EU-Turkey Refugee Plan Could Seal UN Cyprus Deal

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A UN peacekeeper observes from the buffer zone dividing Cyprus. (UN Photo)

March 9, 2016 – The plan carved out by Brussels and Ankara on Monday to resettle Syrian refugees, if implemented, could also see a resolution to the four-decade Cyprus dispute, with UN-talks which resumed in May already yielding results.

Under the EU-Turkey plan, Syrian refugees would be returned to Turkey from Greece, and in return for Turkey’s promise to take back refugees, EU countries would agree to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey.

Ankara’s agreement is contingent on the EU liberalizing visa requirements for Turkey’s 75 million citizens and Turkey also wants to reopen EU accession talks. But for this to happen, Turkey will have to recognize EU member Cyprus. It is difficult to see any EU member state agreeing to reopen accession talks and green-lighting visa liberalization for Turks if Ankara refuses to recognize one of the EU-28. Moreover, Cyprus, as a member state, has a veto on accession talks.

The UN-backed Cyprus talks are aimed at reunification of Northern Cyprus, which is backed by Turkey, with the internationally recognized EU member state Cyprus. The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern part following a coup d’etat ordered by Greece’s then military junta aimed at unifying Greece and Cyprus.

The coup and Turkish invasion were preceded by years of tension between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities and a UN peacekeeping force has been in place since 1964, making it the United Nations longest-running peacekeeping mission.

In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot community in the north declared independence from internationally recognized Cyprus, but Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey.

Following the 1974 hostilities, UN troops were mandated to monitor the de-facto ceasefire and a 110-mile wide buffer zone was created that runs through Nicosia, Europe’s only divided capital.

While the situation has remained mostly calm since, a political solution has remained elusive and the Security Council has renewed the mandate for UNFICYP every six months.

But the election of a new Turkish leader in Northern Cyprus, Mustafa Akinci, last April – he campaigned on a peace platform – gave impetus to the talks. The Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades, elected in 2013, has long called for a deal.

The talks which began in May have been held at the highest level with both leaders agreeing to six rounds of face to face meetings and both also released video messages in each other’s respective language at the end of 2015 calling for a peace deal this year.

Any peace deal must be approved in referendums by both Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities.

A resolution to the dispute would ease tensions between fellow NATO members Greece and Turkey and would also pave the way for Turkey’s recognition of Cyprus, which in turn would ease the way for Cyprus to withdraw its veto over Turkey’s EU accession process.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan has long prized EU visa access and the refugee deal reached on Monday, if it goes ahead, could result in Turks being granted automatic Schengen visas in June, but only with Cyprus’s consent, and that’s why a resolution to the island’s 42-year dispute is crucial.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Experts Weigh in on Challenges Facing UNHCR and New Chief Filippo Grandi

Filippo Grandi with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (UN Photo).

Filippo Grandi with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (UN Photo).

Jan. 13, 2016 – Filippo Grandi was sworn in Monday as the eleventh high commissioner for refugees. Previously head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Grandi takes the helm during the worst refugee crisis in UNHCR’s 65-year history.

UN Tribune asked three experts to answer five questions on the challenges facing Grandi and the UN refugee agency in protecting the ever increasing numbers forced to flee their homes.

Phil Orchard is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland. His research focuses on international efforts to provide legal and institutional protection to forced migrants and civilians. He is the author of A Right to Flee: Refugees, States, and the Construction of International Cooperation (CUP, 2014) and, with Alexander Betts, the co-editor of Implementation in World Politics: How Norms Change Practice (OUP, 2014). @p_orchard

Dr. Kristin Bergtora Sandvik is a senior researcher at The Peace Research Institute Oslo. She holds an S.J.D. from Harvard Law School. Her current projects are on internally displaced women in Colombia and the humanitarian aspects of emergent military technologies. She is also co-editor of the forthcoming volume UNHCR and the Struggle for Accountability (Routledge, 2016). @PRIOUpdates

Lucy Hovil is the Senior Researcher at the International Refugee Rights Initiative and is also Managing Editor for the International Journal of Transitional JusticeFor the past six years she has been leading a research project studying the linkages between citizenship and displacement in Africa’s Great Lakes region. @LucyHovil

1) What is the biggest challenge facing the new high commissioner for refugees?

