On Friday, the governments of Germany, Nigeria, and Norway, along with the United Nations, are hosting the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. The objective is to focus political attention on Africa's biggest humanitarian crisis, as well as to generate financial contributions to respond to urgent humanitarian needs.
On February 3, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report citing systematic violence by Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya Muslim minority population. The report concludes that the systematic nature of the abuses by the government security forces “very likely amount to commission of crimes against humanity”.
As 2016 drew to a close, the number of refugees and displaced people in the world reached historic levels. The year ahead seems to promise more of the same with conflicts and crises continuing in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Somalia, and beyond.
It may be the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. Almost every day for the last four months, an average of 2,000 South Sudanese refugees have made their way to neighboring Uganda. They come on buses and on foot, along dirt roads and through the bush. Day after day more arrive, with no end to the exodus in sight.
In 2016, the world witnessed a global refugee crisis of historic proportions, with the number of refugees and displaced people reaching 65 million world-wide – the largest number since World War II. Whether addressing the needs of those displaced by war, climate change, or ethnic- or gender-based violence, RI traveled to Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America to bear witness to these crises and raise the voices of world’s most vulnerable peoples.
Friends of Refugees International convened for the 14th Annual New York Circle on November 1, 2016. RI President Michel Gabaudan discussed the current state of refugees around the world, and Fatima Muriel de Florez described her inspiring story as a displaced woman and women's rights activist in Colombia.
During the annual May to October monsoon season, Myanmar experiences low-level flooding, which creates favourable conditions for rice cultivation, Myanmar’s leading crop. However, in July 2015, heavier than normal downpours combined with the arrival of Cyclone Komen created unprecedented flash floods, general flooding, and landslides, a national disaster that affected 12 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions. An estimated 1.6 million people were displaced and more than 20 percent of Myanmar’s cultivated land was damaged.
In September, Refugees International returned to some of the hardest hit areas in Rakhine State, Sagaing Region, and Chin State to see how communities were recovering a year after the flooding.
More than one hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims have fled violence and persecution in Myanmar in recent years. In May 2015, thousands were abandoned on boats on the Andaman Sea, after the discovery of mass graves in human trafficking camps along the Thailand-Malaysia border led to a crackdown on human traffickers. The primary desired destination for the Rohingya refugees has been Malaysia, where tens of thousands live unrecognized as refugees at risk of exploitation and in constant fear of detention. Their lives are generally better than in the home country they fled, but still far too vulnerable.
While anticipation of the Mosul offensive continues to build – along with concern about the consequent displacement that could overwhelm nearby areas – the reality is that Mosul’s military offensive and displacement crisis started some time ago. In the past several months, more than 100,000 people have fled the areas around Qayyara and Shirqat, two towns taken by Iraqi fighting forces as part of the military approach to Mosul itself.
At its height in mid-2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) controlled more than 40 percent of Iraq. Now, a counter-offensive by the Iraqi Army, pro-government militias, and allied nations has pushed ISIS out of many areas it once held. This has given a glimmer of hope to Iraq’s 3.4 million internally displaced people (IDPs): after years of exile, they have a chance to return home. Refugees International visited a town in Anbar province where returning families spoke about the challenges of rebuilding their homes, their lives, and their community.
Refugees International (RI) was just on the ground in Malaysia exploring conditions for several Rohingya communities who are among the tens of thousands who have fled persecution in Myanmar in recent years. Their journeys were often more horrific than the conditions from which they fled and their lives in Malaysia are only better in relative terms. The truth of this reality is starkly illuminated in the story of two sisters, Amina and Khadija.*