Category Archives: U.N

Migrant death toll in Mediterranean tops 1,000 for 6th year

Screenshot_2019-10-01 Migrant death toll in Mediterranean tops 1,000 for 6th year
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Syrian and Afghan refugees fall into the sea after their dinghy deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos, September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

GENEVA, (Reuters) – More than 1,000 migrants and refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year, the sixth year in a row that this “bleak milestone” has been reached, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR called for European Union (EU) member states to reactivate search and rescue operations and acknowledge the crucial role of aid groups’ vessels in saving lives at sea.

“The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,” Charlie Yaxley, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement.

The bodies of five migrants were found on Morocco’s Atlantic coast near Casablanca on Monday, bringing to 12 the number killed when their boat capsized on Saturday, the state news agency reported.

The EU struck a deal with Ankara in 2016 to cut off refugee and migrant flows to Greece from Turkey. Departures, now also diverted largely via Libya and other parts of North Africa, have fallen sharply from a peak of more than 1 million in 2015 to some 78,000 so far this year, UNHCR figures show.

“Of course the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean are much lower. So, that points to the fact that the journeys themselves are much more dangerous,” UNHCR spokeswoman Liz Throssell told Reuters Television.

“It is also worth highlighting that 70 percent of the deaths actually occur on the central Mediterranean, namely people attempting to get from Libya across to Italy or Malta.”

More than 18,000 people have lost their lives in Mediterranean crossings since 2014, according to figures from both the UNHCR and the website of the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

 

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20191001084633-w941m/

US, France, Britain may be complicit in Yemen war crimes: UN

UN YemenInvestigators have found potential crimes on the side of the Houthis and Saudi-led coalition, while also highlighting the role Western countries play as key backers of the Arab states [File: Hani Mohammed/AP]

The United States, United Kingdom and France may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen by arming and providing intelligence and logistics support to a Saudi-led coalition that starves civilians as a war tactic, the United Nations has said.

A UN panel announced on Tuesday that investigators compiled a secret list of possible international war crimes suspects, drawn from their latest report into violations during the four-year conflict between a coalition of Arab states and the Houthi movement that controls Yemen’s capital.

Investigators found potential crimes on both sides, while also highlighting the role Western countries have played as key backers of the Arab states and Iran has played in support of the Houthis.

The report accused the anti-Houthi coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of killing civilians in air raids and deliberately denying them food in a country facing famine. The Houthis for their part have shelled cities, deployed child soldiers and used “siege-like warfare”, it said.

The Houthis drove Yemen’s internationally-recognised government out of the capital Sanaa in 2014. The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Muslim states intervened the following year to restore the ousted government in a conflict that has since killed tens of thousands of people.

The prospect of famine has created what the UN describes as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

Secret list of suspected perpetrators

The UN report said its independent panel had sent a secret list to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, identifying “individuals who may be responsible for international crimes”.

Its appendix lists the names of more than 160 “main actors” among Saudi, Emirati and Yemeni top brass as well as the Houthi movement, although it did not specify whether any of these names also figured in its list of potential suspects.

“Individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, may have conducted air strikes in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and may have used starvation as a method of warfare, acts that may amount to war crimes,” it said.

“The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other states remains questionable, and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings,” it added.

Commenting on the report, Noha Aboueldahab, a fellow at the foreign policy programme at the Brookings Institution told Al Jazeera that developing a list of perpetrators was within the UN’s mandate.

“It is part of the UN’s mandate to try to identify violations and humanitarian law crimes and, where possible, to identify those responsible for those violations. In terms of developing this list of potential perpetrators is within the UN’s mandate.

“Although it is difficult to say who is on the list, it would be interesting to see if there are any individuals on this list from the US, France and UK,” she added.

Failed accountability

The report also said that it found that a Joint Incidents Assessment Team set up by Saudi Arabia to review alleged coalition violations had failed to hold anyone accountable for any strike killing civilians, raising “concerns as to the impartiality of its investigations”.

The UN panel said it had received allegations that Emirati and affiliated forces had tortured, raped and killed suspected political opponents detained in secret facilities, while Houthi forces had planted land mines.

