[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 (COVID-19)
Reuters reported that Israel plans to provide COVID vaccines for the approximate 130,000 Palestinians with Israeli work permits. The Israeli government had also agreed to provide 5,000 Moderna vaccines for Palestinians earlier this month, but only 2,000 were handed to Palestinian health officials as of February 28.
According to IOM, as of the 25th of February there have been 3,965,322 COVID-19 cases across the MENA region, of which 68,982 fatalities have been reported.
Latest Developments (Other)
UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that the USD 1.7 billion pledged at the High-Level Pledging Event on Yemen is a billion dollars less than what was pledged at the conference in 2019 and less than what was donated in 2020. He warns that these funds are not adequate to address the severe humanitarian crisis that continues in Yemen.
UNRWA is calling for $1.5 billion in funding for essential services and emergency appeals for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Around $806 will be used for core services such as education, health, relief and social services, and camp improvement. Around $231 million will be used as a response to devastations in the occupied Palestinian territory. Around $170 million will be used to build UNRWA facilities and $318 million will be allocated to respond to hardships in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
QRCS has concluded a project to provide prosthetic implants for 45 Syrian civilians during the Syrian Civil war. The project was implemented over two months in Turkey and northern Syria. The prosthetics will help in transforming the lives of the beneficiaries by allowing them to return to work, increasing their productivity, and increasing their self-reliance.
According to IDMC, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, lockdowns and the ensuing economic fallout have exacerbated the vulnerabilities of 3.6 million people estimated to be displaced in Yemen. The survey administered to more than 1,600 web users found that the number of COVID-19 cases among IDPs has been underestimated. The survey also found that a higher percentage of IDPs than non-IDPs find cost as a barrier to accessing COVID-19 treatment. Lastly, COVID-19 has affected access to education for IDPs. Around 72% of IDPs reported that COVID-19 interrupted their children’s education.
According to Emirati news, a new digital school seeking to provide digital education for refugees opened in the Emirati-Jordanian Mrajeeb Al Fhood Camp. Primary school pupils will participate in the pilot stage in September 2021. The program brings education experts from prestigious international universities and institutions to provide remote education tailored to the needs of students from various socio-economic statuses.
The government of China has distributed COVID-19 supplies benefiting 5.7 million Palestinian refugees across 141 UNRWA health centers in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The supplies will be used by frontline workers who are in constant contact with Palestinian refugees. Refugees with pre-existing conditions and those with a higher risk for COVID-19 will also benefit from the contribution.
According to UNHCR, cases in Iraq rose at a slightly lower rate at the start of 2021 than in previous months with an average rate of 785 daily cases in comparison to 1,300 in December 2020. The UNHCR in Iraq aims to provide cash assistance to 82,736 households, including refugees and asylum seekers. Generally, cases are decreasing in Jordan while cases in refugee camps remain lower than the national average. Lebanon issued a complete lockdown due to the increase of cases coupled with the saturation of (ICU) beds. UNHCR is working on deploying ICU beds. UNHCR, with the help of the WFP, provided 2,450 refugees and asylum-seekers with food parcels in Libya.
Reuters reported that the Biden Administration halted U.S. military support of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and appointed U.S. diplomat Timothy Lenderking as the U.S. special envoy for Yemen in order to facilitate the end of the conflict.
According to HRW, Gazan’s Supreme Judicial Council issued a notice on February 14th allowing male guardians to restrict unmarried women’s travel. Due to heavy criticism, the authorities amended the notice on February 16th. Now male guardians can apply to prevent unmarried women from traveling if they assess it would be an “absolute harm.” Parents also have the right to restrict the travel of their adult unmarried children. Palestinian human rights organizations have warned the council against this recent notice.
