Petitioners Condemn Corruption, Diversion of Aid Intended for Refugee Camps as Fourth Committee Continues Decolonization Debate

Stagnation, corruption and terrible conditions threaten the well-being of young people in Western Sahara’s refugee camps, petitioners from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization)…

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Eritrea to Ethiopia, Mosul worsens, and Boko Haram bombs: The Cheat Sheat

Every week, IRIN’s team of editors takes a look at what lies ahead on our humanitarian agenda and curates a selection of some of the best reports, opinion, and journalism you may have missed:

What’s coming up?

Mosul’s back (it never went away)

In case you turned away for a minute, here’s a reminder that the battle of Mosul is ongoing and that for civilians it appears to be getting much worse. The UN says an average of 4,000 people are streaming out of western districts each day – plus it estimates there are up to 750,000 more trapped inside. Supplies of food and water are said to be running low, and many people live in the tightly packed old city, where civilians Thursday were feared dead after a mosque was hit in what witnesses say was a strike from the air. Fleeing the city is a risk too, but conditions inside are so horrific that for some it’s worth the journey. Will aid agencies be ready to meet the needs of this new wave? They have been preparing for at least six months, but we all know that’s no guarantee. Next week we’ll take you there, with testimony from civilians who have walked across the desert under fire, desperately seeking safety and help.

One day the war will end

Boko Haram attacked the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri early on Friday in a triple suicide bombing. The attack comes ahead of a visit by the UN Security Council to the city, part of a tour of the four-country Lake Chad region by diplomats to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis affecting 21 million people in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

The international community had its chance to act at the Oslo humanitarian conference last month. Analysts had called for a significant donor response – see our op-ed. What got pledged was $672 million in new money spread over three years, against an appeal target of $1.5 billion for 2017. Neither the US or British governments made even a show of opening their wallets in Oslo. In these straitened times we must be glad for any mercy, but also mindful that the 2016 appeal was for a good deal less, $739 million, and wound up being only 53 percent funded.

Behind the humanitarian crisis looms Boko Haram. Nigeria repeatedly promises the jihadists are under control. Today’s bombing in Maiduguri proves otherwise. What to do? Researcher Atta Barkindo calls for the opening of channels of dialogue. Someday, the war will be over, and the local vigilantes that have sprung up to defend their communities will be disbanded. The International Crisis Group is sounding an alarm now, of new dangers unless care is taken over how these young men are demobilised.

EU plan to detain migrants for up to 18 months

Migration is high on the agenda, once again, at next week’s European Council meeting in Brussels. Ahead of the meeting, the European Commission issued a slew of press releases trumpeting progress on various initiatives. The one that has grabbed the most headlines is an action plan on the return of irregular migrants, including a recommendation that member states detain people awaiting removal for up to 18 months to prevent them from absconding. At a press conference on Thursday, EU home affairs commissioner Dmitris Avramopoulos made it clear children would not be exempt. The Commission also released the latest figures for the EU’s relocation and resettlement scheme, revealing that just 13,546 asylum seekers have been transferred from the overwhelmed frontline states of Italy and Greece. Several countries, including Hungary and Austria, have refused to participate in the scheme, while others have accepted only a handful. Also came a third progress report on the Partnership Framework with third countries, focusing on “results” in Niger, Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal and Nigeria, and on next steps such as finalising a readmission agreement with Nigeria by June. Our reporting last month highlighted how – dodgy statistics aside – the Niger deal has successfully stemmed northward migration, albeit while decimating the local economy.

Hotspots to watch

The International Crisis Group has released its annual report on the top 10 conflicts where it believes the EU should look to take action to promote peace. Some are fairly predictable (Somalia, Syria, Yemen), but others you may not even have heard of. Gold star if you can find Nagorno-Karabakh, for example, on a map. The contested region is within the borders of Azerbaijan but has an ethnic Armenian majority and Armenia also claims sovereignty. The two countries went to war from 1992 to 1994 over control of the area, but tensions have been sizzling much more recently. Last April, clashes erupted again and 200 people lost their lives. Other surprises on the list include Myanmar, which has been accused of crimes against humanity in its crackdown on ethnic Rohingya, and Venezuela, which has reached such a low ebb that civil conflict has become a real possibility.

