conflict as well. UNHCR is providing emergency shelter, core relief packages, and counseling to affected peoples.
UNHCR reported that over 650,000 Somalis have been displaced due to flooding between January and August 2020. More than 150,000 have fled their homes since late June. Many of these IDPs suffer from inadequate shelter conditions and food insecurity due to a rise in food prices. Although there are no reports of COVID outbreaks, testing is limited and sanitary conditions are poor.
MSF reported on the progression of COVID-19 in Northwest Syria. COVID testing is limited, but half of all tests have returned with positive results. A fifth of positive results are health workers. As of August 24, there were 394 confirmed cases. MSF estimated that there are current COVID hotspots in Hassakeh and Qamishli, and warned that Raqqa could be a new hotspot in the near future. MSF stressed that there is almost no healthcare available in Al Hol and that the camp requires additional health and humanitarian assistance immediately.
MSF reported on the effects of the pandemic on the Yazidi community. Although there are limited COVID cases in Sinjar, pandemic restrictions are harsh and hurting the Yazidi community economically. Movement restrictions have cut off the livelihoods of the many daily laborers in Sinjar and made it more difficult to access healthcare. MSF operates one of the only hospitals open to Yazidis in Sinjar, and reported less women coming in for appointments due to checkpoint difficulties and domestic abuse restrictions.
Human Rights Watch reported that Houthi forces in Yemen forcibly expelled thousands of Ethiopian migrants in April 2020 under the pretext of the pandemic. The migrants whom HRW interviewed claimed that both Houthi and Saudi forces shot and killed several migrants as they were forced towards the Saudi border. Migrants claimed that they were stranded in the border mountains or detained by Saudi authorities. HRW used satellite imagery and testimony to identify two detention centers in Saudi Arabia holding Ethiopian migrants today.
Raja Abdullah Almasabi, a disability rights defender from Yemen, demanded that the UNSC accommodate and include disabled people in their humanitarian aid programs. She accused the UNSC of giving empty promises to former disability rights advocates who spoke with them in the past. She outlined three demands: stop the war in Yemen, include disabled people in their work, and allocate resources and funding to reach people with disabilities.
The New Humanitarian reported that the EU intercepted and returned over 6,500 migrants to Libya thus far in 2020. Critics of the EU policy argued that it goes against the fundamental EU value to uphold human rights, as these returnees are forced into an unsafe third party nation and reincorporated into a detention center system that funds militant groups. Crossings have significantly decreased since the policy was strengthened in 2017, but Libyan authorities do not uphold their signed commitment to human rights.
AP News reported that Banksy sponsored a search and rescue ship in the Mediterranean christened MV Louise Michel. The vessel appealed for safe port on August 29 after rescuing 219 people. The Italian coast guard accepted an initial 49 of the most vulnerable rescued migrants to reach safety. Banksy stated on social media that his involvement in migrant rescue is in conjunction with the Black Lives Matter philosophy.
UNFPA released a report on the spread of COVID in the Syria crisis region, which encompasses Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. By June, UNFPA country offices throughout the region had already readjusted their programmes and work plans, putting short and long-term measures in place to ensure continuity of operations despite expected challenges.
UNDP released a report outlining that failure to address Iraq’s economic, environmental, political, societal, and security fragility could result in more extreme poverty for Iraqis. The paper emphasized that the causes of Iraq’s fragility are multifaceted, thus the solution must reflect that complexity. The paper is the first in a series of the impact of COVID-19 on Iraq.
IOM released its weekly report on changes in mobility restrictions in Iraq. This round found that 9 of the 30 points of entry were open to migrants, and 13 were open to commercial transport only. The government extended curfews from 11:00pm and 5:00am as well. Find more weekly updates here.
IOM reported that 839 individuals returned to the Sinjar and Al-Ba’aj districts in Iraq’s Ninewa Governorate between July 28 and August 6. This brings the total number of individuals that have taken this route to 14,704 since data collection began on June 8. Around 70% of these individuals are considered returnees as opposed to out-of-camp refugees.
The Reach Initiative reported that all 43 formal IDP camps in Iraq faced heightened threats due to COVID-19. It released a camp preparedness guide in line with the Iraq Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster to inform humanitarian actors of pandemic precautions.
IOM released its annual humanitarian report on Yemen this month. The report found that political talks and global awareness contributed little to the crisis in 2019. IOM identified 410,000 new IDPs and 138,000 newly arrived migrants in Yemen during that period. Its 1,000 person Yemen team (95% of whom are nationals) supported over 4 million vulnerable people in 2019, providing basic shelter, food, and health services.
ELRHA, Johns Hopkins University, Medair, and UNHCR released a study on multi-purpose cash transfers’ effect on out-of-camp refugees’ health in Jordan. It found that the impact of the transfers on health was varied, but it improved care-seeking for child illnesses, reduced hospitalizations for adult acute illnesses, and contributed to less borrowing for health expenditures.
OCHA released a report on the pandemic situation in Yemen. It found that 570 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 181 deaths were reported this July, and that local medical professionals worried that limited testing is creating an inaccurate representation of COVID-19 in the country. During July, OCHA shifted its COVID strategy to focus on testing, surveillance and case management. Food and fuel crises continue to increase the risk of the pandemic in Yemen.
OCHA released a report on flooding in Yemen, detailing the impact of the third round of flooding this year in July and August. Tens of thousands of people were affected through displacement, damage to their homes, and death.