[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-19)
IOM released its new Strategic Response and Recovery Plan (SRRP) to update health measures and increase equitable access for migrants, refugees, and displaced persons. During the last cycle, IOM reported having served 35 million people affected by COVID-19, and requested USD 812 million to enhance these efforts, including vaccine distribution.
Reuters reported that the Palestinian Authority received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, March 17, including 38,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the PA said they would store until the World Health Organization greenlights it. The vaccines were distributed via the global COVAX initiative.
Djibouti is the second country in the MENA region to receive COVID-19 vaccines following a shipment of AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India vaccines. The vaccines arrived with the support of UNICEF through COVAX, a coalition co-led by multiple organizations such as the WHO that ensures equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The first shipment of the vaccine will be given to healthcare workers, people over 50 years of age, and people with comorbidities.
MSF urged both Palestinian and Israeli authorities to step up vaccination measures in the Palestinian territories, citing that only 2% of the population has been successfully vaccinated despite a recent surge of COVID cases. Active cases hit 20,000 in March, which is the highest ever recorded and is stressing hospital capacities.
AP News reported that USAID will give USD 15 million to Catholic Relief Services’ efforts in the Occupied Palestine Territories, marking a strong reversal of the Trump era policy that virtually halted all aid to the Palestinians.
IOM’s latest Missing Migrant Project report highlighted the high casualty rates of migrants at sea relative to major travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic. IOM reported that over 2,000 migrants drowned in 2020, and over 300 have already drowned in 2021. The agency highlighted migration from North and West Africa to Europe as a major choke point for missing migrants.
On March 26, Reuters reported that Serbia began distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine to migrants in 16 government camps, highlighting the urgency of vaccinating camp populations where social distancing is challenging.
According to OCHA, on the 3rd of March, Sudan became the first country in the MENA region to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Sudan received over 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX. The vaccine delivered will help with vaccinating healthcare workers and those above the age of 45 years with chronic medical conditions.
UNHCR reported that COVID-19 cases have spiked in Jordan between February and March, which has affected refugee camps. Current numbers in the camps stand at 2,482 with a 95% recovery rate. Only 2% of the refugee population has tested positive for the virus compared to 4.8% of the general population. About 1,200 refugees have received the first dose as of March 16.
Funded by the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD), the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) implemented a new training project in Syria to build the capacity of local medical professionals. The project helped health professionals with attaining qualifications to provide specialized health care services for IDPs and host communities. The project currently educates 130 students in three medical specialties such as nursing, emergency, and physiotherapy as well as training 20 graduate physicians for medical specialties.
According to HRW, the Lebanese Military Intelligence has allegedly forcibly disappeared and tortured detainees who had participated in protests against the COVID-19 lockdown amidst deteriorating economic conditions in Tripoli. The Lebanese military prosecutor charged at least 35 people including at least 2 children with terrorism, forming criminal associations, and stealing public property during the protests. Only four detainees had a lawyer present during the interrogations. HRW recommends conducting prompt, fair, and independent investigations while respecting Lebanese law.
IOM and its partners requested USD 99 million for lifesaving assistance to 563,128 vulnerable migrants in the Horn of Africa en route to Yemen. The agency stated that the funding will support repatriation efforts, support migrants’ communities of origin, and strengthen government capabilities to address humanitarian crises.
Around 10 of the leading charities in Syria including Action Against Hunger, CARE, and others expressed their concern of the UK government’s reduced aid budget to Syria. The budget will be less by 32% or £205 million pounds rather than £300 million in 2020. Organizations state that the slashing of aid at times when the humanitarian crisis in Syria is getting worse will put more lives at risk. Over 90% of Syrians are already living in poverty and numbers are expected to increase. The decision risks the lives of 210,000 Syrians who rely on aid from the UK for food every month.
