A year and a half ago, thousands of desperate Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants and asylum-seekers were abandoned at sea, shocking and horrifying many around the world. But more than a year later, little has changed. Governments and international agencies have fulfilled few promises to better protect Rohingya who, facing persecution in Myanmar, have seen flight as their only survival option.
The second half of 2016 has seen some changes in the humanitarian response to the 3.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq, particularly in the central governorates. With Ramadi and Fallujah liberated in the past year, fewer towns remained under siege, more people were able to leave dangerous areas, and a limited number of the displaced are even returning home. However, the situation in general for IDPs remains extremely worrisome.
The Kenyan government’s threat to close the Dadaab refugee camp by the end of November would not only endanger the lives of several hundred thousand Somali refugees but has already caused irreparable harm and damage. With no alternative options, some refugees have been coerced into repatriating to Somalia, where insecurity and an ongoing humanitarian crisis continue. The United Nations Refugee Agency’s focus on expediting the pace of returns – through a program that is supported by donors and implemented in partnership with non-governmental organizations – in the face of political pressure from Kenya, promotes large-scale returns that are unlikely to be sustainable. Development and reintegration initiatives in designated areas of return in Somalia need time to take hold; and, in the meantime, support for Somali refugees who remain in Kenya cannot be abandoned.
At present, Zimbabwe’s future appears precariously poised on an edge. Two consecutive years of poor rains, compounded by El Niño, have resulted in the worst drought in 35 years. It is estimated that more than four million people will require emergency humanitarian aid to get them through to the end of the lean season in March 2017. Exacerbating the situation is the regional nature of the drought, along with an economic crisis, a shortage of cash, and growing political tensions.
Since April 2015, a violent political crisis in Burundi has forced several hundred thousand people from their homes, many seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Nearly 23,000 Burundians fled overland or by lake into the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This number may seem small relative to other refugee crises around the world, but the Burundians have arrived into a region that is wracked by severe insecurity and volatility. Burundian refugees face threats from the myriad armed groups that operate in eastern DRC, in addition to Congolese security forces and migration officials who prey on vulnerable populations. A robust international response is required to protect and support Burundian refugees in the DRC, something that is lacking at present.
It has been two years since the world’s deadliest terrorist organization – Boko Haram – abducted 271 girls from their high school in the town of Chibok – a tragedy that would shine much needed international attention on conflict in northeastern Nigeria. Sadly, the Chibok girls are only one part of a much larger story of violence against women and girls in the northeast. But the attention on this remote corner of the Sahel has not translated into sustained humanitarian assistance for all those that have been affected.
Turkey’s December 2015 announcement of a work permit option for registered Syrian refugees is a momentous step, with support expressed by the United Nations, international non-governmental organizations, and donor governments alike. The decision is indeed encouraging both for ensuring refugees’ rights are respected and for promoting self-sufficiency. The implementation process for the work permits is just beginning, and while the new policy has promise, there are also potential obstacles and warning signs in the process as it appears on paper.
The recent crisis in Burundi has forced the flight of more than 220,000 refugees, of whom half are female. Many experienced gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual violence, during their flight to safety. Nearly 50 percent of Burundian women and girls reporting GBV upon arrival in Tanzania required post-rape care. Yet many refugees in Tanzania say that the threat of violence continues in their country of refuge – in and around the very camps where they should feel safe.
Refugees International is deeply concerned that the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum in Rwanda is being undermined. Specifically, refugees from Burundi claim they are being recruited into non-state armed groups as part of a systematic campaign involving both Burundian and Rwandan nationals. The activities they describe potentially amount to grave violations of international law, and could destabilize the region. Therefore as a matter of urgency, the parties to the conflict in Burundi, the Rwandan government, and the international community must all strongly reject and comprehensively prevent the recruitment of Burundian refugees.
Over 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan face increasingly difficult circumstances as the conflict in their home country wears on with no end in sight. While the large camps of Za’atari and Azraq are regularly held up as examples of the ever-improving refugee response in Jordan, the situation for Syrians outside those camps is considerably less positive.
