Syria: Displacement continues as anti-government protests grow
Anti-government protests in Syria continue to grow despite four months of coercive repression, and the military responses against cities and towns have continued to cause displacement throughout the country. Protests started in Daraa on 11 March and covered most of the country by May. Tanks moved into Daraa, Banyas, Homs and suburbs of Damascus in May, and into Jisr al Shughur, Khirbet al Juz, Darkush, Hitya and Maarat al Numaan in June. Over 1,300 civilians and over 350 security personnel were killed and over 10,000 people arrested by the start of July, but the subsequent Fridays saw the largest protests yet for a peaceful transition to democracy.
Information from within Syria remains limited, with international humanitarian or news agencies unable to get a clear picture of displacement in the country. Protesters have reported the destruction of their homes and farmland in military operations, particularly in Daraa, Tel Kalakh and Jisr Al-Shughur. The entire 41,000 population of Jisr Al-Shughur reportedly fled in June in fear of military retaliation following the death of some 120 security personnel there. In June it was also estimated that about 70 per cent of the 100,000 population of Maarat al Numaan had been displaced. Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have confirmed reports of internal displacements.
The government’s limited ability to control the whole of the country has forced its forces to move between areas allowing some to seek safety in displacement temporarily, with IDPs and refugees returning home after the security forces loyal to the government have left. Syria is controlled by the Allawite minority while the protesters and displaced are from the disfranchised Sunni majority, which makes up three quarters of the population. The government of President Bashar al-Assad has relied on limited loyal forces and irregulars, while many conscripts have deserted the regular army.
In the first week of July, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was granted access to Daraa and Idlib after it criticised the poor access in early May and its president visited Damascus in June. Together with the Syrian Red Crescent, they distributed essential food items for over 5,000 people and sleeping kits for over 2,500 people. The High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is yet to be given access to Syria after establishing a fact-finding mission on 29 April.
Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have told IDMC that they have found no significant secondary displacement of Iraqi refugees in Syria. Both organisations have made contingency plans to assist the million Iraqis in Syria, who are at a significant risk of being displaced again.
See also: IDMC Syria country page
Back to top
Libya: Number of IDPs falls in eastern areas
Libya’s internal armed conflict has continued to cause displacement in both the east and west of the country. As of 7 July, UNHCR estimated that around 218,000 people were internally displaced, including 69,000 in opposition-controlled areas, 49,000 around Tripoli and around 100,000 in the Nafusa Mountains. However, as access to these locations is still limited, these figures have not been confirmed and change frequently as populations move.
The number of IDPs has reportedly decreased, particularly in Eastern areas where the security situation has improved. According to an inter-agency mission, many of the 70 per cent of the population of Ajdabiya who had fled to Benghazi and elsewhere had returned by 30 June, and only around 20 per cent of the population remained in displacement. Many returnee families were staying with relatives.
In opposition-controlled areas, most IDPs have reportedly received support from host families and communities, while others live in spontaneous settlement sites, including in schools. Meanwhile, the presence of unexploded ordnance in conflict-affected areas has affected the protection of civilians and the ability of IDPs to return home safely.
See also: IDMC Libya country page
Back to top
Yemen: IDPs in need of assistance across country
Reports have continued of large-scale displacement resulting from conflict in southern Yemen between militants and pro-government military units. As of 4 July, tens of thousands of people had fled the southern province of Abyan after militants took over the provincial capital Zinjibar in June. According to the UN, there were at the start of July more than 15,600 internally displaced people (IDPs) in neighbouring Aden, close to 11,900 in Lahj and an estimated 15,000 still in Abyan.
The IDPs require emergency assistance including shelter, protection, non-food items and health care. Access to Abyan has been limited due to the insecurity and further by the scarcity of fuel supplies and food and water shortages.
Despite the continued political unrest across the country, President Saleh has refused to step down from power. In Al-Hasaba in central Yemen, factional fighting has displaced at least 2,000 people, with the UN reporting that the number of IDPs may be higher. In the north, the ceasefire between Al Houthi and government forces has held since February 2010, and humanitarian agencies have been able to gain wider access. Nonetheless, IDPs, returnees and other war-affected populations in the north have outstanding urgent assistance needs.
See also: IDMC Yemen country page
Back to top
Nigeria: Violence in Maiduguri displaces thousands
Thousands of people have fled the north-eastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri following fighting between the Boko Haram sect and the armed forces. The violence has killed more than 150 people since the beginning of the year. The Nigerian army has been trying to eradicate the Islamic Boko Haram sect since 2009. The group has carried out bomb attacks in Maiduguri and elsewhere in Borno Sate over the last years, but has also bombed targets in the capital, Abuja, in recent months.
Those displaced include immigrants from neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, who said they wanted to go back to their countries. Others leaving were students, as the university was closed following rumours that the group planned to attack the campus. However, the group denied threatening the university.
See also: IDMC Nigeria country page
Back to top
West Africa: Leaders call for speedy ratification of the Kampala Convention
Political leaders in West Africa have called on members of the Economic Commission for West Africa (ECOWAS) to ratify the African Union’s Convention for the Protection and Assistance on Internally Displaced Persons in Africa as a matter of urgency.
At a meeting of ministers in Abuja, Nigeria from 5-7 July, the chairman of the ECOWAS Commission, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, made the appeal to member states which are yet to ratify the so-called Kampala Convention. So far, only five ECOWAS members have ratified the Convention: Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone and Togo.
The Finnish government, which had provided support to the meeting, also committed to support the implementation of the Convention and promote the rights of IDPs. The commitments were echoed by the UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator Valerie Amos on a recent visit to Nigeria.