New York, Aug. 10, 2018 The U.S. has said it was deeply concerned that Zambia chose to hand over former Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, to the Zimbabwean authorities and in the face of a reported Zambian court order blocking his expulsion from Zambia.
The U.S. Department of State in a statement by its Spokesperson, Ms Heather Nauert, also condemned reported harassment and intimidation of opposition figures.
“The United States Government is gravely concerned by credible reports of numerous detentions, beatings, and other abuses of Zimbabweans over the past week, particularly targeting opposition activists,’’ the statement said.
It added that “there should be no role for violence, intimidation or harassment in the new Zimbabwe’’.
The U.S. said the decision was particularly disheartening, given the courage that Zambia showed in sheltering thousands of Zimbabwean freedom fighters from Rhodesian aggression in the days of Zimbabwe’s independence struggle.
“We will be discussing this matter with Zambia’s leaders and review certain aspects of our cooperation with the Zambian government.
“The Government of Zimbabwe is now responsible for Tendai Biti’s safety and welfare.
“We call on Zimbabwe’s leaders to guarantee Mr Biti’s physical safety and ensure his constitutional and human rights are respected, consistent with the rule of law and Zimbabwe’s international obligations and commitments.
“In Washington, the United States has convoked the ambassadors of both Zimbabwe and Zambia to register our gravest concerns,’’ the U.S. said.
It said Zimbabwe had a historic opportunity to move the country toward a brighter future for all its citizens, adding, however, “an electoral process marred by violence that does not respect constitutional rights and procedures is not a step toward that future’’.
Similarly, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), said it was gravely concerned about reports of the forced return of Biti, who was seeking asylum in Zambia, back to Zimbabwe.
The UN refugee agency said the senior Zimbabwean politician expressed the intention to seek asylum in Zambia at the border.
UNHCR said: “It is reported that the authorities handed him over to his country of origin today despite a court order to the contrary.
“Forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law.
“UNHCR calls on Zambia to investigate this reported incident urgently’’.
Edited by: Abdulfatah Babatunde
New York, Aug. 4 2018 No fewer than 1,500 refugees and migrants have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean in the first seven months of 2018, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
The refugee agency said the bleak milestone was confirmed after more than 850 lives were lost in June and July alone, marking the Mediterranean crossing as the deadliest sea route in the world.
UNHCR said it was particularly concerned, as the rate of deaths was increasing, in spite of the total number of people arriving on European shores is significantly reduced compared to previous years.
Around 60,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, about half as many as in 2017 and a return to pre-2014 levels.
However, one in every 31 people attempting the crossing in June and July died or are missing, compared to one in 49 in 2017, the UN agency said.
Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Mediterranean, said: “UNHCR urges States and authorities along transit routes to take all necessary action to dismantle smuggler networks.
“In order to save lives at sea, we must use appropriate and necessary measures to hold to account, those who seek to gain profit from the exploitation of vulnerable human beings’’.
Exploitative traffickers and smugglers were reportedly organising increasingly dangerous crossings, in ever-more unseaworthy and flimsy vessels.
These boats, which smugglers severely overloaded with passengers, are then left to sail out at sea in the hope that a rescue will come in time, UNHCR regretted.
Without further action, more people are expected to perish at sea in the months ahead, as traffickers look to exploit the opportunities offered by improved weather conditions, the refugee agency warned.
Unlike in previous years, when Italy received the majority of new arrivals, Spain has become the primary destination with more than 23,500 people arriving by sea, compared to around 18,500 in Italy and 16,000 in Greece.
In July, UNHCR urged for search and rescue capacities on the Mediterranean Sea to be strengthened, after various legal and logistical restrictions were placed on NGO boats looking to rescue people in distress at sea.
Earlier in 2018, a number of boats carrying rescued passengers were left stranded at sea for days on end after being refused initial opportunities to disembark.
“Enhanced search and rescue capacities and a clear and predictable mechanism for disembarkation are cornerstones of the Joint Concept Note put forward by UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
They are calling for a regional and collaborative approach to saving lives on the Mediterranean Sea.
