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UN, Oct 22 (Canadian-Media): A joint UN-hosted donor conference to rally international support behind Myanmar’s displaced Rohingya minority, ended on Thursday with a promise to continue engaging with concerned countries towards finding a long-term solution to their plight.
A young Rohingya girl holds her brother outside a youth club in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Image credit: © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau
“We will continue to work together to maintain international attention on the Rohingya crisis and to shift from short-term critical interventions, to a more sustained and stable support”, said the closing statement from co-hosts the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the European Union (EU), United Kingdom and United States.
“We are grateful to all who have participated…including those who have announced or pledged funding for the international humanitarian response, those who are supporting members of the Rohingya communities in other ways - not least by hosting them - and most importantly, representatives of Rohingya communities themselves”, the statement continued.
The appeal comes more than three years after the orchestrated violence that erupted in Myanmar, across Rakhine state, which saw hundreds of thousands of mainly-Muslim Rohingya flee their homes, in search of safety across the border in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
There are currently 860,000 Rohingya refugees in and around Cox’s Bazar, and an estimated 600,000 still in Rakhine state, who face ongoing violence and discrimination; and Malaysia, India, Indonesia, and other countries in the region, are together hosting nearly 150,000 Rohingya refugees.
Voluntary, safe, dignified return
“The voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees and others internally displaced to their places of origin or of their own choosing in Myanmar, is the comprehensive solution that we seek along with Rohingya people themselves”, the joint communique stated.
“To that end, we underscore the Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire and the cessation of fighting to enable safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all communities in need of assistance.”
The co-chairs urged Myanmar’s Government to resolve the crisis, and “take steps to address the root causes of the violence and displacement”, creating the conditions that would allow for sustainable returns.
“This includes providing a pathway to citizenship and freedom of movement for Rohingya, guided by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State’s recommendations and encouraged and supported by countries in the region. Myanmar must provide justice for the victims of human rights abuses and ensure that those responsible are held accountable”, the statement continued.
Expressing thanks and support to the Government and people of Bangladesh, the co-chairs stressed that increased support for Rohingya, must go hand-in-hand with increased support for host communities.
“While we continue efforts to secure long-term solutions, a focus on more sustainable response planning and financing in Bangladesh, could more effectively support the government’s management of the response and maximize limited resources to benefit both Bangladeshi and refugee communities.”
$600 million pledged
The co-chairs announced new pledges of around $600 million in humanitarian funding, which significantly expands the nearly $636 million in assistance already committed so far in 2020 under the Bangladesh Joint Response Plan and the Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan.
The crisis is having a “devastating effect on vulnerable members of Rohingya communities, particularly women and children who require gender and age-sensitive interventions” said the co-chairs, leading to vulnerable refugees “desperately attempting to reach other countries in the region.
UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive-Director, Henrietta Fore, said that thanks to Bangladesh and generous donors worldwide, UNICEF and other UN agencies such as UNHCR, migration agency IOM, World Food Programme WFP, and many NGOs, continue to serve and support vulnerable Rohingya children.
In addition to providing vital services such as health, nutrition, and sanitation, education is “critical for young Rohingyas to build better futures. And to one day voluntarily return and reintegrate into Myanmar with the safety and dignity they deserve.”
Support for 170,000 Rohingya children
“We’re giving parents and caregivers the training and tools they need to support their children’s education. More than 170,000 Rohingya children are being supported this way”, she said.
“Join our call to ensure a place for Rohingya children in both countries’ education systems and programmes. They need education where they live”, she told the conference.
Ms. Fore called on donors not to forget the daily struggles of Rohingya children who remain inside Myanmar. “They’re still facing discrimination, horrifying violence and intensifying conflict every day. The fighting needs to stop so children can return to school and play, and so refugees can return home safely if they choose.”
Rohingyas themselves ‘backbone of the response’
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said it was vital to recognize that the Rohingya refugees themselves have been “the backbone of the response.”
“They volunteer as health workers, they distribute masks and they help protect their communities from the pandemic. And I think we are all need to be very grateful to them and encourage them to take up this kind of responsibility.”
Highlighting again the Rohingya communities that remain in Myanmar, he said 130,000 of them remain displaced in central Rakhine State where they have been since 2012, and another 10,000 have been displaced since 2017 in northern Rakhine.
“Those people continue to have their basic rights denied, they suffer extreme hardships in Rakhine State and elsewhere”, added relief chief Lowcock.
