The Turkish president issued a veiled threat to unleash a wave of refugees on Europe as EU officials warn of a potential collapse of the union’s deal with Ankara, which has curbed the flow of refugees across the Aegean Sea. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is currently hosting three million refuges on its territory and that if they all marched into Europe, the Europeans would not know what to do with them. He also reminded them that under the terms of Turkey’s refugee deal with the EU, the union pledged to provide six billion euros in aid over the course of several years. “As far as I can remember, until now the EU had only given 250-300 million Euros to Turkey so far,” he said. The veiled threat comes days after several officials in Europe voiced concern that the EU has no contingency plan for a collapse of the Turkish deal.
Video footage and satellite images showing makeshift grave sites and burial mounds offer a rare glimpse inside a desert no man’s land between Jordan and Syria where tens of thousands of refugees who have been virtually cut off from humanitarian aid for two months are stranded, said Amnesty International.
The video footage was obtained from Tribal Council of Palmyra and Badia, which has a network of activists operating inside the area known as the berm, and independently verified using satellite imagery.
Amnesty has a (perhaps not particularly recent) but compelling denunciation, “Rich nations’ self-interest means refugee crisis set to get worse, not better”, lambasting countries who send refugees back to conflict zones (Kenya, we’re looking at you; but also Pakistan, Iran and Jordan), those who leave refugees to wallow in misery and/or limbo (Myanmar, Malaysia, Australia and the EU under fire here), and the dangerous routes that refugees take in their flight to freedom in Southeast Asia, Central America and, more famously, the Mediterranean. [see the full article]
Uganda is celebrated around the world for providing refugees with the land and resources to become self-sufficient. But war in South Sudan is putting pressure on that model, leaving the most vulnerable struggling to survive, reports Carolyn Thompson from Uganda.
[…] Inyani fled from neighboring South Sudan in July after being mistaken for a rebel while going to pay his children’s school fees in the town of Nimule. The 30-year-old was arrested and beaten by a group of men in uniform, his arms tied behind his back while he was hit with sticks and rammed in the chest with guns.
He was released after the mistake was realized, but decided his family needed to leave the country. He, his wife, his two daughters and his son piled on to a small motorbike and drove from their hometown of Lao to the Ugandan border, about 22 miles (35 kilometers) away.
His family are now among more than 250,000 South Sudanese refugees who have flooded into Uganda since renewed clashes between government and opposition forces broke out in July. That is more than seven times the number who fled to Uganda during the entire first half of this year. By October, more than a million South Sudanese were displaced – with Uganda hosting the highest number by far.
Afghanistan will reportedly take in more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees by the end of the year, challenging the government at a time when Kabul is already struggling against resurgent Taliban militants and an emerging Islamic State group (IS).
Based on figures compiled by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), some 20 percent of Afghanistan’s population already are former refugees known as “returnees.” Many of them, along with internally displaced Afghans and Afghans living in “refugee like” conditions, are part of a group of people the United Nations calls “people of concern.” The U.N. says this group of people has grown by 33 percent in 2015, and numbers more than 1.7 million people who are in desperate need of assistance.
One of the (many) challenges in responding to situations of displacement is that of information: knowing what and who is where, identifying resources and needs, and allocating resources. Coordination can be as simple as a 3W (who, what where), or be a complex or interactive tool. There is far, far more that can be said about coordination than can be summarized here. Instead, let’s look at some of the interesting initiatives that have combined maps and technology to map or profile the human geography of displacement.
Some interesting story maps and discussions on mapping refugees:
Musings on Maps: Refugee Traffic Scars the Globe’s Surface: “What sort of stories does this simplified map simply omit? The stories of those journeys are interrupted by death, while they are far smaller, of course remain absent: the perilous trajectories of individuals fleeing Syria, Iraq, Africa, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Pakistan however risk not only their lives, but increasingly their legal status as they undertake huge geographic migrations in search of new homes elsewhere, traveling by boat, on foot, or along paths promised by human traffickers. The sleek image, despite its attempted accuracy, shows the intensity of itineraries as embossed on the map as if to disfigure the notion of global unity that runs against the very narrative of global unity implicit in a iconic equidistant azimuthal projection centered on the North Pole which emphasized global harmony as World War II was tried to be forgotten, which as the official flag adopted by the United Nations adopted in October, 1947 promoted an image of global unity:”
Diseases and refugee camps (George Mason University, 2012) – “Our initial focus is on the the Dadaab refugee camps which are located in Kenya, approximately 100 kilometers from the Somali border. The camps themselves are homes to roughly 500,000 people, with nearly 99% of the population coming from Somalia. Within the camps the mortality rate is ~ 0.44/10,000 per day with diseases such as cholera and measles being among the causes of death.”
