Press review 33 18-24 August 2013
Asylum Seeker / Refugee Issues
IRIN News, 18 August 2014
Along with Christians and other non-Sunni Muslims, Yezidis, a small religious minority in the Middle East, are little tolerated by the hardline Sunni Muslims from the Islamic State. Large numbers of the Yedizi community, believed to number around 500,000 in Iraq, have been killed in recent weeks, according to reports, and many have been displaced. While the majority of displaced Yezidis are fleeing into the Sinjar mountain range in northern Iraq, some have fled instead to Turkey. Residents of Silopi, just inside Turkey, where a reception camp has been set up by the local municipal authorities, have welcomed the new arrivals, who number around 1,600, providing them with food and medical care. The Turkish government has publicly announced that it has opened its doors to Yezidis. But some refugees at the Silopi refugee camp told IRIN that those who did not have passports were not being allowed in and were being turned back by Turkish soldiers. Others said they paid smugglers up to US$500 to be able to get across the border. While Habur is the official border point for those with passports, the tiny village of Ovacik, several miles south of Silopi, is the first stop for Yezidis crossing into Turkey without documents, and residents there say that for many, it is also the last stop.
Nick Cumming-Bruce, New York Times, 19 August 2014
The United Nations refugee agency announced Tuesday that it was planning one of its biggest aid operations in recent years. Citing ‘immense’ humanitarian challenges in Iraq, the agency is coordinating an effort to deliver aid by air, land and sea to more than a half-million people driven from their homes by fighting in recent weeks. A four-day airlift of supplies using Boeing 747s from the southern Jordanian town of Aqaba to Erbil in the Kurdish-held north of Iraq on Wednesday will be followed by truck convoys crossing the border from Turkey, Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva. The operation is ‘one of the largest we have done and certainly the largest in quite a while,’ he said. The half-million people displaced by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in northern Iraq in June is in addition to the 600,000 people that the refugee agency estimates to have fled fighting earlier in the year in Anbar Province, Mr. Edwards said. The United Nations estimates that around 200,000 Yazidis, a small religious minority, were driven from the Sinjar area amid reports of summary executions, abductions of women and children, and harsh punishment as ISIS forces took over the area. Most of the Yazidis made their way, often in harrowing circumstances, to northern Iraq, but around 11,000 took refuge in Syria, Mr. Edwards said. With thousands of people living in unfinished buildings or cramming into schools and mosques, a priority of the aid effort is to provide tents and other basics for survival.
Reuters,Independent Online News, 19 August 2014
Algeria has arrested 200 Syrians who had been hoping to reach Italy with the help of Libyan Islamists who had promised to smuggle them by boat, a security source said on Tuesday. Algeria, like other countries in North Africa, is worried that militant Islamists are exploiting Libya’s chaos to smuggle weapons, train fighters and send migrants to Europe – possibly to bring in cash to fund their operations. Algeria has closed its land border with Libya and reinforced its military presence in the south. Libya is a major transit gate for migrants from sub-Saharan countries and refugees from conflict zones such as Syria or Sudan. Italy says more than 100,000 migrants have reached its shores by boat this year. The Syrians, including 20 children and 10 women, were stopped in the village of Oued Laâlemga near the Libyan border on Monday, said the source who asked not to be named.
SAPA,Independent Online News, 22 August 2014
Nearly 11,500 people from one town in north-east Nigeria are receiving emergency aid after fleeing Boko Haram militants, the country’s main relief agency said on Thursday. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said that 11,442 men, women and children from Gwoza in Borno state have been registered at two facilities for displaced people in neighbouring Adamawa state. The Islamists took over Gwoza, which lies near the border with Cameroon, on August 7 and NEMA said the town was ‘still under siege’. The United Nations Humanitarian Office said on August 5 that Boko Haram attacks have forced nearly 650,000 people from their homes in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, which have been under emergency rule since May last year. Thousands more have fled across the border into Niger, Chad and Cameroon. NEMA has previously warned of a humanitarian crisis in north-east Nigeria, with the influx of internally displaced people heaping pressure on nearby states for basic amenities such as food and shelter.
South Africa Correspondent, New Zimbabwe, 23 August 2014
South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has called on Gauteng province to lead in the fight against xenophobia. Ramaphosa was addressing a Gauteng social cohesion summit in Johannesburg on Friday. The summit comprised of government, NGOs, civil society and was called to promote cohesion in society. The social cohesion summits are being held throughout South Africa in an attempt to encourage peaceful co-existence and development. Ramaphosa’s call comes hardly a week after the Gauteng City-Region Observatory and the University of the Witwatersrand, the Gauteng government, and the SA Local Government Association released the results of a survey which showed that people in the province were intolerant of foreigners. Of the 25,000 South Africans interviewed, 35 percent said foreigners should be deported back to their countries. Attacks against foreigners are common in South Africa. Only last week, shops owned by foreigners were looted in Johannesburg during a protest over land. About 62 foreigners were killed in the worst violence against foreigners in 2008.
Norman Hermant, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 24 August 2014
As hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yazidi refugees flee Islamic State militants, family members living in Australia are hoping to secure special humanitarian visas for their loved ones. But groups representing the communities say the 4,000 places freed up by the Australian Government are far too few. There are 125,000 Iraqi refugees currently registered with United Nations.
