Mark Yarnell

Devastation and Displacement: Unprecedented Cyclones in Mozambique and Zimbabwe a Sign of What’s to Come?

Devastation and Displacement: Unprecedented Cyclones in Mozambique and Zimbabwe a Sign of What’s to Come?

Cyclones Idai and Kenneth devastated Mozambique and Zimbabwe in March and April 2019. The cyclones demonstrate an ugly truth: climate change will affect Africa more severely than any other continent. That the two cyclones occurred at that time of year, with this severity, and in these locations was remarkable. As humanitarians continue to respond to the needs of storm survivors, including a looming food crisis affecting up to a third of the population in Zimbabwe, the region must also prepare for similar storms in the future.

Promoting Refugee Participation In The Global Refugee Forum: Walking The Walk

Promoting Refugee Participation In  The Global Refugee Forum: Walking The Walk

Those with lived refugee experience – whether still in displacement, resettled, or returned – offer necessary perspectives to inform smart, practical, and sustainable programs. The first-ever Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in December 2019 will serve as a clear litmus test of international commitment to refugee participation under the framework of the Global Compact on Refugees.

The Obstacle to Rohingya Return Is Clear: It’s Still Myanmar

The Obstacle to Rohingya Return Is Clear: It’s Still Myanmar

Rohingya refugees continue to arrive in Bangladesh with stories of oppression at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces. Mark Yarnell and Daniel Sullivan report in the Diplomat on what they heard from newly displaced Rohingya during a recent Refugees International research mission to Bangladesh.

Ensuring that the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration Deliver

Ensuring that the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration Deliver

As the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in desperate situations worldwide reaches historic levels, no nation alone can respond effectively to the challenge this presents. But two new agreements, the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration, are historic efforts to seek international cooperation. Alice Thomas and Mark Yarnell outline some of the key achievements of the compacts and make recommendations for moving them forward.

The Crisis Below the Headlines: Conflict Displacement in Ethiopia

The Crisis Below the Headlines: Conflict Displacement in Ethiopia

Despite jubilation in Ethiopia and abroad since reformer Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in April 2018, a major humanitarian crisis has unfolded in the south of the country. The government is pressing for displaced people to return home, but their villages are still unsafe and their homes must be rebuilt. Mark Yarnell offers recommendations for mitigating the crisis.  

Ethiopia: Abiy’s Misstep on IDPs and How He Can Fix It

Ethiopia: Abiy’s Misstep on IDPs and How He Can Fix It

Intercommunal violence in Ethiopia has forced 1.4 million people to become displaced in 2018, the highest number of new internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in the world. For all the obstacles and uncertainties facing Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy’s administration, it is in their control – and interest – to make significant improvements in their response towards displaced Ethiopians. Mark Yarnell offers steps for improving the response.

The World Is Failing Internally Displaced People. Here’s One Solution.

The World Is Failing Internally Displaced People. Here’s One Solution.

More than one in 10 internally displaced people are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where millions of IDPs are falling between the cracks of a humanitarian system in urgent need of reform. An important first step is to establish the position of special representative of the secretary-general (SRSG) for IDPs. 

Global Compact on Refugees: Establishing Effective Mechanisms for Responsibility-Sharing

Global Compact on Refugees: Establishing Effective Mechanisms for Responsibility-Sharing

This Refugees International issue brief examines the key tasks for the United Nations and its member states to establish a robust Global Compact for Refugees with governance mechanisms that can actually mobilize political leadership and engagement among both donor and host states that results in tangibly improved refugee response efforts.

All Africa: Nigeria: Panic Over Planned Closure of Nigeria Refugee Camps

REFUGEE rights groups have bemoaned the imminent closure of camps housing millions of Nigerians displaced by the Boko Haram terror northeast of the country.

The West African country is planning to close all refugee camps by May and facilitate large-scale returns in the Borno State, especially to remote areas only recently secured from the terrorists.

Refugees International (RI) expressed alarm at the plans.

"We are concerned that many returns are being fueled by official pressure and the spread of misinformation," Alexandra Lamarche, RI Advocate for Sub-Saharan Africa, said.

Authorities are accelerating plans to return the displaced civilians as Nigeria approaches its national elections in early 2019.

Mark Yarnell, RI Senior Advocate, said while the Nigerian military had liberated a number of areas in the northeast Nigeria from Boko Haram control, major security challenges remained.

