[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
According to WFP, as of October 18th, there were 2,022,075 reported cases of COVID-10 in countries where WFP is active including Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, and Palestine. There has been an increase of 16% of cases over the weeks of the 4th and 18th of October. A total of $1.07 billion of funding is needed for the next six months.
According to WFP, as of October 4th, there have been 1,744,995 reported cases of COVID-19 in countries where WFP is active which include Palestine, Libya, Turkey, Tunisia, and Jordan. There has been an increase of 15% in COVID-19 cases between the 20th of September and 4th of October with the lifting of public health measures.
According to IOM, the global number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) reached an all-time high at the end of 2019 reaching 33.4 million across 145 countries. The pandemic has directly impacted the circumstances of IDPs and host communities including lack of access to healthcare, water and sanitation, and infrastructure.
According to WHO, the total confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 17 countries in the MENA region have reached 1,847,256 cases as of October 17th. A total of 32,785 people have died due to the pandemic while 1,545,373 have recovered.
IOM released its September report on the COVID-19 situation in Iraq. Between September 8th and 21st, the Iraqi government extended a national lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19; however essential services are operational, including food and travel services under pandemic restrictions.
UNHCR released its September 2020 factsheet for the Azraq and Zaatari refugee camps. The agency and its multiple partners have provided refugees in both camps with proper sanitary equipment to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa has developed a new design of a malnutrition screening tool: the Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tape. Malnutrition among children has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To protect children from contracting COVID-19, families can use single-use tapes for malnutrition screening.
According to the St. John's Eye Hospital Group, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted patients who have been diagnosed with vision impairment. Almost 18,000 patients in Palestine have not been seen by an ophthalmologist for more than five months. Furthermore, the hospital has experienced at least a 50% decrease in eye operations. Blindness and visual impairment is the third most prevalent disability in Palestine.
MSF has integrated COVID-19 measures into its existing projects in various locations across South Sudan to strengthen infection prevention by aiding existing health facilities, training healthcare workers, and providing health promotion activities targeting the community. MSF training efforts have also included training microbiology, biology, and pathology specialists who have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response in South Sudan.
WFP announced that it expanded its food, education, and employment operations to accommodate 33,500 additional vulnerable people out of its Basra office in southern Iraq. The new work and training programs were initiated in response to the global pandemic to enable both rural and urban communities in southern Iraq to provide for their families and rehabilitate their communities.
The International Rescue Committee found evidence of approximately 500 children over the past six months who had been intercepted at sea while trying to escape from Libya to Europe. In this period, a total of about 5,800 migrants were intercepted during their crossing, and all of them, including the children, were sent to Libya’s notorious detention centers. The overcrowding, lack of sanitation, and abuse experienced in these centers have become an even larger concern during the pandemic.
According to Save the Children, an estimated 500,000 more girls are at risk of being forced into child marriage as a consequence of the economic impact of the rise of COVID-19. More specifically around 14,000 girls in the Middle East and North Africa have been disproportionately impacted by the risk of increased child marriage. The original estimate of girls being forced into child marriage this year was 12 million. STC warns that this increase will reverse 25 years of progress.
UNRWA has recently signed a contribution agreement amounting to $4.3 million with the Government of Japan. The contribution will enable UNRWA to continue providing food assistance to 99,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan has supported UNRWA since 1953 and was the 8th largest contributor to the agency in 2019.
According to UNRWA, around 1.14 million Palestinian refugees are supported by the food assistance program in Gaza making it the largest emergency intervention by UNRWA. The organization is doubling its efforts by securing $15 million to cover an uninterrupted food delivery until the end of the year.
UNHCR evacuated a group of 153 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers out of Libya to the Emergency Transit Mechanism facility in Niger. UNHCR has suspended evacuation flights from Libya for the past seven months due to COVID-19. Evacuees now receive humanitarian assistance at the ETM including shelter, food, and medical care.
