Villagers Decry UK Plan To House 1,500 Asylum Seekers

A man walks his dog along Main Street past a sign for former Royal Air Force Station, RAF Linton-on-Ouse in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, near York in northern England on May 4, 2022. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP)

 

 

The village of Linton-on-Ouse is usually a sleepy place, but its residents are up in arms at a UK government plan to house up to 1,500 asylum seekers, whose numbers will dwarf local residents.

In mid-April, 43-year-old Steve says he was walking his dog in the village in North Yorkshire when he learnt of the proposal from visiting reporters.

They “asked what I thought of what was going on” Steve tells AFP.

It was then he found out that ministers want to open a centre for  male asylum seekers in the heart of the village, in northern England.

The project is based on a similar one in Greece, which has seen a wave of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea land on its islands.

It aims to help reduce the number of migrants crossing the Channel from northern France in small boats, which has soared to record highs in recent years despite government promises to tackle the issue post-Brexit.

According to the interior ministry the existing accommodation on a former Royal Air Force base which closed in 2020 “will help end the government’s reliance on expensive hotels” where tens of thousands of asylum seekers live at a cost to taxpayers of £4.7 million ($5.8 million) per day.

“1,500 people in a village of 700 seems to have an absence of proportionality”, argues Olga Matthias, another local.

– ‘Lose-lose’ –
While they say they back the idea of housing refugees in their village, Steve and Olga say they cannot understand why the Home Office chose to send such a large number to Linton-on-Ouse.

“There is nothing to do here,” says Matthias, glancing down the deserted street with immaculate front gardens.

The pub closed a long time ago and the only shop does not sell much except newspapers.

There is a bus four times a day that goes to York, the nearest large city about 10 miles (16 kilometres) away, but the price of a return ticket at £6.50 is more than an asylum seeker’s daily allowance of £5.66.

“It’s a lose-lose scenario,” says Steve. “They have a right for a peaceful life especially after the countries these people are coming from, so they have the right to be here.”

He argues the village does not have the facilities to allow its population to more than triple.

The sewage system is already failing, there is no high-speed internet nor police presence, he lists.

One local, 19-year-old Mya Aston, says that for her, the prospect of 1,500 more men walking in the streets was “daunting”.

Another voices concerns about how the plan might affect home prices, where the average detached house sells for nearly £350,000 ($435,000).

Furious at not being consulted, the villagers are now fighting to halt the project, even as the first asylum seekers are set to arrive.

The local Conservative MP, Kevin Hollinrake, says he is considering legal options.

 

A sign for the village is pictured in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, near York in northern England on May 4, 2022. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP)

 

– ‘Nobody wants this’ –
“Nobody wants this. Nobody. Not the far-rights, not the villagers, not refugee charities, only the Home Office wants this to happen,” says Nicola David of Ripon City of Sanctuary, a group helping refugees.

The public debate has been dominated in recent weeks by a government proposal to send asylum seekers who arrive illegally to Rwanda.

But David argues that the opening of a reception centre in Linton-on-Ouse is far more problematic.

“The Rwanda (plan) was really shocking cause it’s massive and it’s bizarre. But the Refugee Council did some calculations and they reckon probably 200 people would get sent to Rwanda so that’s actually quite small and there is a very strong chance it won’t go ahead at all,” says David.

In the case of Linton-on-Ouse, “this is happening right now and it’s happening right here”, says David, worried about the condition of planned accommodation, while the government has been vague about how the site will be managed.

She gives the example of Napier former military camp in Kent near the Channel coast, which has been used since 2020 to house asylum seekers, prompting criticism of the authorities over the squalid living conditions and migrants being held in semi-detention.

“They’re constantly apologising and they’re constantly (holding) public inquiries that cost a fortune… and now they think they can run (a centre) for 1,500 people… here?” David questions.

“What assurance does anybody have that it’s not all going to go horribly wrong?”, she asks. “And then what happens when it does?”

