[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
Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Jan Egeland wrote an opinion piece in Al Jazeera on the necessity of including refugees in the COVID-19 vaccination process. Although the virus has not widely affected this population or stressed local health systems, NRC found that the pandemic has disproportionately hurt refugees’ economic and education opportunities, which will profoundly affect the world’s economic recovery.
Médecins Sans Frontières announced that over two million displaced persons in Northwest Syria need supplies and appropriate accommodations for the winter. As of December 9, MSF distributed winter kits to 14,500 families in displacement camps and began rehabilitating several thousand tents. Camp residents are reportedly worried about the harsh elements as well as the intensified spread of COVID-19 in close quarters.
According to WHO, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the MENA region has reached 2,955,030 as of the 17th of December. Around 2,594,754 people have recovered.
According to WHO, as of the 10th of December, a total of 2,876,228 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across the MENA region. Around 50,583 have died while 2,512,352 have recovered.
According to WHO, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the MENA region has reached 2,764,732 as of the 5th of December. A total of 48,491 have died due to the virus while 2,382,102 have recovered.
Latest Developments: Other
According to UNICEF, a 15-year old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by the Israeli authorities on the 4th of December in the West Bank. Four other Palestinians have been shot and severely injured in the West Bank in the past two weeks. One child has lost his eye while two others continue to get treatment at the Intensive Care Unit. UNICEF urges the Israeli authority to protect and respect Palestinian children.
IOM assisted 105 Ugandan women, including victims of trafficking, to return home from Saudi Arabia where they were stranded due to COVID-19. The flight was funded by the German Humanitarian Assistance. Many of the workers lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and have faced stigma and xenophobia in KSA.
According to HRW, Israel's 13-year closure of the Gaza Strip as well as the neglect by Hamas authorities have significantly affected tens of thousands of Palestinians with disabilities. Israel’s restrictions curb access to assistive devices, health care, and electricity to many people with disabilities. Israeli policies such as attacking Gaza’s sole power plant leave Gazan residents with only 5 to 15 hours of electricity per day which significantly affects Gazans with disabilities.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has recorded 3,000 deaths on migratory routes worldwide in 2020. Despite the ongoing spread of COVID-19, tens of thousands of people have continued to migrate through dangerous routes. The overall number of people who have lost their lives due to migration has fallen in 2020. Most of the fatalities were en route to Europe.
According to HRW, the ongoing closure of Iraq’s displaced person camps on short notice is forcing some residents into homelessness and poverty. In October 2020, the Iraqi Prime Minister formed a committee with the mandate to close about 17 camps.
According to the UNHCR, around 2,149,822 people reached cash assistance from January to September 2020 across the MENA region. Around $198,583,347 million were distributed via all modes of cash assistance of which $132,231,124 million was given to Syrians.
Reuters reported that a raft of 24 migrants was discovered by Greek authorities near the island of Lesbos on December 18. An additional two women who had fallen from the raft were rescued afterward, and another drowned. The migrants’ countries of origin were unreported.
According to HRW, a deportation center in Riyadh is holding hundreds of migrant workers in degrading conditions, mostly workers from Ethiopia. Detainees are held in overcrowded rooms as guards beat and torture them. HRW urged the Saudi authorities to release the most vulnerable detainees.
InfoMigrants reported that a plane carrying at least 86 migrants from Greek refugee camps landed in Germany on December 17. The migrants include sick children and their immediate family members. Many of the migrants who were transferred to Germany over the past year originate from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
Al Jazeera reported that the Bosnian government is returning migrants to the ruins of the Lipa camp, which burned down on December 23. Officials had placed migrants on buses for over 24 hours to move them to a different camp, but local protests prevented the transfer. Around 1,000 migrants originating from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are stranded in the camp.
UNICEF is appealing for $2.5 billion in emergency funds to respond to the needs of 39 million children in the MENA region. Most of the funding will be targeted at children’s education in Yemen, Syria, and Sudan. UNICEF will also fund water sanitation, health, and psychotherapy.
Following international criticism of its treatment of migrants after the Lipa camp fire, 150 soldiers from the Bosnian military set up new tents for the migrants in the ruins of the burned camp. The camp operations will be run by IOM.
The Qatar Red Crescent Society in cooperation with the WHO and UNICEF has completed the monitoring of the polio vaccination campaign in northern Syria. While keeping strict preventative measures against COVID-19, children who had not been previously vaccinated received the polio vaccine orally.
