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The Refugee Brief – The UN Refugee Agency’s daily news digest.

An earlier version of this issue incorrectly stated that under Ukraine’s Mine Action Law, under adults are eligible for assistance.

By Kristy Siegfried | 2 April, 2019
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Thousands of displaced families hit by flooding in northwest Syria. Camps for internally displaced people in northwest Syria were hit by heavy rains and severe flooding over the weekend, affecting more than 8,000 people, according to the Response Coordination Group, a local NGO. The White Helmets, officially known as Syria Civil Defence, told The National they had received dozens of calls from people asking to be evacuated from flooded camps. The White Helmets published photos on Twitter of women and children wading through knee-deep water in a camp near Al Bab. NGOs have been forced to halt some of their operations in the region due to intensified air strikes and shelling in recent weeks.
UNHCR calls for urgent action to address Ukraine landmine risk. Ahead of this week’s International Day of Mine Awareness, the UN Refugee Agency is calling for increased efforts to address the dangers of landmines in eastern Ukraine, one of the most landmine-contaminated areas in the world. Over 1,000 mine-related casualties have been recorded there since 2014, and mines were the leading cause of child casualties last year. As well as the need to adequately fund more mine clearance operations, there is an urgent need to educate children and adults to identify landmines and to provide more support to mine victims and their families. Currently, under Ukraine’s Mine Action Law, only those under 18 are eligible for financial assistance.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Under electoral pressure, Spain overhauls search-and-rescue agency. Politico reports on recent changes to Spain’s rescue operations in the Mediterranean, which are led by the Salvamento Marítimo , an agency credited with saving thousands of lives. Four of the agency’s mid-sized rescue boats are to be moved from the Sea of Alborán, where most sea rescues took place last summer, to areas that receive less migrant traffic, according to an internal report obtained by Politico. One of the agency’s largest ships will be responsible for rescues along a long portion of Spain’s southern coast, under the direction of the police force. Commentators worry that Madrid is reorganizing its sea rescue operation in order to look “tough” on migration ahead of a general election later this month.

Non-profit groups step in to shelter asylum-seeking families at US border. The Washington Post reports on the work of Ruben Garcia, founder and director of Annunciation House , a non-profit organization in El Paso, Texas, that has been sheltering migrants and asylum-seekers for more than 40 years. Now Garcia is looking to rent a warehouse in an effort to keep pace with the numbers of Central American families being released from overflowing detention facilities by US Customs and Border Protection. As border crossings increase, non-profit organizations and faith-based groups along the border are playing a vital role in ensuring that asylum-seekers aren’t discharged onto the streets, but the private donations they rely on are not keeping pace with the growing need for their services.

Asylum-seekers face bureaucracy and uncertainty in Cyprus. Cyprus had more asylum claims per capita than any other EU Member State in 2018. Asylum-seekers and NGOs that work with them told Al Jazeera that the asylum system in Cyprus is inconsistent with some claimants getting their refugee status in three months and others still waiting after three years . The government’s social welfare office provides housing subsidies to asylum-seekers, but according to those interviewed by Al Jazeera, the payments often arrive late and, as a result, landlords are reluctant to rent to them.

Fate in limbo, Nicaraguan refugees struggle in Costa Rica. AP reports that the fate of some 50,000 Nicaraguans who fled violence and persecution to Costa Rica over a year ago is a central point of peace talks between Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government and the opposition. Under a deal struck on Friday, Ortega officials said Nicaraguans who fled can return with full guarantees of their security, but exiles remain sceptical even as they struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. While asylum-seekers have the right to work in Costa Rica, so far only 8,000 Nicaraguans have secured work permits compared with 29,000 who have been recognized as refugees. Last week, Amnesty International urged the international community to support Costa Rica in putting a plan in place to better support Nicaraguan refugees.

GET INSPIRED

Canada’s National Hockey League produced this short film about young Syrian refugee Rahaf Abdul Karim, who, despite never having seen ice before, hasn’t looked back since first setting foot on an ice hockey rink in Winnipeg.
DID YOU KNOW?
Civilians accounted for 87 per cent of casualties globally from landmines in 2017, while children made up nearly half of all civilian casualties.

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