Five Million People Flee War In Ukraine

Displaced Ukrainian dentist Yana and her daughter, five-year-old Maya, look for clothes and toys at an aid distribution centre in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv on April 11, 2022, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced them to flee the Eastern city of Kharkiv near the Russian border. (Photo by Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)

 

 

More than five million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, UN figures showed on Friday, in Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 4,796,245 million Ukrainians had left the country since February 24.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) says nearly 215,000 third-country nationals have also escaped to neighbouring countries.

Friday’s figures from the UNHCR were up 59,774 on those issued Thursday.

More than 2.7 million Ukrainian refugees — nearly six in 10 who have left since the war began — have fled to Poland. More than 725,000 reached Romania.

UNHCR figures show nearly 645,000 Ukrainians fled in February, with nearly 3.4 million doing so in March and more than 760,000 leaving so far this month.

Women and children account for 90 percent of those who escaped, with men aged 18 to 60 eligible for military call-up and unable to leave.

Nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have been forced from their homes, including those still inside the country.

The nearly 215,000 third-country nationals who have fled — people who are citizens of neither Ukraine nor the country they entered — are largely students and migrant workers.

Beyond the refugees, the IOM estimates 7.1 million people have left their homes but are still in Ukraine.

Before the invasion, Ukraine had a population of 37 million in the regions under government control, excluding Russia-annexed Crimea and the pro-Russian separatist-controlled regions in the east.

Here is a breakdown of how many Ukrainian refugees have fled to neighbouring countries, according to UNHCR:

Poland

Nearly six out of 10 Ukrainian refugees — 2,720,622 so far — have crossed into Poland, according to the UN.

Many people who go to Ukraine’s immediate western neighbours travel on to other states in Europe’s Schengen open-borders zone.

The World Health Organization said Poland had made 7,000 hospital beds available for the sick and wounded from Ukraine, of which 20 percent were currently in use.

Some 652,000 people have crossed from Poland into Ukraine since the war began.

Before the crisis, Poland was already home to around 1.5 million Ukrainians, chiefly migrant workers.

Romania

A total of 726,857 Ukrainians entered the EU member state, including a large number who crossed over from Moldova, wedged between Romania and Ukraine.

The vast majority are thought to have gone on to other countries.

Russia

Another 484,725 refugees have sought shelter in Russia.

In addition, 105,000 people crossed into Russia from the separatist-held pro-Russian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine between February 18 and 23.

Hungary

A total of 447,053 Ukrainians have entered Hungary.

Moldova

The Moldovan border is the closest to the major port city of Odessa. A total of 419,499 Ukrainians have crossed into the non-EU state, one of the poorest in Europe.

Most of those who have entered the former Soviet republic of 2.6 million people have moved on but an estimated 100,000 remain, including 50,000 children — of whom only 1,800 are enrolled in schools.

“Refugee children from Ukraine have fled a brutal war and have arrived dispossessed and traumatised in Moldova. They are very vulnerable and need immediate support,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.

“Public schools are open to refugee children; however, the capacity is over-stretched and there is a need for urgent mental health and psycho-social services, sanitation, and teachers.”

Slovakia

A total of 329,597 people crossed Ukraine’s shortest border into Slovakia.

Belarus

Another 22,827 refugees have made it north to Russia’s close ally Belarus.

UK ‘Looking At’ Housing Refugees In Seized Oligarch Homes

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks from 10 Downing Street, in London, on February 24, 2022 during an address to the nation on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP

 

The UK government on Monday said it was considering housing Ukrainian refugees in property owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs, as it prepared to announce a programme for people to open their homes to those fleeing the war.

When asked if he supported calls for oligarchs’ houses to be seized for refugees, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it was “something we’re looking at”.

Health minister Sajid Javid earlier cautioned that the mansions should not be the “first place” considered to house refugees, warning of “legal hurdles” to clear first.

