MR PATEL: Good afternoon, everybody. As you can see, we have a special guest with us today, somebody who is no stranger to this building and no stranger to this briefing room. With me I have Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who just came off of a week-long trip on the African continent and wanted to share with you all about it.
So, Ambassador, the floor is yours.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much. And thanks to all of you for being here. As you know, last week I had a very productive week-long trip to Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, and Somalia. I had four overarching goals for this trip: to strengthen our partnership with current and former UN Security Council members; follow up on our priorities from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, priorities such as climate change; I had an opportunity to shine a spotlight on humanitarian issues, particularly famine; and continue our consultations on UN reform to ensure the UN is fit for purpose.
In Ghana I met with the foreign minister, Shirley Botchwey. We discussed important regional security issues, how we can advance UN peacekeeping in the region, and what inclusive UN reform would look like.
In Mozambique I met with the foreign minister, minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, to discuss Mozambique’s historic first term on the UN Security Council. We discussed how we can use the council as well as our bilateral relationship to advance shared priorities like the rights and leadership of women and girls, and regional security threats. We talked about tackling climate change, too, as I also volunteered alongside activists and civil society groups to help restore the last remaining coastal mangrove forest in urban Maputo. Mangrove forests are an important natural defense against the effects of climate change that we must protect. I also met with UN officials working to build a safer, more peaceful region, as well as members of civil society, entrepreneurs, students, activists, and members of the beloved YALI, Young African Leaders Initiative exchange program.
In Kenya I met with President Ruto as well as other officials. We discussed ways that we can partner on food security, counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa, and in security. In addition, I met with officials from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, the World Food Program, UNHCR, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and UNICEF to talk about refugee assistance in Kenya. And I continued our emphasis on climate change by visiting a state-of-the-art manufacturing and assembly hub for electronic vehicles in Kenya. I was really, I have to say, impressed with Kenya’s efforts to accelerate a just energy transition and tackle climate change.
In Kenya I also delivered remarks at the office of the International Organization for Migration with a representative from Church World Service about the value of the newly launched Welcome Corps. When I was working as a refugee coordinator in Africa in the early ’80s and 1990s in Kenya, we simply did not have resources to process more people and give refugees a new home. By bringing in civil society like Church World Services, we were able to expand the ceiling and bring more vetted African refugees to the United States than ever before. We changed the lives of thousands upon thousands of families fleeing violence, disease, poverty, and hunger. Now we’re expanding the circle of helpers. With the newly created Welcome Corps, private civilians can welcome refugees to the United States and change even more lives, and also making their community stronger.
And finally, in Somalia I had the opportunity to meet with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to discuss the severe drought, as well as a wide range of issues including political reconciliation, threats from al-Shabaab, and how to develop security forces who can assume responsibility for ATMIS, the African Union Transition Mission. I also met with ATMIS as well as local UN humanitarian and NGO groups to discuss how we can improve their safety and security as they deliver needed humanitarian assistance.
At the end of the trip, I delivered a speech in Mogadishu on how the international community must come together to end famine forever. I announced over $40 million in new funding from the American people to Somalia to save lives, stave off famine, and meet humanitarian needs. But the truth is the United States cannot do this alone. My call is for the UN and for the international community to step up and do more, to be more ambitious, get more resources to those who are in desperate need.
With that, I look forward to your questions.
MR PATEL: Shaun, you want to start us off?
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Thanks for doing this.
QUESTION: Could I start, actually, with Mozambique?
QUESTION: It sort of doesn’t get as much attention as some other parts of Africa. But there is, of course, the long-running conflict in Cabo Delgado. Amnesty International has called it a forgotten war, so that there’s not (inaudible). I was wondering, maybe in general terms, if you could give us your assessment about where things stand there in terms of the strength of the jihadists, how much of a risk there is, and also about the human rights issues on the part of the Mozambicans.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. I spent a lot of time on Cabo Delgado when I was there, in discussions with the government as well as the UN and our embassy there on the ground. And in fact, the situation has improved. Working with the Rwandans and other regional forces, they were able to push the terrorists out of the major urban or at least city areas. They are still a threat and they still continue to terrorize people, but we’re – we’ve been able to get in humanitarian assistance. The NGOs are working there, USAID has an extensive program there, and the private sector is slowly going back in.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you. Good to see you. I have a few questions, and one on South Korea and one on North Korea.
South Korea is trying to join as one permanent members of the UN Security Council. Will the U.S. support this?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have started discussions. As you know, the President announced in September during High-Level Week that we support UN Security Council reform and we support additional permanent members of the Security Council as well as new elected members of the Security Council. We have not stressed or stated what countries that will be other than the fact that we do support new members coming from Africa and Latin America.
QUESTION: One more. In response to North Korea’s provocations, the U.S. is maintaining its military deterrence through expanded deterrence. However, sanctions against North Korea in the UN Security Council are not being properly implemented. What sanctions are you taking against countries that are in violation against sanctions against North Korea? As you know, China and Russia are using their veto power to protect North Korea from North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile propagations.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You’re reading my talking points.
QUESTION: Is it – thank you. Is it possible to deprive Russia and China of their veto power in the UN Security Council?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have pushed hard in the Security Council to produce products condemning the actions of the DPRK. And as you noted, both China and Russia have consistently protected DPRK from the actions of the Security Council. They have the veto power, and they have used that veto power. And unfortunately, the Security Council, the other 13 members of the Security Council, have been consistent and strong in wanting to condemn DPRK, and we will continue to work to do that, particularly as we see more and more tests being done by the DPRK.
MR PATEL: Is this on her trip, Nike?
MR PATEL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for talking to us. Could you talk about Chinese footprint and Chinese influence in the African continent? In your conversation with officials there, what’s in their mind? What are they concerned of? And then, do you have a U.S. message regarding Russia’s war on Ukraine?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we – we’re not asking African countries to choose between their friends and choose who they will partner with. Our message to Africa has been one of our strong partnership, our strong engagement on the continent, and that engagement has been consistent for decades. We’re not new to the African continent; I’m not new to the African continent. As you can see from my bio, I’ve spent most of my career on the continent, including as serving as the assistant secretary of state. So again, our message is about what we do and how strong our engagement is.