“Without a harmonised and collaborative way forward, that brings coastal states and key stakeholders from the maritime and shipping industry together, we are certain to see the tragedy of the Mediterranean Sea continue.
“With so many lives at stake, it’s vital that we give shipmasters confidence that they will be able to dock rescued passengers and thereby ensure that the long-standing principle of rescuing people in distress at sea is protected,’’ Cochetel said.
Refugees fleeing Syria make up around 13.5 per cent of all new sea arrivals in Europe, the largest nationality group, highlighting the continued desperation faced by those affected by the world’s largest refugee crisis.
UNHCR reiterated its call for the international community to address the root causes of displacement that are driving people from their homes and forcing them to take increasingly dangerous and perilous journeys.
Edited by: Abdulfatah Babatunde
Death of Nigerian asylum-seekers in Cameroon shocks UN
New York, Aug. 2, 2018 The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was shocked to learn of the tragic death of six Nigerian asylum-seekers, among them three children, who were killed in a blast in the far north of Cameroon.
The UN refugee agency, said it had learnt that on July 29, 12 asylum-seekers were being forcibly returned to Banki, Nigeria, in a Cameroonian army truck, which drove over an improvised explosive device that exploded.
UNHCR added that six Cameroonian soldiers and six other asylum-seekers were also injured in the incident, which took place in Homaka, Mayo Sava Division.
Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa, Valentin Tapsoba, condemned the forcible return of Nigerias asylum-seekers from Cameroon.
“This tragic incident is a disappointing testament of continuing forced returns (refoulements) of refugees and asylum-seekers from Cameroon, despite numerous appeals by UNHCR to the Government of Cameroon to respect its obligations.
“The forced return of refugees and asylum-seekers is in violation of the principle of non-refoulement, which constitutes the cornerstone of international refugee law to which the Cameroonian State is party,” Tapsoba said.
No fewer than 800 Nigerian refugees and asylum-seekers in Cameroon had been forcibly returned to Nigeria since the beginning of 2018, the UN refugee agency said.
Tapsoba further said: “UNHCR once again calls upon the government of Cameroon to refrain from carrying out further forced returns of Nigerian refugees and asylum-seekers.
“It also reminds Cameroon of its obligations under international law relating to the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers and the commitments it made by signing the Tripartite Agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon in March 2017.
“UNHCR reiterates its appeal to authorities to provide Nigerian refugees with unhindered access to asylum and stands ready to support Cameroon to ensure all individuals seeking safety have access to efficient screening, registration and documentation procedures”.
Some 96,000 Nigerian refugees had sought safety in the Far North region of Cameroon, with more than 8,000 new refugees registered since the beginning of 2018, UNHCR said.
According to the UN refugee agency, Cameroon currently hosts more than 367,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.
Edited by: Felix Ajide
Syrian National News Agency reports that 500 displaced Syrians gathered on Wednesday in Lebanon’s Southern town of Shebaa, waiting for buses that will take them to “safe zones in Syria.”
The displaced would be evacuated through Masnaa border crossing in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley, from Shebaa and Hasbaya to Syrian towns of Beit Jinn and Mazraat Bit jin, the report said.
The repatriation was directly coordinated between Syrian authorities and the refugees themselves.
The chosen safe areas are direct reflection of Ghouta battle, according to a security source who told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that “it is a prelude to series of successive operations that has nothing to do with the Lebanese Government.’’
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has made direct contacts with the displaced persons to make sure that their return is voluntary.
The source said Lebanon’s General Security Directorate would supervise the movement, check their identity papers and accompany them with logistical and security measures.
The UN refugee agency said there were more than one million Syrian refugees who fled the war-torn country since the eruption of rebellion against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.
Edited by: Abigael Joshua/
The UN has announced the return of 53 Sudanese refugees after they spent morethan 14 years in refugee camps in eastern Chad.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Commissioner of Refugees (COR) welcomed the first
convoy of 53 Sudanese refugees who have returned to Sudan after more than 14 years in exile in eastern Chad.
