The world in crisis

Over 201 million people in 134 countries were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2017. Conflict continued to fuel much of this need, with protracted violence and unrest continuing in many countries.

Of the 201 million people identified as in need of humanitarian assistance, 23.5% were in just three countries – Yemen, Syria and Turkey.

A small number of crises continued to receive the majority of international humanitarian assistance: 60% was channeled to 10 countries.

For the fifth consecutive year Syria was the single largest recipient of international humanitarian assistance. Response to the overspill of crises and the forced displacement of populations led to Turkey and Greece  featuring among the 10 largest recipients of humanitarian assistance for the first time.

Conflict, violence and persecution drove ever more people from their homes in 2017. The total number of people forcibly displaced grew for the sixth consecutive year to an  estimated 68.5 million. And 2.8 million more people were identified as refugees than in the previous year. Most of those forcibly displaced (62%) remained in their own countries.


Forgotten at the gates of Europe

In May 2015 the European Commission presented the European Agenda on Migration, meant to address the challenges of the increased arrivals of migrants and refugees to Europe. Three years later arrivals have decreased, and policymakers claim their plan worked.

“The reality however is that people are still dying trying to reach Europe,” says Claudia Bonamini, Europe’s policy and advocacy officer for Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS). In its latest report, “Forgotten at the gates of Europe” JRS Europe asks for a fundamental policy change towards a Common European Asylum System that lives up to its name.

The report finds that violent push-backs still happen at several EU external borders, such as between Croatia and Serbia as well as in Melilla. Even once on EU territory, people often face enormous difficulty to access asylum procedures because they have not received sufficient information, or because the authorities of EU Member States purposefully misdirect them.

In Croatia, people were told to sign forms in languages they could not understand. They thought they had applied for asylum, but instead they were pushed-back to Serbia. In Romania, people were detained without being told how they could apply for asylum. People in Greece, Italy, and Malta told JRS how they were unable to navigate asylum and immigration procedure because they were not told how, or things were in a language they did not understand.

JRS is calling for a fundamental policy shift at EU level, whereby they create safe and legal pathways for people seeking protection.

[Relief Web]

Escalating Humanitarian Crisis in Southern Syria

The global relief organization Mercy Corps is deeply concerned about the escalating humanitarian crisis unfolding in southern Syria, as civilians continue to flee the violence and are unable to access life-saving essentials.

“The number of people fleeing this latest offensive has more than tripled in the past few days,” says Arnaud Quemin, Mercy Corps Country Director for Syria. “People are fleeing with whatever few items they can carry — or nothing at all.”

The United Nations estimates there are now more than 160,000 displaced people in southern Syria. Vast numbers of civilians are moving towards the Israeli and Jordanian borders, which remain closed.

“With nowhere to go, tens of thousands of displaced people are stranded in open and unprotected areas,” says Quemin. “Our team members and partners are providing food, clean water and other essentials even while they themselves flee the fighting. Many do not foresee being able to return home anytime soon due to the insecurity.”

[Relief Web]

The Red Cross in North Korea

The Red Cross is one of few humanitarian organizations working in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as North Korea is formally called.The work of the Red Cross is based on its seven fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

“The humanitarian situation is worrying with over ten million people in need of humanitarian assistance. As political processes continue, we hope there is space for discussions to include the importance of improved humanitarian cooperation,” says Åsa Sandberg, Head of Desk at the Swedish Red Cross.

Åsa was moved by the kindness extended to her wherever she went. “I sat down with people in the villages to better understand their needs. They get by with very few means, but possess such resilience and dignity.”

One of the challenges the country is facing is access to clean water. Many people fetch water in the river or struggle with shallow wells. Overall, there are six million people who suffer from a lack of clean water and improved sanitation.

“An elderly couple that I met had difficulty getting access to safe water from the well near their home, and for years they struggled with buckets, sometimes finding only a few drops of water. Now we have installed a water management system in their house, and they won’t have to worry about clean drinking water anymore. It was a joy to hear how well it works,” adds Åsa.

[International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies]

EU reaches deal on migration

European Union leaders announced early Friday that they had reached a compromise deal on migration, an issue that has created a political crisis and threatens to undermine the bloc.Italy’s new populist government had threatened to block progress on other, uncontroversial issues until the migration text was addressed to its satisfaction.

While details were sketchy, the leaders agreed in principle, at least, on how to shore up their external borders and create screening centers for migrants, to decide more quickly whether or not they are legitimate refugees. The leaders agreed to establish voluntary screening centers on European soil, to ease the burden on countries like Italy, Spain and Greece where migrants first arrive and are registered. They also agreed to study setting up similar centers outside Europe, in North Africa, for example, to screen migrants before they arrive.

One potential hurdle for the deal is the fact that the European Union has no uniform rules or procedures for asylum, making it unclear what rules would be applied in a screening center, whether inside or outside Europe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany had even more at stake than the Italians, under pressure from within her own government to solve the problem of migrants coming into Germany after having registered in other countries.

“We still have a lot of work to do to bridge the different views,” Merkel said after the discussions, which a senior European official described as sometimes virulent.

