More than 12,000 Syrian refugees have sought shelter in neighbouring Iraq since the latest influx began a fortnight ago, according to teams from UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. The refugee population at recently opened Bardarash camp has exceeded 11,000 people and more than 800 are now sheltered at Gawilan transit site. Both sites are approximately 150 kilometres east of Syria-Iraq border. UNHCR and the authorities are working on reuniting refugees from the camp with their family members residing in the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI).
UNHCR is supporting the response led by the KRI authorities and it is working closely with them to ready other locations, in the event that both sites reach their capacity.
Refugee families at both locations are receiving the same services and humanitarian assistance. These include hot meals, transportation, registration, shelter and protection services. UNHCR teams also conduct protection monitoring, child protection and identification of unaccompanied children and persons with specific needs, starting already at border reception centres. We are maintaining this support and relief for all the newly arrived refugees.
We are grateful to all those involved in this ongoing humanitarian response, including the KRI authorities and all of our partners, who are working 24/7 to accommodate refugees and provide them with safe shelter, basic services and protection. We have also deployed additional UNHCR staff from our Baghdad office to support our teams in Erbil and Dohuk to respond to the needs of the newly arrived refugees.
UNHCR Thailand in partnership with LIFEiS Group, led by CEO and Thai singer Nop Ponchamni is pleased to invite you to a charity lifestyle event “LIFEiS BEAUTiFUL - No Boundaries for Sharing” to raise funds supporting those affected by the global refugee crisis.
LIFEiS BEAUTiFUL - No Boundaries for Sharing is a free-admission event to be held during 9-10 November 2019 at Lido Connect. Participants can enjoy a range of creative and social activities, delicious food, a flea market, street art, a visual art performance (Kor Bor Vor and NEV3R), DJ sets from DJ Pichy, DJ Ben and DJ Maft Sai (Zudrangma Records), a charity concert (Sunday, 10 Nov) by Nop Ponchamni and friends (Triump Kingdom, P.O.P, Two Days Ago Kids, Yokee Playboy). They will also have the opportunity to explore an actual refugee housing unit (RHU).
Special edition tote bags designed by renowned Thai illustrators; An Officer Dies (Golf-Thitipoom Phetsangkhat), Benzilla (Benz-Parinya Sirisinsuk), Happy Pomme Studio (Pomme-Tachamapan Chanchamrassang), Phannapast Taychamaythakool (Yoon) and Rukkit (Rukkit Kuanhawate) are available to purchase at the event or pre-ordered from Lazada.
*For every purchase of a LIFEiS BEAUTiFUL tote bag, a stationary set will be distributed to refugee children in Thailand.
There will also be series of movies, short films and documentaries (once per week) such as, Life is Beautiful, Capernaum, Lost and Found and Midnight Traveler showcased every Sunday (17 Nov - 8 Dec 2019) by Documentary Club.
Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, who led UNHCR from 1991 to 2000, passed away in Tokyo, Japan, her family has announced.
“Mrs. Ogata was a visionary leader who steered UNHCR through one of the most momentous decades in its history, transforming the lives of millions of refugees and others devastated by war, ethnic cleansing and genocide, and helping redefine humanitarian action in a fast evolving geopolitical landscape,” said High Commissioner Filippo Grandi. “She was a committed internationalist and a friend to the United Nations throughout her life.”
Mrs. Ogata became High Commissioner shortly after the Cold War came to an end, triggering profound changes in the global political landscape and uprooting tens of millions of people. Under her leadership, UNHCR mounted large-scale emergency operations in response to crises in the former Soviet Union, Iraq, the Balkans, Somalia, the Great Lakes, and East Timor, as well as helping millions of refugees return home in large-scale repatriation operations in Central America, Africa and Asia. For the first time, the agency took on a prominent role working directly in conflict zones to protect and support refugees and internally displaced people, and to help prevent further displacement.
A respected Japanese academic and skilled multilateral diplomat, Mrs Ogata was a tireless advocate for international solidarity with refugees, ensuring that resolving displacement crises was part of political negotiations and peace processes. She remained closely associated with the United Nations and the refugee cause after completion of her tenure as High Commissioner, pioneering the notion of “human security” and the use of development aid to help solve displacement in her capacity as President of JICA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
We at UNHCR extend deepest condolences to Mrs Ogata’s son Atsushi and her daughter Akiko, to all her family and to the government and people of Japan for their great loss.
Since the escalation of violence in north-east Syria last week, teams from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, have assisted some 60,000 people.