"Making large-scale returns for the majority of displaced civilians is entirely premature," Yarnell said.

As a result of the Boko Haram banditry, the scale of the humanitarian and security challenges within Nigeria remains staggering.

About 2 million Nigerians are displaced within the country and 7,7 million in urgent need of emergency assistance.

Additionally, the conflict still results in new displacement.

Humanitarian groups estimate more than 930 000 Nigerians are located in hard-to-reach areas impacted by the security situation are likely in need of humanitarian assistance.

The Boko Haram is perpetrating a violent campaign to overthrow the government an establish a radical Islamic state.

An estimated 100 000 civilians have been killed during the insurgency that begand in 2009.

For the original article, click here. 

Political Pressure to Return: Putting Northeast Nigeria’s Displaced Citizens at Risk

Political Pressure to Return: Putting Northeast Nigeria’s Displaced Citizens at Risk

The crisis in Northeast Nigeria has reached an inflection point. Widespread famine no longer appears imminent, and the Nigerian military has pushed Boko Haram out of a number of cities and towns. However, the humanitarian crisis is far from over, and major challenges remain in responding to the needs of the internally displaced. At the same time, Nigerian officials are pressing for large-scale returns of the displaced to recently liberated areas—often before conditions can legitimately support returns. The Nigerian government should pause organized returns to insecure areas and work with the international community to improve services and protection for the displaced, while setting the stage for sustainable pathways home. In addition, the government must work to support local integration for those who may never return home.

Irin: Five migration trends to watch in 2018

2017 saw a host of new and quickly deepening humanitarian crises from Southeast Asia to Africa. But behind this rising tide of forced displacement was an isolationist and xenophobic political backdrop that could render 2018 even worse, especially given the lack of diplomatic leverage and leadership required to resolve intractable conflicts.

In the United States, President Donald Trump spent his first year erecting bureaucratic walls to keep out immigrants and refugees, while calling for a physical wall along the southern US border. In Europe, far-right candidates threatened to upset a host of elections. And, as North Africa acted as a holding cell, conflicts in both the continent's east and centre escalated while humanitarian budgets shrank, driving up the numbers of internally displaced and urgent protection needs.

“What distinguishes conflicts of today is that they’re unending,” Demetrios Papademetriou, co-founder and president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, told IRIN. “None of the conflicts we see today are anywhere near being resolved, because the resolutions are extremely complex. They involve religion, power, control of resources. No refugee-producing conflict today will be resolved in the near future.”

UN member states are hammering out the details of two global compacts – one on refugees and one on migration – to be adopted at this year’s General Assembly in September. But few are optimistic that they will be game-changers for better global refugee and migration governance in the years to come.

So, while this year promises to be even more difficult, here are five key questions on migration policy the answers to which will shape how 2018 really plays out for some of the world’s most vulnerable people:

Will the EU continue its harmful deterrence policies?

A dramatic decline in sea crossings from Libya to Europe in 2017 sounds on the surface like a success. But this year is likely to expose the kinds of human rights abuses the EU is willing to tolerate to keep externalising its migration responsibilities.

Like the 2016 EU-Turkey accord – which choked off the Aegean Sea route but led to more than 10,000 asylum seekers being detained on Greek islands and returns to unsafe countries – Italy’s deals with Libyan groups have come with a human cost: abuse for up to one million migrants languishing in detention centres, often with ties to militias. Despite an international outcry, mainly due to CNN footage of what appeared to be slave auctions, little is likely to change before Italy's general election in March.

Towards the end of 2017, the EU and the African Union put together a repatriation plan to send migrants back to their countries of origin or other transit countries, such as Niger, with the help of the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration.

“The bigger question is what happens to people when they’re back in Niger,” Minos Mouzourakis, policy researcher at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles in Brussels, told IRIN. “The EU is talking about resettlement as an option, but that doesn’t mean the same people being evacuated to Niger will have access to durable solutions. What is the actual objective? Are we just returning people to another transit country and calling it an evacuation, or are we giving them avenues to other legal options like resettlement?”

Migrant returns are paid for through programmes like a 3.3 billion-euro "emergency trust fund" originally billed as development aid for North Africa.

In late December, 162 refugees and migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen were brought to Italyfrom Libya under the EU-AU plan. But if the troubled inter-EU relocation programme is any indication, infighting may prevent the bloc from implementing a meaningful plan for resettlement from Africa.