Protesters on Monday took matters into their own hands, breaking into and occupying a luxury property beneficially owned by oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

READ ALSO: Ukraine Economy Could Collapse If War Drags On – IMF

“We are a property liberation front,” one of the activists told AFP. “I think a war refugee deserves it, it would at least raise his mood a little bit.”

Deripaska was last week hit with an assets freeze and travel ban alongside six other Russian billionaires, including his former business associate Roman Abramovich.

The UK has faced criticism over its policy towards those fleeing the violence, with places limited at the moment to those who already have family in the country.

But the government’s “Homes for Ukraine” programme could see “tens of thousands” of Ukrainians without family ties be allowed to stay in the UK.

Hosts will be given £350 ($457, 418 euros) a month and have to commit to housing refugees for a minimum of six months, senior minister Michael Gove said on Sunday.

But additional overheads could prove problematic: Britons are grappling with the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation, as energy bills and inflation soar.

– Cancer flights –

Johnson’s Downing Street office said Monday that the prime minister himself will not be taking any Ukrainian refugees.

“There are specific challenges around security on housing people in No 10,” his spokesman said.

More than 20 Ukrainian children with cancer have meanwhile been airlifted to the UK, the government said on Monday.

Health minister Javid said the 21 children had been receiving treatment in Ukraine but were forced to leave their homes because of Russia’s invasion.

They are now being given “life-saving” care by the state-run National Health Service (NHS) and have been accompanied by their carers, he told Sky News television.

The government in London has been criticised for insisting that those fleeing the conflict and wanting to join family in the UK have to apply for visas to be able to travel.

Its insistence on security checks and visas has earned it unfavourable comparisons with the European Union, which has allowed Ukrainians visa-free stays for up to three years.

As of Saturday, “just over 3,000” visas had been granted under a UK scheme for family members, Javid told Times Radio.

Javid said the sick children, who arrived in the UK from Poland on Sunday evening, were initially given six-month visas but will be allowed to stay “as long as necessary”.

They were brought to the UK with the help of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a US organisation which specialises in the most serious paediatric illnesses.

AFP

Ukraine Refugees To Top 2 Million ‘Today’ Or ‘Tomorrow’, UN Says

A Ukrainian serviceman helps evacuees gathered under a destroyed bridge, as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 7, 2022.  (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

 

 

The number of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine is expected to top two million in the next two days, the head of the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.

“I do think that we will pass the two million mark today or maybe at the latest tomorrow. So, it doesn’t stop,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Oslo.

On Monday, the UNHCR put the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine at more than 1.7 million.

Grandi made his remarks at a press conference, after visiting Moldova, Poland and Romania, all of which have received refugees pouring across the border from Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24.

He praised the “exemplary” welcome provided by these three countries, adding they seemed to be “coping” with the “natural spontaneous distribution.”

Grandi stressed that the first waves of refugees were those with “some resources,”

“Many come by car, and especially they have connections. They can go where they have family, friends, communities,” the commissioner said.

 

Ukrainian refugee Anastasia, holding her three year-old son Dary, cries as she sings Ukraine national anthem during a welcoming ceremony at the Chateau de Sache, near Tours, central France, on March 7, 2022. (Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

 

“It is possible that if the war continues… we will start seeing people that have no resources and no connections and that will be a more complex issue for European countries to manage going forward and there will need to be even more solidarity by everybody in Europe and beyond,” he said.

For comparison, Grandi said the Balkan wars in Bosnia and Kosovo saw “maybe two to three million people, but over a period of eight years.”

While other parts of the “world have seen this,” Grandi added, “in Europe it’s the first time since the Second World War.”

On Monday, Grandi called it “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II,” in a post to Twitter.

After several failed attempts, Russia promised to open humanitarian corridors on Tuesday to allow civilians to flee the Ukrainian cities that have come under artillery fire.