In terms of our message on Ukraine and the war in Ukraine, our message is also very consistent: Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine is also an attack on the UN Charter. It is an attack on the sovereignty and independence of a smaller neighbor. And it is important that we stand together, united, and condemn those actions. And we have been successful in the UN General Assembly, getting 141 votes and then 143 later, condemning Russia’s attempt to annex parts of Ukraine.
MR PATEL: Final question, Said.
QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant. Thank you, Madam Ambassador. I have a question departing from the Africa trip. It’s on the Palestinian issue. I am a reporter from a Palestinian newspaper. I want to ask you, has the United States departed from its position of designating the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territory?
QUESTION: You’re the face of U.S. diplomacy at the United Nations, at the most prominent world body. So do you consider the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be occupied territory? You have been asked. Why can’t you say that they are occupied territory?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: — we will continue to work with both sides.
QUESTION: What is the designation of the Palestinian people in these areas?
MR PATEL: Said, we can talk more about this during our briefing. I want to thank the ambassador for joining us today.
QUESTION: Ms. Ambassador, I have one question.
MR PATEL: And we – you’ll have to come back very soon.
QUESTION: — on the Afghanistan – on their situation, please. Because you are woman, and women has a lot of pain in Afghanistan. Could you please respond to my question?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me just say, you have heard our views on Afghanistan. We have been extraordinarily strong in condemning what the Taliban have done as it relates to women and girls’ education, women’s ability to work. We supported the recent visit by the deputy secretary general to engage with the Taliban, to try to get them to reverse what they’re doing, and we will continue to do that. We’re going to judge them on their actions, so for that reason they are not recognized in the UN and we have not recognized them here in the United States.
MR PATEL: Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you all.
MR PATEL: Thanks, everybody.
MR PATEL: All right. Okay. I have a few things for you at the top, and then I’m happy to proceed with the normal press briefing.
Two years ago today, Burma’s military regime seized power from a democratically elected government, flagrantly rejected the will of Burma’s people, set the country on a disastrous path that has killed thousands and displaced over 1.5 million people, and reversed the hard‑fought democratic progress the country achieved over the last decade.
Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on six individuals and three entities linked to the regime’s effort to generate revenue, procure arms, including the senior leadership of Burma’s ministry of energy, Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, and Burma’s air force, as well as an arms dealer, and a family member of a previously-designated business associate of the military. We are also sanctioning the Union Electoral Commission, which the regime has manipulated and deployed to advance its flawed election.
It is clear that the regime’s planned election will not be free or fair, while the regime continues to kill, detain, and force possible contenders to flee, and continues to inflict brutal violence against its peaceful opponents. These so-called elections, held under these conditions, will only serve as a trigger for further violence and instability.
The United States will continue to promote accountability for the military’s atrocities, including through the support to the UN’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. We will also continue to support other international efforts to protect and support vulnerable populations, including Rohingya.
We welcome the actions taken by our allies and partners, including Canada – the UK, who also took action today – to urge the regime to end the crisis, and we look forward to building our cooperation with the UN, ASEAN, and international community to increase diplomatic and economic pressure against the military and in support of a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Burma.
I also want to share that today the United States announced the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Honiara, less than one year after Secretary Blinken announced our intent to open it.
For more than 50 years, the United States and the Solomon Islands have worked together to tackle major challenges facing our shared Pacific community. The opening of the embassy builds on the U.S. efforts not only to place more diplomatic personnel throughout the region but also to engage further with our Pacific neighbors, connect U.S. programs and resources with needs on the ground, and expand on people-to-people ties.
The embassy will be a central part of future engagements with the Solomon Islands.
MR PATEL: — take us away.
QUESTION: Could I follow up Burma?
QUESTION: The sanctions, I guess, announced yesterday as well – the – I mean, they target the oil and gas industry, but the major state-owned business itself, the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise. Is there any talk about sanctioning it as an entity as a whole or is that a step too far?
MR PATEL: Shaun, what I would say is that we’re certainly not going to preview additional next steps or preview our actions, but what we are going to do is that we’re going to continue to promote accountability for the military’s atrocities, including through the UN independent mechanism that I mentioned, and we also continue to support other international efforts to protect and support vulnerable populations. And we’re going to continue to support the pro‑democracy movement and its efforts to advance peace and genuine multiparty democracy in Burma.
QUESTION: Can I go to a different topic unless anyone else wants to continue with Burma?
MR PATEL: Go ahead.
MR PATEL: They indeed are.
QUESTION: — but there is a precedent – I mean, even just recently the Secretary put sanctions on – visa restrictions on people from Nigeria for election interference. Is there any concern that Bolsonaro having political activities here could be of concern to the United States, especially in light of what happened in Brazil?
MR PATEL: I appreciate your question, Shaun, but, again, as you so note, visa records are confidential, so I’m just not unfortunately able to get into this.
QUESTION: Staying with Brazil?
MR PATEL: Said, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, and I want to switch topic, go to the Palestinian issue.
QUESTION: On the Secretary’s trip – now, Secretary Blinken reiterated while he was there that the U.S. policy seeks to ensure equal measures to freedom and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians – among many other things that he said, but he also said that. My question is, what is the U.S. plan to effectuate such a goal?
MR PATEL: Well, Said, let me say a couple of things. President Biden has been clear that Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve equal measures of freedom, dignity, justice and prosperity. And the negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve a lasting peace. The President and the Secretary have also been very clear that the U.S. understands the opportunity for negotiations is not necessarily ripe. And we are currently focused on de-escalating the current tensions, improving the daily lives of Palestinians, and creating the necessary conditions for future negotiations. You saw the Secretary speak to a great deal of this over the course of this trip.
