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Europe faces ‘serious decision’ on refugees amid Idlib catastrophe

The situation in Idlib has been aggravated by Turkey’s military presence. The EU’s refugee policy has failed, says Till Küster, Syria coordinator of Germany’s Medico International aid organization.

DW: In Idlib province, the Syrian army and its allies are no longer fighting alone — Turkey is now involved, too. What is the current situation?

Till Küster: The situation in Idlib has been a disaster for months and there have been warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe for months, too. For almost three days, Turkey has been attacking Syrian army posts, Hezbollah militias and Afghan fighters — mainly from the air.

These attacks have been intense. Increasingly, Syrian army planes are also being shot down. This is a development we haven’t seen these past nine years.

Till Küster is Syria coordinator with Medico International

What does that mean for the civilian population?

Fear and panic were rife among the civilian population for weeks as the Syrian army moved ever closer to the megacity of Idlib. About 1 million people were forced to flee. These past days, parts of this area have been recaptured by Turkish forces. That has stopped the advance of the Syrian army. Nevertheless, not much has changed for the civilians. Now they are caught between several fronts and are trying to flee toward the region in northern Syria that Turkey has annexed in violation of international law.

Turkish forces have been supporting rebels in Idlib

What is the humanitarian situation like there?

It is disastrous because it is almost impossible to provide for all these people who showed up within a very short time. Many people have no money at all. At least 170,000 people are currently camping outdoors— sometimes in sub-zero temperatures. There are pictures of refugee families who froze to death, including many children who lost their lives to the cold.

READ  Why India is home to millions of refugees but doesn’t have a policy for them

The situation on another border is heating up, too — the border between Turkey and Greece. Reportedly, shots were fired. What is the situation there?

Erdogan is playing a cynical game. In recent years, Turkey has repeatedly threatened not to stop refugees in Turkey but to send them on their way. Now we see pictures of buses taking refugees directly to the border with Greece or Bulgaria — not just Syrian refugees, by the way, but a lot of Afghan refugees, too. Turkey is, in fact, a transit country for almost 200,000 Afghan refugees headed to Europe. Of course, Erdogan is using the refugees for his own purposes, but at the same time, their desire to reach Europe is real.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing the EU’s border policies become more violent.  Shots are fired, the Greek coast guard tries to ram rubber dinghies or passes by the boats at a short distance to frighten the passengers. These acts are all directly aimed against human rights and the Geneva Convention on Refugees.

Greek police have been preventing migrants from crossing the border from Turkey

Would you say the EU’s refugee policies are failing?

The EU faces a serious decision. For years, Europe has disregarded the situation of millions of people, thinking it possible to simply ignore their problems. If Erdogan makes good on his threat and allows a much greater number of refugees to cross the border into the EU, the question that has been pushed away for years will become much more urgent: Do we use weapons against the refugees, use tear gas, try to sink boats? Or will we finally find a political solution that respects the refugees’ human rights and their need for protection? That is the decision the EU faces.

READ  Hope rises for Nigerian girl held captive in Lebanon

What would need to happen now?

Europe’s policy of isolation has failed completely, also due to the fact that people didn’t want to or couldn’t resolve the situation in Syria. On the one hand, borders have been closed, but on the other, the Assad regime and Turkey have been given free rein. The result is now another mass exodus. It is not possible to close off borders and turn people away while at the same time ignoring the reasons for their escape over the years and even supplying weapons for a new war, for example to Turkey.

SYRIA’S IDLIB: A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER On the run

Interview: Kersten Knipp.

Till Küster coordinates Syria aid for the human rights and aid organization, Medico International

SOURCE: amp.dw.com

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Dominican Republic, IOM clear hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan migrants

The Migration Normalization Plan will allow Venezuelans living irregularly in the Dominican Republic to work, move without risk of deportation, open bank accounts and join the country’s social security system.  Photo: IOM / Francesco Spotorno

 

 

Santo Domingo – The first group of almost 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the Dominican Republic have received visas allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalization Plan.

Created by the Dominican government and launched with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the plan aims to regularize the Venezuelan population in three stages: application for extension of stay, visa, and residency. Since April, when the first phase began, 43,000  Venezuelans have registered to extend their stay and, on 1 July, the first group of 21 Venezuelans received their work visa.

“Now that I have my visa, I feel that for others like me a lot of opportunities are opening. We will be able to establish more safely and formally to offer a better future to our children,” says Gabriela Rivero, who arrived in the country with her husband and daughter in 2018.  “Once we settled, we did not imagine how difficult it would be to get a job because the lack of documentation closed all doors.”

READ  International Migrants Day 2020: the role of data in the fight against trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants

Since 2019 Gabriela has led a support organization for Venezuelan migrants in Santiago de los Caballeros called FEV (Fundación Emigrantes de Venezuela), which offers free orientation and helps hundreds of migrants daily to complete their normalization plan applications.

With IOM support, eight Venezuelan migrant organizations have created orientation hubs to assist the Venezuelan population who are applying to the plan. Of the 43,000  registered through the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) web page, around 9,000 have visited the hubs for help on the procedure. The promoters and coordinators of each hub – mostly Venezuelan migrants – have learned the process with the support and guidance of the DGM team and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX). Besides being trained for orientation, they became the pilot group of the plan to receive their extensions and visas.

“The idea of this process is that we are the ones at the front of the hubs, a migrant helping a migrant, a Venezuelan helping a Venezuelan,” says Iván Carrera, a lawyer from Caracas and legal adviser of FUNCOVERD (Fundación Colonia de Venezolanos en RD). Carrera works as a promoter at the orientation hub in El Sambil Santo Domingo, one of the locations with the most people requesting support for their application.

READ  Only 189 migrants returned to Turkey despite EU refugee pact

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

READ  Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

READ  A breakdown of Europe’s €1.5bn migration spending in Nigeria

“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

 

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