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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Somali refugees in Kenya are facing pressure on multiple fronts. Earlier this year, the Kenyan government announced that all urban refugees must report to refugee camps. At the same time, the government launched a security operation aimed at rooting out alleged members of the Al Shabab terrorist organization from Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali neighborhood in Nairobi. Together, these two initiatives opened the door to increased levels of abuse, extortion, and harassment of refugees by the Kenyan police. This comes as the Kenyan government is publicly urging large-scale returns of Somali refugees even though the humanitarian situation inside Somalia is deteriorating severely.
South Sudan is on the verge of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Ongoing conflict since mid-December 2013 has forced mass displacement and limited humanitarian access to people in need. Tens of thousands of internally displaced people are living on United Nations’ compounds where conditions are poor. At one site in the capital Juba, for example, the cramped living space and flood-prone land make for a disastrous scenario, especially as the seasonal rains begin. Throughout other parts of the country, aid workers are struggling to reach vulnerable populations and pre-position stocks before the rains begin in earnest.
The Central African Republic is experiencing a major humanitarian crisis. Widespread internal conflict has displaced more than 600,000 people within CAR and forced another 300,000 to live as refugees in neighboring countries. In the capital, Bangui, tens of thousands of people are living in makeshift camps that are prone to flooding. In rural areas, those who have decided to return home are coming back to destroyed homes and market places. CAR’s minority Muslim communities are under siege and many have decided to flee the country.