We also believe that it is also among the parties themselves to effectuate this goal and to move this goal forward, and you saw the Secretary speak to that on his travels as well.
QUESTION: I understand, but I mean, this is like – the President himself said last summer this is not in the foreseeable future or it’s far away, the state. In the interim, I mean, what should be certain application of these measures of equality? For instance, should the Israelis reduce their checkpoints? Should they allow more people to move about the West Bank? Should they stop their raids into the camps and so on? Should they stop seizing land for settlements and so on? I mean, these are things that are the kind of measures one would take in the preparation or the process to achieve such a goal.
MR PATEL: Said, over the course of the Secretary’s travel he made clear that the United States will continue to oppose unilateral steps that worsen tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution, including but not limited to settlement expansion, legalization of illegal outposts, a move towards annexation of the West Bank, disruption of the historic status quos on Jerusalem’s holy sites, demolitions and evictions, and incitement of violence. We continue to oppose those things that we think, like I said, will not advance a negotiated two‑state solution.
QUESTION: — I just wanted to ask about Gaza. OCHA said that the situation in Gaza is unlivable. I mean the – the blockade that has gone on now for 16 years makes life in Gaza – despite efforts by Egypt and others and so on to alleviate the suffering, the suffering is increasing tenfold and eightfold and so on. You have any comment on that? Should – has the time come to lift that siege?
MR PATEL: Said, we are committed to working with the UN and other international partners to provide humanitarian assistance and other international support in a manner that benefits the Palestinians but does not benefit Hamas. And while meeting with President Abbas over the course of this trip, Secretary Blinken announced $50 million in U.S. funding towards UNRWA. This is in addition to 344 million the U.S. provided to UNRWA in 2022, which supports the provision of health care, emergency relief to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Palestinian children and families. And we also call, of course, on donors to contribute as well.
In addition to the $940 million in assistance we’ve provided the Palestinian people to date, we’re finding innovative ways to spur greater and more inclusive economic growth in the West Bank and Gaza. This means supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs, expanding access to 4G, increasing the supply of renewable and reliable energy. And we also reaffirmed our commitment to bolstering independent media with Palestinian civil society leaders. Working with Congress, we intend to make up to $2 million available to support journalists in the region, including Palestinians.
One thing that I also wanted to note, Said, if you’ll allow me the opportunity, and since you asked the ambassador this question, I just want to take a second and clarify the United States position on this – and Ned has spoken to this before; so has the Secretary. It is a historical fact that Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza after the 1967 war. As we have said it then, it continues to be a U.S. position that the West Bank is occupied. This has been a longstanding position of previous administrations of both parties over the course of many, many decades.
QUESTION: Sorry – yeah, on the same topic.
MR PATEL: — before we move away?
QUESTION: On the same topic.
MR PATEL: I’ll work the room a little bit. Go ahead, in the back.
QUESTION: Yes. Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an interview with CNN, he didn’t commit it to – he didn’t commit to two-state solution. He said he would not call it like this, and he said – he didn’t commit to that. How do you characterize his statement yesterday? I believe you saw it.
MR PATEL: I’m just not going to characterize or comment – characterize his comments from here.
QUESTION: Are we ready to switch topic?
QUESTION: Can I just ask about Iran?
MR PATEL: Go – let me – and then I’ll come back to you, Nike. I promise.
QUESTION: Thanks, Vedant. The Secretary said that he had discussed deepening cooperation to confront and counter Iran’s destabilizing activities. Should we understand that as something different from what already exists in terms of cooperation between the United States and Israel, given the nuclear talks have stalled or have been described as Iran having killed the talks from the U.S. side? Or is it the same as usual?
MR PATEL: I wouldn’t interpret that as new policy. You have seen us, over the course of this entire administration, talk about Iran’s malign activities, not just across the world but in the region more broadly. And of course, when it comes to combatting some of Iran’s destabilizing and malign activities, including work to ensure that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon, of course Israel is an important regional partner and ally in the fight against Iran’s activities in the region.
MR PATEL: Go ahead.
MR PATEL: I’m going to call on people. Guita, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. I was going to ask Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield about this, but you get to take a stab at it. Protests are still ongoing; arrests are ongoing still in Iran, especially now, many Sunni clerics are criticizing the regime and how they are suppressing the people. There’s been – some of them have been arrested. Is the United States in general doing anything at the United Nations to take any actions in any international fora in this regard?
MR PATEL: Guita, we have not hesitated to take action as a country through our own designations, through designations in multilateral fora, and through designations with our allies and partners to hold the Iranian regime accountable. I certainly don’t have any actions to preview or get ahead of, and of course we’ll let our colleagues at the UN speak more to any – about any UN processes. But I think what you should take away here, Guita, is that we will not hesitate to use the tools in our toolbelt to hold the Iranian regime accountable.
QUESTION: Thank you. One more?
MR PATEL: Anything else? Go ahead. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Last week, we talked about the report that the Iranian navy is trying to establish itself in the southern and central part of the Western Hemisphere by sending naval ships and, as you were talking about, Brazil and the Brazilian president coming here to the U.S., docking there sort of maybe as a base or whatever and then being present in the Panama Canal. Is – what else is – what is the U.S. doing, except for monitoring?
MR PATEL: Well, Guita, I will say that we have seen the reports and aware of the claims by Iran’s navy. And we do, as you said, continue to monitor for any Iranian plans of naval activities in the Western Hemisphere. What I will say is largely in line with what I said previously. We continue to have a number of tools in our toolbelt available to hold the Iranian regime accountable. We, of course, are not going to preview sanctions, but we will continue to vigorously enforce our sanctions. And what I’ll say is that anybody doing business with a sanctioned entity risks exposure to designation themselves. We also continue to vigorously push for implementation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Anything else on Iran, before we go to Nike, who’s been patiently waiting?
QUESTION: On Iran? Yes.
MR PATEL: Go ahead. Go ahead, Nike.