Livelihood, security, and access to services among urban refugees in Delhi (JIPS) – The goal of the Stanford students` research project was to add spatial analysis capabilities in order to better identify and understand geographic patterns related to refugee security. A Livelihood Index score was calculated for each household, based on responses covering the four key components of livelihoods. This enabled to carry out a spatial analysis of the distribution of households with high living standards (scoring high in the Livelihood Index) and low living standards (scoring low) with respect to one another, ethnicity, and proximity to public services. Results from the spatial analysis suggested that proximity to services did not significantly correlate with higher living standard, suggesting that physical distance to services may not be the most important barrier for urban refugees. Finances, lack of mobility, or discrimination may play more significant roles in living standards. See the full, interactive study here!
Earth observation and GIS to support humanitarian operations in refugee/IDP camps – “Since 2011 we are providing Earth observation-based information services to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on demand. A service on population monitoring has already reached an operational stage. Thereby indicators on population are derived by automated dwelling extraction from (multi-temporal) very high resolution (VHR) satellite imagery. Based on such information, further added-value products are provided to analyse internal camp structure or camp evolution. Two additional services to support groundwater extraction and assess the impact of the camps on the environment are currently under development. So far twenty-five sites in nine countries have been analysed and more than a hundred maps were provided to MSF and other humanitarian organisations.”
Syria Refugee Sites – “Data as of June 11, 2015. The “Syria Refugee Sites” dataset contains verified data about the geographic location (point geometry), name, and operational status of refugee sites hosting Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. Only refugee sites operated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the Government of Turkey are included.”
Using GIS as a planning and coordination tool in refugee camps in South Sudan – “The South Sudan refugee crisis has suffered from substantial information gaps, largely stemming from a lack of coordinated approaches to data collection and inadequate resources to operationalise such a data collection effort. In particular, shortcomings in the availability and reliability of data about patterns of refugee flows over the border, settlement area characteristics and overall social organisation have limited the speed and effectiveness of the humanitarian response. To address these gaps, REACH, in partnership with UNHCR, developed a simple methodology aimed at bringing together data from reliable sources and representing it in both text and geospatial formats, such as static and interactive webmaps.”
Informing Humanitarian Action with GIS in Al-Za’atari Camp – “Information about Al Za’atari collected by REACH is available on the open geo-portal Open Street Map. IS officers adjust data in to suit OSM by using JOSM and Mercaator software, a mapping platform commonly used by the digital humanitarians in emergency environments. Information is shared in a free map that can be viewed online or downloaded, although some information is protected due to its sensitive nature. Using OSM means that spatial data can be immediately available and therefore more effective in crisis situations when there is little time to construct more complex software. As part of its commitment to improve information management in emergencies, REACH has created an OSM wiki-page to explain how the data is structured and adjusted to the software so other humanitarian organisations can replicate the method elsewhere around the world. The REACH team in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is now following the Al Za’atari model for refugee camp mapping.”
Using GIS technology to map shelter allocation in Azraq refugee camp (UNHCR Innovation) – “to allocate shelters, staff just had to navigate through a map of the camp to see which shelters had already been allocated, which ones were available, and how many people were living inside. Later on, the program would show additional data, such as whether the shelter had been damaged, or if it was occupied informally by another family. Staff only had to click on the desired shelter to allocate it, and the data would then feed directly into the progress file. What’s more, it only took an impressive 20 seconds to find the right key among 10,000.”
GIS for Good: Siting refugee camps in Uganda – “The first objective of the project was to develop two separate scenarios for refugee campsite selection. Scenario 1: Existing Community Infrastructure, was designed such that the selection of sites would assume that refugees would be reliant on the community infrastructure that already exists. This would provide refugees an opportunity to integrate with local communities to a certain extent, and put less pressure on UNHCR to develop the infrastructure for new camps in rapid crisis situations. Scenario 2: New Community Infrastructure, was designed under the assumption that UNHCR would be able to provide infrastructure to new camps. Although both models aspire to a level of community integration, this model would be undertaken under the hope that the presence of UNHCR and thus, refugees, would actually benefit communities that had previously suffered from poor access to certain resources. These camps might prove a bit more difficult to develop, but the hope is that the positive effects of a camp would benefit the communities for a long time to come.”