[New York Times]

Humanitarian ship carrying rescued migrants arrives in Malta

A humanitarian ship, The Lifeline, operated by German charity Mission Lifeline, that has had about 230 rescued migrants on board for almost a week docked in Malta on Wednesday, ending a standoff with Italy which refused to let the ship into one of its ports.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said seven European Union countries had offered to share the burden of the migrants with Malta. “The Maltese government took the lead on a solution before the situation escalated to a humanitarian crisis,” he added, emphasizing, however, that the small island nation was not legally bound to take in the vessel.

Muscat said that permitting the ship to dock in Malta was a one-time, or “ad hoc,” resolution to the standoff. While 650,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea since 2014, Malta has allowed in only those needing urgent medical care.

The Lifeline is the second charity ship that Italy has shut out of its ports this month after the new anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said private rescue vessels would no longer be welcome because they “cannot dictate Italy’s immigration policy.”

Immigration has become an urgent political issue across the EU in recent weeks, since the new Italian government took power earlier this month and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s coalition split over the issue.


The impact of refugee presence on host populations

It is widely understood that host populations are affected by a sudden and large influx of refugees. Precisely how they are affected, however, remains under-researched and often ill-communicated.

Tanzania is a country with a large refugee population, partly because of its location (surrounded by countries periodically affected by conflict) and its decades-long history in welcoming and assisting large numbers of refugees.

Tanzania’s experience of accommodating refugees dates back to the colonial era. Since its independence in 1962, Tanzania is considered one of the most hospitable countries in the world.

Unlike several other hosting countries, there exists a considerable body of qualitative, mixed-methods and empirical literature on the Tanzania situation, mostly analyzing the impact of refugee inflows from Burundi (1993) and Rwanda (1994) on host districts, and how this impacts the labor market, environment, health and other areas.

Given the depth and breadth of evidence that can be drawn from the Tanzanian experience, it serves an insightful case study from which policy lessons can be learned from and applied by various governments across the world faced with significant refugee and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) populations, as well as the humanitarian and development actors involved in supporting them.

See World Bank report on Tanzania’s refugee policy and practice

[UN High Commissioner for Refugees]

Supreme Court upholds Trump travel ban

The US Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which restricts entry to the US from seven countries to varying degrees: Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Venezuela.

  • The ruling: It was 5-4 along partisan lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the conservative majority. “The Proclamation is squarely within the scope of Presidential authority,” Roberts wrote.
  • The dissenting opinion: Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a blistering dissent, said the court was wrong to ignore Trump’s various comment on the ban. She also compared the court’s opinion to one that came down in 1944 in which the court blessed the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
  • An unusual step: Chief Justice John Roberts declare that the 1944 case, Korematsu v. United States, was no longer good law and was wrongly decided. It is the first time the Supreme Court has ever made this public determination.
  • The reaction: The American Civil Liberties Union and Democratic lawmakers strongly denounced the court’s ruling.
  • What Trump said: He called the ruling “a tremendous victory for the American People and the Constitution” and said he felt vindicated.


Rich and mid-income countries must welcome more refugees

1.4 million refugees will need resettlement in 2019, according to new figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), but the number of places available do not match needs.

The Norwegian Refugee Council calls for rich and mid-income countries to increase the number of people they admit for resettlement. “The shocking lack of compassion and willingness among many rich and mid-income countries to take their share of responsibility and provide refugees with resettlement has resulted in a large and dangerous back-log,” said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland.

In the US, a country that normally has received the largest number of people for resettlement, the quotas have been cut by two thirds after Donald Trump became president. Denmark, another country that used to contribute substantially, has ended their program, and also Norway has reduced the number of places available.

“We should be able to expect countries that have the economy to host World Cups,
Eurovision or Olympic Games, to also have the capacity to host some of the world’s refugees who currently cannot find protection where they are,” Egeland said.

“The lack of resettlement places globally feeds the smuggling industry and pushes desperate people to embark on dangerous journeys,” added Egeland.

[Norwegian Refugee Council]

World Tolerance Summit to be held in UAE

The International Institute for Tolerance, part of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has announced the launch of the ‘World Tolerance Summit’, a two-day conference to be held in Dubai, from November 15th-16th, 2018, to coincide with the International Day of Tolerance on November 16th.

The summit will host 1,000 government leaders, key personalities from the private and public sectors, youth representatives, social leaders, social influencers, and the international diplomatic community in a platform that seeks innovative solutions and to forge fruitful partnerships that will help promote respect for diversity and productive pluralism.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan commented, “Tolerance is not simply enduring the existence of opinions, ideas, behaviors or practices that do not concur with your own. It is about recognizing, respecting and embracing diversity. It is about being secure in your own culture and beliefs, so that you respond to what is different with curiosity and compassion rather than with fear and intolerance. To be tolerant one needs to be concerned genuinely for the welfare of one’s fellow human beings, and to take action based on those concerns.”

The summit will also explore the use of social media and digital networking in advocating the significance of tolerance with respect to its societal and economic benefits. There will also be a strong effort focusing on the youth through the involvement of educational institutions in inculcating the values of tolerance as well as efforts to include women empowerment and their capacity to promote and advocate the value of tolerance.

The World Tolerance Summit is the world’s first-of-its-kind event that tackles tolerance, peace and cultural understanding among mankind.