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REACH: European Migration Crisis, March Update

The Western Balkans ‘migration corridor’ has been officially closed since 20 March following the implementation of the EU-Turkey Plan, leaving over 50,000 migrants reported along the migration route in Greece, FYROM, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Hungary, unable to continue their journey towards Western Europe and unsure of the legal pathways available to them.

To shed light on the situation of those stranded and understand the implications of the EU-Turkey Plan, REACH’s latest monthly situation overview focused on examining the intentions, reactions and vulnerabilities of these migrants in relation to the border closures. REACH additionally collected data from the countries of origin (Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) to uncover motivations leading people to leave their countries of origin and the likelihood of continued new arrivals.

REACH found that despite the official border closures along the Western Balkans migration corridor – people have continued to travel using irregular means. Since the cut off, new arrivals have been recorded in Austria (1,396), Hungary (1,474), Serbia (224), Bulgaria (28), and Slovenia (16) – REACH estimates that actual numbers are likely to be much higher. Additionally, new routes have been reported both within Europe and directly from areas of origin.

The absence of safe and legal pathways for onward movement had led increasing numbers of people to resort to irregular means – including families and young children. Consequently, these people become increasingly “invisible” and face risks of injury and exposure to violence and abuse from criminal gangs, smugglers and border guards.

In terms of origins of migrants in the Western Balkans, Syrians continue to constitute the largest proportion of Mediterranean sea arrivals, followed by Afghans and Iraqis. REACH found that the month of March saw a particular spike in arrivals from Aleppo Governorate, which accounted for 74% of all Syrian arrivals. This is most likely related to the intensification of conflict in early February that caused the displacement of an estimated 70,000 people from Eastern Aleppo City and Northern Aleppo Governorate.

Despite awareness of these new restrictions, through information collected in areas of origin, REACH found that large numbers of people are still prepared to leave for Europe for a variety of reasons, including active armed conflict, violence and insecurity and a lack of access to income and basic services, caused by years of instability.

To read REACH’s March Situation Overview, which also offers a retrospective look into the changing profiles and push and pull factors of arrivals in the previous months, click here.

Image: Location of transit sites and stranded populations in FYROM and Serbia

Syria: REACH’s Rapid Assessment of Displacement and Needs in Southwest Dar’a Governorate

Since March 21st, conflict in southwest Dar’a governorate has intensified, following a period of post-ceasefire relative calm. REACH conducted a rapid assessment to identify patterns of displacement caused by the recent conflict, and detail the humanitarian needs of both recently displaced people and people who remain in conflict affected communities.

Conflict affected areas include Tassil, Edwan, Sahm el Golan, Jlein, Msakin Jlein, Sheikh Saed and Hit (see map). People have fled from these locations in two primary streams: northwards to Nawa, and southwards to communities along the southern Jordanian border. The recently displaced in Nawa are primarily staying in existing shelters within the community, whereas near the border around Zayzun, Tal Shihab and Mzeireb people are staying in open spaces, tents and cars. These people are particularly vulnerable due to a lack of services, as well as limited access to food and water. Future movement is ultimately dependent on the evolving conflict, with many expected to return to Hit, Jlein, Msakin Jlein and Edwan if the violence subsides.

Through this rapid assessment, REACH found that in the immediate term, safety/security and emergency shelter relief, to the recently displaced, should be considered a priority, in particular tents for those who have settled in the countryside and safe spaces for those within villages and towns. In both communities receiving IDPs and communities affected by conflict, some schools have stopped operating in the past two weeks in order to house people; shelter is therefore also a priority in communities which have seen outward movement due to conflict. Further, prices of food and fuel in both sets of communities have increased over the past two weeks, and food assistance was the third most commonly reported priority need.

For more information on the situation in Dar’a governorate, read REACH’s full report: Displacement and Needs in Southwest Dar’a, Syria.