Over 400,000 Ukrainians Flee Country Following Russian Invasion

Refugees from many different countries – from Africa, Middle East and India – mostly students of Ukrainian universities are seen at the Medyka pedestrian border crossing fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, in eastern Poland on February 27, 2022. As Ukraine braces for a feared Russian invasion, its EU member neighbours are making preparations for a possible influx of hundreds of thousands or even millions of refugees fleeing military action.

 

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia invaded Thursday.

The United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, says it is planning to deal with up to four million if the situation worsens.

But the European Union’s crisis management commissioner says the figure could reach seven million.

Poland

Some 196,000 Ukrainians have already fled over the Polish border, its frontier guards said Sunday. On Friday alone, 50,000 Ukrainians arrived.

While 90 percent of the refugees are being put up by friends or relations, nine reception centres are also being set up close to the frontier.

Poland was already home to 1.5 million Ukrainians before Russia invaded.

Across the country people are mobilising to offer accommodation, money, clothes and work to the new arrivals.

Romania

Of the 47,000 Ukrainians who have crossed into Romania since Thursday, 22,000 have already gone on to other countries, the government says.

Most are passing through Siret in the north of the country, where a camp has been set up with a second near Marmatiei. Romanians have also taken to social media to donate food and clothing to the refugees.

Hungary

Some 71,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed into Hungary since the invasion, says the country’s interior ministry.

Several border towns such as Zahony have set up public buildings as reception centres, with ordinary people donating food and clothes.

Moldova

At least 70,000 Ukrainians have also crossed into Moldova, the country’s deputy prime minister said.

The UNHRC’s central Europe chief Roland Schilling hailed the small nation for its response to a “heartbreaking situation”.

He said local people as well as the Moldovan government “have been really impressive” in the way they are dealing with the flow.

Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița visited the border crossing of Palanca Saturday where a tent village and medical facilities have been set up.

“In these dark days for Ukraine, we stand by its citizens,” she tweeted. “Moldova will assist those in need of safe transit or shelter. We are with you Ukraine!”

Slovakia

More than 17,600 Ukrainians have crossed into Slovakia since Thursday, the UNHCR said. The Slovak ministry of interior told AFP that 6,514 crossed on Sunday between midnight and 6 am alone.

Internally displaced

Some 160,000 people are thought to be internally displaced within Ukraine.

“Displacement in Ukraine is growing but the military situation makes it difficult to estimate numbers and provide aid,” United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi tweeted Saturday.

But the EU crisis commissioner Janez Lenarcic said Sunday that “we are witnessing what could become the largest humanitarian crisis on our European continent in many, many years,” with up to seven million displaced and 18 (million) “affected in humanitarian terms”.

Russian Invasion: Over 368,000 People Flee Ukraine – UN

Ukrainian women and children leave Ukraine after crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border in Ubla, eastern Slovakia, on February 27, 2022.  PETER LAZAR / AFP

 

The UN refugee agency said Sunday more than 368,000 people had fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on Thursday.

“The current total is now 368,000 and continues to rise,” United Nations High Commission for Refugees or UNHCR said in a tweet, adding the new figure was based on “data made available by national authorities”.

A large number of those escaping to neighbouring countries have crossed over into Poland, where the authorities have counted some 156,000 crossing since the invasion started early Thursday.

READ ALSO: Ukraine Lodges Case Against Russia In The Hague

Border guards counted some 77,300 arrivals from Ukraine on Saturday alone.

The refugees have arrived in cars, in packed trains and even on foot.

Those who arrive with nowhere to go can count on the help of volunteers — both members of NGOs and private citizens.

Others have also headed to Moldavia, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.

AFP

‘Incredible’: Nigerian Refugee Girls Join AFCON Fiesta

Players from the women’s football team in the Minawao refugee camp attend an Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) match between Nigeria and Sudan in Garoua on January 15, 2022. The girls, ranging in age from 15 to 20, fled with their families to Cameroon years ago, as Boko Haram jihadists wreaked havoc in their country. Daniel Beloumou Olomo / AFP

 

 

Words are not enough to describe the fun and passion in their eyes as Nigerian refugee girls cheer on their side at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The girls, ranging in age from 15 to 20, fled with their families to Cameroon years ago, as Boko Haram jihadists wreaked havoc in their country.