Air strikes by the Saudi-led military coalition in southwest Yemen hit a prison complex, killing scores of people, the Houthi movement and a Red Cross official said on Sunday.

Aboueldahab said that while justice could take time, the UN report was essential for building a case against suspected perpetrators.

“The statements coming out of the UN and multiple reports calling for accountability will probably not led to immediate prosecution, the information in these reports is absolutely crucial to build cases in the future.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/france-britain-complicit-yemen-war-crimes-190903103122355.html

The world over, people in crisis suffer sexual violence – this scourge must end

Refugee campA woman in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, covers her face with a headscarf. Many female Rohingya refugees say they were raped by Myanmar’s security forces. Photograph: Wong Maye-E/AP

Nomtaz Begum had lived all her life in Myanmar. Two years ago, men in uniform came to her village. They killed the men there, including her husband and three small children, boys aged two, five and 11.

She was raped by six of the soldiers, one after the other. They left after setting her house on fire. Badly burned, Begum and her daughter hid in the forest for four days before they were able to flee, making their way to a refugee camp.

This was one of scores of heart-wrenching accounts of sexual assault, fear and remarkable inner strength we have heard, from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Now it is time to end this scourge. The UN, governments, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society organisations are coming together in Norway this week for a first-of-its-kind conference on ending sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises.

The aim is to strengthen collective responsibility, promote best practices and increase funding and political commitment to prevention and effective response.

The money we raise in Oslo – for civil society, including women’s organisations working tirelessly to support survivors, as well as UN-coordinated response plans, appeals by the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and other mechanisms – will specifically address sexual and gender-based violence.

One in three women experience physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime, and this form of violence is greatly exacerbated during humanitarian crises caused by conflict or natural disasters. Boys and men are affected too.

When law and order collapse and food, water, shelter, education, and healthcare are scarce, millions of women and girls become more vulnerable, often resorting to negative ways of coping such as child marriage and survival sex.

In 2019, roughly 140 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 35 million are women and girlsof reproductive age. They require lifesaving health services, psychosocial and livelihood support, legal aid and justice, but also interventions to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in the first place.

For survivors and their communities, the devastating consequences of sexual and gender-based violence include injuries, unwanted pregnancies, fistulae, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, trauma and death. Survivors often face social rejection and exclusion that increase their vulnerability to further abuse and exploitation. Many therefore never report the violence.

Yet our interventions during humanitarian crises remain chronically underfunded, accounting for well under 1% of the record $15bn(£12bn) provided by donors to assist people through UN-coordinated humanitarian response plans last year.

Our strategy to address these shortcomings requires three steps.

First, we must put survivors like Begum at the centre of our crisis response. Rape, sexual slavery, trafficking, forced or early marriage and intimate partner violence are just some of the abuses women and girls face. We must do more to engage, listen to and support those who experience sexual and gender-based violence.

Second, we need to focus on prevention and address gender inequality, the root cause of gender-based violence, which is magnified during humanitarian crises. This requires sustained efforts by communities and grassroots organisations as well as increased attention from governments and the international community.

Third, more needs to be done to hold perpetrators to account. Humanitarian organisations and others need to work with governments on policies and laws to prevent violence and enforce protection. More training is needed for military personnel, public officials, law enforcement agents and armed groups on domestic and international humanitarian law, and how to address sexual violence. Laws must be respected and enforced.

Civil society groups, NGOs and survivors are key in guiding effective prevention and response. The call we reiterate in Oslo to end sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises is a tribute to the courage of survivors, and to women like Nomtaz Begum. We must live up to their strength and commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/may/23/the-world-over-people-in-crisis-suffer-sexual-violence-this-scourge-must-end

UN gets access to vital grain in Yemen port city of Hodeidah

imageYemen’s four-year-long civil war has left nearly 80 percent of the population in need of aid [Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

A United Nations team has regained access to grain in Yemen that could feed more than 3.7 million people for a month, in a country “gripped with the world’s largest humanitarian crisis” but the cereal is partially infested and must first be fumigated, UN officials say.

