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Early morning fire disaster kills 14, destroys 250 shelters in IDP camp

An early morning fire incident on Thursday killed 14 people and destroyed more than 250 shelters at an Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camp in Borno State, North East, Nigeria.

The incident reportedly compounded the woes of  the displaced people as it  rendered , 1250 of them homeless.

The blaze broke out mid-morning in a camp holding some 70,000 people in the town of Gamboru, close to the border with Cameroon, the head of a government-backed militia told AFP.

“We recovered 14 burnt bodies from the gutted shelters and another 15 who sustained varying degrees of burns from the fire,” militia leader Umar Kachalla said.

More than 200 shelters were destroyed, rendering 1,250 people homeless, said a rescue official, who asked not to be named.

“The fire killed 14 people, six from the same family, and left 15 with injuries, seven of them critically,” said the official.

It was not clear what caused the fire but residents blamed it on arson after a suspect was arrested with a lighter in his pocket, another militia member Shehu Mada said.

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The decade-long Boko Haram conflict has killed 36,000 people and forced 1.8 million from their homes in northeast Nigeria.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been left living in often squalid and overcrowded camps where they rely on food aid from international charities, AFP reports.

The country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari  in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, charged the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development t to carry out a thorough investigation of the incident and unravel the circumstances that led to the fire.

“President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday evening described as ‘extremely horrifying’, the news of the death of 14 persons and injury to many from a fire incident at an IDP camp in Ngala, Borno State.

“Reacting to the sad incident, the President directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to investigate and report the circumstances leading to the incident, and advise on how a future occurrence will be averted.

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“He further directed that urgently needed assistance be immediately given to the victims, and prayed to Allah to repose the souls of those whose lives were lost, and the quick recovery of the injured persons”, the statement said.

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan via his twitter handle said: “I want to use this opportunity to commiserate with the victims of the fire incident that occurred on Thursday at a camp housing Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Ngala, Borno State, resulting in the death of 14 persons.

I sympathise with those injured in the inferno and commiserate with the Government and people of Borno State over the tragic incident. I hope that relevant authorities will investigate the incident with a view to averting a re-occurrence.”

 

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UNHCR calls on Libya to urgently develop plan for asylum seekers and refugees, welcomes authorization to restart evacuation

Libya. UNHCR provides assistance to asylum-seekers caught in crackdown

A refugee feeds her baby while waiting to receive assistance at an emergency distribution by UNHCR and partners in Tripoli, Libya.  © UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today urged the Libyan government to immediately address the dire situation of asylumseekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner. Raids and arbitrary arrests by the authorities this month targeted areas largely  populated by refugees and asylumseekers that resulted in several deaths, thousands detained, and many homeless and destitute.

“Since the start of the security raids and arrests by the Libyan authorities in October, we have witnessed a sharp deterioration in the situation facing vulnerable asylumseekers and refugees in Tripoli,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean Situation. “The Libyan authorities must come up with a proper plan that respects their rights and identifies durable solutions.”

Some 3,000 people are currently sheltering outside the Community Day Centre (CDC) in Tripoli, where UNHCR and its partners have been providing medical assistance and other services. Their situation is very precarious. Many were affected by the raids, demolition of their homes, and have escaped from detention in terrible conditions. Others have joined the group hoping to be evacuated.

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“Many have been left homeless and lost all their belongings as a result of the security operation and are now sleeping in the cold and in a very unsafe environment. This is utterly unacceptable,” said Cochetel.

UNHCR and partners had to suspend operations at the Community Day Centre for security and safety reasons, but remain engaged in an active dialogue with representatives of the protesters outside the CDC to explain the limited assistance it can offer, including cash and food assistance.

Together with other UN agencies, UNHCR stands ready to support an urgent plan of action that could help alleviate the terrible suffering of asylumseekers and refugees in Libya. 

UNHCR continues to call on the authorities to respect the human rights and dignity of asylumseekers and refugees, stop their arbitrary arrest and release them from detention. 

The UN Refugee Agency has welcomed authorization to restart humanitarian evacuation flights, but warns that it is not enough. 

“This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart. Our teams are already working to ensure humanitarian flights can restart as soon as possible,” said Cochetel “But we also need to be realistic: resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.”    