At a refugee camp in Minawao, in Cameroon’s Far North region, the girls took up football, forming a team with whatever equipment came to hand.

READ ALSO: Nigeria To Play Tunisia In AFCON Second Round

President of the Confederation of African Football Patrice Motsepe (3rd R) greet players from the women’s football team in the Minawao refugee camp while they attend an Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) match between Nigeria and Sudan in Garoua on January 15, 2022. Daniel Beloumou Olomo / AFP

 

Last weekend, thanks to an initiative of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the girls got the treat of their lives: they were taken to a match between Nigeria and Sudan.

They boarded a bus on Friday for the 200-kilometre (120-mile trip) and spent the night in a hotel — a totally new experience for them — before heading to the stadium in Garoua on Saturday.

As they left, the girls stopped at the hotel entrance, coquettishly checking their reflections in the glass.

En route to the match, they marvelled at the hordes of Nigerian fans flocking to the stadium.

In the event, Sudan put up little resistance, scoring only one goal to Nigeria’s three.

With each goal, the refugee girls erupted in joy, dancing and waving little Nigerian flags.

In an added treat afterwards, the girls were invited to pose on the field with officials of the African Football Confederation.

“It’s so incredible. I’m so happy,” enthused 20-year-old Salamata Timothy, with stars in her eyes.

Camp Heroines 

Nigerian refugee girls wait the beginning of the training at the football pitch in the Minawao Refugee camp in Maroua, on January 16, 2022. Daniel Beloumou Olomo / AFP

 

The next day the girls returned to the Minawao camp, greeted as heroines by hundreds of children who had seen them on television.

The camp, the largest in the region, opened in July 2013 at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, which prompted a massive influx of Nigerians into Cameroon.

Today, housing some 70,000 people, it resembles a little city, with a hospital, several schools, a dispensary and even a market some 50 kilometres (30 miles) away where the refugees sell produce from their farm plots and can buy merchandise from home.

The camp’s football pitch is an expanse of compacted earth with blue-coloured goals at either end.

Saratu Yakubu, 19, said that when she arrived in 2013, the players had jerseys and shoes, but they no longer have proper equipment.

“It’s become nearly impossible to play even though it is so important for us, for our health and well-being,” she said.

A recent donation from the German government financed jerseys and balls for the boys, but there was nothing for the girls.

Never Left Camp 

Players from the women’s football team in the Minawao refugee camp attend an Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) match between Nigeria and Sudan in Garoua on January 15, 2022. Daniel Beloumou Olomo / AFP

 

Luka Isaac, who represents the Minawao refugees, told AFP: “Going to the stadium was an unforgettable experience for these girls. They realise that they can dream too. Most arrived here as children and it was the first time they left the camp.”

He regretted that they do not have enough equipment. “Football gives them something to think about besides what they suffered in Nigeria.”

UNHCR spokesman Xavier Bourgeois noted that now that the crisis seems to be abating in Nigeria, “the big donors are starting to forget” about the refugees.

Lucy Bitrus, 18, one of the footballers in Minawao, sews sheshias — headgear worn by local men — which she hawks at the market. Her mother sells cakes and her father is a monitor at the school.

She sleeps on a straw mat on the earthen floor and does her schoolwork using a solar-powered light. Her “favourite possession” is a biology book. The only decoration in her room is a chemistry chart — the periodic table of the elements.

“My dream is to become a doctor,” she said, speaking wistfully of going to university some day. “We don’t just need footballs here — we also want books.”

AFP

UN Agency Calls For ‘Urgent Access’ To Myanmar Refugees

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The UN’s refugee agency on Monday called for Thailand to allow them “urgent access” to more than 3,000 Myanmar refugees who fled to the kingdom to escape fighting in conflict-wracked Karen state.