Phil Orchard: The High Commissioner really faces two linked challenges. The first is the continued growth of forced migrants globally, which UNHCR is predicting passed 60 million people in 2015. The High Commissioner needs to continue to work with countries of first asylum to ensure that refugee rights are protected, but also donors to ensure that there are enough funds to support these refugees, even while the international humanitarian system is increasingly stretched. UNHCR also needs to continue to gain access and protect the internally displaced persons who remain within their own countries.

The second is related movement to the developed world, and principally refugees crossing the Mediterranean to reach the European Union. UNHCR estimates that over a million migrants made that crossing in 2015, and 84 percent of those came from the top 10 refugee producing countries. Here the High Commissioner needs to work to ensure that resettlement of refugees from the developing to the developed world continues. Critical here is ensuring that refugees can be resettled without having to risk their lives. This includes making sure that states follow up on their pledges to resettle some 162,151 Syrian refugees. But it also means making sure the EU as a whole continues its internal relocation schemes, but also looks at creating better and less risky paths for onward movement.

Kristin B. Sandvik: For the new high commissioner, ensuring that the international refugee law regime remains intact will be the key challenge throughout his term. In the short term, the Syria refugee crisis is the largest challenge.

Lucy Hovil: Clearly, the scale and scope of the current refugee crisis is of paramount concern. The increasing number of refugees is calling some to question core refugee protection principles, and the new commissioner will need to work hard to ensure that states hold true to these principles. Not only are new crises emerging and evolving, but old ones are lingering. While the immediate demands of new crises are likely to take up much attention, one of the greatest challenges is going to be to ensure that sufficient attention is paid to ongoing protection demands, and to finding genuinely durable solutions to protracted situations of displacement. In addition, financing this response will be a challenge. UNHCR’’s 2016 budget is its largest ever and the resources remain inadequate to the need.

2) The 1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as someone “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” Is it time for a new convention to account for other types of refugees, i.e. conflict, disaster, economic?

PO: The Refugee Convention continues to provide important protections for refugees fleeing individualized persecution, but does not provide as clear protections for those fleeing generalized violence or persecution by non-state actors. It also does not take into account other forms of flight, such as those driven by climate change or natural disasters. Unfortunately, there is little appetite among states for a new Convention. But here less binding soft law instruments could make a real difference. This is the pattern that was followed by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which while initially soft law have been brought into regional hard law through the African Union’s Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. This is something I’ve detailed in my own work. Here, the Nansen Initiative for Disaster-Induced Cross-Border Displacement is doing excellent work creating new guidelines for the protection of those victims.

KS: No, I really believe we need to spend our resources defending existing regimes from further loss of support and credibility.

LH: International law has been evolving in the direction of expanding the refugee definition for some time. The 1969 OAU Refugee Convention recognises refugees fleeing generalised conflict in Africa, as does the 1984 Cartagena Declaration in South America. Further expansion of these principles would be useful, but should benefit from a detailed analysis of the experience of regions that have already adopted these standards.

3) Does UNHCR need to become more independent, from donors and the UN system? 

PO: UNHCR under Antonio Guterres’ leadership was able to navigate the treacherous waters between the desires of donors and ensuring the protection of refugees and IDPs, something that it had not managed as effectively in the past. It will be important for UNHCR to continue to follow such a path and not become overly responsive to donors at the expense of protection.

KS: UNHCR needs to do its job better, including ensuring professional and accountable conduct by its staff. This also includes actually firing people found guilty of misconduct and not only keep moving them to other posts. Of course, UNHCR must also concentrate on providing due duty of care for its staff.