More than 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylumseekers are currently prioritised for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption. UNHCR continues to urge the international community to offer more legal pathways to safety outside Libya.

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Free movement of people a top priority, say West African nations

Aligned migration policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons, says the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Photo: Fredrick Ejiga/IOM

Abuja – Free movement of people and goods, and fighting human trafficking should be top policy priorities, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed at talks convened with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Network for Migration and the African Union.

Three days of consultations in Abuja this week offered the first chance for ECOWAS members to collectively assess progress in implementing the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) objectives and to decide key recommendations to be put to next year’s International Migration Review Forum.

Integrated migration governance should be a key goal and Ambrose Dery, Minister of Interior for Ghana, the Chair of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments, said it was essential African nations addressed trafficking in persons and its devastating consequences on migrants.

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“Vile stories on international media concerning migrant slavery, as well as mistreatment of young African domestic helps in some Gulf States, call for a reflection on appropriate actions to be taken with a view to finding a lasting solution to this persistent problem that leads to the loss of young Africans, without whom the continent cannot build a prosperous and peaceful future,” Dery said. “In Ghana, the contribution of migrants has played a great role in shaping our national development.”

Governments must address the root causes of trafficking and ensure the free movement of people in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. ECOWAS representatives emphasized the need to join forces and align approaches to prevent and counter smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons to promote rights-based management of migration.

The meeting, which ended Thursday, also heard that policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons.

Aissata Kane, IOM’s Senior Regional Adviser for Sub Saharan Africa, said the Global Compact for Migration was a landmark, multilateral document. “It aims to catalyze and boost combined support and assistance for addressing legal and humanitarian challenges of migration and foster its positive social, cultural and economic dividends within and outside the ECOWAS region.”

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IOM has been working with all stakeholders at intergovernmental and national levels, as well as within the UN Network for Migration, to promote safe, orderly and dignified free movement of people and economic exchange among ECOWAS Member States.

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IOM steps up help on Yemen’s West Coast as clashes heighten desperation

A displaced woman and her children in a makeshift shelter on the west coast of Yemen. Photo: IOM Yemen/Rami Ibrahim

Al Makha – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has ramped up its humanitarian assistance on Yemen’s west coast where the needs of communities displaced by years of conflict are growing amid ongoing violence.

The Organization is also urging more help from donors and aid partners.

IOM’s response is focusing primarily on the two governorates of Ta’iz and Hodeidah, where active frontlines continue to cause instability and force families to flee.

Since 2017, when mass displacement in the area began, tens of thousands of people have struggled to survive in protracted displacement in hard-to-reach areas where public services and humanitarian assistance are extremely limited.

“We were displaced here four years ago and we still feel unsafe from the bullets flying overhead,” said Aziza, a mother displaced in Khoka district. “There are seven families living in my small shelter. We can’t afford medical care or school costs. We need peace and we need to go back home.”

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More than 17,000 displaced families are living in more than 140 displacement sites in the area, while ongoing fighting continues to provoke new waves of displacement. Most recently, clashes in eastern Al Tuhayta district have displaced more than 200 families westward to safer areas.

“As the needs of displaced communities on the west coast continue to mount, IOM is ramping up its response to thousands of people in need of urgent services, especially health care, water and sanitation, and shelter,” said Christa Rottensteiner, IOM Yemen Chief of Mission.

“We urge donors and other partners to commit more significant investments to ease the levels of desperation facing too many people on the west coast.”

As one of the few international humanitarian organizations operating in the area, IOM is implementing lifesaving interventions in 13 displacement sites, providing shelter, clean water, latrines, cash and essential relief items to thousands of families in need.

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The Organization is expanding the availability of health care to affected populations by enhancing primary and child and maternal health care, addressing malnutrition, promoting mental health and psychosocial support, providing incentives to health-care workers and deploying mobile medical teams in underserved areas.

IOM is working with donors and partners to support communities on the west coast by coordinating services in displacement sites, and promoting longer-term recovery with transitional shelters, rehabilitating water networks, increasing COVID-19 testing and constructing flood risk reduction walls.

The Government of Canada has been instrumental in IOM’s scale-up of the lifesaving humanitarian response to the most immediate needs of communities – namely water, health and shelter improvement.

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2021 and beyond. The Platform is regularly updated as crises evolve, and new situations emerge.

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