Will the US lead the way (backwards) on refugee resettlement?

Last year, Trump all but ended resettlement to the United States, which has taken two thirds of the world's resettled refugees annually for the past decade. His executive order last January banned refugees and travellers from several Muslim-majority countries, prompting months of legal battles and indefinitely barring tens of thousands who had cleared the years-long vetting process. Though courts have saved the programme, the president sets the ceiling for refugee admissions, and in September he set it at 45,000 for fiscal year 2018, the lowest level since its inception in 1980. So far, admissions have slowed to a trickle. Many advocates predict the United States won’t even come close to Trump’s number.

Domestically, this threatens the entire American resettlement regime, since resettlement agencies’ federal funding is tied to the number of refugees they assist. Several agencies are already closing offices and laying off personnel.

Other countries are stepping in with increased resettlement pledges, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. But those slots won’t be enough to fill the hole left by the United States.

“At a time when the international community is trying to come together to promote more equitable responsibility-sharing on refugees, when the US cuts the number of refugees it’ll resettle, it sends a very negative signal to the rest of the world,” Mark Yarnell, senior advocate and UN liaison for Refugees International in Washington, DC, told IRIN. “And even though resettlement is so rare relative to the number of people who are refugees, it’s still the solution many refugees hope for – and when they see it diminishing, they’re more likely to take more hazardous paths to safety.”

For the full article, click here

All Africa: Five Migration Trends to Watch in 2018

2017 saw a host of new and quickly deepening humanitarian crises from Southeast Asia to Africa. But behind this rising tide of forced displacement was an isolationist and xenophobic political backdrop that could render 2018 even worse, especially given the lack of diplomatic leverage and leadership required to resolve intractable conflicts.

In the United States, President Donald Trump spent his first year erecting bureaucratic walls to keep out immigrants and refugees, while calling for a physical wall along the southern US border. In Europe, far-right candidates threatened to upset a host of elections. And, as North Africa acted as a holding cell, conflicts in both the continent's east and centre escalated while humanitarian budgets shrank, driving up the numbers of internally displaced and urgent protection needs.

"What distinguishes conflicts of today is that they're unending," Demetrios Papademetriou, co-founder and president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, told IRIN. "None of the conflicts we see today are anywhere near being resolved, because the resolutions are extremely complex. They involve religion, power, control of resources. No refugee-producing conflict today will be resolved in the near future."

UN member states are hammering out the details of two global compacts - one on refugees and one on migration - to be adopted at this year's General Assembly in September. But few are optimistic that they will be game-changers for better global refugee and migration governance in the years to come.

So, while this year promises to be even more difficult, here are five key questions on migration policy the answers to which will shape how 2018 really plays out for some of the world's most vulnerable people:

A dramatic decline in sea crossings from Libya to Europe in 2017 sounds on the surface like a success. But this year is likely to expose the kinds of human rights abuses the EU is willing to tolerate to keep externalising its migration responsibilities.

Like the 2016 EU-Turkey accord - which choked off the Aegean Sea route but led to more than 10,000 asylum seekers being detained on Greek islands and returns to unsafe countries - Italy's deals with Libyan groups have come with a human cost: abuse for up to one million migrants languishing in detention centres, often with ties to militias. Despite an international outcry, mainly due to CNN footage of what appeared to be slave auctions, little is likely to change before Italy's general election in March.

Towards the end of 2017, the EU and the African Union put together a repatriation plan to send migrants back to their countries of origin or other transit countries, such as Niger, with the help of the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration.

"The bigger question is what happens to people when they're back in Niger," Minos Mouzourakis, policy researcher at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles in Brussels, told IRIN. "The EU is talking about resettlement as an option, but that doesn't mean the same people being evacuated to Niger will have access to durable solutions. What is the actual objective? Are we just returning people to another transit country and calling it an evacuation, or are we giving them avenues to other legal options like resettlement?"

Migrant returns are paid for through programmes like a 3.3 billion-euro "emergency trust fund" originally billed as development aid for North Africa.

In late December, 162 refugees and migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen were brought to Italy from Libya under the EU-AU plan. But if the troubled inter-EU relocation programme is any indication, infighting may prevent the bloc from implementing a meaningful plan for resettlement from Africa.