LH: Independence of UNHCR is critical. However, it is compromised in a number of ways other than donor control. UNHCR’s dual role as a protection and humanitarian agency creates tensions between the need to be critical and the need to maintain presence.

4) As the number of internally displaced people is double that of refugees, is there more UNHCR could be doing to assist IDPs?

PO: With the renewed global focus on refugees, IDPs are being forgotten. Elizabeth Ferris, in a study last year, argued that even with their growth in numbers –38 million people were internally displaced by conflict in 2014, and 19.3 million by natural disasters – IDPs today are “less visible that they were a decade ago.” There have been important steps forward in terms of legal protection, including the Kampala Convention. But the cluster based approach for humanitarian assistance, originally designed to respond specifically to IDP problems, is applied to almost every humanitarian emergency. UNHCR is now one of a number of organizations with specific responsibilities under the cluster approach, and can use upcoming events including the World Humanitarian Summit in May to refocus global attention on the problem of internal displacement.

KS: UNHCR should do less to assist IDPs and make it clear that they are the responsibility of sovereign states. UNHCR should generally try to do less and stick more closely to its original mandate of protecting refugees, instead of getting involved in an ever increasing amount of humanitarian aid and development activities. UNHCR should pull back from certain activities and from specific areas.

LH: The need for sufficient political engagement seems to be one of the greatest challenges facing all humanitarian actors in IDP situations. The general lack of visibility of IDP populations – which makes them particularly prone to becoming invisible emergencies – is key in this regard. UNHCR can do far more to ensure that IDP crises are given sufficient visibility regardless of the political cost in doing so.

5) What can be done to ensure states comply with their obligations to refugees?

PO: UNHCR’s mandate includes a supervisory responsibility over both the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. This means it can issue interpretive guidelines as well as comment on states’ own legislative and policy proposals. The agency can and does use these powers. Just a few days ago, the agency critiqued the Danish government’s proposed amendments to its Aliens legislation. Among other points, UNHCR noted that a provision to allow the seizure of documents and assets from asylum seekers is “an affront to their dignity and an arbitrary interference with their right to privacy.”  However, it cannot compel a state to change its policies. And often UNHCR may find itself balancing the need for state consent to continue its operations with rights violations, such as policies that restrict refugees’ freedom of movement in contravention of the Convention.

KS: Humanitarian diplomacy and professional but brave conduct by UNHCR.

LH: Again, a far more robust political engagement with governments is crucial. Currently, fear of upsetting national governments is preventing sufficient engagement. Is it better to stay in a country and effectively support the status quo, or challenge it and be thrown out? This question needs to be revisited. In addition, there needs to be more public engagement. Unfortunately xenophobic attitudes in the public at large are making anti refugee policies attractive to many governments. Reducing xenophobia would reduce the incentive for restrictive policies.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related: Three Women, One Man in Race for Top UN Refugee Post

UN Report: ISIS Established and Seeking to Expand in Libya

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December 1, 2015 –  The Islamic State has established four hubs in Libya and its current strength consists of about 3,000 fighters but local groups are resisting its expansion, a Security Council sanctions monitoring team said in a report released on Tuesday.

The report, which refers to the group as ISIL, states that it has established hubs in Tripoli, Ajdabiya, Derna and Sirte, where it appears to be strongest and is in control of the city but facing strong resistance from armed residents.

The report says ISIL’s expansion in Lybia is contingent on forming alliances with local groups and its branch in Sirte consists of fighters who previously were members of Ansar al Sharia.

The core strength of ISIL in Libya consists of Libyans returning to the country after fighting with the group in Iraq and Syria, as well as foreign fighters joining them, mostly from Maghreb countries.

The full report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Three Women, One Man in Race for Top UN Refugee Post

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Oct. 23, 2015 – Among the candidates to take over from Portugal’s Antonio Guterres as the next high commissioner for refugees is Sania Nishtar, a cardiologist, former government minister and founder of a healthcare NGO in her native Pakistan.