Medecins Sans Frontieres handed over its last healthcare services across the Diyala governorate. The service started in 2014 in which MSF rehabilitated destroyed health structures, ran mobile clinics to respond to the acute needs of displaced people as well as donating essential supplies to existing health facilities. The directorate of health and other local and international organizations will be providing healthcare services to the communities that were served by the MSF.
According to UNHCR, 230 Sudanese refugees out of 3500 have returned to their homes in Sudan from a camp in Bambari in the Central African Republic. Many refugees have decided to return following the increase in security due to the disarmament of armed groups in Darfur. Millions of Sudanese have been displaced since war broke out in 2003.
The Indian Government announced that it donated $1 million for UNRWA to support the agency’s programs and services for Palestinian refugees. The Indian government also announced that it will be donating ten million dollars to UNRWA in the next ten years. UNRWA recently issued a statement encouraging countries to increase funding to the agency due to the increase in demand since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
According to UNRWA, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia donated $25 million to the organization. This is part of the Saudi Kingdom’s commitment to supporting the 5.6 million Palestinian refugees being served by the UNRWA. The Kingdom’s financial support has totaled to $800 million over the years.
According to IOM, fifty Ethiopian migrants returning from Yemen were thrown off a boat by smugglers off the coast of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. Twelve migrant bodies have washed up on the Champ de Tir off the Coast of Obock and are being recovered and buried by staff from IOM. Thirty-four of the migrants who survived are being treated for minor injuries by IOM. Around 14,500 African migrants are stranded across Yemen and some are choosing to risk using smugglers to escape the danger in Yemen.
UNRWA announced that it will start providing new services to refugees in the Gaza strip as part of the third phase of its emergency plan. The new services include physiotherapy for rehabilitation after surgeries, disabilities, and difficult fractures. The agency has also resumed services for non-infectious diseases, such as diabetes. This statement comes after several protests on the lack of health services in the refugee camps.
The Moria refugee camp located on the island of Lesbos in Greece has witnessed heavy rainstorms that have flooded the camp. Residents of the camp, which total to 13,000 refugees, continue to experience a second displacement after the fire that burnt the camp down in September. Residents in the camp state that most of the newly distributed tents as a consequence of the fire have been flooded.
Finn Church Aid (FCA) granted over $680,000 from the Syria Humanitarian Fund to support 4,000 crisis-affected youth and children in Hama in Syria. The program will provide access to quality education in a safe and protected environment. Approximately 1,000 children are out of school in the region FCA will be serving. FCA will rehabilitate school buildings to make them safe and accessible. The program will also provide quality non-formal education such as remedial classes and accelerated learning
The Open Society Foundation announced a $70 million global investment in providing immediate relief for vulnerable communities in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The fund will target several regions and populations including refugees in the MENA region. The Open Society's investment to combat COVID-19 has totaled to $200 million. The fund will support humanitarian relief and advocacy for access to critical services for refugees in addition to countering the rise of authoritarianism during COVID-19.
The UN Special Representative for Iraq visited IDPs in the Ninewa governorate and met with local authorities to discuss the IDPs’ situation. She advocated for their protection and facilitation of voluntary return. She also met with key humanitarian and international stakeholders to discuss recovery efforts for IDPs in camps and those who return to their places of origin.
WFP announced that it is providing cash assistance to 50,000 people who were made vulnerable or displaced by the explosion in Beirut in August. The program began mid-September and is expected to continue for six months. Vulnerable families can still apply for the program through a self-registration website.
On October 2nd, the UN announced that the UNSC reauthorized its member states to inspect vessels suspected of trafficking migrants even if the vessels in question are outside of those states’ territorial waters, specifically in the case of the Libyan migrant crisis.
OHCHR urged the European Union and its members to address the dire circumstances facing migrants in Libya during their Mediterranean crossing and upon their reception in Europe. Migrants reported their vessels being shot at by officials upon their arrival in Europe, commercial vessels ignoring their distress signals, and the frequent return of intercepted migrants to Libyan detention centers. Reports indicate that Maltese officials turn migrant vessels away or detain migrants for months in inhumane conditions, which OHCHR stresses is a symptom of failed migration governance.