In a statement, Noriko Yoshida, UNHCR representative in Sudan, said: “it is very moving to see refugees
returning to their home country after many years in exile.”
Yoshida appealed to the international community to assist the efforts of the Sudanese government on the return
of Sudanese refugees from Chad.
Meanwhile, Sudan’s Commissioner of Refugees, Hamad El-Gizouli, was quoted in the statement as saying that
Sudanese government attaches great concern to the voluntary return of refugees as being the best solution
for them so that they could begin to rebuild their life as Sudanese citizens.
Thousands of Sudanese refugees fled to Chad after the eruption of the conflict in Darfur from
2003 to 2004.
Sudan and Chad and UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement in May 2017 for the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese
refugees from Chad and the Chadian refugees from Sudan.
The UNHCR and the two governments concerned are targeting the repatriation of 20,000 refugees from Chad in 2018.
According to UN statistics, some 300,000 Sudanese refugees currently live in eastern Chad.
The UN on Wednesday issued a global call to close what it called critical gap in refugee girls’ education, following a new study by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
UNHCR said by secondary-level education, refugee girls were only half as likely as their male peers to enrol in school, even though they make up half of the school-age refugee population,
“It is time for the international community to recognise the injustice of denying refugee girls and women an education.
“These findings are a global wake-up call, and I urge all to join us in demanding: ‘It’s her turn,’” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The report said access to education was a fundamental human right yet, for millions of women and girls among the world’s growing refugee population, it remained an aspiration – not a reality.
The commission found that while all refugee children had more difficulty attending school than their non-refugee peers, refugee girls faced even tougher challenged to find and keep a place in the classroom.
Moreover, as they get older, refugee girls face more marginalisation and the gender gap in secondary schools grows wider, the UNHCR report stressed.
It said poor facilities, such as a lack of appropriate toilets and menstrual supplies, could also block their access, while adding to the challenge, book costs, uniforms and distance could be prohibitive for refugee families.
“Finding solutions to the challenges refugee girls face as they strive to go to school requires action right across the board – from national education ministries to teacher training institutions, in communities and classrooms.
“There are formidable barriers to overcome. We are calling for an international effort to turn the tide.
“If we continue to neglect refugee girls’ education, it is evident that the consequences will be felt for generations. It is time to make refugee girls’ education a priority,” Grandi stressed.
UNHCR’s report highlighted effective, deliverable actions and policies to help more refugee girls get a quality education.
It found that if refugee adults were able to work and support their families, they were more likely to let their children stay in school.
“No girl should miss school because the journey there is too far or too dangerous – refugee girls need protection from harassment, sexual assault and kidnapping.
“More female teachers from within host and refugee communities must be recruited to promote best practice,” the report stressed.
The report noted that for refugee girls, a quality education reduces vulnerability to exploitation, sexual and gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy and child marriage.
Edited by: Sadiya Hamza
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and its humanitarian partners on Wednesday launched an inter-agency funding appeal of 157 million dollars for people affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad Basin region.
Ms Kelly Clements, Deputy UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said at the appeal launch in Niamey that “the Boko Haram crisis lingers on and is far from over”.
The 47 UN agencies, including the UNHCR, and humanitarian organisations participating in the 2018 Nigeria Regional Refugee Response Plan will provide support to some 208,000 Nigerian refugees.
The agencies would also provide support for 75,000 of the Nigerian refugees’ hosts in Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
“The world should not forget the victims of this deadly conflict, especially as there appears to be little hope for a return to peace and stability in the near future,” Clements underscored.
She explained that Nigerian refugees continued to arrive in very remote, impoverished communities in neighbouring countries.
She said since it started in 2013, the Boko Haram conflict has internally displaced another 2.4 million people in north-east Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
UNHCR called the menacing threat of food insecurity and severe malnutrition “one of the most devastating side effects of the conflict.”
In September 2017, more than 7.2 million people in the Lake Chad Basin, which spans seven countries, including most of Chad and a large part of Niger, faced food insecurity.
