[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 (COVID)
As of January 18, 2021, the above mentioned regions’ reported COVID cases had increased by 69% since November 27, 2020, according to WFP. In the MENA region, Morocco reported the largest increase at 27%, followed by Jordan at 19%, and Lebanon at 15%. The pandemic has forced millions into food insecurity and caused them to lose their source of income. WFP has addressed the acute needs of vulnerable migrants and refugees through distributing masks, cash transfers, and providing programming.
According to WHO, there have been 3,123,675 cases of COVID-19 across the MENA region as of the 1st of January. There have been 54,973 fatalities and 2,769,252 recoveries.
UNHCR announced that Jordan became one of the first countries to begin COVID-19 vaccinations for refugees. Any resident of Jordan, regardless of citizenship status, is eligible for a vaccine. Since the first reported COVID case in Jordan, 1,928, or 1.6%, of refugees in camps tested positive for the virus. The UN High Commissioner applauded Jordan as a leader in hosting and including refugees in their public health response.
OCHA reported a 37% decline in active COVID cases throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) between January 14 to 28. Israel temporarily halted air and land crossings, including the Palestinian border, to respond to its national rise in cases. However, public health restrictions have eased in the Gaza Strip in light of declining active cases. As of January 28, there were 8,994 active cases of COVID in the oPt.
Latest Developments (Other)
UNHCR is calling on states to investigate and halt practices of expulsion of refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe. UNHCR received claims that European states are using violence to restrict access to asylum seekers who have reached European borders. UNHCR’s Assistant Commissioner for Protection stated that countries have the obligation to respect human lives and international law while managing their borders. The number of arrivals to Europe continued to decrease in 2020 by 23% compared to 2019.
The European Commission has adopted its initial annual humanitarian budget of 1.4 billion Euros for 2021. The budget is 60% higher than that of last year to accommodate the increase in need for humanitarian aid. Around 385 million Euros of EU funding will be allocated to the MENA region especially to Syria and Yemen. Beyond increasing its budget, the EU will also increase its international partnerships to fill the humanitarian need gap.
In December 2020, WFP reported assisting 366,517 people, including IDPs, returnees, refugees, and vulnerable host community members in Iraq and distributed USD 3.16 million in cash-based transfers. As of the end of December, over 15 formal and informal IDP camps were closed, prompting 34,694 people to leave those sites. Four camps remain open in federal Iraq, along with several in Kurdish-led Iraq. Additionally, WFP concluded its urban livelihood projects in Baghdad, Basra, Ninewa and Wassit, providing jobs for 11,700 head of households in rehabilitating community infrastructure. WFP continues to consider the IDP situation as precarious, stressing the need to save lives and livelihoods.
UNDP Iraq announced its facilitation of a peace agreement on January 26 in Habbaniyah between the local mayor and Anbar governor which will allow the return of 524 displaced families suspected of ISIS affiliation. The Habbaniyah Local Peace Committee developed a sustainable peace and community reintegration plan for these families. This agreement was signed under the UN Iraq guidelines for the community-based reconciliation and reintegration of suspected ISIS affiliates.
UNHRC released its December 2020 Jordan report, highlighting its collaboration with the Ministry of Health to vaccine refugees, and its distribution of cash assistance to 53,000 refugee families in November and December. As of January 21, 752,416 refugees were registered in Jordan, and 83% of them live in urban areas. UNHRC noted that pandemic conditions and the remote work environment are delaying efforts for renewing Asylum Seeker Certificates and providing legal counsel services.
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) announced the installation of solar panels at the Unite Lebanon Youth Project (ULYP) campus in Dibbiyeh, Lebanon. ULYP provides classes and recreation opportunities for Palestinian and Syrian refugee children. TIKA stated that the installation should allow children to continue their education uninhibited by the 20-hour power outages that can occur in the area.
Education Cannot Wait (ECW) approved USD 1.5 million to UNRWA in Lebanon that will go towards PPE equipment and inclusive learning tools for over 32,000 Palestinian refugee children and youth. This funding will equip over 200 teachers with supplies to best operate their classrooms, particularly for children with disabilities. Previously, ECW approved another USD 1.5 million package in the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut, and USD 2.8 million to combat COVID.
