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UN, Sep 9 (Canadian-Media): Within a short span of time, three separate fires broke out at the Moria Reception and Identification Center (RIC) on the Greek island of Lesbos, according to local fire chief Konstantinos Theofilopoulos, who spoke to State television.
Fire damage at the Registration and Identification Centre at Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, Greece. Image credit: © UNHCR
While initial reports suggested there were no fatalities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that over 12,600 migrants and refugees have been displaced and 80 per cent of the facility - designed to house only around 3,000 - was destroyed.
“This devastating tragedy compounds the already existing challenges and difficult conditions at Moria due to overcrowding and COVID-19”, said IOM chief António Vitorino.
“We are doing everything we can to support the Greek authorities and the affected migrants and refugees, to ensure their immediate care and safety as we work together on longer-term solutions”, he added.
IOM, UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union’s Asylum Support Office, are working closely with the Greek Government to organize the relocation of unaccompanied children and other vulnerable asylum seekers to EU Member States with the dual purpose of supporting vulnerable groups, and enhancing solidarity among States, said IOM.
“Solidarity with Greece and the people of Lesbos is needed now more than ever”, Mr. Vitorino stressed.
Meanwhile, UNHCR had immediately deployed staff on the ground and offered assistance to the Greece, amidst particular concern for asylum seekers, especially children, pregnant women, elderly people and other vulnerable populations.
Pursuing a temporary solution
The camp, which lies north-east of the island’s capital of Mytilene, has long been overwhelmed by huge numbers of refugees that have been taken in.
According to news reports, riot police, who were dispatched from Athens to the island, cordoned off roads leading from the camp to prevent fleeing migrants from entering nearby towns, as authorities struggle to find shelter for the thousands left without accommodation. The Government has also declared a four-day state of emergency.
“We have been informed about reports of tensions between people in neighboring villages and asylum seekers who were trying to reach Mytilene’s town”, UNHCR said in a statement, urging “all to exercise restraint”.
The UN agency has asked that all those who were previously staying at the camp, which was under quarantine as some 35 people had tested positive with COVID-19, to “restrict their movements” and stay nearby, while a temporary shelter solution is being sought.
Children in the fore
UNICEF said that it stands “ready to help address the urgent needs of more than 4,000 children, particularly 407 extremely vulnerable unaccompanied minors”.
The UN agency thanked the local authorities and front-line responders who worked overnight to address the crisis, noting that the pandemic is complicating the situation further and underscoring the need to implement a “swift and safe response”.
With its partners, UNICEF has transformed its Tapuat Child and Family Support Hub, which is near the Moria camp, into an emergency shelter to temporarily accommodate the most vulnerable, including those with critical needs, until alternatives are identified.
More than 150 unaccompanied children are now sheltering there.
“Last night’s events serve as a strong reminder of the urgent need for a child-sensitive, humane EU Pact on Migration that respects children’s rights to adequate protection and services across Europe”, said UNICEF.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
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UN, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes Côte d’Ivoire’s adoption this week of Africa’s first Statelessness Determination Procedure. This will help protect thousands of people in the country who are without a nationality.
Image credit: Twitter handle
Two regulations signed on 2 September formally establish procedures that will regularize the status of stateless people and fulfil a crucial component of Côte d’Ivoire’s National Action Plan, in line with the country’s pledge at UNHCR’s High-Level Segment on Statelessness.
Formal recognition of statelessness status will pave the way for people – who until then had no recognized legal existence – to receive identity documents, enroll in school, access health services, seek lawful employment, open a bank account, and buy land.
“This is a huge leap forward. We commend the bold action taken by Côte d’Ivoire and its firm commitment to tackle this issue,” said Aissatou Ndiaye, Deputy Director for UNHCR’s Bureau for West and Central Africa.“This significant milestone will help protect stateless people, allowing them to access basic rights which have remained out of reach for decades,” she said.
Statelessness blights the lives of millions of people around the world, depriving them of basic rights. In 2014, UNHCR launched a global ‘#IBelong’ Campaign, aimed at ending statelessness within a decade.
A 2019 study led by national authorities and supported by UNHCR identified 1.6 million people as stateless or at risk of statelessness in Côte d’Ivoire, which hosts one of the world’s largest stateless populations.
The risks for stateless people have been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic as they can be left out of national responses or be unable to seek care if they fall ill.