Clashes between Myanmar’s military and the Karen National Union — a rebel group vocally opposed to a junta which deposed a civilian government in February — broke out last week in a town not far from the Thai border.

Some 700 refugees crossed the river into Thailand’s Tak province on Thursday, fleeing artillery shelling and small arms fire. By Monday, the number had ballooned to 3,900 due to continued fighting, the UNHCR said.

“UNHCR is concerned for the welfare of these civilians and has approached the Thai authorities with offers of assistance,” it said in a statement.

“UNHCR and NGOs have requested urgent access to the refugees to ascertain and deliver to them the necessary humanitarian and protection assistance.”

Provincial authorities said late Monday about 3,500 refugees remain in two locations on the Thai side, as dozens have gradually returned since fighting appeared to have ceased.

“Thai authorities are providing humanitarian assistance and transportation for those who volunteer to return to Myanmar by transporting them from the banks of Moei River,” said a statement released by Tak province.

But Naw K’Nyay Paw, general secretary of Karen Women’s Organisation, said the majority of people are still afraid.

“It’s very tense and the fighting is still continuing in some areas,” she told AFP. “I don’t think it is representing the true feelings of the refugees.”

The latest wave of some 1,500 people on Sunday came after renewed fighting broke out in Mae Htaw Thalay, a town bordering Thailand where displaced people were sheltering.

“There was artillery shooting in the area… The KNU tried to move them to a safer place,” a Karen state resident told AFP, adding that thousands of displaced people, including children, were sent running as the shelling continued for hours.

“We heard shooting close to us and we tried to flee… We could only leave the village after they suspended shooting for a while around 7pm,” he said.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun confirmed the fighting in Mae Htaw Thalay on Monday, adding that the military are now “trying to control the situation by negotiating with KNU.”

The clashes kicked off last week after state media reported junta troops entered KNU territory and arrested several dissidents, including a former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government.

The rebel group — one of more than 20 ethnic armed groups holding territories in Myanmar’s border regions — has been a staunch opponent of the junta, providing shelter to anti-coup dissidents.

Albania Ready To Welcome Hundreds Of Afghan Refugees

Taliban fighters and local people sit on an Afghan National Army (ANA) humvee vehicle on a street in Jalalabad province on August 15, 2021. (Photo by – / AFP)

 

Albania said it was ready on Sunday to temporarily host hundreds of Afghan refugees bound for the United States, including women leaders, government officials and others in danger from the Taliban.

“NATO member Albania is ready to shoulder its share of the burden,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said on his facebook page on Sunday.

“Washington has already asked Albania to consider the possibility of serving as a transit country for a number of Afghan political immigrants whose final destination would be the United States,” he said.

Rama said Tirana had already received requests for Albania to provide refuge for “hundreds of people from intellectual circles and women activists. Afghan women on the Taliban execution lists”.

“We will not say ‘no’, and not just because our great allies ask us to, but because we are Albania,” Rama said.

READ ALSO: Afghan President Flees Country As Taliban Captures Kabul

The US, Britain and other Western countries are in a race against time to evacuate their own citizens as well as vulnerable Afghans who worked for them and fear reprisals by the Taliban.

Canada has also expressed its readiness to welcome more than 20,000 refugees.

At the request of the United States, in 2006, Albania agreed to host five Chinese Uyghurs detained at Guantanamo, considered by Beijing to be terrorists.

In 2013, at the request of Washington and the UN, Albania hosted 200 members of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMPI). Their number has since increased and there are now about 3,000 in Ashraf and Manze, the largest group of PMOI exiles in the world.

AFP

Refugees Cannot Be Returned To Greece, German Court Rules

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

A German court said Tuesday that two refugees granted asylum in Greece could not be sent back there because of the “serious risk of inhumane and degrading treatment” they could face.

The two men from Syria and Eritrea would face “a serious risk that they would not be able to meet their most basic needs if they return”, to Greece, said the court in the western city of Muenster.

Germany had previously rejected the two men’s asylum applications because they had already been granted international protection in Greece and threatened them with deportation.

But the court ruled they would face “extreme material hardship” if they were returned, citing difficulties finding accommodation and access to the labour market.

“The applicants’ applications for asylum cannot be rejected as inadmissible because they face a serious risk of inhumane and degrading treatment if they return to Greece,” the court said.

READ ALSO: UK Unemployment Hits 5.0% On COVID-19 Fallout

Since becoming one of the main gateways into Europe for migrants and asylum-seekers in 2015, Greece has built dozens of detention centres on its islands.

But long waits in the camps and overcrowding are common.

Over 7,000 people have been living in the 32-hectare (79-acre) Kara Tepe tent camp on the island of Lesbos since September, when the permanent facility of Moria burned down.

Human rights campaigners say they are living in squalid conditions with “fewer rights than animals”.

People are supposed to apply for asylum in the first EU country they arrive in before being relocated if they are successful.

But the system has been widely derided as some countries barely accept any refugees and others like Greece and Italy bear the brunt.

Athens last year moved thousands of refugees from Lesbos and other islands to the mainland.

But many have been unable to find accommodation or jobs after leaving the camps, and the government has scaled back housing and cash benefits.

The Week in Pictures: Christmas, COVID-19 Vaccines And Refugees

This picture taken in Paris on December 22, 2020 shows a Christmas Santa Claus decoration, with a protective mask. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

 

 

Santa in a snow globe, child choristers at St Paul’s Cathedral, An Ethiopian refugee who fled the Tigray conflict praying during Sunday Mass, and much more that happened around the world in pictures.

 

 

Norway’s Halvor Egner Granerud competes in the men’s FIS Ski Jumping World Cup competition in Engelberg, central Switzerland, on December 19, 2020. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

Lebanese launch lanterns in Beirut’s Gemmayzeh neighbourhood on December 20, 2020, during the lighting of a Christmas tree in memory of the victims of the devastating port blast in that took place in the capital’s port in August. (Photo by ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

 

Members of the Afghan security forces stand at the site of an attack, in Kabul on December 20, 2020. – A car bomb killed eight people and wounded more than 15 others in Kabul on December 20, officials said, the latest attack to rock the Afghan capital. (Photo by Zakeria HASHIMI / AFP)

 

Syrian-Armenian potter Misak Antranik Petros uses an ancient pottery wheel to churn different types of pots at his workshop located inside an ancient mud-brick house near the city of Qamishli in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province, on December 19, 2020. – Petros was only a teenager when he had to take over for his sick father and become the main potter of the family. He has since become a master of the craft and is keen to pass his skills on. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

 

A medical worker tends to a patient in the sub-intensice care unit of the Tor Vergata hospital in Rome on December 21, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

 

A woman pays respects to a victim of the war over Karabakh, during a gathering for a memorial ceremony, at the Yerablur Military Memorial Cemetery in Yerevan, on December 19, 2020. – Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan led, on December 19, 2020, thousands in a march in memory of those killed in a six-week war with Azerbaijan as the Caucasus country began three days of mourning. Pashinyan has been under huge pressure from the opposition to step down after nearly 3,000 Armenians were killed in the clashes with Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. (Photo by Karen MINASYAN / AFP)

 

A protester from the Nepalese Students Union, which is affiliated with the opposition Congress party shouts slogans during a demonstration after the parliament was abruptly dissolved in Kathmandu on December 20, 2020. (Photo by Prakash MATHEMA / AFP)

 

This photo taken on December 21, 2020 shows people watching a performer during a pole dancing competition amid temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius in Mohe, in northeastern China’s Henglongjiang province. (Photo by STR / AFP) 

 

A man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, wearing a face shield and kneeling behind a transparent barrier amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, gestures to a girl at a shopping mall with Christmas decorations in Kuala Lumpur on December 22, 2020. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

 