ECHO reported that an estimated 43 migrants perished while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya on January 21. The Libyan coast guard rescued 10 individuals from the wreckage. All migrants onboard seemed to be men from West African countries.
UN-Habitat announced its collaboration with the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Programme for Yemen (SDRPY) and Alwaleed Philanthropies (AP) to rehabilitate 600 homes in Aden, Yemen. The project aims to benefit 4,000 local people through creating 1600 new jobs in Yemen, supporting youth vocational programming, and providing housing. The buildings themselves are planned to be constructed in an environmentally friendly way, use locally sourced materials, and structured in a socially cohesive manner.
QRCS has concluded a project to distribute food parcels in five governorates in Yemen. The project aided 68,670 persons at a total cost of $497,634. The food parcels were distributed to displaced and poor families with special focus on vulnerable families with orphans and people with special needs. The parcels included wheat, rice, sugar, beans, vegetable oil, and salt.
QRCS announced that it launched a $1,097,870 new project to dig wells and rehabilitate water projects in Yemen. Around 120,000 people will benefit from the project across five governorates including Taiz, Dhale, Saada, Hajjah, and Raymah. The project will expand access to clean drinking water to the most vulnerable communities across Yemen.
IOM recorded a total of 52 migrants deaths and disappearances in 2020. The majority of the deaths came as a result of drowning at sea by smugglers near Djibouti. COVID-19 affected migration routes as a result of border closures in Djibouti. Migrants crossed through Somalia instead where 3,000 migrants were stranded across the region.
According to WFP, 24.3 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance. Around 3.6 million people are internally displaced. WFP has reached 5.3 million Yemeni people with general food assistance in December. WFP required $430 million to continue operations over the next six months.
Action Against Hunger is concerned about the humanitarian consequences of designating Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States. Organizations and humanitarians face the threat of being prosecuted and sanctioned by the US government due to the decision. The organization warns that the designation will further drive hundreds of thousands of Yemenis into poverty and hunger.
OCHA and its UN Syria partners announced their concern over the deteriorating security situation at Al Hol camp, Northeast Syria. During the first half of January, the UN received reports of the murders of 12 Syrian and Iraqi camp residents, including one female Iraqi refugee. Another person was critically injured in a violent attack. There are 62,000 residents in Al-Hol, making it the largest IDP camp in the country. These UN agencies urge all relevant partners in the camp to collaborate on a safer environment for the camp residents and critical humanitarian aid workers.
IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation reported that it constructed and gifted 14,000 brick homes for Syrian IDPs and refugees in Syria throughout 2020. Currently, 6,000 additional homes are in the process of being constructed. IHH also completed 47 schools, 2 universities, and multiple medical facilities for camp residents and other displaced Syrians.
Save the Children reported on deadly flooding in Northwest Syria in January 2021. At least 41,200 people were affected or displaced by the storm and flooding in Aleppo and Idlib, and including 20,000 children. At least 62 camps and 2,558 tents were damaged or destroyed in the storm, leaving tens of thousands of displaced Syrian without shelter in the winter. The organization reported providing humanitarian assistance at camps in the aftermath, but was unable to access all affected locations due to flooded roads.
QRCS launched an emergency response campaign in the aftermath of the recent floods affecting IDPS in northern Syria. The campaign provided aid to 10,000 people at a cost of QR 5 million. IDPS will also receive 1,000 emergency aid kits, 2,000 food parcels, 1,000 shelter tents and 2,000 medical kits.
QRCS completed phase 2 of a residential project in Northern Syria. The project secures shelters for many of the most vulnerable Syrians at camps such as orphans, widows, and people with disabilities. The residential spaces are real and provide protection against the cold. Overall, 208 flats have been built for the benefit of 1,200 people.