QUESTION: Sure. The U.S. Treasury has sanctioned a Chinese company for providing satellite imageries of Ukraine to Wagner Group’s combat operation for Russia. So as the Secretary of State Blinken is preparing his meetings in Beijing, what is the U.S. message to PRC and is it still the State Department’s assessment that PRC Government is not providing any material or security assistance to Russia?
MR PATEL: Our assessment hasn’t changed, Nike. We are closely monitoring the situation, as we have been. And we continue to communicate to China the implications of providing material support to Russia’s war against Ukraine. We’ve also continued to be clear in public and in private with any country that, as it relates to the conflict of Ukraine, Russia is very clearly, publicly violating Ukrainian territorial integrity and Ukrainian sovereignty, and we’ll continue to raise that wherever we can.
QUESTION: And Chinese President Xi Jinping may visit Moscow in February by invitation from the Russia. Do you – how close are you watching this potential visit and what – do you have anything on the diplomatic relations between China and Russia? Thank you.
MR PATEL: So I will let these two countries speak to their own bilateral relationships. But again, on the situation broadly, we continue to monitor and pay close attention. The PRC has made its alignment with Russia clear through its rhetorical support of Russia’s war, its support for Russia in multilateral fora, as well as the amplification of Russian disinformation. But I’ll let these two countries speak to their own multilateral – bilateral relationship.
QUESTION: Follow-up on Ukraine.
MR PATEL: Hold on. Hold one second. Follow-up on Ukraine, then I’ll go to you, Alex.
QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you, Patel. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg met with the South Korean President Yoon Sun Yeol in South Korea a couple days ago to ask for arms support to Ukraine. If South Korea provides weapons to Ukraine, how do you think it will affect the Korean peninsula?
MR PATEL: Well, Janne, what I will say is that it is, of course, in each country’s independent, sovereign decision to offer security assistance to any other country. Obviously as it relates to Ukraine, the United States has had a pretty clear track record of providing security assistance to our Ukrainian partners. That will continue to persist. I will of course let the South Koreans speak to their own efforts as it relates to our Ukrainian partners, but what I can say broadly is that, of course, South Korea is an important ally and partner in the Indo-Pacific as it relates to a variety of shared priorities between the Republic of Korea and the United States as well.
MR PATEL: Alex, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant.
QUESTION: The President ruled out the idea of sending F-16s to Ukraine. If other countries that possess F-16s decide to send on their own, will the United States give its consent of your – or your green light to that?
MR PATEL: Alex, I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals, and I am going to let the President’s comments speak for themselves. But the one thing that I want to reiterate, much like Janne’s question since you’ve given me the opportunity, is that the United States is sending a significant amount of weapons and equipment to Ukraine to help with its battlefield needs. That of course includes artillery, ammunition, armored vehicles, air-defense capabilities. And we’re in regular contact with our Ukrainian partners, and I expect we’ll have more to talk about when it comes to continued security assistance. But I don’t want to get ahead or get into any hypotheticals here.
QUESTION: But what would you say to critics that say, hey, you always get to the right place with decisions like tanks, HIMARS, but it always takes too long?
MR PATEL: Alex, we have been steadfast in our continued security assistance for Ukraine. We have done so quickly, we have done so efficiently, and we have done so at a steady clip dating back to even prior to February 24th.
MR PATEL: Anything else on Russia or Ukraine before we move? Go ahead.
MR PATEL: I have new – I have new – no new policy to announce today. Today’s action was about designating individuals and entities across multiple jurisdictions who are connected to a sanctions evasion network supporting Russia’s defense sector, including prominent arms dealer Igor Vladimirovich Zimenkov. It has become increasingly difficult for Russia’s military-industrial complex to resupply the Kremlin’s war machine, forcing it to rely on nefarious suppliers such as the DPRK and Iran. Today’s actions were also taken in part of the U.S. commitment to Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs Task Force, a multilateral effort to identify and seize the assets of Russian proxies around the world.
QUESTION: Do you still – do you still assess the policy decision to lift the embargoes on Cyprus, south Cyprus, is correct?
MR PATEL: As I said, I don’t have any new policy to announce today.
QUESTION: Vedant, I have a Russia question.
QUESTION: One on Russia.
MR PATEL: I’ll come back to you, Said.
QUESTION: So the State Department yesterday announced that Russia is noncompliant with the New START Treaty. So what happens now?
MR PATEL: Well, as I said, Russia – as we said yesterday, Russia is not complying with its obligations under the New START Treaty to facilitate inspections on its territory. And its refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control.
There is a clear path for returning here. All Russia needs to do is to allow inspection activities on its territory, just as it did for years under the New START Treaty, and meet in a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission. There is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from traveling the United States and conducting inspections.
QUESTION: Has there been any effort to reach out to the Russians since that announcement was made?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any specific diplomatic engagements to read out, Camilla, but the path here is very, very clear and very straightforward. The Russian Federation, all they need to do is to allow inspection activities on its territories, just as it’s done for years.
QUESTION: The Israeli prime minister told CNN today that they have very complex relations with Russia, and he does not want to provoke any possible confrontation with Russia, especially over Syria. He said that we share the skies and all these things. Does that mean that Secretary of State Blinken during his visit did not succeed in sort of pushing the Israelis toward a more pro- or proactive in terms of support to Ukraine?
MR PATEL: Said, I am not going to characterize the prime minister’s comments. But what I will say is that Secretary Blinken, to his counterparts and to leaders around the world – the United States has had a consistent message as it relates to Russia, which is that Russia is – it is incumbent on Russia to cease its aggression and to remove its troops from Ukraine’s soil to achieve a just and durable peace. And that continues to be the message that we convey as it relates to the conflict in Russia and Ukraine.
