Libya: Renewed commitment to Mediterranean rescues encouraging, but ‘overriding priority’ must be ‘lasting peace’, say UN officials
United Nations, July 23 (Canadian-Media): The heads of the two key UN agencies championing refugees and migrants have called for an end to their “arbitrary detention” across Libya, following an agreement on Tuesday by European Union countries to offer those fleeing across the Mediterranean a safe berth through a new distribution mechanism, UN reports said.
Third Country Nationals unload baggage from an IOM ship as the boat docks in Libya's Benghazi port. (File). Credit: IOM/Nicole Tung
“The violence in Tripoli in recent weeks has made the situation more desperate than ever, and the need for action critical”, stressed António Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), and Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Disagreements on how to distribute people rescued at sea, led the European Union (EU) to end official Mediterranean Sea patrols earlier this year, as Italy rejected having to take the bulk of those rescued.
While the specifics have not yet been outlined, news agencies reported that 14 EU countries have reached a tentative agreement to allocate migrants and refugees more evenly across the bloc.
The UN officials advocated for a more orderly release process for those in detention, within urban areas or open centres, “that allow reasonable freedom of movement, shelter, assistance and protection from harm, plus independent monitoring and regular unhindered access for humanitarian agencies”.
Considering the risks of abuse, maltreatment or death, “no one should be returned to detention centres in Libya after being intercepted or rescued at sea”, they stressed.
They said the renewed commitment from EU States for those making the dangerous Mediterranean crossing was encouraging: “The status quo, where search and rescue operations are often left to NGO [non-governmental organizations] or commercial vessels, cannot continue”, underscored the high-ranking officials, calling for a renewed commitment to an EU State search and rescue operation, “similar to programmes we have seen in recent years”.
The “crucial role” of NGOs “must be acknowledged”, they continued and not criminalized or stigmatized for saving lives at sea.
“Commercial vessels, who are increasingly being relied upon to conduct rescue operations, must not be requested to transfer rescued people to the Libyan Coast Guard, nor directed to disembark them in Libya, which is not a port of safety”, they spelled out.
They said the discussions on establishing a temporary, predictable arrangement for disembarking people after they have been rescued at sea, and sharing responsibility amongst States for hosting them afterwards, were promising, noting that “a joined-up approach to this situation is in everyone’s interests”.
No one should be returned to detention centres in Libya after being intercepted or rescued at sea – UN officialsThey both maintained that “brokering a lasting peace in Libya must be the overriding priority”.
In the meantime, evacuations and resettlement away from Libya continue to be a vital lifeline for people facing an immediate threat to their lives.
“Greater efforts are needed to address why people leave their homes in the first place”, they stated.
While multiple conflicts in North and Sub-Saharan Africa continue unresolved, and development challenges persist, "some will continue to seek alternatives for themselves and their families”, they said.
“The international community should use any leverage it has to bring the warring parties together in dialogue and establish a political solution that restores stability and security”, concluded the UN officials.
In aftermath of Libya airstrike deaths, UN officials call for refugees and migrants to be freed from detention
#IOM; LibyaRefugees; #Migrants; #UNHCR
New York, July 12 (Canadian-Media/UN): “As a priority, we ask that 5,600 refugees and migrants currently held in centres across Libya be freed in an orderly manner and their protection guaranteed” the UN refugee and migrants chiefs said in a joint statement, released on Friday.
UNHCR Chief of Mission for Libya, Jean-Paul Cavalieri, takes statements from officials, refugees and migrants after arriving at Tajoura detention centre. (3 July 2019) © UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem
The call comes in response to the 3 July airstrikes on the Tajoura Detention Centre in the eastern suburbs of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, which killed more than 50 migrants and refugees and injured more than 130, despite the location of the centre being known by both sides of the ongoing conflict in the country.
António Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, insisted that the international community should “consider the protection of the human rights of migrants and refugees a core element of its engagement in Libya”, pointing out that they have appealed to the European Union and African Union to prevent a repeat of the “tragedy”.
If the protection of refugees and migrants in Libya cannot be guaranteed, said the UN officials, they must be evacuated to other countries. For this to be possible, countries, they said, must provide more evacuation and resettlement places, and extra resources.
Mr. Vitorino and Mr. Grandi called for Libya to end the practice of detaining refugees and migrants rescued at sea, and consider alternatives, such as allowing them to live in the community, in open spaces, or establishing semi-open safe spaces such us the Gathering and Departure Facility run by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Some 400 survivors of the airstrike have been moved to the Facility, they continued, which is now badly overcrowded. UNHCR is working to evacuate them from Libya, particularly the most vulnerable.