IOM Director General Vitorino spoke on the destructive state of the Syrian crisis ten years running, highlighting that one third of the population is displaced, many multiple times, and that 5.6 million Syrian refugees continue to live in neighboring host countries. IOM expressed its support of his statement, noting that the agency has facilitated the safe transfer of over 230,000 Syrian refugees to host countries and continues to support the needs of internally displaced Syrians.
Qatar Red Cresent Society completed the Warm Winter campaign in Iraq in which the organization delivered winter clothes and heaters to 1,835 families or across 9,000 beneficiaries, at a total cost of $109,620. The project was directed at improving the living conditions of Syrian and Palestinian refugees as well as IDPs.
UNICEF reported that two teenage boys in Al-Hol Camp have been killed in 2021. 40 adults have also been killed in acts of violence during this time, with murder rates rising in March. UNICEF urged that these atrocities must spark an alternative long-term solution for displaced children in al-Hol, like reintegrating children into their communities and repatriating foreign children.
UNICEF reported on the success of the Cash for Basic Needs program in rural Damascus, providing families with cash for more substantive food than bread and tea. Over 6,700 families have received cash transfers in 2021, and each is provided a case manager to help identify further services for the families’ needs.
IOM Director General Vitorino expressed his condolences for the families of the dozens of migrants and community members who perished in a fire at the immigration Nationality and Passport Agency holding facility in Sana’a, Yemen on March 7. Over 170 injured migrants survived the fire. Vitorino emphasized that IOM does not engage or support detention centers in Yemen and urged for the release of migrants from these inhumane conditions.
Iraqi Red Crescent Society announced that it has started rehabilitating in Al-Siniya district of Baiji township in partnership with the Swiss Red Cross. The organization also reported installing a water desalination and purification plant to support displaced families in the Dujail district, and distributing water to over 180 displaced families in the Sinjar District.
IOM, supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, has launched the ‘Only Together We Complete the Picture’ campaign to promote social cohesion and inclusion of migrants in Sudan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign focuses on messages of solidarity, acceptance, and respect, with the aim of fostering a culture that values diversity. Sudan has kept its doors open to people fleeing war and hardship despite its own challenges.
According to Save the Children, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, children across the world have lost more than a third of the standard school year or an average of 74 days of education due to school closures and lack of access to remote learning. In total, almost 112 billion days of education have been lost across the world. In addition to losing their education, children are exposed to a higher risk of child labor, child marriage, and other forms of abuse. Save the Children urges world leaders to prioritize returning children to school.
UN Iraq announced the partnership of the Iraqi and Italian governments to rehabilitate basic water services like repairing broken potable and/or storm water pumps, generators, and parts of water treatment units. Where applicable, the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development (AICS) and UNOPS will install renewable equipment for targeted communities.
UNRWA provided an update on its newly installed mobile clinics as of 2021, which serve 40,000 Palestinians in remote communities in the West Bank, including Um al-Khayr, Arab al-Rashayda, Nabi Samuel, al-Eizariya, Barta’a and Kufr Qaddum. Services include medical consultations, examinations, dispensation of essential drugs and medication for chronic disease and non-communicable disease patients, and COVID combattance campaigns.
UNHCR announced its partnership with Japanese retailer UNIQLO to provide summer and winter clothes for 6,700 refugees and asylum seekers and 2,400 Tunisians in the host communities. The donations will target children and adolescents.
UNRWA announced that Japan gave USD 1.8 million for food assistance to 418,000 Palestine refugees in Syria, citing severe food insecurity throughout the community, especially in the past year of the pandemic.
ACTED reported findings from its latest needs assessment of Sool, Sanaag and Togdheer, highlighting a near 60% decrease in water consumption due to limited food resources, and a 40% increase in food insecurity. The compounded factors of the pandemic, low rainfall, and seasonal locust plague setup Somalia for greater internal displacement due to loss of livelihood due to drought.