What Makes a Camp Safe? The Protection of children from Abduction in Internally Displaced Persons and Refugee Camps– “The study is one of the first initiatives to generate a database of IDP and refugee camp attacks for analysis and policymaking purposes. The researchers also used geographic information systems (GIS) software to produce a series of maps that chart migration trends, camp attacks, and the abduction of children. A major advantage of GIS mapping is the ability to track the movement of IDP and refugee populations over time; this will allow Pitt researchers to continue to track population movements to determine whether migratory populations are at greater risk than those in permanent, stationary camps.”
Joint IDP Profiling Service, an inter-agency service based in Geneva, to provide technical support to government, humanitarian and development actors seeking to improve their information about internally displaced populations
In every corner of the earth ordinary people are forced to leave their homes, often without notice, often never to return. When they cross international borders, they are called refugees. The Refugee Project is a narrative, temporal map of refugee migrations since 1975. UN data is complemented by original histories of the major refugee crises of the last four decades, situated in their individual contexts.
“Violence in South Sudan over the past three weeks has prompted a massive flight of refugees into neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.
More than 60,000 people, most of whom are women and children, have fled the country since fighting began at the end of June, the U.N.’s refugee agency UNHCR reported on Tuesday.
“The refugees have brought to us very disturbing reports,” UNHCR Spokesman Melissa Fleming said at a briefing in Geneva. Armed groups “are looting villages, murdering civilians, and forcibly recruiting young men and boys into their ranks,” Fleming said. “We are very concerned, and are appealing for parties to move back to the peace agreement.””
“South Sudan’s government has agreed to let in a new international protection force to try to save a peace deal. Ethnic clashes last month left at least 300 people dead and threatened to revive a civil war that has killed tens of thousands. A 12,000-strong UN mission in South Sudan was unable to prevent attacks.
The announcement was made by the East African regional body, Igad, and confirmed by South Sudan cabinet minister Dr Martin Elia Lomuro. President Salva Kiir had previously dismissed the idea of an additional force.”
“The political and security situation inside South Sudan remains fragile and unpredictable. UNHCR continues to provide assistance in Juba as the situation allows, and other areas of operation remain functional.
In Uganda, a total of 53,531 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in July, more than the total arrivals in the first six months of 2016. Some 65% of the arrivals are children, and 88% are women and children. The daily rate of arrival has decreased slightly, but continues to number in the thousands.
South Sudanese refugees continue to seek asylum in other countries: In Sudan, over 9,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in July, an increase on May and June arrivals, but lower than the monthly arrivals reported in the first quarter of 2016. DRC received an influx of 1,653 new arrivals in mid-July. The number of arrivals to Kenya has increased in the past week, though is still low compared to the influx in Uganda”
“South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, as 2.8 million people — nearly 25 percent of the country’s population — remain in urgent need of food assistance, and at least 40,000 people are on the brink of catastrophe, three UN agencies warned today. (WFP, FAO, UNICEF, 8 Jan 2016)
Civil strife and unfavourable rains have further reduced crop production in South Sudan, contributing to a cereal deficit of 381,000 tonnes — 53 percent greater than in 2015 — and aggravating the already severe food shortages, two UN agencies warned today…The crisis in South Sudan is marked by alarming levels of hunger. Some 5.8 million people, or nearly half of the country’s population, are unsure where their next meal will come from, while the rate of severe food insecurity has now reached 12 percent, double the rate of one year ago. (FAO, WFP, 5 Apr 2016)”
“On Feb. 17, fighting broke out within the U.N. Protection of Civilians Site in the city of Malakal, first between young men from rival ethnic groups who had managed to smuggle guns through holes in the fence. Then the violence escalated after heavily armed government forces entered the camp.
A summary of the United Nation’s “board of inquiry report,” released Friday, said the organization and its peacekeepers failed through a “combination of inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage.”
In other words, some peacekeepers, whose most prominent mandate is to protect civilians, simply ran away once they were tested, abandoning sentry posts. Other peacekeepers demanded written permission to use their weapons, even though their U.N. mandate clearly gives them that authority.”