MR PATEL: Nazira, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Yesterday, about Tom West, U.S. representative to Afghanistan, perhaps. He is in Pakistan and he met with a military high official member about Afghanistan, Afghanistan girls, Afghanistan women situation. And then he go to Germany, I think, and then to Switzerland. I need to get about a straight conclusion. Do you think that it’s going to be effective in – to the current situation in Afghanistan?
MR PATEL: Let me say a couple of things. We are in regular communication with Pakistani leadership and discuss a range of vital matters. Special Representative Tom West was of course there to talk about some of these issues as it relates to the situation in Afghanistan. The U.S. Government has been, of course, reviewing our approach and our engagement with the Taliban in the context of their increasingly draconian edicts targeting and discriminating against women and girls in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Sudan. You issued a statement on this, but to what extent were you surprised by the release of Abdel-Ra’uf Abuzaid? And what’s your message to the Sudanese Government?
MR PATEL: We are aware of those reports, of the release of Abdel-Ra’uf Abuzaid by the Sudanese Government. Our embassy is engaging with government officials to obtain more information, and we’re seeking clarity about the release of the individual convicted of killing John Granville and his Sudanese colleague. The convicted killer was designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. in 2013, and we are expressing our deep concern over the January 30th release of this individual. We’re troubled by the lack of transparency in the legal process that resulted in his release, and we’re just continuing to seek more information.
QUESTION: Did you ask the Sudanese Government to bring him back to prison?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any specific diplomatic requests to offer, Michel. But this is something that our embassy personnel are engaging on and monitoring very closely.
MR PATEL: Go ahead. I’ll come back to you after that. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Vedant. On Bangladesh. Critics of the Bangladesh ruling government are again being targeted as vehicles carrying a renowned civil society member and rights activist, Rizwana Hasan, came under attack by the ruling party activist. As you know, the Assistant Secretary Donald Lu recently visited, and he had a meeting with her. Meanwhile, a leading Bangladeshi book publisher, Adarsha publisher, known for its works by dissident writers, has been banned from the country’s largest book fair for criticizing ruling prime minister and her father. They cannot allow the publisher access to the book fair. There are reports that the same publisher is being obstruct to open its pavilion in another book fair in India state, West Bengal. So what is your comment as we are recently seeing that assistant secretary and the (inaudible) here very much engaged on Bangladesh and asking for free, fair, and credible elections?
MR PATEL: Sure. Let me say a couple of things. As it relates to your first question, the United States will not hesitate to speak out publicly in support of those everywhere who are fighting for recognition of their human rights and dignity. Around the world, democracy and respect for human rights are foundational to peace, economic prosperity, and stability. These values are inextricably linked.
What I will say to your second question about the publisher, we continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles, such as the freedom of expression, as human rights that contribute to strengthening our democracies.
QUESTION: Just on Bangladesh?
MR PATEL: Oh, sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Similar to that, but as you – as you probably know, the Bangladeshi Government said it blocked, I think, nearly 200 websites for anti-state material, as they describe it. Do you have any comment on that? Is that at all a concern to the United States?
MR PATEL: Of course any kind of censorship or blocking of information channels like that would be of deep concern. I’ve not seen that specific report, but we’ll see if we can get you some more specifics on that, Shaun.
You had your hand up, sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, Vedant, I wanted to ask the ambassador about this. Lavrov is expected to visit Sudan on February 8th, I believe. So do you see any connection between the release of this detainee and this visit? And what do you make about this visit, about Russia footprints in the continent, especially after his visit to South Africa as well?
MR PATEL: On this specific release, I will reiterate that we are, through our embassy, working with government officials to try and obtain more information. I don’t want to draw any more conclusions beyond that. What I will echo is what I said to Said’s question, which is that to countries around the world, including on the African continent – and the ambassador spoke to this a great deal – we have been very clear about that in the context of the conflict in Ukraine, Russia is infringing on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. And our message in public and private continues to be the same, which is that the Russian Federation needs to cease its aggression and remove its troops from Ukrainian soil.
Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: About Russian sanctions, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson is going to visit Türkiye tomorrow and the next day to meet with Turkish officials, and according to the Treasury readout, he will convey to his counterparts about institutions operating in permissive jurisdictions risk potentially losing access to G7 markets. Are you in touch with the Treasury about this meeting and do you have any comments on the status of Türkiye’s compliance with Russia sanctions?
QUESTION: And on Türkiye, another question, if possible.
MR PATEL: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Today the German and British consulates in Istanbul closed after the Netherlands did the same thing following threats to Westerners related to recent Qu’ran burning stunts in European cities. A U.S. security alert also updated two days ago and still continues. Are we in touch with Turkish officials? Is there any updates about the intelligence sharing or how long will the security alert stay in effect?
MR PATEL: So what I will say is that, first and foremost, the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul remains open, and I will of course let the foreign ministries of these other countries speak to their own operating status as it relates to their missions in Türkiye. But to widen the aperture a little bit, the U.S. State Department has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas, and earlier this week – or over this weekend, rather – the U.S. Mission in Türkiye issued security alerts to inform U.S. citizens of possible attacks by terrorists against places of worship and diplomatic missions in areas foreign nationals frequent, especially in specific neighborhoods. Turkish authorities are investigating this matter, and would refer you to them to speak to more.
MR PATEL: Go ahead in the back. I’ll come back to you, Alex.
QUESTION: On Iran, the Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian – Abdollahian, after his meeting with the Qatari foreign minister, he said that we’ll see what Tehran has to say with a message from the world powers regarding the JCPOA. And after that, Iranian media reported that the top Qatari officials said that the message was from the U.S. Have you sent any message to the Iran regarding JCPOA? If say so, what was the message?
MR PATEL: I think I have been very clear from this podium a number of times, and so I will say it again, that the JCPOA has not been on the agenda for months. It is not our focus. The Iranians killed the opportunity for a swift return to full implementation of the JCPOA back in September when they turned their backs on a deal that was on the table approved by all. Since September, our focus has been standing up for the fundamental freedoms of the Iranian people, standing with the Iranian people, and countering Iran’s deepening military partnership with Russia and its support for Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. sent a message to Iran?
