Planet Watch
refugees

COVID-19 puts global refugee resettlement on hold

The UN announced that it will pause resettlement travel for refugees, due to concerns and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and its migration agency, IOM, said in a joint statement that they are “taking steps to suspend resettlement departures for refugees.” The statement listed several reasons for the change, including entry bans, flight restrictions, and the concern that “international travel could increase the exposure of refugees to the virus.” (Photo: UNHCR/Ioana Epure)

Africa
South Sudan divisions

Thousands flee clashes in South Sudan

Thousands are fleeing ongoing inter-communal clashes in South Sudan’s Jonglei State and the newly created Greater Pibor Administrative Area—the latest challenge to efforts to cement peace following last month’s formation of a unity government. The UN peacekeeping mission reports that some 5,000 civilians have been displaced amid fighting between Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic militias. Pibor, in the east of the country, is one of two new oil-rich “administrative areas” created by President Salva Kiir as part of the compromise deal with the rebel opposition that cleared the way for the power-sharing government. (Map: Wikipedia)

Mexico
travel ban protest

SCOTUS lets stand ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

Some 60,000 asylum-seekers sent back by the United States to Mexico until their claims can be heard in US courts face a longer wait in Mexican limbo after the US Supreme Court issued an order that allowed a controversial anti-immigration policy to stand. An appeals court in San Francisco had ruled that the policy—officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols, but known as “Remain in Mexico”—was unlawful in the two border states under its jurisdiction: Arizona and California. The new order means asylum-seekers must now pin their hopes on the outcome of an expected formal appeal by the Trump administration—but that might not play out through the courts until early 2021. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Jubaland

Somalia clashes escalate regional tensions

Somali troops clashed with forces from the country’s semi-autonomous Jubaland region in a flare-up of violence that is raising tensions with neighboring countries and may play into the hands of the militant group al-Shabab. Tensions have been rising since August, when Jubaland’s incumbent president, Ahmed Madobe, won regional elections that Mogadishu described as “not free and fair.” The central government wanted a loyalist candidate to win, as it seeks greater control over Somalia’s regions ahead of upcoming national elections. Kenya, which has troops deployed as part of an African Union peace enforcement operation, is on the side of Madobe, who it sees as an ally against al-Shabab, while Ethiopia has aligned with Mogadishu. Kenya accused Somali troops of encroaching on its territory and destroying property during the new violence, while the US said that the clashes are a distraction in efforts against al-Shabab. An estimated 56,000 people have been uprooted by the recent fighting. according to the UN. (Map: African Executive)

Africa
Cameroon

Massacre in Cameroon’s conflicted western region

At least 22 people were killed in an attack in Cameroon’s Northwest region, UN officials report—the latest incident in a wave of violence to shake the country’s restive English-speaking regions. The attack in Ntumbo village left 14 children dead—including nine under the age of five—according to the officials. Opposition groups said the army was responsible, but the military blamed the explosion of fuel containers during a gunfight with separatists. Some 8,000 people have fled anglophone areas in recent weeks for Nigeria, following rising violence involving the army and separatist groups, who called for a boycott of parliamentary and municipal elections earlier this month. (Map: IRIN)

Africa
Cameroon soldier

Pre-electoral violence deepens Cameroon crisis

Cameroon’s two western regions saw a dramatic surge in political violence ahead of parliamentary and municipal elections. Amnesty International has accused the army of dozens of killings, the burning of villages, and the displacement of thousands of people in operations over the past weeks against the separatist movement in Northwest and Southwest regions. The anglophone militants demanding independence from the rest of francophone Cameroon vowed to disrupt the polls and also stepped up their attacks. They ordered the closure of schools and markets in the western regions, and told people to stay indoors. The crisis has shuttered more than 40% of the health centers in the two regions, and more than 600,000 children are out of school. At least 3,000 civilians have died since the conflict began in 2016, and 730,000 people have been displaced. (Photo via Jurist)