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Geneva, Oct 19 (Canadian-Media): The Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund (the “Migration MPTF”) announced this week the first six joint initiatives selected to support the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).
IOM. Image credit: Twitter handle
From reducing exposure to sexual violence, exploitation, and forced labour of women migrants in South Africa, to addressing the vulnerabilities of families in Tajikistan dependent on migrant relatives, through strengthening the capacity of the Government of Philippines to support overseas workers, the Migration MPTF is poised to address migration challenges and make a positive impact on the lives of migrants all over the world.
Other joint programmes will be implemented in North Macedonia to support the development of an evidence-based migration policy; in Chile and Mexico, to promote the socio-economic integration of migrants and forcibly displaced persons through decent work and livelihoods; and at the border area between Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, to strengthen border management, social cohesion and cross-border security.
In total, 56 countries and regions submitted over 74 joint programme concept notes. The first six initiatives were selected by the Steering Committee based on a quality assessment and with due consideration to geographic and thematic balance.
“The sheer number of submissions is testament to the demand for support of Member States and partners in implementing the Global Compact by bringing together our collective expertise and resolve in pursuit of a common goal,” said António Vitorino, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Chair of the Migration MPTF Steering Committee. “These initiatives offer concrete illustrations as to how joining efforts can make safe and regular migration work for all,” he added.
“The joint program illustrates the pioneering role of the United Nations which, by delivering as one, can provide practical responses to major issues of international cooperation,” said the UN Resident Coordinator in Guinea, Vincent Martin. “By building regional cross-border collaboration between three countries, we can explore the real potential for development and leave no one behind” he added.
Called for by the GCM and established by the UN Network on Migration in May 2019, the Fund has received support from the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Mexico, France, Thailand and Cyprus and is today fully operational. With partners ready to deliver quality joint initiatives in many countries and regions, the Fund calls for additional resources and stands ready to allocate future contributions in a timely and efficient manner.
Additional programme ideas have been approved by the Steering Committee and constitute the pipeline of joint programmes once additional resources become available.
#UN; #UNHCR; #Geneva; #Covid19; #Libya
UNHCR, Oct 19 (Canadian-Media): This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
A refugee family arrive at Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger, following a UNHCR evacuation flight from Libya in April 2019. Image credit: © UNHCR/Juan Haro
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency evacuated last night a group of 153 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers out of Libya to the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Niger.
This UNHCR-chartered flight marks the resumption of life-saving evacuations from Libya, ending a seven-month long suspension. Humanitarian flights had to be halted in March, due to public health concerns related to the Coronavirus pandemic, which led to the suspension of air traffic in many countries.
Those evacuated yesterday are nationals of Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan, including 16 families and 15 children under the age of 18, many of whom are unaccompanied or separated from their parents.
With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in Libya, and some 46,000 confirmed cases across the country, all passengers tested negative prior to departure. They were also given counselling and awareness sessions on how to stay protected and healthy. The group is now undergoing a two-week quarantine in Niger and a further test, in line with health measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus.
The majority of evacuees were living in the Libyan capital Tripoli. Virtually all of them (97 per cent) have experienced arbitrary detention in Libya including in Tajoura, Zintan, or Triq al Sikka detention centres. Some of them had been detained for more than two years in extremely dire conditions and were recently released thanks to UNHCR advocacy with the Libyan authorities.
More than 3,400 migrants and asylum-seekers are currently estimated to be held in government run detention centres in Libya, where conditions are dire and many are at risk of serious abuse.
The resumption of evacuation flights is especially important now, given the volatile situation in Libya, the rapid spread of Coronavirus and its health and socio-economic impact on refugees and asylum seekers, who have found it increasingly difficult to support themselves and their families.
UNHCR welcomes the support the Libyan authorities have shown in facilitating the procedures that led to this long-awaited evacuation flight as well as the release of others from detention centres.
Yesterday’s flight is evidence that despite the threat of COVID-19, evacuations from Libya are possible with joint efforts, shared expertise and medical protocols in place guaranteeing safe transfers.
In Niger, the evacuated refugees are now receiving humanitarian assistance at the Emergency Transit Mechanism, including shelter, food, medical care and daily courses and activities while efforts to find solutions, such as resettlement, continue.
The ETM in Niger has been operational since 2017. Thanks to the support of the Nigerien authorities, UNHCR has been able to evacuate from Libya to Niger 3,165 vulnerable asylum-seekers over the past three years.