"NGO boats must not be penalized for saving lives at sea" said UN migration chief António Vitorino and UN Refugees chief Filippo Grandi
Libya ‘cannot be considered a safe port’Some 50,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers, and an estimated 800,000 migrants, are currently living in Libya, and many remain detained in the country where “sufferings and human rights abuses continue”.
People rescued from the Mediterranean, said the UN officials, should not be taken to Libya, because it “cannot be considered a safe port”, and ships from European countries should resume search and rescue operations which have saved thousands of lives.
Commercial vessels should not be directed to bring rescued passengers back to Libya, the statement continues, and NGO boats which have attempted to take on similar operations must “not be penalized for saving lives at sea”.
Support to Libyan authorities, they conclude, should be conditional on an end to arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants, and a guarantee that human rights will be upheld. “Without this guarantee, support should be halted.”
Bangladesh’s Rohingya Camps Hit by 7th Day of Wind, Rain - IOM Scales Up Distribution of Emergency Materials
#Rohingyarefugeecamps; SouthernBangladesh, #severemonsoonrains
UN, Jul 11 (Canadian-Media/UNHCR): Unrelenting rain and winds are continuing to batter the Rohingya refugee camps of southern Bangladesh, displacing thousands of people, damaging homes and infrastructure, and increasing the risk of waterborne illnesses. The severe monsoon rains, which have pounded Cox’s Bazar since July 4th are the worst weather the district has experienced for over a year.
“The rain and wind are causing misery on the ground and our teams are working day and night to provide emergency services and relocations to affected people. While we are grappling with the immediate effects of the storms, we still have to remain focused on long-term disaster management," said IOM Bangladesh Deputy Chief of Mission Manuel Pereira.
“IOM supported nearly 6,000 people with emergency items and trained 570 in emergency response on 9-10 July 2019. But we recognize that this storm system is having a major impact on people in the camps and we are only half way through the monsoon season,” he added.
Monsoon-related damage to homes and infrastructure in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in 2019 could far exceed that of 2018. Photo Credit: IOM/Mashrif Abdullah
In the past 48 hours, IOM teams have distributed 5,079 plastic tarpaulins to families impacted by the storms. A total of 152 mm of precipitation was recorded in the Kutupalong mega-camp over the past 24 hours.
IOM and its humanitarian partners are continuing to monitor weather and assist affected communities as needed. With rains continuing this morning, IOM engineers are concerned about worsening damage to paths, bridges and drainage systems, if weather conditions do not improve.
As of last night, 998 individuals and 912 households had been impacted by severe weather over the previous 24 hours. IOM teams reported six landslides, eight wind storms and a total 174 people displaced.
ISCG – the coordinating body for aid agencies operating in Cox’s Bazar – says that monsoon-related damage this year could be far worse than in 2018. It reports:
Over 45,000 individuals have been affected since the end of April due to weather-related incidents, compared to 55,000 affected during the whole of last year’s monsoon season.
5,600 individuals have already been displaced, compared to 6,200 individuals in the 2018 monsoon.
In the first 10 days of July 2019, 22,000 people were affected by the monsoon compared to 19,000 in the whole of July 2018.
#Heavyrain; #floods; #Refugeesvolunteers; #emergecyrelief
United Nations, Jul 5 (Canadian-Media): Heavy monsoon rains in Bangladesh have drenched the Cox’s Bazar settlement, home to more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees, destroying some 273 shelters, and injuring 11 people, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday.
The huge refugee camp has been hit by three days of non-stop rain, and more heavy downpours are expected throughout next week, with four months of the monsoon season still to go.
Refugee camps in Cox's Bazar turned to mud after the rains, with some areas completely flooded/ Credit: WFP/Gemma Snowdon
Refugees volunteers assist in emergency relief
Refugee volunteers trained by UNHCR and partners, worked throughout the night on Wednesday in heavy rain, to help families in urgent need. In some cases, this involved rescuing refugees from shelters destroyed by the 26 reported landslides.
Around 2,137 people have been relocated, either because their shelters have suffered substantial damage, or as a precaution, and emergency supplies are being distributed to help rebuild, repair and strengthen damaged shelters.
Preparations for the monsoon season in Cox’s Bazar have included building retaining structures on hillsides, installing drainage, and building roads and bridges. Reservoirs have been also constructed to hold monsoon rains and stabilise water supplies.
Since January, some 21,000 refugees have been employed each month by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), under a cash for work scheme, assisting disaster risk reduction and engineering work designed to make the camps safer, including the stabilisation of slopes.