According to HRW, the Trump administration’s potential designation of the Houthi armed group in Yemen as a “foreign terrorist organization” could threaten humanitarian aid to millions of Yemenis. The designation by the United States could threaten parties involved with providing resources to armed groups with federal prosecution. Numerous non-profits will not be able to supply humanitarian aid to Houthi controlled areas.
According to HRW, Lebanese authorities have had no regard for the protection of healthcare workers at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s significant debt to private and public hospitals reduces hospitals’ abilities to maintain sufficient levels of staffing while protecting its staff.
The Government of the Republic of Korea promised a contribution package of $3.8 million to the United Nations World Food Programme. The package will be used to provide food assistance for conflict-affected Syrians inside their country and in neighboring countries. Around $2 million will help WFP provide monthly cash assistance for refugees in Lebanon.
The Government of India contributed $2 million to UNRWA in support of the Agency’s education, health care relief, and social services to Palestinian refugees. India has provided a total of $5 million in 2020.
Reuters reported that the Morocco government refused the EU’s request to host third party nationals that reached Europe through the Kingdom. The Morocco Interior Ministry stated that this migration dispute is between the EU and the migrants’ countries of origin. The Kingdom prevented 32,000 migrants from reaching Europe in 2020 compared to 74,000 in 2019. Tighter patrols have redirected migration patterns away from the Kingdom towards the Spanish Canary Islands, which prompted the EU’s request.
IOM announced that although migration into Yemen has decreased by 80% during the pandemic, around 14,500 migrants remain stranded in the war-torn country. IOM is concerned that healthcare resources in the country do not adequately address migrants. With IOM’s health programs USD 30 million short of funding, the agency anticipates that famine and disease will become more likely realities for migrants in Yemen.
UNHCR warned that hundreds of thousands of displaced Yemenis face food insecurity as unemployment rises. According to the agency, 40% of vulnerable displaced households have no source of income, and 37% report they are eating less due to these circumstances. Displaced women and female-headed households are disproportionately affected due to social and cultural obstacles to aid. In response, UNHCR is expanding direct cash assistance to vulnerable households during the winter.
The Lebanese military announced that 8 people have been detained for burning a Syrian refugee camp in the north of Lebanon. The detainees include 2 Lebanese and 6 Syrian workers who were in a fight that caused the fire. Around 370 refugees have been affected by the fire and 4 refugees have been transferred to a hospital.
The Lebanese Red Cross reported that it provided the first round of financial aid to 9,800 of its targeted 10,000 vulnerable families in Beirut as of November 20. The financial aid supports families affected by the August 4th explosion and who are experiencing displacement by providing them with cash for essential needs, like food and healthcare. The participants will receive 300 USD per month for seven months.
The UNHCR signed an agreement with the Tunisian Ministry of Social Affairs to provide $100,000 in funding to grant refugees and asylum seekers better access to benefits and social services provided by the Ministry. The services will target the most vulnerable populations, including those with disabilities, minors without their guardians, and women with minors.
Greek Authorities have detained 2 Greek citizens who, while armed with knives and iron bars, broke into a center for unaccompanied refugee children in Oraiokastro. The attack took place at 11 pm on the second day of Christmas and injured 4 minors.
The International Labor Organization, supported by the Government of the Netherlands, will collaborate with the local government in Dohuk, Iraq on an integrated employment-intensive investment program for Syrian refugees, IDPs, and host communities. The initiative aims to create over 180 jobs in water irrigation maintenance and solid waste management.
Moroccan and French authorities have signed an agreement that will facilitate the repatriation of unaccompanied minors. The agreement will provide tangible resources for minors and the legal frameworks of institutional interventions for their wellbeing. However, under international law, many minors have the right to refuse repatriation.
United Nations Iraq announced that UNHCR provided legal assistance to over 64,400 Iraqi IDPs from January 2019 to June 2020. Additionally, over 38,000 IDPs obtained civil documents through the “Ad Hoc Committee on Civil Documentation” which allows IDPs to access public services like education and healthcare, as well as begin their return process. This progress was made possible by a 6 million EUR contribution from the EU.
As of December 1, USAID announced that its joint program with the Archdiocese of Erbil, Iraq has provided 13,000 individuals with cash assistance totaling 2.64 million USD and provided 1,810 displaced families with counseling for their return process.
According to UNICEF, the number of children living in poverty in the MENA region could reach 60.1 million by the end of 2020 compared with 50.4 million before the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. The total number of internally displaced children is over 6 million while the total number of refugee children is 6.3 million. UNICEF MENA is appealing for $2.5 billion to respond to the crisis in the region.