Sania Nishtar UNHCR candidate
Nishtar is the only non-European of the four candidates who have applied for the job and agreed to answer five questions posed by the International Council for Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), a global network of NGO’s with a long history of work on forced displacement issues.

She told ICVA that while candidates for top UN posts typically come from donor countries, selecting a candidate from the world’s top refugee hosting country would send a signal that all stakeholders matter and it would be empower the most affected countries to contribute.

Nishtar said her first refugee experience was in 1979 when relatives from Afghanistan arrived to stay with her family in Peshawar.

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The CEO of Save the Children International, Jasmine Whitbread, who holds dual UK and Swiss nationality, told ICVA that with many donor countries facing an influx of refugees for the first time, there is an “unparalleled opportunity to re-frame the issue for good.”

“I believe that the very difficulties of the situation we are facing may prove the galvanising force for change we need,” Whitbread said. “UNHCR is well placed to help catalyse this movement, and I would aim to bring all my experience and skills to bear to ensure we do not miss this opportunity.”

She also said UNHCR must throw its full weight behind breaking down the artficial divide between humanitarian and development work.

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Former Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, told ICVA that if she gets the post she would continue the good work started by Guterres on supporting stateless people. She noted that while much of the attention of UNHCR’s work is on refugees and the internally displaced, there are some 10 million people without citizenship.

Thorning-Schmidt also said she was concerned that even though thee are twice as many internally displaced people as refugees, they are not afforded the same protection.

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Filippo Grandi, the former head of the UN Relief and Works Agency, noted that his humanitarian experience dates back to the early 1990s including in Iraq, DRC and Afghanistan.

The Italian, who as head of UNRWA was responsible for the welfare of five million Palestinian refugees, also told ICVA that the high commissioner, as a senior adviser to the secretary-general, is “an important participant in the global discussions on conflict prevention and resolution, sustainable development, human rights and climate change.”

He noted that funding will continue to be a challenge for the refugee agency with only 12 governments providing over 80 percent of UNHCR’s funding.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

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UN General Assembly Debate – Day 3 Wrap

Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider, Acting Head of State of Libya

Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider, Acting Head of State of Libya (UN Photo)

Sept. 30, 2015 –  The president of Libya’s House of Representatives told the General Assembly on Wednesday that the proliferation of weapons and spread of armed groups, resulting in criminality and terrorism – and exploitation of this chaos by those with personal interests – has severely undermined the central authority.

Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider said the Islamic State terrorist group wants to take over the country and exploit its resources as it seeks to spread its “law of the jungle” from Mauritania to Bangladesh. He said the terrorists and militias who have taken over the capital Tripoli and are fighting to take over Benghazi, are tools of foreign governments. Gwaider also said the Security Council is taking a contradictory stance by refusing to ease an arms embargo on Libya, a move which he said would enable the internationally-recognized Libyan authorities to fight terrorism, and stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into the country.

Also speaking on Wednesday was the prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, who noted that his country is located “at the crossroads between the Middle East, Europe and Africa.”

He spoke of Malta’s role in the current Mediterranean refugee crisis, saying, “We are the only country in Europe, and probably in the world, that dedicates 100 percent of its limited military resources to saving people at sea.” Muscat said this year has broken all records for people attempting to flee persecution and that the scale of the situation demanded a global response. “The first priority must remain the saving of lives,” he said. “This is our moral duty as human beings.”

He added that solving the conflict in Syria will not solve the refugee crisis, mentioning the high number of people fleeing Somalia and Eritrea and those that will be forced to flee because of climate change.

Speaking at a Security Council meeting on Thursday convened by Russia on solving conflicts in the Middle East, Brazil’s minister for External Affairs, Mauro Vieira, said, “It should be noted that the common trait to all those situations is the international community’s failure in dealing with the underlying causes of conflicts.”