According to UNESCO, a new report by the United Nations describes 2020 as a year of setbacks for Palestinians, their institutions, and their economy due to COVID-19. Around 150,000 Palestinians lost their jobs during the first COVID-19 lockdown. The economy contracted by 10 to 12% in 2020, one of the largest annual contractions since the PA has been established. As of February 2021, half of the Palestinian population needs humanitarian aid. The UN will continue initiatives to support Palestinian health services in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
According to the International Crisis Group, Houthi forces are close to Yemen’s northern governorate of Marib. A battle in Marib city could worsen the already dire situation in Yemen. There is a risk of killing or displacing the three million civilians living there. Another issue is that because Marib is a trading hub for food and necessities, a battle in Marib could further ruin Yemen’s hunger crisis. Fuel shortages could also be a bi-product of a battle in Marib as that region is an important source of fuel.
According to QRCS, under a $60,000 program, 60 physicians were trained to enhance their skills in endoscopy to support specialist surgery services in Gaza. In the past 30 years, endoscopy has been utilized in cardiothoracic, laparoscopic, cardiovascular, and arthroscopic surgery. Due to the lack of medical education in practical aspects of endoscopy, the interns engaged in surgical operations to watch and learn the guidelines of endoscopy.
AP News reported that U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock is pressing for Gulf states to revive their humanitarian aid in Yemen, especially given their extensive donations in 2019 and 2020 compared to 2021, and the Saudi-led coalition’s involvement in the region.
According to UNDP, United Nations agencies and non-profit organizations warn that the situation of Syrian refugees and their host communities is becoming increasingly worse. According to the latest 2021 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan for the Syrian crisis, more than 10 million people including Syrian refugees and members of their host communities need urgent support. Many refugees have lost their livelihoods as a result of COVID-19.
The UN urged 57 countries to repatriate a total of 9,462 women and children associated with Islamic State fighters. These foreign citizens currently reside in al-Hol and Roj displacement camps in Syria, where they live in inhumane conditions. The UN emphasizes that it is the countries’ duty under international law to repatriate and, if appropriate, prosecute the women for war crimes in domestic courts.
Following the death of three children in an al-Hol Camp fire, UNICEF issued a statement urging foreign countries to repatriate children of foreign citizenry. The agency notes that local Syrian actors are working hard to reintegrate children from the northwest Syrian camps to their places of origin, but the same level of effort is not being implemented for foreign children. It warns of the risk of mass statelessness if decisive action is not taken.
IOM announced that it is seeking USD 170 million to assist over 5.1 million Yemenis. A third of the funding includes life-saving assistance for displaced people, migrants and local communities affected by an escalation of violence in Marib, which resulted in the displacement of 10,500 people in February 2021. IOM also recognizes that although migrant levels have reduced in the country, the thousands remaining face heightened dangers and require assistance as well.
According to UN-Habitat, Maraach is one of the most densely populated areas in the Middle East. It hosts 6000 residents composed roughly of 60% vulnerable Lebanese and 40% Syrian refugees. UN-Habitat is providing support to improve the living conditions by rehabilitating building facades and public spaces as well as improving street mobility and safety. The program will provide greener, cheaper electricity to the community using a solar energy system. The project will also employ Syrian refugees in face mask production.
UNHCR issued a statement regarding increased fighting in the Marib governorate, in which over 800,000 displaced Yemenis reside and are at risk of violence and starvation. The agency determined that over 64% of Yemeni IDPs have no source of income, highlighting the need for increased funding for humanitarian operations, and for warring factions to allow aid groups to continue operating in the Marib in order to access the displacement populations.
IOM announced that the number of migrants crossing the Red Sea to Yemen reduced from 138,213 in 2019 to 37,537 in 2020. Forced migrant returns from Saudi Arabia also dropped significantly, from 121,000 Ethiopian migrants in 2019 to 37,000 in 2020. Despite reduced numbers, migrants in the eastern Arabian Peninsula face a greater risk for exploitation, detention, and forced transfers. IOM notes that remittances flows to low and middle income countries declined by 14% in 2020 due to the pandemic, which is expected to severely impact economic and social conditions in those nations.