In face of an extreme healthcare shortage in Somalia during COVID-19, IOM Somalia is implementing a new telemedicine program to enhance local doctors’ tools for diagnoses and equip them with access to online and digital medical resources, like a reference library. IOM has experienced difficulties recruiting diaspora Somalians and expatriates as doctors in the country, so the agency hopes to use telemedicine to increase local Somalians’ access to healthcare without physically bringing in specialists.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the prevalence of food insecurity in Somalia is higher than the average across the region. FOA found that 74.3% of households experienced moderate to severe food insecurity, while 53.5% experienced severe food insecurity. Several hazards including climatic shocks such as floods, droughts, and heavy rains have contributed to below-average harvests in Somalia’s predominantly rural population.
According to the German government, around 607 minors and 972 unaccompanied minors have disappeared in 2020. Most of the minors that have disappeared are from Morocco, Algeria, Syria, Somalia, and Afghanistan. According to the authorities, the number has decreased significantly from last year where it was at 8,900. The German authorities state that the disappearances are not concerning as they are due to spelling mistakes or lack of documentation, indicating that 69% of the disappearances end with positive results.
The EU has announced additional funding to Bosnia and Herzegovina to help with rebuilding refugee camps that burned down. A fire engulfed the refugee camp in Lipa on December 23rd causing no casualties but destroying the infrastructure of the camp, causing a housing crisis for its inhabitants. The fire was started by migrants protesting the withdrawal of the IOM out of the camp. The IOM rendered the camps as uninhabitable during the winter.
MSF reported that COVID has increased the challenges of winter for Syrian refugees. Supplies remain low, and heating mechanisms available are generally low quality, frequently causing burns on children or even burning down tents. Pandemic restrictions have caused an additional loss of income for refugees, who depend on the modest sums to make it through the difficult winter season. Additionally, Syrians with non-communicable diseases are more vulnerable to the virus, limiting their ability to work and move about the community even further.
HRW reported that over 15,000 Syrian refugees in Arshal, Lebanon, do not have adequate shelter for the winter months. Last year, the Higher Defense Council in Lebanon forced the refugees to dismantle their housing, so this marks the second winter that the refugees have had inadequate shelter for freezing temperatures and flooding. The Lebanese Army has conducted frequent raids on refugee camps in Arshal and nearby Akkar supposedly against local armed groups, forcing many refugees to flee.
The Syria Justice and Accountability Center in Washington D.C. filed a case with the International Criminal Court at the end of January 2021 for an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity by Greece for its mistreatment of refugees. The Syrian rights group claimed to have witness testimony and video evidence of refugee abuse within Greek borders. The group’s director stated that this is the first legal challenge to the European Union for its treatment of refugees.
Around 55 Syrian refugees have been rescued and brought back to land by Albanian authorities. The refugees were trapped by bad weather for more than three hours in an inflatable boat on their way to Italy. The number of people intercepted while passing through Albania has more than tripled in 2020 compared with last year.
The New Humanitarian shared the stories of returnees from al-Hol camp in Syria, revealing that despite the lack of resources and multitude of security in the camp, much of greater Syria remains unsuitable for return. Since October 2020, the Syrian Defense Force has allowed non-ISIS affiliates to leave the camps and return to their places of origin. Over 2,000 individuals have left al-Hol since then, compared to the 6,500 who had left between 2019 and 2020. The majority of these residents returned to Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, which still experience remnants of ISIS occupation.
HRW calls on Israel to vaccinate Palestinians under the country’s military rule. The organization argues that although Israel has vaccinated 20% of its citizens, including settlers in the West Bank, it is failing to ensure medical supplies for the Palestinians as dictated by international law. Israeli authorities claim that vaccination falls under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, despite Israel’s status as an occupying power.
AP News announced the restoration of U.S. diplomatic relations with Palestine and renewal of aid to Palestinian refugees. The move reverses Trump era policies, during which the U.S. cut off funding to UNRWA, throwing it into a financial crisis. President Joseph Biden stated that the U.S. is firmly committed to a two-state solution.
According to UNRWA, 900 people in the Yarmouk camp in Syria have been treated by their mobile clinics. The clinics received an average of 65 patients every week, many of whom suffered from chronic and respiratory infections and diseases. The clinics also helped with spreading information about COVID-19.