AFP, News24, 18 August 2014
Former rebels beaten last November by government and UN troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday accused the army of executing 10 prisoners of war. The M23 statement lists 10 victims said to be former members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a largely ethnic Tutsi rebel movement that signed a peace deal with the government on 23 March 2009. The government has denied the allegation. Like other rebel forces in the strife-wracked North Kivu province, ex-CNDP forces were integrated into the army, but these fighters protested that other aspects of the peace accord were not implemented by the Kinshasa government. In May 2012, they mutinied and formed M23.
Independent Online News, 18 August 2014
Rocket fire hit a convoy of buses carrying refugees from the east Ukrainian city of Luhansk on Monday killing an unknown number of people. Ukraine’s military and rebels are blaming each other for the strike. Around 500 people a day have been fleeing Luhansk, a pro-Russian separatist stronghold that has been battered by months of fighting between rebels and Ukrainian forces and which has been almost entirely without water and electricity for more than two weeks.
Mark Anderson, The Guardian, 20 August 2014
Ethiopia has overtaken Kenya to become Africa’s largest refugee-hosting country after hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese arrived in the country this year. The total refugee population has reached almost 630,000, raising concerns that its capacity to help displaced people may be overstretched. Civil war in neighbouring South Sudan is ‘the main factor’ behind Ethiopia’s soaring refugee population, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said. About 188,000 South Sudanese have arrived in Ethiopia since conflict erupted in December, bringing the total number in the country to 247,000.
South Sudanese started fleeing their country after President Salva Kiir accused his former vice-president, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup in December, triggering a wave of violence. Although ceasefires have been agreed, both sides have been accused of committing war crimes and endangering the lives of civilians. As well as coping with refugees from South Sudan, Ethiopia is seeing an increasing number coming from Eritrea, as people flee a strictly enforced national service that requires all adults to spend most of their lives working for the government. Activists also bemoan a harsh government crackdown on free speech. Eritrea’s escalating refugee crisis has resulted in almost 100,000 people seeking refuge in Ethiopia. Both crises are straining Ethiopia’s ability to support refugee populations.
Torrential rain expected to last until October has caused flooding in some of Ethiopia’s camps. ‘With the rainy season, malaria cases are increasing,’ said a spokeswoman from Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). ‘Because of the cholera epidemics in South Sudan, MSF is planning a vaccination campaign in the Gambela area for a target population of 187,000, to include both refugees and the host community.’
Rick Gladstone, New York Times, 20 August 2014
The United Nations drastically underestimated the devastation that could result from possible assaults by Israel on Gaza this year, with 350,000 people so far displaced from a six-week-old conflict — seven times the 50,000 foreseen in its contingency plan, the top Unicef official for the crowded Palestinian enclave said Wednesday.
Independent Online News, 22 August 2014
Nigeria on Friday said that two more people had tested positive for Ebola, taking the total number of confirmed cases of the deadly virus in the country to 14, including five deaths.
Joe Bavier, Independent Online News, 23 August 2014Ivory Coast has closed its land borders with Ebola-affected West African neighbours Guinea and Liberia in an attempt to prevent the world’s deadliest outbreak of the virus from spreading onto its territory, the government announced. A number of African nations have defied advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) and put in place restrictions on travel to and from the countries where Ebola has appeared, which also include Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Ebola has killed 1,427 people out of 2,615 known cases identified since the West Africa outbreak was first identified in Guinea in March, according to WHO figures released on Friday. However, families hiding infected loved ones and the existence of ‘shadow zones’ where medics cannot go mean that the true scale of the epidemic is unknown, the U.N. health agency said. The WHO has repeatedly said that it does not recommend travel or trade restrictions for countries affected by Ebola, saying that such measures could heighten food and supply shortages.
BBC News, 23 August 2014
Dozens of people are thought to have drowned after a boat loaded with migrants sank off the coast of Libya. At least 170 passengers are reported to have been on board, but so far the coastguard has only rescued 17 people. Separately, unidentified planes are reported to have bombed militant positions near Tripoli airport, leaving at least 10 people dead. Libya has been in turmoil with fighting between rival militias who led the 2011 uprising against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The violence has been centred around the airport and in the eastern city of Benghazi. The vessel was one of many that has set out from North Africa in recent months, heading for Europe. These boats often come from Libya, where human traffickers are thought to be exploiting the current political turmoil. Many boats are badly over-loaded and un-seaworthy, correspondents say.
Botho Molosankwe, Independent Online News, 18 August 2014
The public will know on Monday whether the South African man who worked in Ebola-ravaged Liberia has the virus. The man went to his doctor 10 days after his return from West Africa with a fever. The man was working as a health and safety officer in a mining operation in Liberia. He arrived in South Africa on August 6. At that time, he was healthy. He sought medical help 10 days later, when he developed a fever. Maila said the 37-year-old had no contact with patients while he was in Liberia – he was not involved with patient care.
Monday is also the day a group of South African health professionals land in Sierra Leone to lend their expertise to the fight against the killer virus. They have begun setting up a mobile Ebola laboratory.
SAPA, Independent Online News, 21 August 2014
Cabinet has issued a travel ban for non-South Africans from Ebola infested countries, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Thursday. He said South Africans coming from such West African countries would be questioned, and medically examined if need be.
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Content credit: Scalabrini Centre