“As long as we disregard poverty and the fragility of national institutions as drivers of armed conflict, there will no lasting solution in sight,” he said.

Vieira added that military interventions have also undermined state institutions leading to their ultimate collapse. “We have seen time and again the harmful effects of bending the rules and invoking exceptional rights in order to justify military interventions.”

“Military interventions led only to weak national institutions, increased sectarianism, power vacuums and arms proliferation, paving the way for the rise of radical groups such as the Islamic State,” Vieria told the Council. “Those groups thrive in the absence of the State and benefit from the flow of weapons to non-State actors,” he said, and called on the Security Council to “learn from past mistakes.”

On the refugee crisis, he said that Brazil had given 7,700 visas to Syrians affected by the crisis, and that it will continue to host more, noting that Brazil is home to the largest Syrian diaspora in the world, estimated at some 4 million.

UN Guards Raise the Palestinian Flag at UNHQ on Sept. 30 (UN Photo)

UN Guards Raise the Palestinian Flag at UNHQ on Sept. 30 (UN Photo)

Also on Thursday the Palestinian flag was raised for the first time on UN grounds as a result of a Sept. 10th General Assembly resolution allowing the flags of non-member observer states to be flown at UN headquarters and other United Nations offices around the world.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the ceremony that, “The symbolism of raising your flag at the United Nations reflects the commitment of the Palestinian Authority to pursue the long-held dream of the Palestinian people for their own state.”

Ban added that, “We can be under no illusion that this ceremony represents the end goal.”

“Achieving Palestinian statehood requires decisive action to advance national unity,” he said, not least having a central governing authority for the West Bank and Gaza and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The UN chief also noted the central role of the United Nations in resolving the Palestinian question, with Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on the issue dating back to 1947.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Deputy UN Chief Eliasson to Head Search for Next Refugee Commissioner

Jan Eliasson: the former Swedish FM is heading the search for a new high-commissioner for refugees

Jan Eliasson: the Swedish diplomat is heading the search for a new high-commissioner for refugees

Sept. 24, 2015 – A panel headed by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will present a short-list of three names to Ban Ki-moon in the coming weeks as he seeks to find a replacement for Antonio Gutteres as high commissioner for refugees.

Gutteres is stepping down after ten years in the post and his successor will take over at a crucial time in the agency’s 65 year history. There are currently 60 million refugees around the world, a figure which includes 40 million displaced inside their own borders and five million Palestinian refugees, whose welfare is handled by a separate agency, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Among those vying for the post is the former head of UNRWA, Italian Filippo Grandi. He stepped down last year as commissioner-general of the agency that he joined in 2005 as deputy commissioner-general. He assumed the top post in 2010. During his time with UNRWA, he oversaw major refugee crises including the 2006 Lebanon war, the destruction of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon in 2007, the 2009-09 Gaza conflict and the conflict in Syria, which is home to some 550,000 Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s care.

Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the head of the UN Environemntal Program Achim Steimer are also among the candidates. The short-list is expected to include at least one female candidate. Once Ban makes his selection, he then sends it to the General Assembly for rubber stamping, which will likely happen in November.

The new refugees high-commissioner will head a 10,000 person agency working in some 123 countries. UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, in 1954 and 1981.

Eight of the ten previous high commissioners for refugees have been Europeans. The only non-Europeans were Japan’s Sadako Ogata, who served from 1990-2000 – and who is also the only woman to have headed the agency – and Iran’s Sadruddin Aga Khan, who was high-commissioner from 1965-1977.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related Story: Former Danish PM Nominated to Head UN Refugee Agency

Former Danish PM Nominated to Head UN Refugee Agency

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Sept. 4, 2015 –  Former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was nominated by her government on Friday as a candidate to succeed Portugal’s Antonio Guterres as head of the UN refugee agency. Guterres, also a former prime minister, has headed the agency since 2005 and was nominated unopposed by Ban Ki-moon for a second term in 2010.