The Iraqi government announced an emergency plan to provide housing for tens of thousands of refugees who have been affected by the recent closures of IDP camps in October. Authorities have not released any information on the timeframe and logistics of their new decision.
The European Union has signed an additional contribution of EUR 4.6 million to UNRWA to address the needs of Palestinian refugees during the COVID-19 crisis, especially those related to healthcare. The contribution is an addition to the EUR 82 million already disbursed to UNRWA in 2020.
The Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) has launched an emergency intervention to help IDPs affected by floods in Yemen. A total of $55,143 were spent to deploy eleven emergency medical care teams across Hajjah and Taiz. The team examined 280 patients and provided public health counseling.
The Shapiro Foundation, a U.S. based foundation, is dedicating more than $1.3 million to helping resettle Middle Eastern refugees across Britain. Since launching in 2016, the agency has resettled as many as 449 refugees from across the Middle East.
Al-Monitor reported on medical shortages in al-Rukban camp near the border of Jordan and Syria. The makeshift camp hosts over 10,000 refugees, mostly Syrians, who rely on UN clinics and Zoom consultations to address their health needs.
UNRWA paid salaries of 30,000 Palestinian staff across the MENA region for last month. Officials stated that funding shortfalls may hinder salary payments in December. UNRWA has been affected by two years of funding cuts by the Trump administration and is expecting at least a partial resume of payments under the Biden administration. The PA has also been unable to pay the full wages of its 130,000 employees in the past months.
According to OCHA, the Israeli authorities have demolished 129 Palestinian buildings in November stating that the buildings did not have appropriate licenses. More than 300 Palestinians have been affected by the demolitions. Israeli authorities have demolished more buildings in 2020 than any other year since the United Nations started documenting demolishes in 2009.
UNHCR, WFP, and UNICEF released findings from their 2020 Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon this month. WFP wrote that the most alarming finding is that 89% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are living in extreme poverty compared to 55% in 2019. In the economic and pandemic hardship, the Syrian refugee community is experiencing greater food insecurity and larger levels of debt.
The New Humanitarian reported that despite Greece’s decision to end the illegal practice of holding unaccompanied migrant children in police custody, human rights advocates still criticize Greek authorities for failing to support the children through education, employment, and other integration efforts.
The New Humanitarian reported on the dire conditions of Ethiopian and Somalian migrants in Yemen. Though only 35,000 migrants entered Yemen in 2020 compared to 138,000 the year before, many migrants are struggling to find work or return to their countries of origin due to pandemic conditions and the civil war.
Human Rights Watch published a report about concerns over lead poison in a new migrant camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece that was built on a repurposed military firing range. HRW claims that the Greek authorities did not conduct adequate lead testing or soil remediation before moving migrants there in September. Migrants have also discovered unexploded mortar projectiles and live small arms ammunition on-site, which threatens the safety of migrants and aid workers alike.
Reuters reported on the plight of migrant women working as domestics in Lebanon and their efforts to return to their countries of origin in the face of financial crisis and the pandemic. Although charities have repatriated hundreds, thousands remain stuck in the country due to the financial restrictions. Lebanon documents 250,000 migrant workers under the kafala system, but independent estimates claim that Ethiopian migrants alone make up at least 400,000 members of the community.
UNICEF published its annual report on children’s welfare in Yemen during the civil conflict, finding that 12.4 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. UNICEF is requesting 576.9 million USD to address Yemeni children’s humanitarian concerns in 2021. Over 70% of funding requirements are for water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and nutrition.
OHCA released its monthly report on the humanitarian situation in Libya, finding that November was the deadliest month for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya, reaching upwards of 900 drowned migrants. During November, over 4,100 people were affected by floods in the east as well.
The Missing Migrants Project, part of IOM, released a report on the factors underlying the mortality rates in Mediterranean Sea crossings since 2014. Between 2014 and 2020, the project recorded over 20,000 deaths in the crossing. However, these numbers do not include all crossings or reveal discrepancies in different demographics. The report suggests that crossings need to be monitored more closely and collaboratively between North African and European countries in order to accurately analyze the dynamics of crossings.
According to UNHCR and the World Bank, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on poverty levels among Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan, Lebanon, and KRI. An estimated 4.4 million people are now affected by poverty since the beginning of the crisis. Moreover, many households are now reliant on informal labor and have significant debts.
According to HALO, around 3500 accidents have occurred by explosive ordnance in the past five years in Northwest Syria due to the ongoing conflict. Around 255 of those affected by the explosives are children. A study by HALO found that 41% of the areas assessed were contaminated with rockets, grenades, mortars, and landmines.