In 2020, with this second evacuation, UNHCR has assisted 501 vulnerable refugees out of Libya, including 221 who have been resettled to Europe.
UNHCR continues to advocate with governments to provide more resettlement places and other durable solutions enabling more vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers to leave Libya.
UNHCR also reiterates its call to the Libyan authorities to release all asylum-seekers held in detention and for an end to arbitrary detention.
UNHCR has registered 45,661 refugees and asylum-seekers in Libya.
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UN, Oct 19 (Canadian-Media): Twelve migrants have died and others are missing after being thrown off a boat by smugglers off the coast of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported.
Staff from the IOM’s Obock response centre and local officials respond to assist migrants in distress off the coast of Djibouti. (file photo). Image credit: IOM
The bodies of those who perished washed up on the coast near Obock (a small port town on the Gulf of Aden) are being recovered and buried by IOM staff, the UN agency said in a news release on Friday.
The victims were part of a group of about 50 Ethiopians, including women, on a boat returning from Yemen, when the violence began. Some 34 migrants, who survived, are being treated for minor injuries and shock, and are being cared for by the UN agency at its migrant response centre in Obock.
The tragedy – which comes just 12 days after eight migrants were killed and several injured by smugglers in the same area – is a reminder about the humanitarian imperative of saving lives, said Mohammed Abdiker, Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa at IOM.
“To say more needs to be done to respond to the migrants trying to reach the country, taking these perilous journeys, and being exploited by smugglers, who clearly have no regard for human life, is an understatement,” he added.
Fear of more fatalities
Movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have left at least 14,500 African migrants stranded across Yemen, with virtually no access to food, water or health care while living through a deadly conflict and disease outbreak.
More and more African migrants are forced to rely on smugglers to survive and, with no options left, some are turning to them for the perilous sea journey back to Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, said IOM.
Although IOM is supporting stranded migrants both in Yemen and in Djibouti, it is imperative that a safe and reliable humanitarian return pathway is established to urgently stop further deaths at sea, underscored the UN agency.
“[We] fear that despite this tragedy, migrants may still be waiting for a chance to re-cross the Gulf of Aden, heightening the prospect of more fatalities in the coming weeks and days,” it added.
UN agencies hail milestone as over 1000 asylum seekers relocated from Greece so far this year through EU initiative
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Athens, Brussels, Geneva, Oct 1 (Canadian-Media): The Government of Greece, together with IOM, the International Organization for Migration, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund today (30-09) welcomed the relocation of 139 asylum seekers to Germany, which has brought the total number of people relocated from Greece to other European Union (EU) Member States through a European Commission-funded programme this year to over 1,000.
A new life in Germany begins for a group of unaccompanied minors and vulnerable asylum seekers relocated from Greece. Image credit: IOM
This was the 16th relocation flight organized under the EU programme implemented by IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF in cooperation with the Government of Greece through the Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Children, and in close collaboration with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
This year, a total of 1,066 asylum seekers have been relocated from Greece to Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal.
Among the group that arrived safely in Germany today were families with children with special health needs and 53 unaccompanied children, 37 of whom had been transferred to the Greek mainland after multiple fires completely destroyed the Moria reception and identification center three weeks ago.
“We feel grateful for the people that helped us in Greece and we’ll never forget them. We don’t speak German, but we’ll try hard to learn the language. My brothers live in Germany and I’m excited that I’ll see them again after such a long time,” said Lina Hussein from Syria who travelled today with her husband, Osman, and her sons, Yousef and Mohammad.
Since the tragic fires at Moria, IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF have worked together with the financial support of the European Commission and leadership of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum’s Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Children to move 724 unaccompanied children from the islands to the mainland in anticipation of their relocation to other European States. All children have been settled in temporary facilities run by IOM and partners on the mainland where support is provided in line with EU standards.
The relocation initiative, which started last April, has proven to be a workable act of responsibility sharing. The UN agencies are encouraged by the expression of solidarity and action by some Member States to welcome additional asylum seekers and recognized refugees from Greece at a time of heightened hardship.
“This milestone is a remarkable testament that cooperation among partners can change the lives of children and other vulnerable people for the better,” said Ola Henrikson, IOM Regional Director for the EEA, EU and NATO. “Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, relocation flights are happening almost every week. We hope this momentum is sustained and expanded, with more European states participating soon.”
