Skip to main content

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Geneva announcements

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), speaking on behalf of the World Health Organization, said the Director-General of WHO would give a regular press conference today at 5.30 p.m. An invitation would be sent to journalists this morning.

First Ethiopian refugees relocated to a new refugee site in Sudan

Andrej Mahecic, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said UNHCR continued to register new refugee arrivals at the Sudanese-Ethiopian border. Some 800 people had crossed from Ethiopia’s Tigray region into eastern Sudan in just the first few days of the new year. Since early November, more than 56,000 Ethiopian refugees had fled to neighbouring Sudan. In support of the government-led response in Sudan, UNHCR and Sudan’s Commission for Refugees (COR) continued to relocate the refugees from the arrival locations at the border to the designated refugee camps, further inland in Sudan’s Gedaref State.

A full briefing note is available here.

Responding to a question about Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, Mr. Mahecic said there had been some progress with access. UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies had only been given access to some parts of Tigray, but assessments were underway. Mr. Mahecic added that the arrivals had now come down to several hundred per day. They were no longer at the levels seen in the early stages of the crisis.

Efforts to assist hundreds of migrants living without shelter this winter

Paul Dillon, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that over the past two weeks IOM watched with growing concern the dire humanitarian situation facing migrants in Bosnia. On 23 December, local authorities had decided to close the Lipa Emergency Tent Camp, which was run with IOM’s support. The 1,400 men living in the camp joined an estimated 1,500 others including women and children sleeping rough in Una Sana Canton, on Bosnia’s border with European Union member Croatia as nighttime temperatures dropped well below zero. IOM and its partners were providing support as best they could but it was clear that a sustainable long-term solution must be found.

Peter Van der Auweraert, Bosnia Chief of Mission for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said Bosnia-Herzegovina had hosted 70,000 migrants since early 2018. The political response has been somewhat haphazard, and each winter there had been thousands of people sleeping rough. There were currently about 6,000 migrants housed in accommodation centers. While there were two other centers that could host the remaining migrants, it had not been possible to do so given the lack of consensus between the central government and the concerned local governments. It should be stressed that there was sufficient international funding to house the 8,000 to 8,500 migrants and refugees currently in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Responding to questions, M. Van der Auweraert said the migrants sleeping rough received food, non-food items and some medical care services from the Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council and IOM. Their physical health was deteriorating, however, and there were signs of the situation taking a toll on their mental health. Overall, there seemed to be a consensus among the population that migrants should be treated humanely. The current asylum request process was excruciatingly slow; and yet, it was critical that access to asylum be guaranteed.

 

* * *