Last year, Trump all but ended resettlement to the United States, which has taken two thirds of the world's resettled refugees annually for the past decade. His executive order last January banned refugees and travellers from several Muslim-majority countries, prompting months of legal battles and indefinitely barring tens of thousands who had cleared the years-long vetting process. Though courts have saved the programme, the president sets the ceiling for refugee admissions, and in September he set it at 45,000 for fiscal year 2018, the lowest level since its inception in 1980. So far, admissions have slowed to a trickle. Many advocates predict the United States won't even come close to Trump's number.

Domestically, this threatens the entire American resettlement regime, since resettlement agencies' federal funding is tied to the number of refugees they assist. Several agencies are already closing offices and laying off personnel.

Other countries are stepping in with increased resettlement pledges, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. But those slots won't be enough to fill the hole left by the United States.

"At a time when the international community is trying to come together to promote more equitable responsibility-sharing on refugees, when the US cuts the number of refugees it'll resettle, it sends a very negative signal to the rest of the world," Mark Yarnell, senior advocate and UN liaison for Refugees International in Washington, DC, told IRIN. "And even though resettlement is so rare relative to the number of people who are refugees, it's still the solution many refugees hope for - and when they see it diminishing, they're more likely to take more hazardous paths to safety."

To view full article, click here

The Global Compact on Refugees – Reasons for Hope

The Global Compact on Refugees – Reasons for Hope

Earlier this month in Geneva, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) held a high-level ‘stocktaking’ meeting on the Global Compact on Refugees. Governments, international organizations, and civil society gathered to provide input before UNHCR releases a draft Compact in late January 2018.  Many remain understandably skeptical that the Compact negotiations will ultimately lead to the kind of systemic change demanded by the global refugee crisis.  In Geneva, however, there were cautious signs that the process is headed in the right direction.

The Intercept: AS TRUMP BLOCKS REFUGEES, AFRICANS FLEEING VIOLENCE MAKE THE TREACHEROUS TRIP TO THE U.S. THROUGH MEXICO

SIGLO XXI, LATIN America’s largest detention facility, is located blocks away from Mama Africa.

There, immigration authorities direct migrants to form two lines: one for Central Americans and one for everybody else. When I visited last December, that was mainly Cubans, Haitians, and Africans.

A Cuban couple sweated next to a stack of hard suitcases, while young Somali and Cameroonian men perched on planters, some sporting gold watches and white sneakers. Older Haitian men fiddled on cheap phones.

The scene underscored the complexities of a mass migration that many American politicians still paint as simply desperate Mexicans. While African migrants number far fewer than the Central Americans they journey alongside to the United States, their ranks have, in fact, grown far faster.

Mexico has had to adapt, Mark Manly, the U.N. refugee agency representative in Mexico, told me.

“The country is adjusting to the reality that many of the people arriving are refugees,” he said, “not all migrants in transit.”

When the couple hundred Africans showing up in Chiapas a decade ago grew to thousands, Mexican authorities had few diplomatic ties to their countries, and few resources to deport them back. So they began providing transit visas that gave them 20 days to get to the border – itself a potentially treacherous journey.

Word of this fast-track to the United States has spread and may be drawing more.

“We get migrants of all colors – blue, green,” joked Ignacio Alejandro Vila Chávez, a Mexican government lawyer representing migrants in Chiapas, who’s trained at U.S. Justice Department seminars. He said the African influx is one of the most significant changes he’s witnessed.

Bertrand Chofong, one of a group of three stylish Cameroonian migrants outside Siglo XXI, told me, “If I didn’t leave my country, I would be dead by now.”

Cameroonian security forces detained the 21-year-old nursing student amid deadly unrest between minority English speakers and a French-speaking majority. Upon releasehe fled immediately to South Africa. From there, his path aligned exactly with Hassan’s.

Chofong was hoping to join his mother in Maryland. After he and his companions got transit visas from Siglo XXI, they’d take a bus straight to Tijuana. Smugglers had given them directions on how to get the rest of the way North.

Even if Africans like Hassan or Chofong to make it to the border, what happens next is unclear. While Mexico City will not necessarily deport them, Washington would certainly like to.