Did you miss it?

Eritrean journeys on hold

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Several thousand Eritreans are thought to leave their country every month, fleeing compulsory and open-ended national service, political persecution and a failing economy. Most cross into neighbouring Ethiopia, where they are accommodated in refugee camps, but not many remain there. This new report by the Overseas Development Institute looks at how policy decisions are influencing Eritreans’ decisions to move on, often towards Europe via the irregular route to Libya and across the Mediterranean. The main finding of the report is that livelihood support programmes in Ethiopia and the slim possibility of resettlement to a third country are not enough to offset the fact that refugees there are denied the right to work. Instead, they are forced to scrape out a living that might meet their basic needs but holds no promise for the future. This reality is captured by an excellent accompanying film following the experiences of Teddy Love, an Eritrean man who escaped eight years of military service to become a popular singer in Asmara before being arrested and imprisoned. Since arriving in Ethiopia seven years ago, he has eked out a living singing in nightclubs for tips to support his two children.

Yemenis fight for survival as famine looms

After flagging up last week that Yemen is facing the largest food insecurity emergency in the world, IRIN published a two-part feature this week from rural Taiz, where children and the elderly are already dying of malnutrition. Regular contributor Iona Craig has been writing on this crisis since 2010 and has covered the country’s downward spiral from neglected humanitarian disaster to civil conflict, all-out war and economic meltdown. Her words, aided by photographs from Ahmed al-Basha, now describe the reality of a rural Yemen on the brink of famine. Skin hangs from the scrawny hands of a baby girl who can’t be nourished by her starving mother, women and children collect precious drops of water from a dying spring, a healthcare system on its knees can’t possibly cope. But these are the lucky ones. In her accompanying story, Craig ventures into the more remote highlands and finds al-Dashin, a displacement camp where death from malnutrition is becoming a regular event. Her conclusion: “Yemenis are renowned for their unwavering resilience. This is a rural-based society, well practised at caring for its own after decades in which there has been a near-total absence of a functioning state. But there has to be a breaking point. In a remote dusty wasteland in rural Taiz, that point of collapse is startlingly tangible.”

(TOP PHOTO: Protests in Aden, Yemen. CREDIT: Iona Craig)

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Refugees in Limbo with Trump’s Executive Order

More than a week after President Trump turned airports into a battleground by signing an Executive Order aimed to drastically curtailing immigration into the US, the fallout continues. A nationwide temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge in Washington state last week is facing appeal, leaving the borders for all visa holders open for now, but with uncertainty on how long that may be the case. Most of the media attention so far has focused on the plight of impacted permanent residents, also known as green card holders, and nationals of the seven Muslim-majority countries banned in the Executive Order. But it is the other part of the order that impacts refugees, that may be the most devastating part of the new policy.

By their very nature, refugees are the most vulnerable immigrants in the world. Forced from their homes due to conflict or political oppression, their futures are often at the mercy of government policies abroad. Historically the US has been one of the most generous Western countries in taking in refugees, but Trump’s Executive Order threatens that standing and could have wide ranging impacts around the world.

The Executive Order halts all refugee admissions for 120 days and prohibits the admission of Syrian refugee indefinitely. After Trump signed it on January 27, refugees scheduled to arrive in the US for resettlement were turned away and the processing of refugees still making their way through the US Refugee Admissions Program – generally an 18 to 24 month long process – was stopped. As federal courts around the country started hearing the many lawsuits filed against the Executive Order, some relief for refugees was granted at some airports, such as Boston’s Logan International. But it wasn’t until Judge Robert of the Western District of Washington issued a national restraining order last Friday that refugees got some hope of being able to fulfill the promise of American resettlement.

With the restraining order in effect, immigration controls return to how they were prior to the January 27 Executive Order. For refugees already cleared to resettle in the US, including Syrians, that means they are now welcome to come as previously scheduled.