MR PATEL: Again, as I said, the JCPOA has not been on the agenda for months. It is not our focus.
QUESTION: You just said killed the opportunity.
MR PATEL: We of course have said – we of course have long said and continue to believe – and it’s the belief of this administration – that Iran should never obtain a nuclear weapon, and we continue to believe that diplomacy continues to be the best mechanism to work through that. But as the specific question about the JCPOA, it has not been on the agenda for months.
QUESTION: Said’s question really – the Iran one – I’ll leave it for another day. Two questions, particularly on Russia-Türkiye. There are reports that U.S. leans on Türkiye to end Russian flights with American-made Boeings. Are you in a position to confirm those reports?
MR PATEL: American-made what?
QUESTION: Boeing. Boeing planes.
QUESTION: On the South Caucasus, the Secretary just made an announcement this afternoon. He appointed – basically, Ambassador Reeker was replaced with, if I’m not mistaken, a non‑ambassador career diplomat, Louis Bono. I was wondering if he is going to carry the same badge, because I read through the statement; I didn’t see much about his job. Basically the role is really outlined, but I did not see the name of Minsk Group or chief negotiator. Is it still the same job?
And secondly, is it the Secretary’s concern that the sides, Azerbaijan and Armenia, are sleepwalking towards another war?
MR PATEL: So, Alex, let me say a couple of things. First, broadly, I think you know this – you’ve covered this issue closely – this is something that is of deep importance to the Secretary. It’s something that the department is paying close attention to. Secretary Blinken in particular, as you know, had the chance to speak with both the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. So this is something that we’re going to continue to remain deeply engaged on.
On the subject of Mr. Bono, he is the lead for U.S. engagement to promote peace and stability for the South Caucasus. And he also represents the United States in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair format, as his predecessors have in this role. Specifically, what I will say, though, about his qualifications – as I just said, this is an enduring priority for the Biden administration. And Mr. Bono is a senior leader in the department with significant experience working on challenging and complex issues. And he has the personal confidence of Secretary Blinken and this department in taking on this new role.
QUESTION: Do you have any announcement on – of trip, upcoming trip for him?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any trips or travel to preview yet for you.
QUESTION: Do you have a new tool that he’s going to use, or is it the same badge, same tools?
MR PATEL: I don’t have any new policies to announce today, Alex. But again, this is of course something that we’re going to continue to pay close attention to and focus on.
You had your hand up?
MR PATEL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Two clarifications, please. The president of Türkiye said a while ago that his position on – on Finland is positive, but he’s not positive on Sweden. So what is the American position on this? Do you accept this new position by Türkiye, or you want both countries at the same time to be members of NATO?
MR PATEL: So let me speak a little bit about this. Secretary Blinken has spoken about this previously. There has been a process and a process that has been ongoing involving Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden. That process has been productive in addressing some of the concerns that Türkiye has raised about its own security, and both Finland and Sweden have taken significant steps to address those concerns.
Let me be very clear. Finland and Sweden are ready to be NATO Allies; both are ready to be NATO Allies. Both are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace and NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partnership. Their militaries work seamlessly with Alliance forces, and we are confident that NATO will formally welcome Finland and Sweden as members very soon.
MR PATEL: Sure, go ahead.
MR PATEL: I’m going to work the room a little bit. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The results of last Sunday election in Tunisia announced yesterday, and it has shown that 90 percent of the voters didn’t participate. The reason was, as explained, that the president has put all the power in his hand. And this number is unheard of. Did you have any comment? Did you issue any statements on it or did you have any comment?
MR PATEL: So the United States remains committed to the longstanding U.S.-Tunisia partnership. The second round of parliamentary elections that took place over the weekend is another step in the important and essential process of restoring the country’s democratic checks and balances. But as we noted back in December, low voter turnout reflects the need for government to engage in a more inclusive process going forward to further expand political participation. And we’re going to continue to support the Tunisian people’s aspirations for a democratic and accountable government that protects human rights and fundamental freedoms, including free expression, and preserves space for civil society as well.
QUESTION: — for the president?
MR PATEL: I think you’ve just heard me say that the low voter turnout is – reflects the dire need for the government to engage in a more inclusive path going forward. So I would reiterate that.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’ve got a follow-up on that Sweden-Finland question, because over the past couple of weeks I posed these questions to you and your colleague, Mr. Price. When the United States says that they are ready to join NATO, that’s kind of a verdict, a judgment on the U.S. side that they are ready to join NATO. But the disagreement between Stockholm and Ankara still persists, as Ankara says that according to Article 5 of that trilateral memorandum, some of those steps that they should have taken in the past eight, nine months regarding eliminating terrorism has not been met.
And over the weekend we heard from Sweden’s chief NATO negotiator, and it’s not hearsay. He made his remarks to Swedish public radio. He said: Unlike Finland, we have a larger share of funding for the PKK from Sweden. These are often multitaskers in their field – extortion, financing weapons and drugs exists in this field. And they are still yet to pass a legislation in the Swedish parliament regarding these terrorist activities. So how is it possible still in Washington to say that they are ready to join NATO? Because that’s kind of interpreted in Europe and also in Washington that there is a directive that is given to Ankara. Can you please clarify that? Because even Stockholm are saying that they are not ready, actually, to join NATO.
MR PATEL: We – our assessment is that they are ready to join NATO. They are ready to be NATO Allies. Both, as I just said, Sweden and Finland are partners of NATO’s Partnership for Peace and NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partnership. These are two countries whose militaries work seamlessly with NATO Alliance forces already. And what I will also say in reflection to the top of your question, we acknowledge Türkiye’s legitimate security concerns, but we also appreciate the tangible actions both Finland and Sweden have already taken to address those concerns. This of course is a process; that process continues to be underway. And we look forward to welcoming NATO – welcoming Sweden and Finland into NATO very soon.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that, please?