The team reached the grain store on Sunday. It is in the Red Sea Mills silos just outside the port town of Hodeidah near a front line area in Yemen’s four-year-old civil war.

“We lost access to this mill in September of last year,” Stephen Anderson, the World Food Programme (WFP) Yemen country director told Al Jazeera from Djibouti.

For months forces affiliated with the Houthi movement which control the port did not allow the UN to cross front lines to access the mills on the outskirts of the city.

“We managed to first gain access, despite repeated attempts in late February and at that time we could see that the grain was in an advanced stage of infestation,” Anderson said.
Brink of famine

An assessment at that time concluded that about 70 percent of the wheat may be salvageable. The WFP-led team is to begin work to save it.

“They’re going to restart the mill and try to get the fumigation under way so that we can get this food out to people who need it most,” Anderson told Al Jazeera.

The war in Yemen has caused the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 24.1 million people – nearly 80 percent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance, the UN said.

Tens of thousands have been killed, and the country is on the brink of famine.

It will likely take several weeks to mill what can be salvaged from the 51,000 tonnes of grain into flour and distribute it to the Yemeni communities most in need.

“We must have unimpeded access to this mill,” Anderson said. “We are scaling up to helping 12 million people a month so every bit of grain we can get is vitally needed at this time.”

The Houthis and the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi agreed in December to a UN-sponsored truce and troop withdrawal from Hodeidah.

That deal has largely held but violence has escalated in some other parts of the country.

Talks aimed at securing a mutual military withdrawal from Hodeidah have stalled despite UN efforts.

Under the proposed withdrawal, a government retreat would free up access to the Red Sea Mills and humanitarian corridors would also be reopened. The warring sides would still need to agree on which road could be used to transport supplies from the site to recipients.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are leading the military coalition backing Hadi’s government.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/access-vital-grain-yemen-port-city-hodeidah-190505183423561.html

 

 

 

 

 

UN evacuates 325 refugees out of Tripoli as clashes continue

imageAbout 3,000 refugees and migrants remain trapped in detention centres in Tripoli, according to the UN [File: EPA]

The United Nations refugee agency evacuated 325 refugees from a detention centre on the southern outskirts of Tripoli amid escalating violence near the Libyan capital.

UNHCR said in a statement on Wednesday those rescued from the Qasr bin Ghashir centre were transported to another detention facility in Az-Zawiyah, northwestern Libya, where they were “at reduced risk of being caught up” in ongoing fighting between renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s eastern forces and troops loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

The move was triggered by reports on Tuesday of the use of armed violence against detainees who were protesting against the conditions in which they were being held, UNHCR said, with 12 refugees requiring hospital treatment after being attacked.

Wednesday’s evacuation brings to 825 the number of refugees and migrants transferred further from clashes in four operations in the last two weeks, the agency added.

“The dangers for refugees and migrants in Tripoli have never been greater than they are at present,” said Matthew Brook, UNHCR’s deputy chief of mission in Libya.

About 3,000 refugees and migrants remain trapped in detention centres in Tripoli, according to the UN, and remain at risk from the “deteriorating security situation” around the capital. Many of the detainees fled war and persecution in their home countries.

Hundreds killed, thousands displaced

Tripoli’s southern outskirts have been engulfed by fighting since Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive on April 4 aimed at wresting control of the capital from the GNA, which is supported by an array of local militias.

The showdown threatens to further destabilise war-wracked Libya, which splintered into a patchwork of rival power bases following the NATO-backed overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and has been split into rival eastern and western administrations since 2014.

Both the LNA and GNA have repeatedly carried out air raids against one another and accuse each other’s forces of targeting civilians.

At least 272 have been killed and more than 1,200 others wounded since the LNA started its offensive earlier this month, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

At least 36,000 people have been forced to flee their homes because of the conflict, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said on Wednesday.

UN conference cancelled

The violence has forced the UN to abandon its plans for a conference aimed at brokering an agreement to hold elections as part of a solution to Libya’s long-running political crisis.

War economy: Haftar and the battle for Libya’s oil wealth
The meeting was scheduled to bring Haftar and GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj together in the country’s southwestern town of Ghadames from April 14 to 16.