His successor will be elected by the General Assembly in the fall.

Thorning-Schmidt would be the eleventh high commissioner for refugees and the second woman to head the world refugee agency since its inception in 1950. The agency, with almost 10,000 staff members, works in 123 countries responding to a growing global refugee crisis. Japan’s Sadako Ogata was the first female high commissioner for refugees. She served from 1991-2001.

There are currently 60 million refugees around the world, a figure which includes 40 million displaced inside their own borders and five million Palestinian refugees, whose welfare is handled by a separate agency, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Syria overtook Afghanistan this year as the world’s biggest source country for refugees with more than four million having fled the country – 3.7 million of whom are hosted in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan – in addition to almost eight million displaced inside their own borders. Afghanistan, for long the world’s biggest source country, has the second highest number of refugees residing outside its borders at 2.6 million – mostly hosted in Iran and Pakistan, followed by Somalia, with 1.1 million refugees who are mostly residing in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Thorning-Schmidt served as her country’s prime minister from October 2011 until June this year and was Denmark’s first female premier. She was a member of the European parliament from 1999-2004 and in 2005 succeeded Mogens Lykketoft as leader of Denmark’s Social Democrats party. Lykketoft has since been elected as president of the 70th UN General Assembly and will assume his post this month. Thorning-Schmidt is daughter-in-law of the former leader of the British Labour party, Neil Kinnock.

During her time as prime minister, she rolled back anti-immigration policies put in place by her predecessor including eliminating the immigration and integration ministry although she was criticized during her 2015 campaign for prime minister – which her party lost to an anti-immigration coalition – for taking a tough stance on immigration saying immigrants and refugees must learn Danish and must work. During Thorning-Schmidt’s tenure time in office the number of asylum seekers and refugees in Denmark more than doubled and she proposed sending people back to their home countries if the situation permitted.

She made global headlines in 2013 when she posed for a selfie with US President Barack Obama during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

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Eight of the 10 previous high commissioners for refugees have been Europeans including Thorning-Schmidt’s fellow Dane, Poul Hartling, who served from 1978-1985 and collected a Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the agency in 1981. While senior UN positions are ostensibly open to nominations from all member states, the top posts tend to be divided among the permanent members of the Security Council and major donor countries.

Having missed out on the top humanitarian job, which a Norwegian and Swede held in the past, there’s a view among Danish diplomats that the refugee chief job should go to a Scandinavian.

– Denis Fitzgerald @denisfitz

Updated to reflect Thorning-Schmidt would be only second ever female high-commissioner in 65 years.

Syria Overtakes Afghanistan as Top Source Country for Refugees

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June 18, 2015 – Before the conflict in Syria started, the country was among the top five refugee hosting states. It is now the number one source country for refugees, having overtaken Afghanistan which had been the number one source country since 1981.

There are now a record 59.5 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, mostly as a result of war and persecution, according to figures released Thursday by the UN Refugee Agency in its annual Global Trends report. In addition to the 3.9 million Syrian refugees in 107 countries, there are another 7.6 million internally displaced Syrians. The vast majority of Syrian refugees are hosted in neighboring countries Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.

The number of Afghan refugees stands at 2.6 million, making them the second largest refugee group. The majority of Afghan refugees are hosted in Pakistan and Iran.

The next highest group of refugees are Somalis with 1.1 million, mostly residing in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Sudan and South Sudan are the third and fourth largest countries of origin for refugees with the latter experiencing a massive outflow of people fleeing war and hunger in the past twelve months – some 616,200 South Sudanese are now refugees compared with 114,400 last year. Ethiopia and Kenya were the top destination countries for South Sudanese.

Armed conflicts in the Central African Republic and Ukraine saw the number of refugees from these countries grow with Cameroon hosting the majority of CAR’s 412,000 refugees while more than 270,000 Ukrainians applied for asylum or refugee status in Russia. There are also more than 800,000 displaced inside Ukraine.