Situation in Cox’s Bazar ‘remains critical’
At a press briefing at the UN Office in Geneva on Friday, WFP spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said that this year, UN agencies and NGOs will complete reforestation work across more than 200 hectares of the camps, which will help to stabilise the land and reduce the risk of landslides. WFP is responsible for around 40% of the reforestation, with technical inputs from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO.
Food stocks for thousands of refugees in Cox’s Bazar have been damaged by the flooding, said Mr. Verhoosel. WFP has been providing 4,889 people with high energy biscuits and hot meals, and has enough supplies to feed more than 160,000 people in an emergency.
He added that almost two years after the 2017 influx of Rohingya in Bangladesh, the situation remains critical. The refugees remain highly vulnerable to food insecurity and the situation would rapidly deteriorate if humanitarian assistance were to cease or decrease: “It costs WFP US$24 million every month to feed almost 900,000 refugees and, without continued support from the international community, the situation for these refugees would become increasingly dire.”
#UNHCR; #UnitedNations; #OHCHR; #immigration; #refugees
United Nations, Apr 16 (Canadian-Media): Doctors, journalists, students and farmers are among more than 60,000 Nicaraguans who have fled the country in fear of their lives since anti-Government demonstrations began last April, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said on Tuesday.
UNHCR/Roberto Carlos Sanchez: Asylum-seekers from Nicaragua wait to file their applications at the immigration office in the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose (August 2018).
Echoing concerns from the UN’s human rights office, OHCHR, and others about the deteriorating situation in the Central American country, UNHCR said that families with young children are now taking extreme measures to cross the border.
“The kinds of reasons that people have been giving for fleeing are the fear of losing their lives, being attacked or kidnapped by paramilitary groups,” spokesperson Elizabeth Throssell told journalists in Geneva.
According to OHCHR, hundreds of activists have been arrested in Nicaragua in recent months in protests, while some 300 people reportedly died between April and August last year alone, the Office said in a 2018 report.
Costa Rica’s capacity, overstretched
She noted that of an estimated 62,000 people who had fled abroad, 55,500 had sought refuge in neighbouring Costa Rica.
“Some have received direct threats or have been persecuted; others fear for their lives because their communities have been a target of violence; or some, because their relatives are being sought,” she said. “So, we do feel that it is overwhelmingly a refugee flow.”
Latest information from the Costa Rican authorities indicates that at least 29,500 Nicaraguans have filed asylum applications to date. UNHCR has commended the country’s open-door policy, but noted that capacity to shelter everyone remains overstretched, meaning that 26,000 others are waiting to have their claims formalized.
UNHCR/Roberto Carlos Sanchez: A young girl and her family apply for asylum in San Jose, Costa Rica, after fleeing Nicaragua.
People ‘hiding in trucks, amongst sacks, to escape’“
The people who are fleeing are coming from different parts of Nicaragua and they are travelling to the Costa Rican border, trying to avoid contact with the police and paramilitary groups,” Ms. Throssell explained. “Some are travelling in trucks, hidden amongst sacks.”
“Among those seeking asylum are students, former public officials, opposition figures, journalists, doctors, human rights defenders and farmers,” she said. “A significant number arrive in need of healthcare, psychological support, shelter and food assistance.”
Without a political solution to the crisis in Nicaragua, people are likely to continue to flee, UNHCR has warned.
Funds are urgently needed to strengthen the agency’s humanitarian response to allow asylum-seekers in dire need of assistance to access aid, Ms. Throssell said, instead of having to resort to informal jobs to pay for somewhere to live, and food prices which are beyond their reach.
Bachelet warns authorities to refrain from violence on anniversary
With the anniversary of the protests looming later this week, the head of the UN rights office (OHCHR), Michelle Bachelet, said on Tuesday that the Nicaraguan Government needed to ensure its security forces give citizens to right to assemble peacefully, and express their views freely.
“I am concerned that the protests planned for later in the week may trigger another violent reaction,” Ms. Bachelet said. “Violations over the past year include the criminalization and harassment of -- and attacks on -- student leaders, human rights defenders, journalists and others critical of the Government. The authorities have also resorted to media censorship, bans on demonstrations, and persistent use of excessive force and large-scale arbitrary arrests by the police," she added.
"Inevitably these actions, coupled with the lack of accountability for unlawful excesses by members of the security forces, have stoked rather than reduced the tensions in the country.”
The UN human rights chief said she was also disturbed by reports of conditions faced by protesters who have been detained, noting that "severe conditions" in jails could amount to torture and ill-treatment.