Thousands of Palestinian refugees participated in a protest in Jabalia camps in the Northern Gaza Strip in rejection of the cuts that UNRWA intends to adopt to Palestinians with stable incomes. UNRWA also announced salary cuts for employees in their Palestinian offices. Refugees in camps report their worst yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reuters reported on the repatriation of 802 Nigerians from Saudi Arabia after their expired work permits left them stranded there. The return of these Nigerian citizens had been previously postponed due to COVID-19. Many of these migrant workers whose permits had expired were held in Saudi Arabian camps until their countries of origin could provide a flight out of the Gulf State.
Reuters reported that Greek coast guards rescued 27 migrants travelling from Turkey after their boat landed on the Greek island of Lesbos on January 19. Authorities stated that all aboard were Somalian. Reuters stated that the influx of refugees and migrants to Greece fell by 80% between 2019 and 2020, but the risk of crossing the Mediterranean remains still high.
Reuters reported that Greece petitioned Ankara to accept the return of 1,450 people in Greek migrant centers on Lesbos and other Greek islands, claiming that Ankara needed to uphold its migrant agreements with the European Union. Greece pressured Turkey to reinvigorate its efforts to slow the flow of migrants from Turkey into the EU.
Around 43 people were killed off the coast of Libya due to a boat sinking, while 10 others were rescued. The motor boat left from Zawiya headed to tripoli, but drowned due to weather conditions. More than 1,200 migrants died on average in 2020 of which most were off the coast of Libya.
IOM released a report on return barriers for displaced Iraqis in the categories of housing, livelihoods, basic services, social cohesion, and safety and security. The report also offers an analysis of return barrier differences based on IDPs’ place of origin and displacement. The agency drew its evidence from its own data and general literature relating to protracted displacement in Iraq.
CCCM Cluster, Protection Cluster, and the Iraq information center released a dashboard of the state of families who left participating IDP camps for their place of origin. The project draws data from September 2019 to January 21, 2021, and surveyed 4,545 households two weeks after their camp departure. Notably, the project found that 62% of returnees left the camps involuntarily, and 52% left due to camp closures or consolidation.
This IOM report analyzes the integration of IDPs in 15 Iraqi urban centers. The report found that IDPs’ sense of belonging and the host communities’ acceptance of the displaced over the long term is critical for successful integration. The report uses four case studies, facts sheets, and interviews with 2,819 households as evidence.
The Jordanian Ministry of Labour Syrian Refugee Unit (SRU) released its work permit progress report, providing statistics for issued work permits and the demographics of recipients. During the year of 2020, SRU issued 38,756 permits to Syrian refugees, 3,004 of which were issued in December. Most permits were issued in Amman and Irbil, with 93.2 % of overall permits issued to men in December. Additionally, the Ministry of Labour officially extended the validity of Syrian refugee work permits and exemption of work fees to December 13, 2021.
REACH published a report assessing the challenges, opportunities, and long-term potential of micro businesses for Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians. The report found that the largest challenges for opening small businesses include establishing the business, accumulating funding, and national curfews. Despite these challenges, 80% of respondents reported that starting their small business improved their financial situation and household.
This study, published by Conflict and Health, seeks to understand how humanitarian organizations and health care providers might best support ethically and contextually appropriate palliative care through the case studies in Jordan, an acute conflict-induced refugee situation, and Rwanda, a protracted conflict-induced refugee setting. The study highlights the importance of understanding cultural norms in all research roles, building relationships with decision makers, and developing teams that include researchers from within humanitarian crisis settings to ensure ethical and relevant solutions.
UNHCR Jordan released a short report on the agency’s goals and achievements for protecting refugees in camps and urban areas. Between December 2020 and January 2021, UNHCR provided 4,387 Syrian and non-Syrian asylum seekers and refugees with urgent cash assistance, averaging USD 250 per case. UNHCR and its partners also assisted 40,245 of these persons with counselling and referral for assistance and protection services, and provided programming for 59,500 individuals.
IOM’s Flow Monitoring published a study on the prospects of migrants in Libya, determining that social networks can be helpful to migrants as a source of information, but that the information shared between migrants, especially from friends, is not always accurate.