“He said that information received by UN human rights officers suggests hundreds of fighters and civilians were killed during the initial fighting. While some civilians were killed in crossfire between the fighting forces, others were reportedly summarily executed by Government (SPLA) soldiers, who appear to have specifically targeted people of Nuer origin.
In two separate incidents on 11 July, SPLA soldiers reportedly arrested eight Nuer civilians during house-to-house searches in Juba’s Munuki area and took them to two nearby hotels, where they shot four of them. On the same day, SPLA soldiers broke into another hotel where they shot and killed a Nuer journalist.
At least 73 civilian deaths have been catalogued so far by the UN, but it is believed the civilian death toll may turn out to be much higher. The UN was denied access to some of the hardest-hit areas in the days following the conflict and a number of restrictions on movement remain in place.”
“A reporter for Radio Miraya, a radio station operated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), George Livio is being held incommunicado at the Juba headquarters of South Sudan’s intelligence agency. He has not been formally charged and has not been able to see a lawyer or relatives since his arrest. Only UNMISS representatives have been able to visit him.
RSF points out that, by holding Livio incommunicado and arbitrarily, the authorities are violating article 64 of South Sudan’s code of criminal procedure, which says: “A person arrested by the police as part of an investigation, may be held in detention, for a period not exceeding twenty-four hours for the purposes of investigation.””
“Children and the disabled in South Sudan have been burned alive and pro-government militia allowed to rape women as a form of payment, a new UN report has said.
The investigation accused all sides in the country’s civil war of targeting civilians for murder and rape but said the army and government-allied forces were most to blame for what it described as “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world”.
“The report contains harrowing accounts of civilians suspected of supporting the opposition, including children and the disabled, killed by being burned alive, suffocated in containers, shot, hanged from trees or cut to pieces,” the UN human rights office said in a statement on Friday.”
The “how” and the “when” of Colombia’s latest peace breakthrough are of course important — but so is the “where” and “with whom.” On June 23, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC) signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement, after more than five decades of armed conflict. For Colombia’s peace process to succeed, it will need to break the cycle of conflict, organized crime and state neglect in Colombia’s border regions.
That’s fantastic. After nearly sixty years of conflict, we are all glad to hear it will soon be over. Four years of negotiations, a nifty new ceasefire and bob’s your uncle, now you’ve got a peace agreement, right? And then everyone will go home, happily ever after…right?
Any potential peace agreement with the FARC therefore raises a number of questions: What will happen to all those other armed groups who operate in Colombian territory and across the borders? Who will take care of the local population and provide economic opportunities? Who will be deciding on the rules of behavior that people need to follow to be safe? Will these marginalized regions face an upsurge in violence or see wider peace?
…ought to be common knowledge to policy-makers, politicians, and journalists who persist in the fiction that Colombia’s troubles begin and end with the FARC. Yet the evident complexity of the situation seems to pass over the heads of policymakers fixed on a peace accord as a solution to Colombia’s decades-long conflict.
Anyways, there are a number of reasons that any peace accord is not likely to result in a smooth transition to peace:
1. It did not go all that well the last time
Colombia does not have a particularly robust history when it comes to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. In 2004-2006, Colombia attempted to demobilize the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC, an umbrella paramilitary organization that was created to provide armed resistance to the FARC but turned out to commit horrendousatrocities and massacres). The main result, aside from a few prominent individuals who spent around six or eight years in jail under the Justice and Peace law (Ley de justicia y paz) – andseveral of whomwere now released! – in the main, the demobilization efforts managed to shatter the central command structure of the AUC but resulted in local factions returning to their power base, changing their names, and continuing with business as usual. (See: HRW, Paramilitaries’ Heirs: The New Face of Violence in Colombia, 2010).