“Following many calls for enhanced responsibility-sharing in Europe and the particular need to relocate unaccompanied children and other vulnerable people from Greece, we are very pleased to see this taking concrete shape and gradually expanding”, said Pascale Moreau, UNHCR Director for Europe. “We are grateful to the countries concerned and hope that more countries follow this positive example and demonstrate their solidarity with Greece.”
“The relocations of unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable children continue to be an important part of protecting the rights of refugee and migrant children,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe. “These children, many of whom have fled abject poverty and conflict, have the right to be safe and develop to their full potential.”
Prior to departure and through the provision of updated information, a child’s best interest assessment is supported by UNHCR, EASO, UNICEF and NGO partners to ensure that the relocation is appropriate for these children, with their informed views also considered during the process. At the same time, pre-migration health assessments including COVID 19 testing, are provided in line with the protocols established by Greece and the Member States of Relocation.
As of mid-September, there were almost 4,400 unaccompanied and separated children in Greece in urgent need of durable solutions, including expedited registration, family reunion and relocation. Among them, over 1,000 are exposed to severe risks, including exploitation and violence, and facing homelessness and precarious conditions in urban centres.
The Agencies call for more EU solidarity through relocations following the release of the European Commission’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which contains a series of legislative proposals on the EU’s approach to migration and asylum. The release of the Pact provides a unique opportunity for the EU to move beyond one-off relocation exercises and establish more predictable arrangements for relocation within the EU, for longer-term impact.
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Columbia/UN, Oct 1 (Canadian-Media): An educator and rights defender who has spent more than 20 years rescuing exploited and trafficked children in Colombia, represents “the best of us”, the UN refugee chief said on Thursday, as she was named the winner of this year’s Nansen Refugee Award.
Colombian youth worker Mayerlin Vegara Perez has been named UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award Laureate 2020. Image credit: © UNHCR/Nicolo Filippo Rosso
Mayerlín Vergara Pérez, the Caribbean Regional Coordinator for the Renacer Foundation, has worked hard helping the Colombian non-profit reach its goal of eradicating sexual exploitation and abuse of children and adolescents.
Her “bravery and selfless pursuit to rescue and protect some of the world’s most vulnerable children is nothing short of heroic”, said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
For more than two decades, Ms. Vergara Pérez has gone to extraordinary lengths, often risking her own safety to rescue girls and boys who are victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.
On foot, she has combed the streets of remote communities in north-east Colombia where human traffickers and smugglers operate.
She explained that the exploitation left youngsters with deep mental scars.
“Their bodies have been so maltreated, so abused, so exploited that they feel alienated from those bodies, as if they don’t belong to them”, she said of the girls who have been rescued.
Founded 32 years ago, the Renacer Foundation has assisted over 22,000 child and adolescent survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, and survivors of other types of sexual and gender-based violence.
The 2020 Nansen Award laureate leads a team of dedicated staff in close coordination with the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, a government child protection body.
In 2009, Ms. Vergara Pérez’s relentless activism and advocacy helped usher in two landmark pieces of legislation: a minimum 14 year prison sentence for those convicted of aiding in the sexual exploitation of children, and the other, targeting establishment owners who allow children to be sexually exploited on their premises.
“She embodies the essence of this award”, upheld the UN refugee chief. “Her unwavering dedication has saved the lives of hundreds of refugee children and restored their hopes for a better future”.
A surge in activity
Global estimates indicate that millions of people continue to be trafficked every year, with women and girls accounting for the largest numbers of detected victims, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).
And conflicts serve to amplify trafficking practices, such as forced child marriages to armed groups and forced recruitments.
Since 2015, an estimated 1.7 million Venezuelans have sought shelter in neighbouring Colombia, many falling prey to human trafficking networks, criminal gangs and illegal armed groups along borders.
Moreover, tight border restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 have pushed many desperate people in search of safety into irregular crossings.
“Eradicating trafficking and protecting children from sexual exploitation is not only a legal obligation - it is also a moral one and requires a concerted global effort,” said Mr. Grandi.
UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award honours outstanding service to forcibly displaced people.
To date, more than 82 individuals, groups or organizations have received the award for their unwavering dedication to refugees, and outstanding work on behalf of forcibly displaced or Stateless people.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Palermo Protocol – the first international agreement on trafficking in persons, and the first real step from the international community to combat it.
“This is an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to eradicating this heinous crime”, said the UN refugee chief.