In north-east Syria, UNHCR has reached nearly 30,000 households, or an estimated 60,000 people with core relief items (CRIs). As of 23 October, UNHCR winter distributions have reached 7,400 families (more than 31,000 individuals) in Al-Hol, Areesha, Ein Issa (before it closed), Roj and Mahmoudli camps – this is around one third of the camp population in north-east Syria. Distributions are planned to cover an estimated 92,000 individuals, including both new arrivals and existing camp residents. Meanwhile, as of 23 October, UNHCR has assisted an estimated 5,500 households (over 28,700 individuals) from IDPs and host community members with CRIs in urban areas and collective shelters to in Al-Hassakeh, Mabada, and Qamishli. UNHCR has reached around 25 per cent of those displaced in 79 locations in Al-Hassakeh, Malikeyeh and Qamishli.
We continue to conduct through our protection partners assessments in communal shelters in Al-Hassakeh, Tal Tamer and Ar-Raqqa. Many newly displaced families have reportedly settled within the host communities and their needs are also being assessed.
Among the immediate protection needs which have been identified are the lack of civil documentation, as people left their homes without papers and other belongings. Families have also been separated.
Some people are in need of psychological first aid and psychosocial support. UNHCR mobilized protection teams to identify critical protection needs of the most vulnerable, including people with specific needs, elderly people and those with disabilities and serious medical conditions.
Following the reported departure of camp administration/management from Ain Issa camp, located approximately some 45 km south of the border town of Tell Abiad, UNHCR mobilized outreach volunteers and community leaders to arrange the return of identification documents to camp residents who were without papers. As of today, humanitarian workers are unable to safely access the camp to provide critical life-saving assistance. Basic services, including food and water, are no longer being provided.
UNHCR estimates its initial additional funding needs inside Syria at US$31.5 million within the existing appeal for Syria (HRP). This is provisional given the fast evolving developments on the ground.
An estimated 180,000 people have been internally displaced since the start of the escalation of conflict in north-east Syria on 9 October, including nearly 80,000 children. Over 150,000 people are still displaced, while some 43,000 have returned to their places of origin in the past days, but the situation remains highly volatile, critical civilian infrastructure have been damaged and humanitarian needs continue to grow.
In addition, some 10,000 people crossed from north-east Syria into neighbouring Iraq as of 24 October. There is a steady increase in the daily number of arrivals at the Iraqi border, with up to 1,700 people arriving overnight. Three out of four are women and children, some of whom unaccompanied. They fled in fear of fighting from Kobani, Amoda and Qamishli and surrounding villages, and arrived at the border after days of travelling. Some need psycho-social first aid and support after witnessing explosions and shelling, including children.
In Iraq, UNHCR in close collaboration with local authorities and partners has established a new refugee camp in Duhok Governorate, Bardarash camp, now hosting over 8,000 of the newly arrived refugees from north-east Syria. Refugees were transferred from the border and provided with UNHCR family tents, hot meals, water, blankets and other essential items, as well as medical and psychosocial attention.
Their needs are currently being assessed by the local authorities and UNHCR.
One man our colleagues spoke to, who had arrived with his wife and six children, said the journey had been very difficult but they had fled in fear of their lives as shells fell near their home. He said he had seen people fleeing in all directions, including towards the Iraqi border.
UNHCR teams and partners continue to be on the ground in both Syria and Iraq despite the difficult circumstances, to provide life-saving protection and assistance to those who had to leave everything behind.
Due to the continuous influx, Bardarash refugee camp is expected to be full within the coming week, so UNHCR is currently discussing with the authorities a location for another camp.
A week after first refugees crossed from northeast Syria into Iraq, the arrivals to northern Iraq continue. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, teams on the ground report that of this morning more than 7,100 have arrived since last Monday. Most of them - just under 7,000 - are sheltered at the Bardarash refugee camp, some 140 kilometres east of the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Most of the Syrian refugees come from cities and villages from northeast of Syria. Three out of four are women and children. There are unaccompanied children among the arrivals. Some refugees, especially children, require psycho-social first aid, and psycho-social support as they fled in fear in the midst of fighting. Some witnessed explosions and shelling. Refugees with relatives living in the area are allowed to leave the camp and join their families.
UNHCR and partners, together, with local authorities are providing a range of services that start from the border. These include reception, provision of hot meals, transportation to the camp, registration, shelter and protection services. Teams also conduct protection monitoring, child protection and identification of unaccompanied children and persons with specific needs, already at border reception centres.
The Bardarash camp has a water network, an electricity grid and a sewage system. These networks need expansion as more refugees arrive to the camp. The camp has a reception centre, a registration centre and storage units for humanitarian supplies. UNHCR partner, the local Board of Relief and Humanitarian Affairs, is in charge of camp management.
UNHCR is working with other aid agencies in support of the response led by the local authorities to deliver relief and services.
Prior to the latest arrivals, some 228,000 Syrian refugees have found shelter in Iraq, forced from their homes by more than eight years of conflict and destruction in Syria.