The Moroccan government reported it is collaborating with UNHCR on refugee and asylum seekers’ affairs in the region, specifically in light of the bombing in Beirut and pandemic efforts in Africa. The government highlighted the High Commissioners’ praise of Morocco’s domestic consideration for migrant and refugee rights.
Kreditanstalt Fur Wiederaufbau has supported Syrian teachers for refugees in Turkey since 2016. Around 12,000 teachers receive remuneration equivalent to the Turkish minimum wage and are provided with training which includes psychological support for children during the pandemic. KFW has signed a EUR 50 million contract with UNICEF on behalf of the German Federal Government to continue its programs.
The Norwegian Refugee Council expressed its concern over the Israeli military’s plans to demolish a Palestinian primary school in Ramallah, the West Bank, which was funded by the European Union, the UK, and several other member states. Without the school, its 50 pupils would have to walk five kilometers to get access to an education.
ICRC announced that it is preparing to transport over 1,000 detained migrants from Yemen to their countries of origin, making it the largest Red Cross operation during the past five years of the conflict. The release of the detainees was negotiated in Switzerland last month and the Red Cross will act as a neutral party to facilitate the transfer.
TikTok created a campaign in partnership with UNICEF in the MENA region to encourage users to keep their masks on and dispose of them safely. The first session took place on October 19th and talked about how to make masks. Both of the organizations created the hashtag #MaskUp to encourage users to share their tips online.
According to Foregin Policy, Syrian workers, who are often targeted by Lebanese politicians as the reason for high unemployment, are rebuilding Lebanon. Syrian refugees are building windows, repairing doors, and painting houses to rebuild Beirut. Refugees are receiving minimal compensation and are experiencing a continued lack of respect.
Reuters reported on the inhumane conditions that migrant workers face as domestics in Lebanon, citing IOM interviews and statistics on the 10,000 migrant workers requesting to be repatriated during the ongoing pandemic. Many domestic workers reported losing their wages due to financial strains in the country while still being forced to complete their regular duties.
HRW reported that Algeria has expelled over 3,400 migrants and asylum seekers over the Niger border without due process since early September. Algerian forces separated families, took their belongings, and refused to screen them for refugee status. In response to international outrage over the treatment of migrants during the pandemic, the Algerian Interior Minister claimed that its newest operation in October would stop illegal migration while respecting human rights. Days after, Algeria forced hundreds of Sub-Saharan migrants into the Niger desert.
The Syrian President Bashar Assad met with a high-level Russian delegation advocating for jointly hosting an international conference on refugees in Damascus next month. Many Western nations are against an international conference on the return of refugees citing that conditions in Syria are not ripe for mass return of refugees. The U.N.-facilitated process has been stuck for months.
As the economic and pandemic crisis rages on in Lebanon, hundreds of people continue to attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Cyprus, reports Save the Children. These dangerous journeys have claimed several lives this year, including children. The organization interviewed several survivors and family members of victims for this piece.
Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) highlighted the Palestinian Civil Defense’s efforts to aid those impacted by the explosion in Beirut in August. The PCD in Lebanon is comprised of Palestinian refugees specializing in capacity building projects like firefighting, first aid, and search and rescue.
MSF reported that masked armed men kidnapped around 350 West African migrants at the end of September from their homes in Al Ajaylat, Libya. Although most have since been released, MSF calls upon the release of the remaining 60 migrants, including 24 children, who are currently being held by the men in a warehouse with inhumane living conditions. MSF medics were allowed to treat the women and children at the warehouse, but not the men.
The New Humanitarian reported on Greece’s illegal deportation operations targeting male migrants with legal documentation and expelling them from the country on dinghies. The Greek government denied the allegations of these “pushback” campaigns, which are illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights, despite numerous allegations from human rights organizations and news reports. Meanwhile, the EU praises Greece as the shield of Europe and funnels millions of euros into its border infrastructure.