A State Department official confirmed to UN Dispatch that travel for those refugees is being rescheduled through the International Organization for Migration. Some refugees that were previously denied entry started to arrive on Monday with others scrambling to make travel arrangements. That same official could not confirm whether the processing of refugees, which had previously been halted, had resumed as the main focus is on getting already approved refugees into the country while it is still possible.

That may be a short window. The Justice Department has already appealed Judge Robart’s ruling, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments this week on whether to continue the restraining order, or grant a judicial stay which would put the Executive Order back into effect. Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit ruled unanimously to keep the restraining order in effect, but with ongoing appeals and hearings at the trial level to hear the case on its merits, that window could shut again by the end of the month.

Refugee backlash not limited to the US

Legal drama aside, the Executive Order is bound to impact the policies of other countries who are far more vulnerable to irregular migration. This is especially true in Europe. A recent Chatham House poll of ten European countries found that most Europeans surveyed favor a complete ban on further migration from Muslim majority countries. Overall 55 percent of those survey agreed that all migration should be halted while only two countries – the UK and Spain – did not have majorities favoring a ban.

That poll was conducted before January 27 but demonstrates the strong sentiments that many Western countries hold against Muslim immigration. Already more right wing governments have taken a strong stance on refugee migration, such as Hungary which has built multiple border barriers, refused to participate in the EU resettlement scheme and recently announced it will house all refugees and asylum seekers in shipping containers until further notice.

But such drastic measures are not limited to individual governments. At the EU summit in Malta earlier this month, stemming refugees and migrants coming from Libya was the top priority. Despite ample criticism regarding human rights and international law over the EU’s controversial migration deal with Turkey, the political bloc appears determined to reach a similar arrangement with Libya to stop irregular arrivals in Italy regardless of the human cost.

The current global refugee crisis is a crisis, the likes of which the world has not seen since World War II. It will require a global solution and burden sharing by everyone to resolve. President Trump’s Executive Order, like many other anti-refugee policies that have become vogue in Western states, not only betrays the hopes of refugees but ensures that the overall crisis will continue unabated. Although refugees may be the most vulnerable and have the smallest voice in the international migration system, ignoring them will not make them go away.

Discussion

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Secretary-General Urges Central African Security Forum Ratification of Conventions Curtailing Terrorists’ Access to Small Arms, Light Weapons

Following is UN Secretary-General’s message, delivered by François Lounceny Fall, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), to the forty-third ministerial meeting of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa (UNSAC), in São Tomé, São Tomé and Principe, today:

I thank São Tomé and Principe for hosting the forty-third ministerial meeting of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa, and I wish every success to the Sao Tomean presidency.  I also thank the Central African Republic for ably leading the Committee for the past six months.

I commend São Tomé and Principe, an island of stability, for the peaceful election that took place last summer.  The Central Africa subregion has witnessed a busy, and at times turbulent, electoral year.  I have repeatedly expressed concern about election-related tensions, which have led, in some instances, to violence.  Lessons must be drawn from recent electoral processes to build consensus on frameworks that will enable the holding of peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible elections.  Only through inclusive and genuine dialogue can we achieve the necessary reforms to enhance democratic governance and the rule of law.

I am deeply concerned about the renewed violence in the Central African Republic and the further displacement it has caused.  The individuals responsible, and their sponsors, must be brought to justice.  It is critical that the region remains engaged in a constructive manner to support the country’s efforts to achieve reconciliation and stability.

In this regard, I welcome the holding of the donors’ round-table meeting, held in Brussels on 17 November, which pledged $2.2 billion in support of the Central African Republic recovery plan and peacebuilding efforts in the country.  I also welcome the holding of an Extraordinary Summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on 30 November that addressed the situation in the Central African Republic.

The subregion continues to face a number of security challenges, some transregional in nature.  Boko Haram militants in the Lake Chad Basin region, pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea and the Lord’s Resistance Army know no borders and draw their strength from a lack of coordinated response.  The Multinational Joint Task Force, the Interregional Coordination Centre for Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea and the Regional Coordination Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa are important achievements that need to be supported and nurtured, particularly by the member States of this Committee.