The escalation of conflict in northern Syria risks causing more human suffering and adding new displacement to what is already the largest displacement crisis in the world.
Tens of thousands of civilians are on the move to escape the fighting and seek safety. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling on parties to adhere to International Humanitarian Law, including providing access for aid agencies.
“Hundreds of thousands of civilians in northern Syria are now in harm’s way. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be a target,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
The situation of those caught in the fighting is worsened by lower temperatures across the region as colder weather is setting in. UNHCR stresses the urgency of having unfettered humanitarian access in order to be able to reach those newly displaced and assist them wherever this is required. Humanitarian organisations must be able to continue to carry out their critical work in Syria.
UNHCR also reiterates its position that any return of refugees to Syria has to be voluntary, dignified and at a time when it is safe to return. It is up to refugees to decide if and when they wish to return.
After eight years of conflict, Syria remains the largest refugee crisis in the world, with 5.6 million Syrians living as refugees in the region. Turkey is hosting more than 3.6 million, which makes it the top refugee hosting country in the world. Over 6.2 million more are displaced inside Syria according to UN estimates.
UNHCR has been supporting Syrian refugees, internally displaced people and host countries since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, and will continue to provide life-saving protection and assistance to those in need, mostly women and children.
In a development welcomed by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, more than 60,000 stateless students in Thailand could benefit from the recent revision of a government guideline which will create a pathway to Thai nationality for those who are eligible.
Under the revised guideline issued by the Ministry of Interior on 30 September 2019, the Ministry will coordinate with the Ministry of Education and relevant educational institutions to accelerate the registration of all non-Thai students into the national civil registration system.
Those benefitting include students who are eligible for Thai nationality but were never registered or have an existing incorrect record in the system. By being recorded correctly, these students will now be able to apply for Thai nationality.
“Thailand continues to take courageous steps to identify the challenges encountered by stateless people in obtaining nationality as well as improving their access to rights,” said Mr. Giuseppe De Vincentiis, UNHCR’s Representative in Thailand.
“The revision of this guideline represents the Royal Thai Government’s strong political will to provide nationality solutions for stateless persons and it will be important to maintain this level of ambition in the coming years.”
This development is in line with the pledges made by the Royal Thai Government this week at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness convened by UNHCR in Geneva, which marks the mid-point of the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness.
The event aimed to assess achievements to date, showcase good practices, and encourage concrete pledges by States and others to take action to address statelessness in the remaining five years of the Campaign.
Thailand has endorsed UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024 and has become a leader among the “Group of Friends” of the Campaign.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned today that recent advances in the battle to end statelessness – a leading cause of human rights deprivation for millions of people worldwide – were being imperiled by a rise in damaging forms of nationalism.
In Geneva ahead of the opening on Monday of UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting, Grandi said that the growing number of countries taking action against statelessness meant the international community was nearing a point of critical mass in its efforts to stamp out statelessness for good.
“As recently as five years ago, public awareness of statelessness, and the harm it causes, was still negligible. That is changing, and today the prospect of ending statelessness entirely has never been closer,” said Grandi.
“And yet the progress is far from assured: damaging forms of nationalism, and the manipulation of anti-refugee and migrant sentiment – these are powerful currents internationally that risk putting progress into reverse. Solutions are urgently needed for millions without citizenship or at risk of statelessness around the world - including Myanmar’s Rohingya, and minority populations at risk of statelessness in India’s Assam. Without these, we risk a deepening of the exclusion that already affects the lives of millions of people. This is why a redoubling of efforts has become crucially needed.”
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, launched a global ‘#IBelong’ Campaign in 2014 aimed at ending statelessness by 2024. Since then some 15 countries have newly acceded to the two major treaties on statelessness, the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. With additional accessions and other commitments expected this week, total accessions to the first of these treaties, the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, could soon exceed the notable threshold of 100 countries.
In the first five years of the Campaign, more than 220,000 stateless people have now acquired a nationality, including as as a result of concerted national efforts that have been motivated by the Campaign, in places as diverse as Kyrgyzstan and Kenya, Tajikistan and Thailand. In July of this year Kyrgyzstan became the first country in the world to announce the complete resolution of all known cases of statelessness.
In addition, since the Campaign was launched two countries, Madagascar and Sierra Leone, reformed their nationality laws to allow mothers to confer citizenship on their children on an equal footing with fathers. However, 25 countries continue to make it difficult or impossible for mothers to confer citizenship on their children, one of the leading causes of statelessness globally. As not all nationality laws contain safeguards that ensure that no child is born stateless, statelessness can also be passed down from generation to generation.
Ending all forms of discrimination in nationality laws would help the international community live up to the commitment all States made when adopting the Sustainable Development Agenda to “leave no one behind.”