2. The FARC isn’t the only game in town
The supposed demobilization of the AUC resulted in a number of neo-paramilitary groups such as the Urabeños, Águilas Negras, Los Paisas, Los Rastrojos, La Cordillera, Oficina de Envigado, Libertadores de Vichada, Los Machos, ERPAC… Some of these groups have fused with prior criminal structures associated with major Colombian cartels left over from the days of Pablo Escobar. While the respective fortunes of these groups have waxed and waned over the years, conflict among these groups and with authorities have created a shifting landscape were some groups may lose territory and strength, only to be replaced with new groups such as La Empresa. Some of the groups have further fractured to smaller groups (Los Traquetos, Los Nevados), or are outsourcing their violence to local gangs via oficinas de cobro, where one can hire a hitman or an extortionist. All that is to say that contemporary Colombia is a shifting landscape with a multitude of actors with national reach, and a multiplicity of actors in any given territory. Although international focus is on the FARC and an associated peace deal as the key to peace and security, this approach does not take into account other groups such as the left-wing National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) who recently began peace negotiations, or powerful groups such as the Urabeños, who have not (but may want to – except that the Colombia government does not want to admit they exist).
3. The FARC may not be as united as one might think
The dismobilization experience of the AUC has provided ample evidence that factions of a national-level group can assess their economic prospects for survival as an independent faction, possibly with an eye to allying themselves with other armed groups participating in illegal activities, and refuse to demobilize. The first Front to state their refusal to do so is the 1st Front, operating in Eastern Colombia:
Although the 1st Front gives ideological justifications for staying in the field, there may well be financial reasons behind its decision. According to El Tiempo’s intelligence sources, the unit currently manages coca crop cultivations — which are abundant in the region — drug laboratories and strategic trafficking routes to Venezuela. Extortion and illegal coltan and gold mining are also mentioned as key revenue streams by other local media sources.
InSight crime further estimates that at least 30 percent of FARC fighters will not subscribe to the peace deal.
4. Uncertainty makes for strange bedfellows, and a power vacuum makes for a good opportunity
In the last two years or so, reports have increasingly indicated alliances between armed groups that would not normally be allied: namely, the FARC with anyone at all, and in particular, the FARC with groups such as the Rastrojos and Urabeños.
[A]ccording to a Semana source, with peace negotiations increasing the likelihood of FARC and ELN demobilization it is probable that the criminal bands want to take over spaces and “illegal economies” controlled by the guerillas. This new threat may have caused “the FARC and ELN to unify” in El Bagre, the source said.
Furthermore, uncertainty and shifting territorial controls among armed actors create confusion, tension and clashes in the context of possible disarmament of what has been a major player. For example, in Tumaco, according to InSight Crime,
Sources consulted by La Silla Vacía said local business owners reported they had been visited by BACRIM representatives who informed them the FARC had voluntarily ceded control of certain territories to BACRIM actors.
However, other reports suggest that recent turf disputes between the BACRIM and the FARC resulted in violent clashes in Nariño that led to the displacement of hundreds of people earlier this year. Moreover, La Silla Vacía writes that a series of apparent assassinations in recent months points to the possibility of a local power struggle between the two groups.
BACRIM groups are seeking to take over criminal economies that the FARC will presumably leave behind if and when the guerrilla group and the government reach a final peace accord. Such a development could complicate the establishment of the concentration zones, which many analysts expect to play a key role in the process of demobilizing and reintegrating guerrilla fighters into civilian life.
Under the proposed framework for the zones, a one-kilometer buffer area will separate the FARC, which will assume responsibility for internal security within the zones, from the Colombian military, which will be tasked with guarding the zones’ perimeters. The presence of actors like the BACRIM, which are not bound by the provisions of the peace agreement, could cause frictions between the FARC and the government that may disrupt the demobilization and reintegration process.
5. The periphery was never under all that much control to start with
Colombia’s transition will not go smoothly, and if not conducted carefully, it could result in yet another mutation of what has been a constantly evolving conflict. Some analysts have additional reasons for skepticism as well. Most importantly, policy makers, analysts and journalists should consider Colombia’s long and difficult history before rolling up the red carpet in Havana and considering it a done deal with no further responsibility to engage to ensure a more stable and secure future.
So basically, the equivalent to the population of France (66 million), Thailand (65 million) or the United Kingdom (60 million) is a refugee. Or, California (39 million) + Florida (20 million) is a refugee. Or, Texas (27 million) + New York (19 million) + Illinois (12 million). Food for thought.
UNHCR has announced its latest figures: 65.3 million forcibly displaced, including 21.3 million refugees. Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world at 2.5 million, followed by Pakistan with 1.6 million, and Lebanon with 1.1 million. This stands in sharp contrast to the European countries, which collectively have taken in around 1.3 million.