Trump boasts of his immigration crackdown as a success, particularly after the number of apprehensions and migrants deemed “inadmissible” by border agents dropped to their lowest level in nearly 50 years in fiscal 2017. At the same time, after an initial sharp drop after Trump’s inauguration, arrests and inadmissible cases at the U.S.-Mexico border have steadily increased since May, indicating people are still turning up at the border, in increasing numbers.

The administration has vowed to target “abuse” of asylum, and frontline immigration officers are reportedly turning away asylum-seekers. And while asylum applications in the U.S. have more than doubled in the past few years, Trump officials have at the same time lowered approval rates.

According to an analysis of the latest Homeland Security data, from January to September, immigration authorities have approved affirmative asylum requests 20 percent less on average compared to the Obama administration’s final year.

In fiscal year 2017, U.S. Border Patrol deemed 6,728 Africans at ports of entry, including 187 Somalis, “inadmissible,” refusing them admission to the country. The administration also deported more than 521 Somalis to Mogadishu, compared to 198 in fiscal year 2016. The Somali ambassador to the United States has protested this, saying it is still too dangerous, while some advocates have expressed concerns that Somali asylum-seekers are being coerced into signing letters saying they wish to go back.

U.S. border authorities are trying to deter asylum claims by requiring would-be refugees to wait in Mexico, said Frelick of Human Rights Watch.

“Which you would assume would require the consent of the Mexican government,” Frelick said, continuing, “This is not a cozy relationship at the moment.”

Mark Yarnell, a liaison to the U.N. and senior advocate at Refugees International, told me that “if safe and legal pathways aren’t there, [refugees] are going to link up with smugglers and take riskier options, and more people are going to die.”

Read the full article here

Reuters: Flexibility, long-term planning reduce Somali famine threat, report says

Read the original article here.

 

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - People suffering in Somalia’s latest drought have fared better when donors deftly shift funding to emergency projects that help residents save money and stockpile food, a charity said on Tuesday.

Severe drought in the Horn of Africa nation is expected to deepen until the October rainy season, and humanitarians are racing to avoid a repeat of the 2011 famine when more than 250,000 people died of starvation.

Funding from major donors, including the United States, Britain and the European Union has been used effectively in Somalia for community warehousing of food and for savings and loans programs, the rights group Refugees International said in a report.

Flexible use of that funding allowed agencies in Somalia to switch to emergency preparedness projects once it became clear in June 2016 that the drought would be prolonged, it said.

It was easier for donors to send funds to agencies in Somalia because they already had contracts in place, it said.

“By acting early to heed pre-famine warnings, the humanitarian community in Somalia and donors were able to stabilize what could have been a catastrophic situation,” it said.

“Many of the target communities were better able to maintain food security, preserve their assets, and avoid having to flee to other areas during the drought.”

More than 6 million Somalis -- about half the country’s population -- are in need of emergency aid, the United Nations says.

Another sign of progress since the 2011 famine is that the government’s national development plan and the U.N.’s humanitarian appeal included long-term resilience projects, Refugees International said.

Along with a shift to longer-term planning, Somalia needs a stronger government and peace to end its recurrent hunger crises, Mark Yarnell, a senior advocate with Refugees International told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The unfortunate reality is [resilience] can never occur at a scale that will be able to fend off this inevitable rolling tide of climate change,” he said.

Southern Somalia is receiving less rainfall than historic averages, which has hit poor farmers, the report said.

On the Edge of Disaster: Somalis Forced to Flee Drought and Near Famine Conditions

On the Edge of Disaster: Somalis Forced to Flee Drought and Near Famine Conditions

At present, Somalia remains in the chokehold of a severe, protracted drought. The Somali government, the United Nations, and donor governments, including the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union, deserve credit for acting early to address the risk of famine and avoiding a wide-scale loss of life. But the failure of the most recent rains and a third consecutive season of below normal harvest and pasture have prolonged the crisis and left significant numbers of Somalis destitute. RI traveled to Somalia in July 2017 to assess conditions for Somalis who have fled to urban centers seeking aid.

Surviving Somalia's Current Drought

Surviving Somalia's Current Drought

Somalia is again in the throes of another drought that by many accounts is worse than the last. Thankfully, greater government control and a prompt humanitarian response by the government and aid agencies have saved lives, but the scale of displacement is enormous. More than 760,000 Somalis have been displaced across the country since November 2016, 160,000 of them to Mogadishu. Here they are struggling to access assistance and protection in a dangerous and volatile environment.