QUESTION: So if the progress in implementing the trilateral memorandum varies between the two aspirants to NATO, why wouldn’t it be possible that we consider separate approval timelines for two countries? Why the United States is trying to mention two countries together and taking – having them all together into NATO instead of having one by one?
MR PATEL: I’m just not going to get too into the weeds of this process. This process has been ongoing, and you have seen the United States do its part in – as it relates to the responsibilities that we have as a NATO member. We, of course, through our Congress, approved the accession of both of these countries, and we’re going to continue to let this process play out. But we, of course, have been very clear that Finland and Sweden are ready to be NATO Allies.
QUESTION: There seems to be a bipartisan consensus forming on the Hill about designating – in support of designating the Wager Group as a terrorist organization. Would this be helpful in the Sudan and also in Ukraine and elsewhere around the world, in Russia as well, given their horrible activities? What is – do you have a – I know the State Department in the past has worried that this might interfere with some humanitarian organizations, their work. Is this still an ongoing concern, or is there a greater consensus now that we need to designate them and – for what they are?
MR PATEL: I’m not going to preview any specific actions, but if you look at Wagner’s track record, it’s clear that they are a criminal organization, a transnational criminal organization. They are motivated by things that are evocative of criminal organization, things like profit, not necessarily for status or reputation or things like that.
But one thing that I want to be very clear about – and you saw us speak to this last week – is that countries that experience Wagner Group deployments within their borders find themselves poorer, weaker, and less secure. And that is why you saw the United States take a number of actions last week, a number of designations, to hold the Wagner Group accountable.
QUESTION: Mostly on the same topic, but a little different – slightly different.
MR PATEL: Sure, Alex. And then we probably have to wrap up.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Do you have any comment on the so-called bounty offers that we have been hearing from Russia coming from, well, so-called independent organizations, but it’s definitely encouraged and supported by the Kremlin, against the U.S. tanks and other weapons?
MR PATEL: What I would say, Alex, is that I’ve seen that reporting as well. But I think it’s important to remember here that, in the context of Ukraine, it is, again, the Russian Federation that is illegally and unlawfully on Ukrainian soil, violating Ukrainian territorial integrity, violating Ukrainian sovereignty.
And so what the United States is going to do is continue to do everything in our power to hold the Russian Federation accountable and to support our Ukrainian partners. That, of course, includes through security assistance, but that also includes continuing to take actions against the Russian Federation and holding them accountable.
QUESTION: Would you be willing to designate those organizations as terrorist organizations, if they pursue these – what they say they do?
MR PATEL: Alex, I think we’re just – we’re getting into hypotheticals here.
MR PATEL: Final question.
QUESTION: Yeah. You ask many times Türkiye to return this Russian S-400 to Moscow. Will you sanction Türkiye for this? Can you tell us if your position change since Türkiye refused to send back the system? Or do you still asking Türkiye to send the S-400 to Mr. Putin? Thank you.
MR PATEL: So we have imposed sanctions on Türkiye because of that. Our position has not changed. The, obviously, S-400s would – continues to have them in violation, and that’s why we’ve imposed sanctions under CAATSA 231 in December of 2020 on Türkiye.
All right. Actually, I’ll take a last question in the back. Go ahead. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for taking my question. Yesterday U.S. and India agreed to cooperate in advanced technology, including in the military field. What does the – what does this mean against the China and Russia? And will the four country in Quad in the Indo-Pacific region, including Japan, Australia, also proceed with military cooperation? What do you think?
MR PATEL: So I will – as you so noted, yesterday, with National Security Advisor Doval in Washington, he had the opportunity to, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, to kick off the inaugural U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology, which will elevate and expand our strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation. The two sides discussed opportunities for greater cooperation in critical and emerging technologies, co-development and co-production, and ways to deepen connectivity across our innovation ecosystems. We also expanded our defense cooperation with joint development and production, and this will focus on projects related to jet engines, munition-related technologies, and other systems. I will let our colleagues at the White House and National Security Council speak further about this meeting.
All right. Thanks, everybody.
30 Jan 2023 - During their recent visit to Uganda, Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) representatives attended the Game Connect Sports Gala marking the second year of the programme. More than 400 refugees and young people from five settlements across the country came together at the Palabek Refugee settlement in Northern Uganda for some friendly competition and to promote sport for better mental health and community identity. The Kampala settlement took the trophy for netball, while Adjumani won the football tournament. Every team was mixed gender and inclusive of people with disabilities.
Game Connect has reached more than 10,000 young refugees and youngsters in the host community, by using a variety of sports activities and games to help them acquire strategies to support their own mental health and psychosocial well-being and learn how to apply these in their daily lives. The programme also works with coaches, parents and community leaders to create a sustainable and lasting social support network.
Paul Tergat, ORF Board Member and IOC Member, said: “This event demonstrated the very best of sport. I’ll never forget the way everyone has come together. It doesn’t matter whether you come from Congo, South Sudan or Kenya, Game Connect has showed us the importance of not segregating and learning from one another”. He continued: “This programme is doing some wonderful work meeting the needs of young people on a daily basis, improving their mental health, connecting them with their communities, and giving them the opportunity to thrive through sport. This is why the Olympic Refuge Foundation is so pleased to support this consortium of partners.”
Lydia Murungi, the Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI) Foundation’s Consortium Manager for Game Connect, added: “Seeing the transformation that sport for protection has created in the young people with their esteem, self-awareness and improvement in conflict resolution is impressive. The impact that the Game Connect coaches have had on the youth, both with their mental health and psychosocial support and their talent identification, has also been visible through their display of fair play and all the Olympic values at this annual sports gala in the Palabek refugee settlement."
The ORF has invested over USD 1.5 million in the programme, which started in August 2020 and will run for three years. To deliver this programme, the ORF brought together a consortium of organisations, which included the AVSI Foundation, Right to Play, Youth Sport Uganda, the Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. The programme has demonstrated that sport is crucial in increasing resilience and promoting a culture of peace and social cohesion between refugees and host communities. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) also contributed USD 250,000, which allowed Game Connect to expand to include the Kyangwali settlement.