Since April 2015, Burundi has been descending into chaos, forcing more than 200,000 civilians to flee to neighboring countries. But these well-documented refugee flows are only part of a larger, more disturbing story. The impunity and targeted persecution that exists in Burundi today has resulted in the internal displacement of untold thousands of Burundians, with some in hiding and too scared to even seek humanitarian assistance. Some of these displaced are trapped inside their own country, unable to leave because of abusive government agents and armed militias along the country’s borders.
It’s been six months since as many as 1,000 Rohingya fleeing from Myanmar died in the Andaman Sea. And still, neighboring nations remain resistant to recognizing the Rohingya people’s rights as refugees. Even after neighboring governments met earlier this year and agreed to protect the Rohingya at sea, no nation has taken a leadership role in permitting them to disembark from boats safely and legally. The absence of a regional plan leaves the Rohingya vulnerable to the challenges of a perilous sea voyage, and further strands those Rohingya who have lived in Malaysia and other regional nations for up to three generations without legal rights or protection.
In July, Myanmar was hit by its worst flooding in decades displacing over one million
people. Impacts on agriculture – the backbone of the country’s economy and main source
of livelihood for millions of rural poor – were massive. The government’s decision to accept the international community’s offer of assistance presented an unprecedented opportunity to build trust and resilience among affected communities, especially in poor and conflict-ridden areas. Unfortunately, an underwhelming response resulted in missed opportunities. With recent assessments indicating that the disaster’s worst impacts have yet to manifest, a lack of strong support for recovery could have long-lasting impacts on poverty and migration.
Iraq has been the site of significant internal displacement for well over a decade. However, this displacement has increased dramatically over the last two years as the security situation in central and south Iraq has deteriorated. Today, there are 3.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq. They are living in rented accommodations, unfinished buildings, and makeshift camps, often without adequate food, water, or medical care, wondering when it might be safe to go home.
Ukraine is in the midst of Europe’s largest internal migration crisis since World War II. In April 2014, a pro-Russia separatist rebellion in the heavily populated eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk plunged the country into bitter conflict. And yet, the impact of Ukraine’s ongoing conflict and the humanitarian and early recovery needs of its more than five million conflict-affected citizens are not well publicized. Approximately two million Ukrainians are living close to the ceasefire line separating Ukrainian and pro-separatist forces, another two million live under the control of separatists, and 1.5 million have become internally displaced, overwhelming Ukraine’s local governments as they search for safety, shelter, and survival.
El Salvador has just achieved the grim distinction of becoming the murder capital of the world. In the first six months of this year, almost 3,000 people were murdered, and hundreds of thousands more were subject to extortion, death threats, forced recruitment, and rape by the country’s two major gangs. So far, the government has been unable to stop this extraordinary level of violence, which is forcing tens of thousands of Salvadorans from their homes.
More than ten years after first arriving in Chad, over 360,000 Sudanese refugees are now dealing with a new reality. In the face of dramatic food ration cuts, and after years of shrinking support from the international community, aid agencies are pushing these refugees to become self-sufficient and more deeply integrated with their Chadian hosts. With the global humanitarian system overstretched, a more sustainable and targeted assistance strategy for this population would seem reasonable. But the early stages of this transition have encountered serious problems.
The civil conflict that has engulfed the Central African Republic for more than two years has displaced nearly a quarter of the 4.6 million population, both internally and in neighboring countries. In the past year, certain parts of CAR have stabilized, including the capital, Bangui, and international donors have begun to turn their attention toward early recovery programs and planning for national elections. But the crisis is not over.
Providing humanitarian aid in a conflict zone is a challenge all over the world. But perhaps no situation has proved more complex than that of Syria. A particularly stubborn and brutal regime, a fragmented opposition movement, and ever-changing alliances among fighting groups have resulted in an operational context defined by irregular access and major security risks for humanitarian workers.