Across the vast region, food insecurity and malnutrition have reached critical levels, a situation only made worse over the eight years of the Boko Haram insurgency.
“The future of young generations in the region is at stake, as food insecurity not only affects the dignity of families, but has serious consequences on the physical and cognitive development of children,” Clements stressed.
According to her, in a region where education levels were already among the lowest in the world, the conflict has had a devastating impact.
She regretted that the situation had forced hundreds of schools to close, making education inaccessible and causing school attendance rates to drop.
“Refugee-hosting communities are also in dire need of assistance, as their capacity, including basic services infrastructure, is stretched to the limit,” she stressed.
Clements said humanitarian aid was needed to uplift services, including shelter, health, education, and water and sanitation sectors.
In 2017, 241 million dollars appeal was only 56 per cent funded, she regretted.
Edited by: Felix Ajide
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday confirmed that 15 Syrian nationals died in snowstorm at a border area with war-torn Syria while trying to illegally enter Lebanon.
The UNHCR said in a statement that men, women and children were among the dead while a pregnant woman was among those rescued by the Lebanese military and nearby residents.
The Lebanese army originally said on Friday that 10 people had died, including nine who were found dead in the al-Sawayari-Masnaa mountainous area on the border with Syria and one who later died in hospital.
The group said that the people died while trying to cross the border on Thursday night.
Two Syrians were arrested over suspected involvement in the bid to smuggle the victims into Lebanon, according to the army’s statement.
There are several routes used by smugglers to bring Syrians into Lebanon in return for money.
In 2014, the Lebanese government decided to stop admitting Syrians after an influx of refugees strained Lebanon’s economy.
Lebanon hosts some 1.5 million Syrians displaced by more than six years of war in their homeland.
Edited by: Celine-Damilola Oyewole/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu
Myanmar and Bangladesh plan to complete repatriations of Rohingya refugees, who fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, within two years of the first returnees arriving later this month.
According to a statement, Representatives from Myanmar and Bangladesh were discussing the implementation of a repatriation deal signed in November at meetings in Naypyitaw on Monday and Tuesday.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday: “Repatriated refugees will be temporarily housed in Hla Po Khaung camp, currently under construction after registering at one of two repatriation centres.
“Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh,’’ the ministry added.
The UN on Monday reiterated warnings that all repatriations must be voluntary and those refugees should be returned to their place of origin.
“Any returnees to Myanmar should be required to stay in transit centres for a short period for the purpose of processing, before being allowed to travel on to their original farms and villages,’’ a UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman told newsmen.
More than 655,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have left Myanmar since Aug. 25, 2017, when the military launched “security operations” in response to attacks by Rohingya militants.
Myanmar has largely denied accusations of widespread human rights abuses against Rohingya.
It has also refused access to a UN fact finding mission mandated to investigate the scale of what the U.S. has called “ethnic cleansing.’’
Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Grace Yussuf
UN express deep concerns over Pakistan’s decision to expel two million Afghan refugees one month’s time.
According to a statement, Pakistan’s cabinet on Tuesday decided to extend Afghan refugees’ stay only for 30 days.
The decision comes as surprise for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Afghan embassy in Islamabad, which were expecting an extension for six months.
“We are concerned,” UNHCR spokesman Qaiser Afridi said on Friday.
The UNHCR is undertaking a repatriation programme for 1.4 million Afghans, most of them living in Pakistan since their country was invaded by Soviet Russia in 1979.
Pakistani officials said there are hundreds of thousands of other Afghans residing in the country off the official radar, taking the estimated number beyond two million
Kabul was worried and would raise the issue with Pakistani authorities, said Zardasht Shams, an Afghan diplomat based in Islamabad, in a statement posted online.
The decision is seen as a knee-jerk reaction to mounting international pressure on Pakistan to take action against Afghan militant groups allegedly operating from the country’s soil.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump announced overnight that it would suspend almost all security assistance to Pakistan unless it takes action against Afghan militants.
Pakistan has announced moves to expel Afghan refugees several times in the recent past, as a reaction either to pressure by the U.S. or spikes in violence, but these decisions were never followed through.