ICRC reported that thousands remain displaced two months after the Beled Xaawo conflict outbreak, causing a resource strain on host communities. In response, ICRC and Somali Red Crescent Society are providing water via trucks for 7,500 displaced and host families, as well as cash assistance for 10,000 families in Beled Xaawo town and the surrounding area.
IOM announced that it supported the relocation of 7,000 IDPs from informal settlements in Baidoa city, where they faced eviction, to a new IDP camp called Barwaaqo. These new IOM supported settlements support 13,000 IDPs and host community members, in addition to the 7,000 new arrivals.
According to HRW, millions of Syrians are going hungry due to the bread crisis brought on by a decade of armed conflict in Syria. The significant destruction of infrastructure, as well as the economic crisis for the past decade, has led to severe wheat shortages. Lack of subsidies for bread as well as discriminatory distribution has led people to go hungry. Bread has been a food staple since before the conflict, however, with the lower supply of bread, more people are now suffering from poverty and rely more on bread. Syria has lost 943,000 hectares of cultivated land between 2010 and 2018 due to military operation and displacement of farmers.
According to Famine Early Warning System Network, food insecurity has worsened in Somalia. Some households are likely in emergency due to the decrease in the amount of light to moderate rainfall in March. Furthermore, above-average temperatures have damaged pastures. Water has become increasingly scarce and many households rely on water trucking as their primary source of water.
UNDP Arabic announced its investment in sustainable energy sources, providing installing 70 solar-powered street lights, equipped with charging stations, in the refugee camps and host communities, and 900 solar cookers to families in Um Rakuba and Tunaydbah refugee camps. The goal of these efforts is to reduce dependence on surrounding forests for fuel, which disrupts the environment and host communities.
Qatar Red Crescent Society, in coordination with the World Health Organization, has implemented a new initiative in Turkey to train healthcare workers and provide technical support for the health information management officers in Northern Syria. The project aims to ensure regular, accurate, and realistic reporting that will help monitor and identify the major needs of the health sector. The staff will be trained on how to extract and track data.
According to World Food Program, hunger and food insecurity continues to rise in Syria. Since last year, 4.5 million people have sunk into hunger and food insecurity. A recent assessment by WFP estimates that 60% of the population or 12.4 million Syrians suffer from food insecurity and hunger, double the number in 2018. More people cannot survive without food assistance as food prices have risen by more than 200%.
According to the HRW, Jordanian authorities have deported at least four Yemeni asylum-seekers registered with the UNHCR and have issued deportation orders against others who made asylum claims. As of March 16th, 2021, Jordan hosted 13,843 Yemeni refugees and asylum seekers. Since January 2019, Jordanian authorities have prevented UNHCR from recognizing anyone but Syrians as refugees which limits access to humanitarian resources.
According to the World Food Program, a record number of 12.4 million people in Syria or 60% of the population are uncertain about where their next meal is coming from. Food prices have increased by 222% in the past year due to the decreasing value of the pound as well as the continuing fuel shortages and ongoing conflict. WFP needs $375 million from now until August for their operations in Syria where it assists 4.8 million people every month. The Agency needs further $259 million to continue assisting Syrian refugees in nearby regions.
According to UNHCR, as of the 2nd of March, 3,170 refugees and migrants have been registered as rescued or intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard. UNHCR and IRC were present on the 2nd of March to provide urgent medical assistance and core relief items to 100 people as well transferring them to detention facilities in Libya. Most of the refugees were Sudanese and Syrian.
UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, and UNDP commemorate the ten year anniversary of the Syrian refugee crisis, pledging their commitment to Syrian refugees and asylum seekers in Iraq. The agencies emphasized their continued support of the quarter of a million Syrians through education, formal employment, and medical care throughout this dire situation.
AP News followed the story of Fatima al-Omar to document the deteriorating situation for IDPs in Syria during the pandemic. 20% more Syrians, totaling 13.4 million people, require assistance compared to last year due to inflation, food insecurity, and violence. At the same time, international pledging for humanitarian funding has decreased due to the economic strains of the pandemic.