Developing countries continue to bear the primary burden of hosting refugees while the Americas hosts the lowest number and Europe – excluding Russian and Turkey, which is now the world’s biggest host country – the next lowest.

UNHCR said in its report that at least 3,500 people died crossing the Mediterranean last year seeking shelter in Europe.

More than half of the world’s refugees are children, the agency said.

The full report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image: Wikimedia

Needs Far Outstrip Resources as Syria Donors Prepare to Meet

Syrian Refugee Camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.  (C. McCauley/Wikimedia Commons)

Syrian Refugee Camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. (C. McCauley/Wikimedia Commons)

March 25, 2015 – With the campaign against ISIS dominating headlines from Syria, the United Nations will convene a donors conference on March 31st in Kuwait to raise much needed funds to address the ever-growing humanitarian crisis inside and outside Syria’s borders and to re-ignite awareness of the world’s worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

More than half of Syria’s population is displaced, some 7 million inside the country and another almost 4 million have fled the country with the majority residing in camps in neighboring Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.

An $8.5 billion UN appeal was launched at the beginning of the year but only seven percent of the requested funds have been received, with just 23 countries contributing so far in 2015.

Despite the media and donor fatigue, the humanitarian situation in Syria is dire and atrocities continue, including more reports of chemical agents used as weapons. The Security Council this month adopted a resolution condemning the use of weaponized toxic chemicals following the OPCW’s finding “with a high degree of confidence, that chlorine had been used as a weapon in three villages in northern Syria from April to August 2014.”

An estimated one million Syrians have suffered injuries in the past five years, according to Handicap International with tens of thousands of those in need of prosthetic limbs. And a recent report from Physicians for Human Rights said that in the year from March 15, 2014 to Feb. 28, 2015, 162 medical personnel in Syria were killed. There were 82 attacks on medical facilities inside the country, including 32 attacks on 24 facilities using barrel bombs, the report added.

As well as seeking much needed funds, the United Nations will also hope that Western countries will share the burden of hosting Syria’s refugees. So far, only five percent of those who have fled the country have found refuge in EU countries, with the majority finding shelter in Germany and Sweden.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

The 22 Countries That Have Agreed to Resettle Syrian Refugees

Two Syrian sisters prepare to board their first flight in Beirut to start a new life in Hannover. © IOM

Two Syrian sisters prepare to board their first flight in Beirut to start a new life in Hannover. © IOM/Remi Itani

July 1, 2014 – Germany leads among countries that have agreed to resettle Syrian refugees with the country pledging to admit 25,500 Syrians that have fled to a neighboring country, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency called for states to provide 30,000 resettlement places for Syrian refugees in 2013-14 and an additional 100,000 in 2015-16 with a focus on the most vulnerable, especially women and girls, people with medical needs, refugees at risk due to their sexual orientation, those facing persecution because of religious or ethnic identity and vulnerable older adults.

European countries dominate the list of 22 countries that have agreed to provide resettlement for 34,722 Syrians with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Uruguay the only non-European countries to make firm pledges on resettlement. The US has also agreed to take an open-ended number of refugees.

The United Kingdom is not among the countries that have signed up with the UN Refugee Agency’s resettlement program but it has resettled Syrian refugees as part of its vulnerable persons relocation scheme.

These are the 22 countries that have agreed to admit 34,722 Syrian refugees from a second country in 2014.

Australia – 500
Austria – 1,500
Belarus – 20
Belgium – 150
Canada – 1,300
Denmark – 140
Finland – 500
France – 500
Germany – 25,500
Hungary – 30
Ireland – 310
Liechtenstein – 4
Luxembourg – 60
Netherlands – 250
New Zealand – 250
Norway – 1,000
Portugal – 23
Spain – 130
Sweden – 1,200
Switzerland – 500
USA – open-ended number
Uruguay – 120

Data provided by UNHCR.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz