This Week in Restoring Family Links News 07/20/15 - 07/24/15

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

Nigeria: Earlier this month, a series of elections drove the Nigerian government and rebel group Boko Haram into more intensified conflict than the country had seen since fighting begun last year. This week, violence surged in border areas of Cameroon and Niger, and as a result of the fighting, (and also in light of a suicide attack that killed 13 on July 12,) hundreds of Nigerians have fled their homes. On average, 100 Nigerians register at the UNHCR’s Minawao camp in Cameroon every day, though more are expected this weekend and into next week. The arrivals at the camp are mainly Nigerian families who have previously fled to Cameroon to escape violence in north-east Nigeria, but stayed near the border – hoping for a quick return home. However, since resources are limited at Minawao, the government of Cameroon is stationing advisors at entry zones to help council refugees as to where to go next – because conflict tends to shift regions, some areas are only temporarily dangerous, and the Cameroonian government encourages families to stay close and stay together.

Newly-arrived Nigerian refugees register with UNHCR officials at Minawao Camp, northern Cameroon [UNHCR/D. Mbaiorem]

Newly-arrived Nigerian refugees register with UNHCR officials at Minawao Camp, northern Cameroon [UNHCR/D. Mbaiorem]

The UNHCR estimates that over 12,000 refugees are unaccounted for, and worries what might happen if Minawao – home to 44,000 Nigerian refugees – becomes overcrowded. Some Nigerian families also choose to flee to the southern area of Niger, where 2,500 have already sought refuge this week. Since last year, estimates show almost 100,000 fled to this area since mid-2013.     

Elections in Burundi: After several months of unrest, fear, and soaring numbers of refugee populations, Burundi started their election process on Tuesday of this week. These elections are key to how the country will proceed, as opposition groups have protested President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for his third term. Before the voting began, grenades and rockets exploded in the capital city, and gunshots tore through polling stations. Though no one was hurt, it certainly created a precedent for the election process – as this week progressed, voter turnout was disappointing. Not only are citizens afraid to vote, but independent media has been shut down, and many opponents have fled, alike 150,000 Burundians who fear their country may again have to grapple with violence.

Child refugees arriving in Tanzania [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]

Child refugees arriving in Tanzania [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]

Meanwhile, refugee camps in bordering countries scrambled to prepare for influxes due to elections. Tuesday night, UNHCR estimates that over 6000 Burundians fled into Tanzania. Doctors without Borders (MSF) said on Wednesday that the Nyarugusu refugee camp near the Tanzanian town of Kasulu, close to the border with Burundi, was simply not coping with the number of new arrivals. Top UK advisors are calling Tanzanian refugees camps “deplorable” and “overstretched”, and seemingly close to their breaking point.  The UNHCR said on Wednesday that more than 79,000 Burundians had arrived in Tanzania since May, including over 2000 between July 12-19 alone, and 500 everyday. Going forward, these numbers are up in the air, as election results are expected sometime today. 

Restoring Family Links in Greece: It seems as though whenever Syria appears in the news, the possibility of anything positive is slim. The "4 million Refugees" figure is hard to ignore, and Syria, along with the entire  international community, will undoubtedly struggle with this situation for a long time. However, many humanitarian organizations have committed to helping those affected, including the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. 

After crossing the Mediterranean Sea, a Syrian father recounts the devastating ordeal of losing contact with his 5 year old son. Because of the joint efforts of ICRC staff in Damascus and Athens, his son was found in a police station on one of Greek islands, and the father and son were able to reunite in Greece. Read the full story here.