AP News reported that 5,000 Kurdish-led forces conducted a raid of al-Hol camp in Syria in order to identify and arrest IS militants and quell violence in the notoriously dangerous camp. U..S officials warned that the inhumane conditions, prevalence of IS families, and over two thirds of camp residents being under 18 in the camp makes it a “breeding ground” for the next generation of IS militants.
According to the Norweigian Refugee Council, 6 million more people are likely to become displaced if the conflict and economic insecurity continue in Syria. Over the past 10 years of the Syrian conflict, an estimated 2.4 million displacements have occurred annually. Displaced Syrians throughout the Middle East overwhelmingly say that they hope to return home in the next 5 to 10 years if possible. While conflict is the main reason for displacement, economic deterioration has forced Syrians to flee inside the country as well.
According to HRW, the Egyptian government had made vaccines available only to some health workers, as well as a limited number of older people and people with chronic diseases. Egypt has not provided a clear plan for its vaccine rollout. Officials have hinted at charging for the vaccine or requiring millions of low-income populations to apply for a fee waiver. HRW warned that charging for a vaccine and exacerbating inequitable access goes against the fundamental human right to health and recommended expanding vaccine access by making it affordable.
HRW urged governments attending the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in Brussels tonight to address the Syrian refugee education crisis in Lebanon. The financial and COVID crises in Lebanon have forced over 500,000 Syrian children to leave the school system between the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years, and many education centers have been unable to support virtual learning for these students. Additionally, public schools that are open are restricting many Syrian children from enrolling due to lack of official Lebanese papers and lack of transportation to the schools. The Lebanese government also prohibits humanitarian-run education centers from using the Lebanese curriculum for children ages 7-9, which is vital for public school enrollment.
Amnesty International reported on the Lebanese security forces’ human rights violations towards Syrian refugees, involving arbitrary and covert detentions and torture of Syrian prisoners at the Military Information Center of Ablah. The organization’s report follows the case of 26 Syrians detained between 2014 to 2021.
The New Humanitarian reported that around $500 million in cash aid via vouchers and debit cards were sent by humanitarian agencies to refugees and hosts communities in Lebanon. However, inflation rates up to 85% have rendered much of this cash inadequate for purchasing basic needs, and the Lebanese government is not allowing aid groups to distribute hard cash instead. Some groups have lobbied for using an unofficial exchange rate for transfers, but it is unlikely that all parties will be able to make the switch.
Reuters reported that at least 39 migrants died on two boats crossing to the Italian island of Lampedusa. The Tunisian coast guard rescued 165 survivors and search missions continued outside of Sfax for more survivors. The number of Tunisian migrants to Italy rose fivefold to 13,000 in 2020 due to economic hardship.
AP News reported that at least 480 migrants were intercepted off of Libya during the last weekend of March. They are among the 4,500 migrants intercepted thus far in 2021 in this area. IOM, which provided assistance upon the return, reiterated that Libya is not a safe port for migrants.
Human Rights Watch reported on the Houthis’ indiscriminate firing and bombing of civilian areas, including displacement camps, in Marib, Yemen since February 2021. These unlawful actions put displaced persons and the community at risk, said the organization. Local aid workers report that fighting has cut them off from international aid headquarters in Sana’a, and that diminished funding has negatively affected their ability to address the crisis.
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor reported on the March 7 fire at a Sana’a detention center in Yemen was reportedly caused by Houthis. The Houthi gunman entered the center of 330 immigrants, closed the doors, and indiscriminately fired into the building through the windows. 16 were killed and 200 were injured before the fire broke out. The organization urges the Houthis to “provide the necessary medical care for the injured, end the arbitrary detention of thousands of migrants, and close all detention centers that do not meet the basic requirements for a decent life.”
