In Australia, the navy is intercepting boats in international waters and incarcerating asylum seekers in floating prisons. In Kenya, the government is deporting refugees to Somalia, despite the continued armed conflict and the increasingly serious drought in that country. Sudan has recently returned a group of refugees to Eritrea, one of the most authoritarian countries in the world. And the United States is refusing to admit many Mexican children who arrive at its border, despite mounting evidence that they are escaping from life-threatening and gang-related violence.
Four months ago, the Kenyan government launched a major crackdown against Somali refugees living in urban areas that involved mass arrests, extortion, and even deportations back to Somalia. This week, my colleague, Alice Thomas, and I are traveling to Kenya to assess the deteriorating situation for those refugees.
When my colleague, Garrett Bradford, and I met Pablo and Ana in Mexico City they had been displaced from their home, lost their fifteen-year-old son and son-in-law to an ambush by organized crime, and were still searching for their seventeen-year-old son, Juan, who had been kidnapped two months before. They are two of hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who have been displaced by organized crime and other armed actors in the last few years.
On December 15th, 2013, violence broke out in the young nation of South Sudan. What began with accusations from President Salva Kiir of an attempted coup d’état by former Vice President Riek Machar has since enflamed underlying ethnic tensions and sparked a much larger conflict in which more than 10,000 people have died.
“There was war in my home. The Mai Mai came to our village and burned everything there. I came here with my wife and eight children two months ago with nothing but the clothes on our backs. I came to this village to try to get some food.” These are the words of Emmanuel, an internally displaced man in northern Katanga Province. “Look,” he said, pointing to a makeshift house of branches and leaves. “We have no shelter, and no food.”
Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution that revises the mandate for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The Mission will now focus on four key tasks: protection of civilians; monitoring and investigating human rights; creating the conditions for delivery of humanitarian assistance; and supporting the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.
In November 2012, the city of Goma, capital of North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was on high alert. The notorious M23 rebel group had just taken over, pushing out the Congolese armed forces and rolling past the bases of United Nations peacekeepers.
My colleague Garrett Bradford and I are currently in Mexico, where we are meeting with people displaced by organized crime, gangs, and other armed actors throughout the country, including in Tijuana, Mexico City, Veracruz, and Sinaloa. No one knows how many people have been forced to leave their homes in Mexico due to extortion, kidnapping, forced disappearances, or murders, but it is widely reported to be more than 100,000 people.
Since fighting broke out in South Sudan last December between government troops, who support President Salva Kiir, and forces loyal to the former Vice-President, Riek Machar, more than a million people have been forced from their homes. The UN estimates that a staggering $1.8 billion is needed to fund the response to the crisis through 2014, of which only 30% had been secured by mid-May.