I welcome the recent visit of the Bureau to Cameroon and Chad to assess the impact of Boko Haram.  It is my fervent hope that ECCAS and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will closely work together to address these threats.  I also hope that they will convene their planned joint Summit on Boko Haram as soon as possible, with the aim of developing a regional strategy that addresses the root causes that contributed to the emergence of the group.

Terrorists and criminals are able to operate because small arms and light weapons are readily available.  I note with concern that the Kinshasa Convention, which has been open for signature for six years, has not yet entered into force.  I urge the six remaining member States of the Committee to ratify the Convention without further delay.  In the same vein, I encourage the member States of the Committee to take the necessary steps to ratify the landmark Arms Trade Treaty.

In these and other initiatives to promote stability in the subregion, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa and my Special Representative will continue to support your efforts in collaboration with the relevant United Nations entities in the area.

This is my last message to the Committee, the work of which I valued over the past decade.  I trust that the Committee and its members will extend the same level of excellent cooperation to my successor, António Guterres.  I wish you a productive meeting.

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Secretary-General, in Message, Urges Central African Security Forum to Ratify Conventions Tackling Terrorists’ Access of Small Arms, Light Weapons

Following is UN Secretary-General’s message, delivered by François Lounceny Fall, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), to the forty-third ministerial meeting of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa (UNSAC), in São Tomé today:

I thank São Tomé and Principe for hosting the forty-third ministerial meeting of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa, and I wish every success to the Sao Tomean presidency.  I also thank the Central African Republic for ably leading the Committee for the past six months.

I commend São Tomé and Principe, an island of stability, for the peaceful election that took place last summer.  The Central Africa subregion has witnessed a busy, and at times turbulent, electoral year.  I have repeatedly expressed concern about election-related tensions, which have led, in some instances, to violence.  Lessons must be drawn from recent electoral processes to build consensus on frameworks that will enable the holding of peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible elections.  Only through inclusive and genuine dialogue can we achieve the necessary reforms to enhance democratic governance and the rule of law.

I am deeply concerned about the renewed violence in the Central African Republic and the further displacement it has caused.  The individuals responsible, and their sponsors, must be brought to justice.  It is critical that the region remains engaged in a constructive manner to support the country’s efforts to achieve reconciliation and stability.

In this regard, I welcome the holding of the donors’ round-table meeting, held in Brussels on 17 November, which pledged $2.2 billion in support of the Central African Republic recovery plan and peacebuilding efforts in the country.  I also welcome the holding of an Extraordinary Summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on 30 November that addressed the situation in the Central African Republic.

The subregion continues to face a number of security challenges, some transregional in nature.  Boko Haram militants in the Lake Chad Basin region, pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea and the Lord’s Resistance Army know no borders and draw their strength from a lack of coordinated response.  The Multinational Joint Task Force, the Interregional Coordination Centre for Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea and the Regional Coordination Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa are important achievements that need to be supported and nurtured, particularly by the member States of this Committee.

I welcome the recent visit of the Bureau to Cameroon and Chad to assess the impact of Boko Haram.  It is my fervent hope that ECCAS and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will closely work together to address these threats.  I also hope that they will convene their planned joint Summit on Boko Haram as soon as possible, with the aim of developing a regional strategy that addresses the root causes that contributed to the emergence of the group.

Terrorists and criminals are able to operate because small arms and light weapons are readily available.  I note with concern that the Kinshasa Convention, which has been open for signature for six years, has not yet entered into force.  I urge the six remaining member States of the Committee to ratify the Convention without further delay.  In the same vein, I encourage the member States of the Committee to take the necessary steps to ratify the landmark Arms Trade Treaty.

In these and other initiatives to promote stability in the subregion, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa and my Special Representative will continue to support your efforts in collaboration with the relevant United Nations entities in the area.

This is my last message to the Committee, the work of which I valued over the past decade.  I trust that the Committee and its members will extend the same level of excellent cooperation to my successor, António Guterres.  I wish you a productive meeting.

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Questions and answers on how the European Commission helps refugees

Who is a refugee?

Every year natural disasters, conflicts and human rights violations force millions of people to leave their homes and to flee to save their lives. Their survival often depends on international assistance and protection.