She cited recent protests at La Modelo, a men’s prison in Tipitapa, to the north-east of the capital Managua, where people were detained during the protests, who are being held alongside common criminals. The prisoners were reportedly violently repressed, through beatings, use of dogs and tear gas.
#UnitedNations; #FilippoGrandi; #refugees; #migrants; #GlobalCompactforRefugees; #UNHighCommissionforRefugees; #UNHCR;
United Nations, Apr 9 (Canadian-Media): In a heartfelt briefing to the Security Council on Tuesday, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has said that, during his three and a half decades as an international civil servant, he has “never seen such toxicity, such poisonous language in politics, media and social media,” directed towards refugees, migrants and foreigners.
At times - pointing his finger at Security Council members for emphasis - an animated Mr. Grandi said that the stigmatization of refugees and migrants is “unprecedented,” and that traditional responses to refugee crises appear increasingly inadequate.
A refugee crisis…but for whom?
Dissecting the term “refugee crisis” itself, Mr. Grandi asked the Security Council to consider to whom, exactly, that applied: “It is a crisis for a mother with her children fleeing gang violence; it is a crisis for a teenager who wants to flee from war, human rights violations, forced conscription; it is crisis for governments in countries with few resources that, every day, open their borders to thousands. For them, it is a crisis.”
Filippo Grandi briefs the Security Council. (9 April 2019)/UN Photo/Evan Schneider
But it is wrong, he continued, to portray the situation as an unmanageable global crisis: with political will and improved responses, as enshrined by the Global Compact for Refugees, adopted last December, it can be addressed, and the Security Council has a critical role to play, particularly in terms of solving peace and security crises, supporting countries that are hosting refugees, and working to remove obstacles to solutions.
Without conflict, most refugee flows would disappear
Conflicts, Mr. Grandi pointed out, are the main drivers of refugee flows: of the nearly 70 million people that are displaced, most are escaping deadly fighting. However, from the point of view of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), approaches to peace-building are fragmented; addressing the symptoms, rather than the causes.
The UN refugee chief cited the example of Libya – where UNHCR, along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has been working with displaced Libyans, as well as those who have fled conflicts in other countries.
The security conditions, said Mr. Grandi, are “at breaking point”: on Tuesday, the Agency relocated more than 150 refugees from an area heavily impacted by military clashes, the first such relocation since the recent escalation of violence. UNHCR’s view is that conditions in the fractured nation are not safe for rescued or intercepted refugees and migrants, and that these people should not be returned there.
With several staff removed from the country for safety reasons, the Agency’s work is “very, very difficult and dangerous.” The Security Council must, he said, take unified action to end the current military escalation, issue a strong call to spare civilians, including refugees and migrants trapped in the country, and take steps to address the causes of conflict, a necessity if further violence and subsequent displacement, is to be avoided.
The use of the Libyan coastguard was dismissed by Mr. Grandi as an ineffective rescue service, and he condemned the “horrific, unacceptable” conditions for refugees and migrants held in detention camps.
The UN refugee chief went on to exhort the Security council to step up support for the developing countries that host 85 per cent of the world’s refugees, to avoid leaving governments politically exposed, and refugees destitute.
With regards to the return of refugees and migrants to their countries of origin, Mr. Grandi countered the misconception that UNHCR blocks returns: refugees have both a right to return, and also a right to not return, he said, in the absence of security and basic support. The informed choice of refugees must be respected, and returns must be dignified.
Mr. Grandi concluded by returning to the consequences of the toxic language surrounding refugees and migration, citing the example of the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, which left 49 dead.
The response of the New Zealand Government should, he said, be seen as an good example of effective leadership and how to respond to such toxicity, in a firm and organized manner, restating solidarity with refugees, and reaffirming the principle that our societies cannot be truly prosperous, stable and peaceful, if they do not include everyone.
#DonaldTrump; #Mexico; #UnitedStates; #immigrants; #California
Moscow, Apr 9 (Canadian-Media): A federal judge’s decision to block US President Donald Trump's administration policy, which forces migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed, had been described by Trump to be unfair to the United States, media reports said.
A preliminary injunction had been issued on Monday by US federal Judge Richard Seeborg of the state of California to block the Trump administration's “Remain in Mexico” migration policy.
The Trump administration had been trying to stop illegal migration into the United States, even threatening to close the southern border.
According to Mexico’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 76,000 migrants were detained after trying to get into the United States in February, while in March the figure was expected to increase to 100,000.
