UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres pledged on Friday to help Bulgaria cope with an influx of Syrian refugees and called on other European Union countries to help shoulder more of the burden.
Guterres, speaking at a joint press conference with Bulgaria's Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, announced that UNHCR would launch a programme to help Bulgaria meet the needs of several thousand refugees.
He said this would include building up the capacity of the State Agency for Refugees; deploying UNHCR staff or partners to help the government speed up the processing of refugee applications; and providing aid to meet the most pressing needs of the Syrian refugees. UNHCR will send a technical team to Bulgaria next week to assess the needs and decide on what kind of practical support is required. […]
Henning Mankell is best known for his crime writing, especially his novels about the world weary Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander. Mankell was taught to read and write as a child by his grandmother and wrote his first play at 19. He says that he has always been driven by a desire to be a storyteller, writing about the human condition. His interest in what makes people tick has also fuelled his passionate and active humanitarianism and his concern for the needy and the vulnerable, including people forced to flee their homes because of war or persecution. His interest in refugees and the work of UNHCR grew in the 1980s when he began spending time in Mozambique, which was embroiled in civil war (1977-1992) after the struggle for independence from the Portuguese (1964-1974). Last month, the 65-year-old author visited the UN refugee agency's operations in Uganda, including a refugee settlement at Rwamwanja and a transit centre in Kisoro district, neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province. Less than a month after he visited the Bunagana crossing, thousands of refugees streamed into Uganda to escape a final government push against rebel M23 fighters in the DRC. Mankell spoke to UNHCR External Relations Officer Lucy Beck about his experience and about the visit. […]
The UN refugee agency said Friday it was "greatly concerned" over reports that some European Union (EU) countries were placing barriers to entry or forcibly returning asylum-seekers, including people who have fled Syria.
"UNHCR is calling, globally as well as in the European Union, for a shift away from border protection to protection of people", UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva. "If practices to prevent asylum-seekers from accessing territory and procedures are taking place, UNHCR calls on states to cease them immediately. Push-backs and prevention of entry can put asylum-seekers at further risk and expose them to additional trauma", he added. […]
On a recent emotionally charged November evening, members of four families were reunited in an isolated Sicilian commune far from their troubled homeland. They were linked by a terrible tragedy.
The 13 Syrian refugees in the town hall of Sant'Angelo Muxaro were passengers on a Europe-bound smuggler's boat that capsized on October 11 some 95 kilometres from Lampedusa Island, the southernmost territory of Italy. The Italian coastguard and Malta's Navy managed to save 211 people, but 27 bodies have been recovered and more than 250 are missing feared lost in the Mediterranean.
In the confusion, many family members who had survived were separated from each other, with unaccompanied children being taken to Sicily and adults to Malta. Waiting to hear about loved ones was an ordeal, but the families at Sant'Angelo Muxaro had been told as soon as possible about the fate of their missing relatives. […]
Some 200 metres from no-man's land, and the war zone beyond, stands a dusty street lined by modest houses, shops, garages and an office. Outside the office a crowd waits under the scorching sun for an aid distribution.
They are among the 10,000 registered Syrian urban refugees who have made their home in Akcakale, a southern Turkey border town of more than 35,000 people before the influx. Just down the road another 30,000 Syrians live in a crowded refugee camp set up by the Turks with tents and equipment from UNHCR.
The crowd outside the office in Akcakale are waiting for a truck to arrive with relief items collected by private citizens and non-governmental organizations. Armed with a registration card, each family will be given oil, sugar and a box of basic foodstuffs. […]