In recent years, the Government of Côte d’Ivoire has stepped up action to end statelessness consistent with its accession in 2013 to the two Statelessness Conventions and the adoption of the Abidjan Declaration on the Eradication of Statelessness by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2015.
In 2017, ECOWAS Member States made West Africa the world’s first region to adopt a binding Plan of Action to end statelessness. Cote d`Ivoire has also adopted a National Plan of Action against statelessness and enacted important legal and institutional reforms to prevent individuals from becoming stateless.
Authorities in Côte d’Ivoire have now established two committees to identify stateless people in need of protection, before a lasting solution is found to their predicament.
“Côte d’Ivoire is showing an example for other countries in Africa to follow,” said Angèle Djohossou, UNHCR Representative in Côte d’Ivoire. “Challenges in the country remain and efforts must now be redoubled to ensure everyone in the country has a nationality,” she added.
UNHCR is closely supporting national authorities to help prevent and resolve statelessness and stands ready to assist Côte d’Ivoire in implementing its Statelessness Determination Procedures.
Nine more West and Central African countries have also pledged to put in place similar procedures, and 11 countries from the region have launched studies on statelessness or included questions to collect data on statelessness in upcoming population censuses.
Some 4.2 million stateless people are reported in 76 countries, but UNHCR believes the actual number to be significantly higher.
Since UNHCR launched its #IBelong Campaign launched six years ago, 95 governments, civil society and international and regional organizations have made commitments to tackle statelessness.
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UN, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): While children in every country have struggled with the impact of COVID-19 on their education, refugee children have been particularly disadvantaged, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said, amid fears many may not be able to resume their studies due to school closures, high fees or lack of access to technology to learn remotely.
A nine-year-old studies at her shelter in a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh. She is supported by her mother and teacher, as the education centre at the camp is closed due to COVID. Image credit: © UNICEF/UNI340770
UNHCR report, Coming Together for Refugee Education, released on Thursday, predicts that unless the international community takes immediate and bold steps against the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 on refugee education, the potential of millions of young refugees living in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities will be further threatened.
“After everything they have endured, we cannot rob them of their futures by denying them an education today,” Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a news release announcing the findings.
“Despite the enormous challenges posed by the pandemic, with greater international support to refugees and their host communities, we can expand innovative ways to protect the critical gains made in refugee education over the past years,” he added.
The report, based on 2019 data from twelve countries hosting more than half of the world’s refugee children, also showed that while there is 77 per cent gross enrolment at the primary school level, the figure drops to 31 per cent in secondary and only 3 per cent at high-school levels.
Far behind global averages, these statistics nevertheless do represent progress: enrolment in secondary education rose, with tens of thousands of refugee children newly attending school – a 2 per cent increase in 2019 alone.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic now threatens to undo this and other crucial advances, including efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all.
Threat particularly grave for refugee girls According to UNHCR, for refugee girls – who already have less access to education than boys and are half as likely to be enrolled in school by the time they reach secondary level – the threat is particularly grave.
Based on UNHCR data, the Malala Fund has estimated that as a result of COVID-19, half of all refugee girls in secondary school will not return when classrooms reopen this month. For countries where refugee girls’ gross secondary enrolment was already less than 10 per cent, all girls are at risk of dropping out for good, a chilling prediction that would have an impact for generations to come.
“Not only is education a human right, but the protection and economic benefits to refugee girls, their families, and their communities of education are clear. The international community simply cannot afford to fail to provide them with the opportunities that come through education,” said Mr. Grandi.
Working as one to give children a chance Ensuring quality education today means less poverty and suffering tomorrow – Mo Salah, UNHCR Ambassador
In a powerful final word to the report, the Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR Ambassador for the Instant Network Schools Programme, and global football star, Mohamed Salah, said: “Ensuring quality education today means less poverty and suffering tomorrow.”
He called on everyone to “work as a team.”
“Unless everyone plays their part, generations of children – millions of them in some of the world’s poorest regions – will face a bleak future. But if we work as a team, as one, we can give them the chance they deserve to have a dignified future. Let’s not miss this opportunity,” added Mr. Salah.
The report calls on governments, the private sector, civil society and other key stakeholders to join forces to find solutions which strengthen national education systems and link with pathways towards certified education, and to secure and safeguard education financing.
Without such action, the report warns, we risk a lost generation of refugee children deprived of their education.