Refugees and migrants gather near Greek border, seeking to cross. Hundreds of refugees and migrants gathered in a field in northern Greece on Thursday in response to anonymous calls on social media to cross the nearby border with North Macedonia together and make the long trek through the Balkans towards northern Europe. Police said more than 500 people had assembled in the field outside the Diavata camp for refugees near Thessaloniki, including families with small children. AP reports that there were scuffles with police as some people tried to break through a cordon. In a statement , UNHCR warned of “false information and social media rumours” and said it does not encourage or support irregular movements, which it called “risky and dangerous”. Speaking on state television on Friday, Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas appealed to the refugees and migrants to return to their accommodation centres and police blocked off an access route to the border with buses.
UN chief “moved and shocked” by Libyan detention centre. UN Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Wednesday. He visited a detention centre on Thursday, where he expressed shock at the “suffering and despair” of the refugees and migrants held there indefinitely. “No one can argue that Libya is a safe port of disembarkation at this point,” he tweeted. Meanwhile, as eastern military forces took over the town of Gharyan, south of Tripoli, and came within 60 kilometres of the capital, Guterres reiterated that “There is no military solution.” He added: “Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems. I call for calm and restraint as I prepare to meet the Libyan leaders in the country.”
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Cholera surging again in Yemen. The UN reports that the number of suspected cholera cases doubled in March , with 76,152 suspected cases and 195 deaths, compared to about 32,000 cases in February. The March toll brings the number of those believed to have died from cholera this year to nearly 300. Health facilities are reportedly overwhelmed in a country battered by years of war and short of medical staff. AP reports that al-Sabeen Hospital in the capital, Sana’a, has been receiving new cases around the clock and is having to accommodate patients in tents in the courtyard. Fighting and air strikes have damaged sewage and water stations so badly that most people lack access to clear water, particularly the more than three million driven from their homes by the conflict.
Aid agencies and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh prepare for monsoon season. With the first monsoon rains of the year only weeks away, UNHCR said on Friday it was working with its partners to ramp up emergency preparations and to train refugee volunteers as first responders. Building on work that was done during the 2018 monsoon season to build drainage systems, roads and bridges and to upgrade shelters, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said efforts are underway to fortify essential infrastructure and pre-position relief items. He added that refugees living in the hilly settlements nevertheless remain at risk from flash flooding and landslides.
Stranded rescue ship asks Germany to help find port. The German charity Sea-Eye, whose ship picked up 64 refugees and migrants off Libya on Wednesday, has asked the German foreign office to use diplomatic channels to help it find a safe port. The vessel, the Alan Kurdi, remains in international waters off the Italian island of Lampedusa. Both Italy and Malta have refused to open ports to rescue ships run by NGOs. Sea-Eye reported on Thursday afternoon that conditions on board were worsening and that a storm was approaching.
Violence and displacement mount in Niger’s Diffa region. Aid agencies warned on Thursday that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating in south-eastern Niger in the wake of a string of attacks that left 88 civilians dead in March and has uprooted more than 18,000 people. In the latest violent episode, Médecins Sans Frontières reports that gunmen set fire to makeshift shelters and tents in camps for internally displaced people and refugees in the eastern city of Nguigmi, near Lake Chad, on 26 March. Those newly displaced by the violence are reportedly living in precarious conditions in Diffa town and several villages.
Photographer and long-time UNHCR collaborator Giles Duley won an Amnesty International Media Award on Wednesday evening for his powerful series of photos depicting the plight and resilience of Congolese women refugees in Angola. The photo essay “ We Are Here Because We Are Strong” was commissioned by UNHCR and published in Humanity magazine.
DID YOU KNOW?
Nearly 60,000 refugees and migrants are registered on Greece’s mainland, while another 15,000 are on the islands.