UNHCR announced a USD 1 million donation from the Government of Japan to provide essential humanitarian assistance to refugees and asylum seekers around Algiers and to Sahrawi refugees in the five refugee camps in Tindouf province. The funding will contribute to vital health services to address COVID-19, reproductive health, and sanitation.
UNRWA announced a USE 13.4 million donation from the Qatar Fund For Development (Qffd) to support the agency’s human development services of education, health, and technical and vocational education. This programming will reach up to 438,000 registered Palestine refugees in Syria. Currently, UNRWA supports the education of 50,249 Palestine refugee children in Syria despite a 70% reduction in UNRWA schools during the decade long civil conflict.
UNDP Arab States posted an urgent appeal for USD 5.8 billion of funding outlined in the 2021 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) for the Syrian crisis. The funding supports national efforts for addressing the refugee crisis in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. 3RP identified the high number of people in need since the beginning of the conflict, which includes about 5.5 million Syrian refugees and 4.8 million members of their host communities who are in need of immediate assistance. UNDP emphasizes that the refugees’ situation deteriorated significantly due to the pandemic, and that 3RP only received 52% of requested funding in 2020.
QRCS implemented a new project for enhancing pure water accessibility for the populations of Dier Hassan and other camps in Idlib Governorates in Northern Syria. The project, with a budget of $697,643, was executed over 12 months and repaired the water and sewage infrastructure in the Deir Hassan camp. The project helped with local community resilience amid a prolonged humanitarian crisis by reducing dependency on trucks. Around 46,041 people now have access to better-quality water.
UN Iraq announced that it received USD 10 million from the EU for the “Support for Urban Recovery and Peacebuilding in Western Ninewa, Iraq” Project. UN Iraq and UN-Habitat will use the funds to rehabilitate homes and ameliorate urban living conditions in order to support returnees from the Hamam Alil, Jaddeh and Salamiyah camps.
UNDP Iraq announced its sponsorship and support of the February 10 Local Peace Conference in the Tal Afar district in Ninewa Governorate. The Governor of Ninewa, the Mayor of Tal Afar, the head of Al-Ayadhiya sub-district, and other members of the Tal Afar Local Peace Committee also sponsored this local dialogue to allow for the voluntary reintegration and acceptance of hundreds of families with perceived ISIS affiliation.
Save the Children published a statement saying that the Israeli demolition of 840 structures in the West Bank in 200 has displaced at least 518 children and their families. Additionally, 53 schools are at risk of Israeli demolition, which could impact up to 5,200 Palestinian students.
Dozens of Palestinian refugees protested outside of the headquarters of the UNRWA in the Gaza Strip due to the agency’s new decision to implement a unified food basket system for beneficiaries starting on February 2021. UNRWA aims to increase the number of beneficiaries by 60,000 refugees through making their goods baskets smaller. Protesters argued that the new program will exclude 770,000 refugees with stable incomes who are in dire need due to the pandemic.
According to QRCS, the organization continues to provide relief for Syrians in northern governorates in the food and public health sectors. QRCS visited IDP camps affected by heavy rainfall. Pregnant women, children under 5, and breastfeeding mothers who are critically malnourished were all provided with nutritional supplements. The IDPs were also provided with sessions on personal hygiene, water purification, and the importance of good nutrition.
Dr. Nabiha Islam wrote an insightful and emotive piece for the New Humanitarian about her work as a volunteer physician on the island of Lesvos, Greece. Since the fire in Moria camp in September 2020, refugees on the island have been forced into makeshift camps where essential services are extremely limited. Since the beginning of the pandemic, suicide and self-harm attempts have risen 66% for refugees on Lesvos. Dr. Islam noted the rise in Islamophobia across Europe during the pandemic, which presents a safety issue for many refugees in the camps.