AP News reported that European countries condemn the planned construction of 4,900 homes in a new Israeli settlement in the West Bank. European leaders stress that the annexation violates international law and Palestinian rights. NGO Peace Now documented the approval of 12,150 new buildings in Israeli settlements in 2020, representing the highest number of approvals since 2012.
Reuters reported on the difficult circumstances surrounding the return of Yazidi communities to their homes in Sinjar, Iraq. Baghdad and the Kurdish authorities recently announced a new security and reconstruction program for the Yazidis, but Yazidis are concerned that the plan does not include their input or provide concrete steps for the return.
Reuters reported on escalating fighting between Saudi-backed forces and Houthi forces in Marib, which is threatening the 1,500 families living in a displacement camp nearby. As a ceasefire remains elusive, IDPs struggle to basic living supplies like water. According to the UN, conflict in Marib has displaced almost a million people and threatens the 750,000 refugees currently residing in the area.
The New York Times reported that the United States’ immigration restrictions during COVID exclude Iraqis and Afghan refugees who worked with the U.S. military in their respective countries of origin. The U.S. administration had reserved 4,000 slots in 2020 for Iraqis who are now refugees and who aided U.S. military operations but only admitted 161.
UNHCR released its response plan for the 254,726 refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt. About half of the refugees are of Syrian origin and receive most of the attention and resources from the humanitarian community, so this response plan focuses on 125,516 refugees and asylum seekers in the country who originate from sub-Saharan Africa, Iraq, and Yemen. The program focuses on accountability for basic needs and livelihood, education, food security, health, and protection.
Women’s Refugee Commission, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and Plan International released a report to support Syrian refugees and their Egyptian host communities through a new “Cash and Voucher Assistance for Adolescents in Crisis Initiative.” The new program aims to build these organizations’ ability to strengthen their capacity for the protection, education, and wellbeing outcomes of adolescent girls and boys.
OCHA released its September Humanitarian bulletin for Libya, highlighting a 10% decrease in IDPs, a doubling of COVID cases to 20,000, and a greater frequency of power outages. Families are slowly starting to return to Tripoli as fighting calms down, but overall conditions are deteriorating due to the power outages’ effect on hospitals and lack of PPE.
UNHCR published its situation report of refugees and asylum seekers in Tunisia. The majority of displaced peoples are in the Sfax and Medenine regions and originate from Syria and Côte de D’Ivoire.
New research by STC states that children in the Israeli military detention system face inhumane treatment including beatings, strip searches, psychological abuse, and weeks in solitary confinement. STC found its data through interviewing more than 470 children from across the West Bank who have been detained in the past ten years.
This working paper looks at the aspects of the relationship between Syrian refugees and their Canadian sponsors that makes the parties a social unit. The paper argues that features in this kinship relationship are embedded in the institutional structure and interstitial norms of private refugee sponsorship dating back to 1976.
A new report on child marriage in Lebanon states that while the rates of child marriage have been decreasing across the MENA region, conflicts in the region could threaten this progress. The study indicates that humanitarian emergencies and prolonged displacement are related to an increase in child marriage rates. The study warns of high child marriage rates amongst Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
According to the IOM, the two explosions in the port of Beirut in the past two months have deteriorated the living situation for thousands of migrants. A survey of migrant workers has found that 91% reported financial difficulties, emphasizing an increased need for support to pay rent. In an economically insecure environment, many migrants are struggling to find jobs or even go back home.
IOM inaugurated the first fixed border police post in Assamaka in Niger on the 14th of October. Since late 2017, over 30,000 migrants from Algeria have arrived in Assamaka making it a major migratory hub. The population of Assamaka has been experiencing a rise in criminal activity including smuggling networks. The new facility was built in efforts to reduce illicit cross-border activities including smuggling and trafficking.
IOM warns of a looming crisis in Marib due to the escalation of fighting in Yemen. More than 90,000 people have been displaced to and within the Marib governorate since January. Of the families displaced, 70% need shelter support. Many of these families live in overcrowded makeshift shelters, making them at a high risk of COVID-19. To make matters worse, 17,000 migrant families have been affected by floods.