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country and is unable or unwilling to return because of fear of persecution. The 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees gives refugees legal protection under the international refugee law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to respond to refugee needs.

An internally displaced person (IDP) is someone who was forced to flee his/her home but who did not cross a state border. IDPs benefit from the legal protection of international human rights law and, in armed conflict, international humanitarian law.

However, IDPs do not benefit from the specialised protection of international refugee law. No UN or international agency has been formally mandated to assist them. National governments have the primary responsibility for the security and well-being of all displaced people on their territory, but often they are unable or unwilling to comply with this obligation. The most important reference document to address the issue of protection and assistance to IDPs is the non-binding Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement from 1998. The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance to IDPs in Africa (the so called Kampala Convention), which entered into force in 2012, is the first ever binding international legal instrument on the rights of IDPs.  

How many refugees are there?

Today, there are more than 59.5 million people in need of help and protection as a consequence of forced displacement, more than at any time since comprehensive statistics have been collected, with the continuing crises in Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan and Ukraine as major aggravating factors. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), globally some 38.2 million people are IDPs, around 19.5 million are refugees and 1.8 million people applied for asylum in 2014. Together, these forcibly displaced people represent the combined population of greater London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Stockholm, Lisbon, Warsaw, Athens, Barcelona and Brussels.

According to the latest UNHCR data, about half of the global refugee population are children under 18, the highest proportion in more than a decade. About half of the entire refugee population are women and girls. In many societies, they face specific risks such as discrimination and are less likely than men and boys to have access to basic rights.

Syria became the world’s largest source country of refugees during 2014 with an estimated 3.9 million people, overtaking Afghanistan, which had held this position for more than 30 years. Somalia, Sudan, South-Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar follow. It is estimated that around 45% of the world’s refugees are trapped in protracted situations (in exile for five years or more without prospects of immediate durable solutions).

For humanitarian workers, helping the displaced is becoming more difficult, costly and dangerous. In countries such as Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen or Iraq, getting help to internally displaced populations means working in environments where access is difficult and conflict or criminality present deadly risks.

86% of today’s refugees live in the developing world, which means that they find refuge in countries and among people who already struggle with poverty and hardship. Greater international solidarity is needed to address this challenge.

According to the UNHCR, out of the total 14.4 million refugees in the world in 2014, more than 1 million were in the EU.

What is World Refugee Day?

Each year, on 20 June, the world focuses on the plight of people who are forced to flee their homes due to conflicts or natural disasters. This day has been significant since 2001, when the UN General Assembly designated it on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Humanitarian situation and needs

Many of the people forced to flee and abandon their homes often have to do this at very short notice and to leave with nothing or very few possessions. Particularly in volatile contexts, they rely on local communities and international humanitarian aid for their survival. Too often, their flight to safety turns into protracted and long term displacement, as the problems that uprooted them take a long time to resolve.

Sustainable solutions for refugees include voluntary repatriation to their home countries, which is the preferred long-term outcome for the majority of refugees. Another solution is local integration or resettlement either in the asylum country where they are living or in third countries where they can be permanently resettled. The IDPs can be reintegrated in their place of origin (return), integrated in areas where they have taken refuge (local integration), or integrated in another part of the country (settlement elsewhere).

Refugees and those internally displaced (IDPs) face major challenges in terms of protection, access to shelter, food and other basic services such as health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene and education. Those who end up living in urban areas (IDP’s, refugees) may encounter poverty, lack of psychosocial support and difficulties in normalizing their status. Violence, abuse and exploitation against the most vulnerable often peak in the aftermath of emergencies, which underlines the importance of effective protection mechanisms to be put in place immediately.

The patterns of displacement are increasingly complex, as large numbers of migrants flow inside and between countries and regions. Their problems, and the burden on host countries, are worsened by climate change, increasing urbanisation, population growth and food insecurity. At the same time, the efforts of the humanitarian community to bring relief and contribute to lasting solutions are made more difficult by donors’ budgetary constraints, triggered by the global financial and economic crisis and the multiplication of crisis in need of funding.