Syria
Idlib displaced

Syria: ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Idlib

Over half a million people are on the move in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province as Bashar Assad’s Russian-backed forces follow up their long aerial campaign with a ground offensive. The front line is closing on the provincial capital, the Turkish border is sealed to people trying to flee, and health services are collapsing. Aid agencies have issued a statement saying that Idlib is already a winter “humanitarian catastrophe,” with camps for the displaced overflowing. As rebel defenses collapse, displaced civilians are destroying their own homes before they flee to deny looters property they expect never to see again. (Photo: UNHCR)

Africa
Coalition for the Sahel

France prepares more troops for Sahel

At a meeting with leaders of five West African nations, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to send 220 more troops to fight growing militancy in the Sahel. The increase is unlikely to be welcomed by aid groups, which have called for civilians to be prioritized in responses, and criticized the region’s growing militarization. Meeting in the southern French city of Pau, the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger agreed to step up military cooperation, combining their respective forces under a single command structure, to be called the Coalition for the Sahel. (Photo: Wikipedia)

North Africa
Libya migrants

UN tells migrants to leave Libya ‘transit center’

The UN says it is unable to help most residents of an overcrowded refugee center in the Libyan capital it once touted as a safe haven. To encourage people to go, it is offering money and aid—and even telling them they won’t be able to register as refugees to leave the war-torn country if they remain. Originally intended as a temporary residence for a small fraction of refugees—just those already vetted by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and scheduled for evacuation or permanent residency in other countries—the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) now has some 1,150 residents, well over its stated capacity. Most arrived over the last eight months of clashes in Tripoli, including 900 who UNHCR says entered “informally”; some even bribed their way in to escape more oppressive conditions at other facilities run by the Libyan government. But conditions are now rapidly deteriorating at the GDF as well. (Photo of Triq al-Sikka migrant detention center via TNH)

Africa
South Sudan flooding

Flooding compounds ethnic clashes in South Sudan

Political violence has declined in South Sudan since last year’s power-sharing accord, but sporadic ethnic violence persists. The UN peacekeeping mission deployed Nepalese blue helmets this week to Western Lakes State after fighting between the Gak and Manuer communities left 79 people dead and more than 100 injured. “Inter-communal violence continues to have devastating consequences in South Sudan,” said James Reynolds, head of delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross. The new violence comes as almost one million South Sudanese have been affected by flooding that has submerged communities, caused substantial crop losses, and threatened to reverse some of the humanitarian gains made during a year-long ceasefire. (Photo: Alex McBride/TNH)

South Asia
Rohingya

Bangladesh: ‘climate of fear’ in Rohingya camps

Rights groups say there’s a “climate of intense fear” in the Bangladesh refugee camps for Rohingya who have fled Burma, following the killings of six refugees by police officers. Police officials say the men were involved in the murder of a local Bangladeshi man and killed in “crossfires”; critics say such language is often used to cover up extrajudicial killings. Tensions in southern Bangladesh have risen over the last two years as the refugee emergency evolves into a long-term crisis. (Photo: UNHCR)

Syria

Turkey deports Syrians to bomb-wracked Idlib

In a new campaign against migrants who lack residency papers, Turkey has for the past weeks been deporting Syrians from Istanbul to Syria—including to the war-torn northwest province of Idlib. The crackdown comes at a time of rising rhetoric and political pressure on the country’s 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees to return home. Estimates place hundreds of thousands of unregistered Syrians in Turkey, many living in urban areas such as Istanbul. Refugee rights advocates say deportations to Syria violate customary international law, which prohibits forcing people to return to a country where they are still likely to face persecution or risk to their lives. Arrests reportedly began in mid-July, with police conducting spot-checks in public spaces, factories, and metro stations around Istanbul and raiding apartments. As word spread quickly in Istanbul’s Syrian community, many people shut themselves up at home rather than risk being caught outside. (Photo: The New Humanitarian)