Today, leading figures in the media, human rights, refugee and statelessness worlds are joining member state representatives in Geneva in a special session of UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting known as the High-Level Segment on Statelessness, to take stock of progress half way through the Campaign and to commit to take more action to end statelessness by 2024.
Among those attending are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett, British TV journalist and presenter Anita Rani, formerly stateless refugee and activist Maha Mamo, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Lamberto Zannier and others.
Some countries will be putting pledges into action, by formally lodging instruments of accession to the statelessness treaties.
A lawyer, whose work has supported the efforts of the Kyrgyz Republic in becoming the first country in the world to end statelessness, has been selected as the 2019 winner of the UN Refugee Agency’s Nansen Refugee Award.
Azizbek Ashurov, through his organization Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders (FVLWB), has helped well over 10,000 people to gain Kyrgyz nationality after they became stateless following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Among them, some 2,000 children will now have the right to an education and a future with the freedom to travel, marry and work.
Statelessness affects millions of people worldwide, depriving them of legal rights or basic services and leaving them politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against and particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
“Azizbek Ashurov’s story is one of great personal resolve and tenacity,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“His commitment to the cause of eradicating statelessness in Kyrgyzstan – an achievement secured in partnership with the Kyrgyz government and others across the country – is a compelling example of the power of an individual to inspire and mobilise collective action.”
As part of the Soviet Union, with no internal borders in place, people moved across Central Asia with internal documentation, acquiring residency and getting married. After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 and the formation of new states, many people became stranded across newly established borders, often with now invalid Soviet passports or no means to prove where they were born. This left hundreds of thousands of people stateless throughout the region, including in Kyrgyzstan.
Women were disproportionately affected, often left without citizenship after marrying and settling outside of their own state before the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of new borders. As a result of hereditary citizenship laws, their statelessness was passed onto their children.
Motivated by his own family’s difficult experience of achieving citizenship after arriving from Uzbekistan in the aftermath of the dissolution, Ashurov helped to found FVLWB in 2003 to offer free legal advice and assistance to vulnerable displaced, stateless and undocumented people in the southern part of Krygyzstan.
“I cannot stand still when I see an injustice,” said Ashurov. “Statelessness is injustice. A stateless person is not recognized by any state. They are like ghosts. They exist physically, but they don’t exist on paper.”
“Our role in reducing statelessness is to help people do what they cannot do themselves. We don’t give them citizenship, we give them back a right that they should have had from birth.”
“I realised that if it was this difficult for me, with my education, and as a lawyer, then imagine how hard it must be for an ordinary person,” he said.
As more and more people approached FVLWB for help with citizenship issues, he turned the organization’s focus onto statelessness, working with others to map cases across the country for the first time and setting out to tackle the devastating problem once and for all.
Ashurov and FVLWB formed mobile legal teams which travelled to remote areas of the south of the country to find vulnerable and socially marginalized groups. In their mountainous country, the mobile legal teams relied on a battered four-wheel drive or travelled on horseback.
His close work with the Kyrgyz authorities, including on the launch of a temporary ‘amnesty’ for those without crucial papers, helped large numbers of stateless people to gain citizenship.
“Our main method was to work with the government,” said Ashurov. “We managed to get their attention and make them our friends. We were little warriors – but behind us was a big tank.”
“Similarly to Kyrgyzstan, a number of states in the wider region have initiated campaigns through which some 46,000 stateless people have so far been identified and over 34,500 cases have been successfully resolved to date.”
UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced. Recent winners include South Sudanese surgeon Dr. Evan Atar Adaha, Sister Angelique Namaika from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zannah Mustapha, a lawyer and mediator from Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria.
The award includes a commemorative medal and a US$150,000 monetary prize generously donated by the governments of Switzerland and Norway. In close consultation with UNHCR, the laureate uses the monetary prize to fund a project that complements their existing work.
The Nansen Refugee Award program is funded in partnership with the Swiss Government, The Norwegian Government, the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the Administrative Council of the City of Geneva and the IKEA Foundation.
The 2019 Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony
The 2019 Award ceremony will take place on October 7 at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva.
It will feature a performance by Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean and a keynote address by Nadine Labaki, the Lebanese director of the Cannes Jury Prize winner, and Oscar-nominated film, Capernaum. It will be hosted by award-winning South African TV presenter Leanne Manas. Other performers joining them on the night will be Swiss musician Flèche Love and German poets and stage performers Babak Ghassim and Usama Elyas.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance such as shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. We also work to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality.
UNHCR's work is humanitarian, social and non-political. Its Statute and subsequent UN resolutions mandate the agency to provide international protection and seek durable solutions for refugees and other people of concern.