Image: REACH map of communities reporting outgoing or incoming displacement, March 2016

Central African Republic: REACH support to the Rapid Response Mechanism 2015 overview

Since the beginning of 2015, REACH has been supporting the coordination of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) in the Central African Republic (CAR), under the lead of UNICEF.

The main objectives of this mechanism is to ensure humanitarian watch through rapid sectoral and multi-sectoral assessments, in areas of displacement and return, as well as the dissemination of these assessments at coordination and humanitarian community levels; to contribute to the improvement of the capacity of the affected population to carry out essential daily activities for their survival and dignity; and to ensure access to drinking water and a healthy environment for vulnerable populations affected by shocks through water emergency, hygiene and sanitation.

In this context, REACH has been supporting the RRM to produce bi-monthly reports visualizing and consolidating data from 5 partners, ACF, ACTED, DRC, PU-AMI and SI, with the aim of facilitating humanitarian coordination and aid delivery. To mark the end of the year, REACH released, in the framework of the RRM, an annual report for 2015 to track changes over the year and consolidated the snapshots produced through the bi-monthly reports. This annual report showed that in 2015, the RRM conducted 95 exploratory missions, 93 multi-sectoral assessments, 48 NFI distributions and 32 WASH Interventions. In terms of NFI, the 48 interventions conducted were recorded to have helped 161 484 people. For WASH, the 32 interventions were recorded to have helped a total of 68 652 people.

RRM partners have also been collecting data on post-distribution monitoring to evaluate the satisfaction of quality, quantity, and usefulness of items distribute, as well as the timeliness of distribution. Overall, the RRM performance has been satisfactory in addressing the needs of over 160,000 people across most of CAR.

To read the full annual report, click here.

Image: Map indicating number of NFI beneficiaries reached by status

Syria: REACH Humanitarian Situation Overview

Since the outbreak of conflict in 2011, Syria has become the site of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The dynamic and multi-faceted nature of the Syrian crisis has posed significant challenges for humanitarian information management. Accessibility and security issues within Syria have impeded systematic data collection efforts, limiting the effectiveness of humanitarian planning and programme implementation.

To address these limitations and shed light on the current situation inside Syria, through its Humanitarian Situation Overview of Syria (HSOS) programme and in close partnership with OCHA, REACH supports humanitarian planning by providing monthly multisectorial updates from within Syria at governorate, sub district and community level. The data collection is conducted through questionnaires distributed to participants – Syrian refugees residing in neighbouring countries – at the beginning of every month, which they complete over the course of two to three weeks, by contacting their key informants via telephone to gather information about their village/neighbourhood of origin. Through this process REACH is able to gather detailed information about Shelter, Displacement, Livelihoods, Non Food Items (NFIs), Health, Food Security, WASH and Education, including in hard to reach areas across Syria. The latest outputs provide an overview of the humanitarian situation as of February 2016 in the governorates of Quneitra, Al Hasakeh and Dar’a.

To compliment these monthly assessments, in February, following complex displacement of people around Dar’a governorate, REACH conducted a series of rapid assessments which aimed to monitor the situation and assess humanitarian needs. These rapid assessment are there to provide an update on information presented in the monthly reports mentioned above, and are available here: Dar’a displacement, 18th February 2016, Displacement to Quneitra, 26th February 2016,  Dar’a displacement, 3rd March 2016.

REACH will continue to publish products on the humanitarian situation in Syria on a monthly basis, with the aim of providing evidence for aid actors in Syria, such as OCHA, UN Agencies, INGOs, the Whole of Syria Clusters and other humanitarian partners in Syria.

Image: Reported displacement routes and IDP caseload in assessed communities

Chad: REACH’s Initial Multisectorial Assessment

Since 2014, violence in parts of north-eastern Nigeria have gradually extended to Chad. Increased attacks by armed groups on civilian populations in 2015 triggered large internal displacements in Chad, as well as the return of Chadians living in Nigeria. Following this increased insecurity, the state of Chad declared a state of emergency around the area of Lake Chad.