This picture taken in Paris on December 22, 2020 shows a Christmas Santa Claus decoration, with a protective mask. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

 

Maryland Cremation Services transporter Reggie Elliott brings the remains of a Covid-19 victim to his van from the hospital’s morgue in Baltimore, Maryland on December 24, 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.  (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

 

US President-elect Joe Biden receives a Covid-19 vaccination from Tabe Mase, Nurse Practitioner and Head of Employee Health Services, at the Christiana Care campus in Newark, Delaware on December 21, 2020. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)

 

The Eiffel Tower is reflected in a puddle as a man runs, on December 24, 2020 in Paris. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

 

A surfer wipes out at Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, on December 24, 2020. (Photo by Brian Bielmann / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

 

An Ethiopian refugee who fled the Tigray conflict prays during Sunday Mass at an Ethiopian Orthodox church built by former Ethiopian refugees near the Um Raquba refugee camp in Gedaref, eastern Sudan, on Dec. 6. Thousands of Tigrayan refugees from Ethiopia have fled across the border into Sudan with stories of atrocities committed during a spiraling conflict. — Tasuyoshi Chiba / AFP

 

 

Santa chats with a child in Seattle. Known as the Seattle Santa, he is usually booked for private events but is set up this year in a socially-distanced snow globe. — David Ryder

 

A guard holds his pistol while transferring a bag of cash to an armored vehicle in Johannesburg on Dec. 8.  — Michele Spatari / AFP

 

 

Santa Claus waves at visitors as he hangs from the cable car on Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro on Dec. 5. — Mauro Pimentel / AFP

 

 

This photograph taken in December 11, 2020 shows a health worker statute placed in front of Basilica of St Francis in Assisi. – Each evening during Christmas in addition a statue of a nurse will be placed in a crib in front of the Basilica, homage to Italy’s health workers for their heroic efforts during the Covid-19 emergency. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Choristers from the St. Paul’s Choir pose for photographers during a photo call at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, on December 14, 2020. (PHOTO: Leon Neal)

Zulum Seeks UN Support On Return Of Nigerian Refugees In Neighbouring Countries

A file photo of Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum. Photo: [email protected]

 

Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum has called for support from the United Nations for over 200,000 refugees from his state who are in neighbouring countries to return home.

The governor urged UNHCR, a UN refugee agency, to support in returning Borno residents taking refuge in neighbouring Cameroon and the Niger Republic.

Zulum made the call on Thursday at a stakeholders’ implementation meeting on the Global Compact of Refugees in Abuja.

The event was organised by the Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

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He noted that most of the refugees have been agitating to return to their communities to pick up the pieces of their lives.

“We need to follow up commitment with action, which is very important. One of the importance of this Global Compact of Refugees is to support citizens of countries of origin for the return of refugees back to their home country,

“I am of the view that we should first look at how we can help to support Nigerians who are taking refuge in another country, especially those who are living in the neighbouring Niger Republic as well as the Republic of Cameroon who have been agitating in the past.

“This is very important because we have over 200,000 from Borno State who are now refugees in countries like Cameroon, Republic of Niger and Chad.

“The government of Borno is willing to support and work with the humanitarian sector to ensure the return of Nigerian refugees in other countries,” Zulum said.

The Governor added that many communities have been resettled in the last couple of months and the state government is not forcing anyone to return but people are going back to their communities voluntarily.

Also at the event, UNHCR country representative to Nigeria, Chansa Kapaya said, the global compact on refugees has four key objectives they are; ease the pressures on host countries; enhance refugee self-reliance; expand access to third-country solutions, and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.

Other speakers at the meeting include the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajjia Sadiya Umar Farouq.

The UN country director also said despite Nigeria’s complex humanitarian challenges, the country has been host country to over 61,000 Cameroonian refugees and asylum-seekers in Cross River, Benue and Taraba since 2017.

She added that Nigeria has also hosted about 4,300 urban refugees from the DRC, CAR, Syria, Turkey, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire and others.