On February 21st, the Libyan authorities rescued 150 migrants, including 15 women and 5 children, who were held in a secret prison owned by smugglers in the city of Kufra. The authorities were informed of the prison by a migrant who had escaped from the house a week earlier. The authorities arrested at least six smugglers who imprisoned migrants from Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan.
After the UN appealed for USD 3.85 billion to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the New Humanitarian identified the Famine Relief Fund as an important new and discrete donor for Yemen. Although many UN agencies are wary of partnering with the fund due to lack of transparency, the New Humanitarian suggests that the Fund has committed at least USD 400 million in contracts to the UN and NGOs in Yemen. The news agency presents speculations that the donations originate from private Gulf citizens.
MSF published a program update on supporting the 10,000 to 20,000 Ethiopian refugees remaining in Hamdayet, Sudan after fleeing the conflict in Tigray. Sudanese authorities have a policy of moving refugees to official camps deeper in the country within 72 hours of their arrival, but the process has been inadequately slow with many refugees residing in Hamdayet for several months. MSF emphasizes the need to provide food, health and other essential services for refugees immediately upon their arrival in border towns.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) issued a report on displacement trends in the MENA region since the Arab Spring a decade ago. Since 2010, displacement leaves have risen from 3.5 to 12.4 million people, which accounts for 3% of the region’s total population. The report highlights that most of the 7.8 million refugees and asylum seekers from the region were IDPs before they decided to leave their country of origin.
This study from International Migration focuses on the educational and employment experiences of Syrian refugees in Regina, Canada as a sample of the 40,000 Syrian refugee population in Canada. The study reviewed the pre‐migration, transit and resettlement phases for refugees, and found that the refugees’ sense of dependence on the government increased with each phase as their skills were “devalued” and they were encouraged to assimilate.
Syria Relief published a report coining the “Syrian PTSD crisis,” finding that 99% of IDPs in Idlib, Syria and 73% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey showed PTSD symptoms. The report found that the refugees have limited access to mental health services to address their condition, and IDPs have virtually none.
The governments of Germany and Jordan found that the influx of Syrian refugees has put a large strain on Jordan’s already-scarce water resources, increasing water demand up 40% in the northern governorates over the past few years. The report emphasizes that Jordan faces other major factors in water scarcity, such as agriculture, nonrenewable water aquifers, and groundwater contamination; the influx of refugees only adds to this issue and reveals inherent deficiencies in Jordanian water management.
IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix issued a report to support evidence-based planning for IDP reintegration in Kurdish region Iraqi cities. The report found that the IDP population increased in the Kurdistan region in 2020 due to the closure of several federal camps, but overall levels have remained stable. IDPs have various levels of income sources based on the city in which they reside, but faced a common theme of lack to healthcare services. The report also found that about half of all IDPs plan on staying in their current location instead of returning.
OCHA’s Occupied Palestine Territory section published an overview of the deteriorating security situation during the first month of 2021 compared to 2020. During the month of January, Israeli settlers increased West Bank demolitions by 14%, targeting 81 structures, including donor-funded ones. During the first week of February, Israeli authorities seized and demolished an additional 62 structures in Humsa al-Bqai’a, displacing 60 more people.
UNHCR and REACH published the key findings of their February 2021 Libya report, highlighting the 304,000 migrants and 44,000 refugees who require immediate aid. Notable categories include health services, food security, shelter, sanitation and hygiene services. Many survey participants also noted economic and market restraints in the pandemic and instability, including the inability to find full-time employment.
Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) argues that, despite recent commitments from Israel to distribute several thousand COVID vaccines to the West Bank, Israel has a legal responsibility to ensure equitable and extensive vaccination access to the occupied territory and that the Palestinian Authority does not have the ressources or infrastructure to do so on their own.
A new report by WHO shows that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have experienced FGM in 30 countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. FGM is mostly carried out on girls at the age of 15. The WHO estimates that treating FGM costs $1.4 billion annually.