Haftar, who casts himself as a foe of “extremism” but is viewed by opponents as a new authoritarian leader in the mould of Gaddafi, has vowed to continue his offensive until Libya is “cleansed” of “terrorism”.

Al-Sarraj said last week the international community needs to be “united and firm” in supporting him and warned some 800,000 migrants and refugees, as well as Libyan nationals, could flee across the Mediterranean to Europe’s shores if the instability in Libya continues.

The UN puts the number of people in Libya who have fled their homelands at more than 700,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/evacuates-325-refugees-tripoli-clashes-continue-190424200149291.html

 

 

UN identifies South Sudan’s mass rapists, killers and torturers

UN photo 1Violence continues despite South Sudan’s main warring parties signing a peace deal last September [File: Andreea Campeanu/Reuters]

A United Nations report says its investigators have identified alleged perpetrators of pervasive rape, killings and torture in South Sudan’s civil war – violence they believe was driven by oil revenues.

The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan on Wednesday said the army, national security, military intelligence, rebel forces and affiliated armed groups committed serious human rights breaches.

The UN body had drawn up a confidential list of suspects including army and opposition commanders, two state governors and a county commissioner.

Its 212-page report detailed people being held for years and tortured in secret, vermin-ridden detention centres, children being run down by tanks, rape of girls as young as seven, and babies being drowned, starved or smashed against trees.

In some stricken areas, 65 percent of women and 36 percent of men may have been sexually abused, according to the report.

Peace deal

Although South Sudan’s main warring parties signed a peace deal in September, widespread violence, especially rape, has continued.

Andrew Clapham, a member of the three-person commission, said it was outraged by reports of further fighting between government forces and the rebel National Salvation Front, which was not part of the peace agreement, in the Yei River area.

“There are thousands of civilians who have been forcibly displaced following a scorched-earth policy in which the parties to the conflict are attacking the villages, torching the homes, killing civilians and raping women and girls,” Clapham said.

The United States, Britain and Norway jointly expressed their alarm at the reports of escalating violence in Yei.

“These military actions, and the trading of blame, must stop,” they said in a joint statement.

Clapham said that more than 5,000 refugees had reached neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and up to 20,000 people were expected to be displaced by the latest fighting.

Oil and conflict

The report cited a close connection between oil and the conflict.

A law ensuring that South Sudan’s oil-producing regions and communities received two and three percent of its oil revenue respectively had triggered a redrawing of provincial boundaries and ethnic conflict.

“We feel the national security services are very much involved in the siphoning off of the oil money,” said Clapham.

The Human Rights Council should get to the bottom of the sums involved and where the money was going, he told reporters, noting that health and education spending was “minuscule”.

“If you are involved in oil extraction in that area and you are asked to assist one side or the other, you could be accused of complicity in war crimes. There are Council members that we think have a responsibility to look more carefully at this.”

At war since 2013, South Sudan has seen horrific levels of sexual violence.

The South Sudan commission, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016, is tasked with collecting evidence that could be used to prosecute individuals for major atrocities in the conflict.

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/identifies-south-sudan-mass-rapists-killers-torturers-190220160817331.html

UN raises $2.6bn in donations for Yemen humanitarian aid

UN photoThe UN raised $2.6 billion for Yemen, calling it the ‘world’s worst humanitarian crisis’ [Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

by Barbara Bibbo
A UN pledging conference for Yemen has raised about $2.6bn of the $4bn needed to address the humanitarian crisis in the country, where about 80,000 children below the age of five have already died of hunger, UN officials said on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were the main donors, pledging $500m each and contributing to a 30-percent increase of total pledges from last year.

But the two Gulf countries, backed by the United States and the United Kingdom, are also active participants in the ongoing conflict, which has caused what the UN describes as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.

Since 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Houthis have seized control of the capital Sanaa, the Hodeidah port and most of the northeastern part of the country.

The war has caused a humanitarian emergency of catastrophic proportion, according to the UN, especially due to the almost total disregard for international humanitarian law by both the parties.