The European Commission’s humanitarian response

Refugees are among the most vulnerable in humanitarian crises. This is why the European Commission provides substantial resources to help them. The European Commission gave more than €854 million or some 70% of its annual humanitarian aid budget in 2014 to projects helping refugees and IDPs in 33 countries worldwide. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) invests heavily in assisting displaced people and is currently responding to crises such as: Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, Somali refugees in Kenya and Yemen, Congolese refugees in the Great Lake region, Colombian refugees in Ecuador and Venezuela, Myanmar refugees in Thailand, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Sahrawi refugees.

Humanitarian aid delivered by the European Commission helps:

  • meet the most pressing needs of refugees;
  • protect and support refugees during their displacement and when returning to their place of origin;
  • increase the self-reliance of refugees and reduce their ‘dependency syndrome’.

The Commission focuses its support on organisations dealing with migrants, refugees and IDPs including the UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Red Cross and Red Crescent family and non-governmental organisations. The three above-mentioned organization remained in 2014 among the first five humanitarian aid partner of the Commission, in terms of volume of funding (2. ICRC, 3. UNHCR, 5. IOM).

Through this support, the Commission’s action paves the way for durable solutions for refugees and IDPs. It coordinates its assistance with the organisations in charge of early recovery and development.

While supporting the victims of displacement, the European Commission is also working to decrease the number and scale of refugee crises: for instance, through its work on disaster preparedness and prevention, which aims to reduce the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities and prevent their displacement.

Refugees and development policy

The European Commission also provides development assistance to tackle the challenges related to forced displacement, since there is growing recognition of the importance of refugees and IDPs to the economy and development, with the potential to contribute to the economy of hosting countries (also acknowledged by the European Council in 2013).

This is particularly relevant in the case of refugees who are displaced for the long term; either in camps or urban areas (known as protracted displacement). These challenges must therefore be addressed by long-term development strategies in order to enable the refugees to be self-reliant and to support host communities.

The Commission is already a leading international donor in terms of support for refugees in developing countries with €200 million in ongoing projects from development funds.

In addition, the European Commission is currently working on developing new, more comprehensive and multi-sectoral approaches aimed at seeing sustainable solutions for refugees, IDPs and returnees. The objective is to ensure that development actors, together with humanitarian actors, will engage to address the crisis that forces the population to flee from the beginning in order to prevent that displacement turns into a permanent situation.

Examples

The humanitarian consequences of the crisis in Syria have reached an unprecedented scale. Around 11.5 million Syrians are internally displaced or are living as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, North Africa and the EU. Many of those who were able to reach the neighbouring countries are now living in hardship; struggling to find shelter and food for their families and schooling for their children. The European Union is a leading donor in the response to the Syria crisis with around €3.6 billion of total budget mobilised by the Commission and Member States collectively in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance. EU humanitarian assistance channelled through the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) primarily supports life-saving medical emergency responses, the provision of essential drugs, food and nutritional items, safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), shelter, distribution of basic non-food items and protection programmes. This funding is channelled through UN agencies and accredited international humanitarian organisations to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people.

In 2015, the Commission has increased its humanitarian assistance to the Syria crisis by €136 million, half of which will go to meet needs inside Syria, and the other half to Syrian refugees and host communities in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. This includes €2.5 million to respond to the emergency inside Yarmouk refugee camp.

A new EU comprehensive strategy has been developed to tackle the crises in Syria and Iraq, which will include €1 billion in funding over the next two years. The new strategy will champion activities from several EU instruments and increase the impact of Europe’s solidarity and political support. This will include enhancing economic resilience among refugee and host communities especially to promote prospects for young people.

The Third International Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City was held on 31 March 2015. During the conference, donors pledged a total of US$3.8 billion in humanitarian and development assistance to the Syria crisis out of which the EU and its Member States pledged €1.1 billion – the largest pledge by any donor.

To strengthen the development and protection capacities in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, and to enable Syrian refugees to tap into their own potentials, the European Commission is funding a Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP) in the region. The programme combines efforts to improve protection of refugees with longer-term livelihood support to host communities and, whenever possible, refugees alike. The Commission is currently also developing RDPPs for the Horn of Africa and North Africa in close collaboration with EU Member States.

