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  News & Views Monday 20th August to Sunday 26th August 2018  

A Very Bad Year for Aid Workers

Sunday the 19th of August was World Humanitarian Day, which annually recognises aid workers and supports calls for their protection. The stats are awful. Last year, 139 aid workers were killed, 102 were wounded, and 72 were kidnapped. Deaths were 30 percent higher than in 2016. Consulting group Humanitarian Outcomes tracked incidents affecting 313 aid workers in 22 countries in its Aid Worker Security Database.

The most dangerous countries were South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, and Central African Republic.

The annual figures also saw a “steep rise” in incidents involving local NGO staff. This reflects, HO reported, international reliance on local staff and organisations to “take on the riskiest of operational roles in the most insecure areas”.

Security watchdog INSO said Central African Republic was particularly bad in 2018 due to “criminality, impunity and a lack of regard for humanitarian actors”. This year, the Aid Worker Security Database has already recorded 76 deaths. However, figures are imperfect and definitions blurred: another monitor, Aid In Danger, reports that 111 aid workers were killed from January to June. The United Nations has set up an online visual “petition” on aid worker safety, which turns your selfie into a 3D image - the effect is... well, you decide.

Ethiopian PM Urged to Tackle Ethnic Violence

Some 2.8 million Ethiopians are now internally displaced, up from 1.6 million at the start of the year, according to UN figures. The dramatic rise is largely due to violence that broke out in September along the border between the Somali and Oromia regions. Last weekend, paramilitary forces were blamed for the deaths of 40 people in Oromia. The killings followed widespread looting in Jijiga, the capital of the Somali region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has won international praise for his sweeping domestic reforms and fence-mending with neighbouring Eritrea since coming to power. But rights activist Oban Metho says it’s now imperative that he addresses the sectarian unrest. “His failure to speak out against such violence significantly hinders his efforts for reconciliation, inclusion, national unity and healing,” Metho told the Ethiopian Observer. Human Rights Watch also called for more to be done to quell the unrest, especially with regard to investigations and criminal justice.

Aid Ramifications after Taliban Siege of Afghan City

Humanitarian aid made its way into the besieged Afghan city of Ghazni this week after days of intense fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces. The aid included fuel, medicine, drinking water, and 250 coffins – evidence of the scale of the violence that reportedly killed at least 150 civilians and sent others scattering as far as Kabul, 175 kilometres northeast. The Afghan government declared it had retaken the city, yet the Taliban's ability to lay siege to Ghazni and surrounding districts has important humanitarian implications in a country where many districts are already off limits to aid groups. Fighting outside the city blocked the main highway from Kabul to Kandahar in Afghanistan's south, according to the World Food Programme, which raised fears the Taliban could cut off key supply lines. It's unclear how the siege will impact attempted peace talks with the Taliban, particularly after a short ceasefire in June spurred cautious optimism. The uncertainty comes as the country lurches forward to planned parliamentary elections in October, which analysts predict could be a catalyst for further instability.

Source: IRIN

Asylum Seekers' 20-Year Wait For Home Office Ruling

The Home Office has left some people waiting more than 20 years for decisions on their asylum claims, according to data obtained exclusively by the Guardian, in delays charities say are unacceptable and “utterly barbaric”. Seventeen people received decisions from the Home Office last year on claims they had submitted more than 15 years ago, four of whom had waited more than 20 years for a decision. The worst case was a delay of 26 years and one month after the person initially applied for asylum.

The data, obtained under freedom of information rules, refers to the time the Home Office takes to make an initial decision on an asylum claim. It does not include any extra time taken for an appeal or fresh claim.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work while they wait for a decision on their claim. They are provided with an allowance of £37.75 a week. There are reports of people forgoing meals in order to afford phone bills so they can communicate with their families in their home countries, being forced to travel everywhere on foot, including to meetings with solicitors and to charities, or going without winter clothing.

Of the decisions the Home Office made in 2017, 18,189 or 75% were taken within six months of application, 2,832 took between six months and a year, 3,059 between one and three years, and 243 between three and five years. Of the 40 people who waited more than five years to receive an answer, seven were granted asylum or another protection visa, 22 were refused and 11 either withdrew their application, left the country, or died while waiting for a decision. They came from a range of countries, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Somalia and Yemen.

Read more: Kate Lyons, Guardian,