Nevertheless, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday praised the Gulf countries’ contributions and abstained from any criticism of their role, despite insistent requests from the media to clarify the contradiction in their position as donors as well as parties in the conflict.

“This is a pledging conference and any contribution is welcome despite a country’s role in the war,” he said.

Asked to comment on the ongoing UN investigations for war crimes allegedly committed by all parties in the conflict, Guterres said they will continue as expected.

Humanitarian catastrophe

About 24 million people, 80 percent of the population, need humanitarian aid and protection, UN officials said at the conference.

About 20 million people cannot feed themselves reliably, out of which about 10 million Yemenis are just one step away from famine, according to UN figures.

Since last year, due to the continued fighting and a collapsing economy, an additional two million people fell into the humanitarian crisis.

The worst affected by the conflict are the children. About 80,000 children below the age of five have already died of starvation, according to a report quoted by Guterres.

Eight children a day are being killed as they go to school or play outdoors and from other conflict related causes, according to UNICEF.

About 360,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition with life threatening consequences.

According to Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, every ten minutes in Yemen a child is dying of a preventable disease because of the lack of essential health services. More than two million children not being able to go to school.

“Today Yemen is the worst place on earth for a child,” Cappelaere told Al Jazeera. “I invite the parties to think of their own children when they sit at the negotiating table next time.”

Stockholm Agreement

Addressing the media on Monday, Guterres admitted that the humanitarian response cannot suffice to address the Yemeni crisis without the parties’ serious engagement in the peace negotiations.

“There cannot be a humanitarian solution to humanitarian problems,” he said.

The UN chief admitted that the implementation of the agreement reached between the Yemeni Government and the Houthis in December was meeting “obstacles”.

The UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement signed in December 2018 and Security Council resolution 2451 endorsing that agreement, called for a ceasefire in the Hodeidah governorate and a mechanism for exchanging prisoners amongst other confidence building measures.

However, little progress has been achieved since the parties met in Sweden with the each repeatedly accusing each other of not abiding by the agreement.

While violence in Hodeidah has diminished, the conflict continues or has escalated in some areas like Hajjah, while the humanitarian crisis remains catastrophic.

Out of 10 million on the verge of famine, nearly 240,000 of those people are right now facing catastrophic levels of hunger.

Almost 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare, and nearly 18 million don’t have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation.

More than three million people – including two million children – are acutely malnourished.

About 3.3 million remain displaced from their homes, including 685,000 who have fled fighting along the west coast since June 2018.

Amidst the conflict the economy continues to unravel. The exchange rate is about 600 Yemeni Rial to a US dollar – from about 400, which was the level it recovered to following substantial injections of foreign exchange into the Central Bank by Saudi Arabia in late 2018.

As the rate falls, the price of food for ordinary people rises.

Response Plan

The Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019 requires about $4bn to reach 15 million across the country.

The pledges made in Geneva will go towards increasing the number of people reached with emergency food aid to 12 million every month, from the 10 million of December last year, amongst other essential health and assistance plans.

According to Mark Lowcock, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, donations made last year were divided amongst 200 agencies that reached people in all of Yemen’s 333 governorates.

But the UN operations also met with delays and blockades due to restrictions imposed on humanitarian workers and convoys by both parties in the conflict.

In particular, the blockade of the Hodeidah port which alone normally handles 70 percent of food imports entering Yemen and a lifeline for the entire population, has had disastrous consequences so far.

Access to mills

Guterres on Tuesday also announced the UN had regained access to a stocking facility that can potentially feed some 3.7 million people for up to one month.

“We have a good news, we have access to the Red Sea Mills again,” said Guterres.

That was later confirmed by Herve Verhoosel, World Food Programme senior spokesperson.

“I can confirm that the WFP assessment team has gained access today to the Red Sea Mills for the first time since September 2018 when they were cut off by fighting in the area,” said Verhoosel.

At that time there were 51,000 metric tons of wheat in storage at the mills, which is enough to feed 3.7 million people for one month, and represents a quarter of WFP’s wheat flour milling capacity in the country.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/raises-26bn-donations-yemen-humanitarian-aid-190226161139569.html