Mexican Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero has said if the current migration flow remains unchanged, the number of migrants trying to get through Mexico to the United States will reach 900,000 people by the end of this year.
#ImmigrationRefugeesandCitizenshipCanada; #ServiceDeliveryImprovements; #Kids Help Phone; #Ahmed Hussen
Ottawa, Jan 30 (Canadian-Media): Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is actively working to improve the settlement services to newcomers to Canada, and supports their integration into Canadian communities through the Service Delivery Improvements (SDI) funding stream to provide funding of $1,690,940 to Kids Help Phone to help deliver these important services, media reports said.
IRCC’s SDI fund is devoted to service delivery improvement, innovation and finding better ways to deliver services to newcomers, meet the needs of newcomer clients and support their integration process into Canadian communities..
SDI funding is a dedicated stream within the Settlement Program of almost $150 million over five years, over $30 million per year.
IRCC is now funding over 100 projects across the country, after the first Expression of Interest process for SDI launched in fall 2017 with an aim to complete all projects will be complete by March 31, 2021.
Applauding Government of Canada's efforts to provide high quality services for newcomers, Ahmed Hussen, Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said, would facilitate strengthening labour force and the economy across Canada.
There are 7 funding streams under the SDI: language acquisition; employment; youth supports; harnessing volunteers and supporting capacity building in the settlement sector; pay for performance; newcomer well-being and programming to support vulnerable clients; and research and analysis to drive innovation and understand the user experience.
Through the 1-800 number, the project with Kids Help Phone will address the well-being and mental health of newcomer youth to provide culturally responsive, immediate mental health services free of charge for young newcomers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
With an aim to reduce barriers to health services, improve mental health outcomes for newcomer youth and their needs, competency cultural training would be provided to counsellors.
Other services such as availability of interpretation services in the most in-demand language for 6 month trial, referring newcomer youth to trusted language and job training services to help them in their integration journey, would also be available.
Ontario's Premier Doug Ford issued today the following statement on Bell Let's Talk Day:
"Mental health challenges can affect anyone, including those we love most. Unfortunately, the stigma around mental illness has forced many Ontarians to suffer in silence.
That's why I applaud Bell Let's Talk Day for shining a spotlight on this important issue. It's time to take mental health as seriously as any other form of health. My government has made mental health a priority, and we are working hard to support everyone in their journey toward mental wellness.
I encourage you to join the conversation today. Together, we can help end the stigma around mental illness."
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#Canada #Asylum #UNHCR #SaudiTeen #SaudiTeenRights; #justinTrudeau;
Toronto, Jan 13 (Canadian-Media): An 18-year-old Saudi teen, Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun, who fled her family in Kuwait before her passport was taken away at the Bangkok airport on Sunday, was given her new home, said Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister yesterday, media reports said.
Alqunun said her father physically abused her and tried to force her into an arranged marriage.
“I’m the girl who ran away to Thailand. I’m now in real danger because the Saudi Embassy is trying to force me to return,” said an English translation of one of her first posts to Twitter. Alqunun also wrote that she was afraid and that her family would kill her if she were returned home.
Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun/Facebook
Justin Trudeau, Canada's Prime Minister had reportedly announced Friday that the federal government had agreed to United Nations High Commissionner for Refugees (UNHCR)'s request to allow Alqunun to settle in Canada.
“That is something that we are pleased to do because Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau said.
The world’s attention had been captured by Alqunun’s plight, said UNHCR, and provided a glimpse into the situation of refugees worldwide.
Although it was reportedly feared that Canada's humanitarian move would heighten tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia, but Trudeau was undaunted by the negative results his move could bring, repeating that Canada stands up for human rights regardless of diplomatic consequences.
“This is part of a long tradition of Canada engaging constructively and positively in the world and working with our partners, allies and with the United Nations,” he said.
Reporting by Asha Bajaj
#Immigrants, #Canada, #CanadaImmigrants; #permanentresidents
Toronto, Jan 11 (IBNS): The Canadian Parliament is planning to add more than one million new permanent residents in the next three years, media reports said on Friday.
The figure stands for nearly one per cent of the country's population each year.
"Canada welcomed more than 286,000 permanent residents in 2017 and projects that number could reach 350,000 this year," reported CNN.
Ahmed Hussen, Canada's minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) said CNN: "Thanks in great part to the newcomers we have welcomed throughout our history, Canada has developed into the strong and vibrant country we all enjoy."
The minister further said that the move will help offset Canada's ageing population and declining birth rate while growing its labor force.
Canada is taking the stance at a time when several other Western nations, including the United States, have been adopting restrictive immigration policies in recent times.