AP News reported that three migrants were found off of the Turkish coastal town of Cesme. Three others were rescued and one is still unaccounted for. The Turkish government accused the Greek coast guard of beating the migrants and leaving them at sea to wash up on Turkish shores. Greek authorities denied any involvement, calling the accusation insulting.
IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix published a report with suggestions for humanitarian planning in urban centers in Iraq in light of persistent displacement trends. The number of urban IDPs have remained stable. Medical care is the highest self-identified need, followed by shelter. The report also found that IDPs feel relatively safer in cities in Federal Iraq compared to Kurdish Iraq, with those IDPs expressing more willingness to return to their cities of origin.
IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix published an overview of displacement in Iraq since 2014. As of August 2020, the rate of primary, secondary, and failed returns remains at 10%. Returns from abroad have increased to 12% from Turkey, Syria, and the EU. As of now, there have been around 4,745,000 returns and around 6,000,000 Iraqis remain displaced.
REACH and Iraq CCCM published an analysis of Iraqi IDP camps from 2018 to 2020, profiling all of the currently open camps numbering over 100 households in the country. Between 2018 and 2020, the median camp population decreased from 7,712 to 4,540. Education and application of coping strategies showed the most improvement in this period.
IOM DTM published a report on displacement in Libya, citing hostilities and insecurity as the main driver of the 250,000, 48% of whom are children, newly displaced persons during 2019-2020. Between April 2019 and June 2020, displacement reached its peak at 425,000. 25% of displaced people reside around Tripoli.
In its sixth survey, UNHCR found that 90% of Syrian refugees cannot meet their basic needs in their host countries. Many Syrians expressed intentions to return to their home country in the near future depending on security, livelihood opportunities, housing, and basic services. The surveys found that COVID-19 was not a large factor in their responses.
IOM published its migrant report for the countries of Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia. The plight of migrants and affected communities in the Horn of Africa and Yemen is increasingly recognized by the international community as shown through greater numbers of people in need and more appeals for humanitarian funding. Main concerns include mobility, xenophobia, and deteriorating environment.
The Migration Policy Institute published a new study in collaboration with the Durable Solutions Platform highlighting the collaboration between different levels of actors in refugee protection, social protection, education, livelihood, healthcare. The study concludes that strong political leadership, engagement of civil society and non-governmental actors, support of international donors, a good understanding of the specific needs of refugees, and an inclusive approach that benefits host communities as well as refugees, contribute to successful practices.
The International Rescue Committee published a brief on the effects of the Syrian conflict on 5 million displaced Syrian children in the country and in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. A survey of caregivers found that 62% of children habitually cry due to trauma, 46% were regularly sad and unwilling to play or engage with others, and 47% experienced nightmares. Additionally, pandemic conditions have correlated with an increase of anxiety, inter-sibling fighting, self-isolation, and fear about health. The report notes that children and caregivers are resilient and the impact of this crisis can be mediated with support systems.
This study examines the effects of reunification for refugees with kin in the host country of Germany. The study found that family reunification in the host country had a positive effect on refugee mental health, especially in the case of a nuclear family. However, more family members in the reunification process did not correlate with greater mental health benefits.
According to UNICEF, the war in Syria has left nearly 80% of the children in the region in need for humanitarian assistance. This is a 20% increase from last year. More than half a million children under the age of five in Syria suffer from stunted growth as a result of malnutrition. Nearly 2.45 million children in Syria and an additional 75,000 Syrian children, of which 40% are girls, in neighboring countries are out of school.
UNICEF, ICRC, and UNICEF published “Joining Forces to Combat Protracted Crises: Humanitarian and Development Support for Water and Sanitation Providers in the Middle East and North Africa '', a new report highlighting the water supply crisis in the MENA region. The problems in the water supply and sanitation include inadequately governed water resource management, aggressive competition from alternative providers, and escalating energy costs of off-grid generation. The report states that providing safe and sanitary water is of the utmost importance, especially during the fight against COVID-19.