To address this displacement crisis, aid actors such as UN agencies and international and local NGOs have been delivering humanitarian aid over the past years, but face serious security risks and difficulties in accessing affected populations. Limited access to affected populations also hinders the capacity of humanitarian actors to gather a comprehensive understanding of the priority needs of affected populations. In order to fill the identified information gaps, REACH conducted an initial assessment aiming to provide accurate and regularly updated information to humanitarian stakeholders.

Through this assessment, REACH found that internal displacements were causes by a multiplicity of factors: on top of the increase in violence since January 2015, also other factors have been identified as reasons for displacement, such as a decrease in food security. Prior to the crisis, the region was already subject to severe food security problems. Following the implementation of an emergency state, the economy of the region faced additional strain resulting in the decreasing of personal production and negatively affecting markets. REACH suggests that a market analysis and an investigation into ways of better revitalizing the market will allow for better access to food and minimize displacement triggered by food insecurity. Additionally REACH advises that food distribution should be better distributed to avoid potential tensions between host and internally displaced communities. Similarly, access to basic services was already an issue before the crisis and remains a severe problem today. However, the most urgent area of intervention identified by REACH is access to water and sanitation as latrines were found to be practically absent in the area.

Through this assessment, REACH is providing essential information on the needs of affected populations in order to better inform the humanitarian community in their deliverance of aid. To read the full assessment click here.

Image: Couverture du Lac Tchad, mars 2015 © ACTED

Libya: REACH Multi-Sector Needs Assessment Update

Since July 2014, Libya has been in a state of civil unrest due to conflict between rival parties and armed groups. In 2016, continued political instability and ongoing armed conflict in Libya led to deteriorating living conditions and reduced access to essential services for a significant part of the country. Today, estimated 2.44 million people are in need of protection and some form of humanitarian assistance, including an estimated 435,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) – who remain the most vulnerable population groups.

Following the first Multi Sector Needs Assessment (MSNA) conducted by REACH, with the support of various UN Agencuies, in 2015, REACH, with support from ECHO and in partnership with the humanitarian community in Libya, undertook a second MSNA in East Libya during February 2016. The aim of this MSNA is to gather first-hand information on critical needs and priorities of affected population, to inform humanitarian actors supporting vulnerable communities affected by the ongoing armed conflict.  

Key sectors included in this assessment were Early Recovery, Education, Food Security, Health, Protection, Shelter & NFIs, WASH and Displacement. REACH employed a purposive sampling approach for this assessment, whereby Local Crisis Committee members helped  establish a network of ‘People with Knowledge’ (PwK) who have specific sectoral expertise and an in-depth understanding of the IDP crisis in Libya.

Through this assessment REACH identified restricted access to livelihoods, and limited banking system functionality across East of Libya, as likely to be having a direct impact on the ability of vulnerable populations to cover their basic needs. Threats to personal safety and security, in addition to unaffordable basic needs, and weakened WASH infrastructure were also pressing issues identified in the  February 2016 MSNA update. REACH also found that the shelter situation of IDPs in East Libya was particularly challenging, with the vast majority of PwK reporting that IDPs in their community were at risk of eviction in the next 30 days. Additionally, compared to June 2015 there was an increase in the proportion of PwK reporting that IDPs lived in collective public shelters and the majority of PwK stated that most IDP housing in their community was inadequate or very inadequate.

The multi-sector needs assessments that REACH has been implementing along with aid actors in Libya over the past months are a key source of information for the humanitarian community in Libya, and have informed the 2016 Libya Humanitarian Needs Overview and Humanitarian Response Plan and more broadly the ongoing humanitarian response in Libya. 

REACH will continue collecting data in order to update the MSNAs  in the coming months, in order to ensure constant provision of information on needs and context to humanitarian stakeholders and a strong longitudinal analysis of the humanitarian situation in Libya.

Read the full February 2016 MSNA report here.