The on-going crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced an estimated 220 000 people since December 2013 to flee to Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo, bringing the number of Central African refugees in neighbouring countries to over 462 000 people. The European Union is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to CAR with over EUR 186 million provided since 2014. The European Commission alone has provided EUR 69 million (including about EUR 20 million for CAR refugees in neighbouring countries) in humanitarian aid since December 2013.

Almost half of the funding is spent in Chad, which was facing the biggest influx of people fleeing CAR at the beginning of the crisis, €7.8 million in Cameroon and €1 million in the DRC and the Republic of Congo. The humanitarian assistance addresses the basic needs of refugees such as shelter, food, health, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene. The funds are implemented through the European Commission’s partners such as UN agencies, International NGOs, and international organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies.

In CAR, the European Commission is funding humanitarian projects to enable free access to primary health services through mobile clinics. Projects seeking to improve the protection of civilians are also being supported. Food assistance is a priority. Moreover, the European Commission is supporting integrated actions to provide safe drinking water, re-establish decent sanitation facilities and promote better hygiene practices (WASH).

The situation in South Sudan since the outbreak of civil war in December 2013 remains one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. Over 2 million people have fled their homes, of which 565 000 South Sudanese have taken refuge in Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, putting additional resource constraints on these countries and having a destabilising effect on the whole region. At over 1.5 million people have been internally displaced (IDPs), mostly because of widespread violence against civilians. More than half of the refugees (around 60%) are children. At the same time, the country hosts more than a quarter of a million refugees, mainly from Sudan. Overall, life-saving needs for food, health care, clean water, shelter, sanitation, protection, etc. continue to rise.

Humanitarian aid is delivered in extremely and increasingly challenging circumstances. Hostilities and attacks against humanitarian workers seriously constrain access to those in need. The commandeering of assets and other illegal obstructions further constrain the work of aid organisations.

The European Commission has made available more than €200 million since 2014 (over €120 million in 2015 alone) to respond to the unfolding and intensifying humanitarian crisis inside the South Sudan and support the urgent needs of refugees in the Horn of Africa, including South Sudanese refugees. The aid covers the provision of food aid, basic health care, clean water, sanitation, shelter and protection for the most vulnerable people. The funds also support the response to epidemics such as cholera and Hepatitis E.

As a result of the illegal annexation of Crimea and fighting between Russia-backed separatists and government forces in Eastern Ukraine, over two million people have been forced to flee their homes and have become increasingly vulnerable. As of June 2015, over 1.3 million people are registered as internally displaced (IDPs), and more than 860 000 have fled to neighbouring countries, especially Russia, Belarus and Poland. Refugees and internally displaced persons need shelter, food and sanitation items as well as proper healthcare and psychosocial support, education and protection. Medical supplies are extremely limited across the conflict zone. Despite a ceasefire agreement that came into force in February 2015, access to Donetsk and Luhansk regions remains challenging for humanitarian organisations.

The European Union and its Member States have jointly contributed over € 139 million in financial aid to the most vulnerable since the beginning of the crisis. Aid is provided to all affected populations, including refugees in Russia and Belarus, and is delivered according to humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. On the ground, the assistance is being delivered through partner organisations, including UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, IOM, Save the Children, Danish Refugee Council, People In Need, WFP and ICRC.

In a joint operation in January 2015, EU and its Member States organised the delivery emergency supplies by air and road, including tents, blankets and sleeping bags for the harsh winter conditions, in cooperation with humanitarian partners including UNICEF and UNHCR.

Asylum in the EU

Most displaced persons remain in their own countries or find refuge in neighbouring states, but many also travel to Europe to seek asylum. The EU has stepped up its search and rescue activities in response to the tragic situation in the Mediterranean, and thousands of people are being rescued every week.

The new European Agenda on Migration sets out proposals to establish a temporary relocation mechanism for 40 000 persons in Italy and Greece in clear need of international protection, to be relocated within the EU. The Agenda also includes a recommendation for an EU wide scheme to resettle 20 000 refugees in all Member States.

For further information

European Agenda on Migration

Homepage of DG HOME

Homepage of DG ECHO

Homepage of DG Europeaid

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