Away from the field of play, the consortium took advantage of the opportunity to reflect on the programme evaluation thus far and plan for the future of Game Connect, ensuring that young refugees from across Uganda will continue to have access to safe sport, which increases their resilience and improves their mental health.
Uganda hosts the most refugees in Africa, with refugees and asylum-seekers mainly from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi (UNHCR reference). Young people joining Ugandan communities can feel disconnected unwanted, and often suffer from depression, anger, low self-esteem and other mental health issues.
The Game Connect programme delivers structured sport-for-protection activities to increase the resilience of young refugees aged 15 to 24, in the Adjumani, Kampala, Kamwenge, Kyangwali, Lamwo and Palabek settlements, while also promoting a culture of peace and social cohesion between the refugees and members of the host communities.
Established by the IOC in 2017, the ORF aims to help improve the quality of life of displaced and disadvantaged children and young people worldwide by developing safe places for them to play and practise sport. Working in close collaboration with UNHCR and the relevant partners and local authorities on the ground, the ORF also helps develop sporting activities and social development projects that can be implemented in a sustainable way within these safe environments.
Since launching, the ORF has invested more than USD 6 million in support to programme-implementing partners, and the development of technical resources to enhance the scale and quality of sport for protection programming. It has coordinated 13 programmes in 10 countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, Türkiye and Uganda. As a result, more than 200,000 young people have so far benefited from sports programmes designed to improve their well-being and social inclusion. Its goal is to provide one million young people affected by displacement with access to sport by 2024.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warned today of an imminent cut to food assistance to crisis-affected refugees in Chad unless urgent funding to bridge major funding shortfalls is received imminently.
WFP requires US$161 million by the end of 2022 to avert a suspension of its refugee assistance programme and provide life-saving assistance to crisis-affected communities in Chad including 519,000 Sudanese and Central African refugees.
Refugee communities in Chad already face severe malnutrition levels, with some areas seeing acute malnutrition rates of over 19% and chronic malnutrition rates of 42% - a situation expected to worsen without additional funding that could stem the food aid cuts.
Starting in June 2021, WFP was forced to provide half rations to refugees and other groups due to major funding shortages.
WFP and UNHCR are concerned that any further suspension of food assistance will have a severe impact on the food security, nutrition, and protection of refugee communities – especially the most vulnerable - including children being pulled out of school, forced to work, or forced into marriage.
"Refugees count on us for what is sometimes the only meal they eat in a day – WFP’s food is a vital lifeline.
Cutting this lifeline now will have devastating consequences on the most vulnerable, especially women, girls and children – we’re extremely concerned,” said WFP Country Director and Representative in Chad, Pierre Honnorat.
While WFP and UNHCR continue working with the Government of Chad and partners to find lasting solutions, refugees are largely dependent on humanitarian assistance due to limited access to fertile land and livelihood opportunities.
This year, refugees and host communities have also been hard-hit by unprecedented flooding and spiralling food costs.
“We have received reports of an increase of malnourished children admitted in health centres, and have witnessed less children than usual attending school when compared to last year, as they are sent to the fields or towns to work,” said UNHCR Chad Representative Laura Lo Castro during a joint visit with WFP to assess the situation of Central African refugees in southern Chad, 40% of whom have arrived in the past three years and face a particularly worrisome situation.
“Food aid is critical to save lives in the short term, but also to safeguard ongoing and future resilience programmes.” Chad hosts 577,000 refugees, more than any other country in West and Central Africa.
The refugee population has increased by 10 percent in the past year and is mainly comprised of people who fled political instability, social unrest, and insecurity in neighbouring Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and Sudan.
Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal has completed a four-day visit to Uganda which showcased the UK’s ongoing partnership with Uganda across many sectors, including health, education, agriculture and business.
Kate Airey OBE, British High Commissioner to Uganda said of HRH The Princess Royal’s visit to Uganda: It has been a tremendous pleasure to host Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal on her third visit to Uganda, to celebrate the UK Uganda partnership on this 60th anniversary of Independence.
This visit presented an opportunity to meet with President Museveni and to experience, again, the warmth of Ugandan hospitality and a chance to see first-hand the partnerships forged by Save the Children, Opportunity International, Sense International and Transaid; all charities of which The Princess is a patron.
I extend my thanks to all of the individuals working to deliver sustainable improvements in the lives of some of Uganda’s most vulnerable Touring the Medical Research Council (MRC) / UVRI laboratories, HRH The Princess Royal appreciated the long-standing links to London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and observed how partnerships with leading UK academic institutions have supported cutting edge research initiatives in infectious and non-communicable diseases.
As Chancellor of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, HRH The Princess Royal met staff to learn more about the MRC Unit’s mandate to conduct high quality, research that contributes to the development of strong health protocols in the control of infectious and non-communicable diseases, including recent COVID-19 research which help to saves lives.
As patron of Save the Children, Opportunity International, Sense International and Transaid, HRH The Princess Royal saw first-hand the UK-Uganda partnership in action.
During her visit, HRH The Princess Royal witnessed Uganda’s welcoming approach to refugees - the largest refugee population in Africa - and the support provided by British charities.
In Nakivale refugee settlement, HRH The Princess Royal opened the first branch of Opportunity International Bank in the settlement, marking a milestone for financial access.
HRH The Princess Royal subsequently saw how Opportunity International’s bank loans have supported the Unleashed Youth Employment Project’s refugee entrepreneurs.
HRH The Princess Royal also met with Wenzetu Women’s Group to discuss how Opportunity International has worked with the group to assist families of people with disabilities.
HRH The Princess Royal continued to Kyangwali refugee settlement to observe projects for refugees and host communities led by Save the Children, visiting the Maratutu Education Centre and Child Friendly Space project, providing support to children affected by conflict and displacement.
The Princess met facilitators and UNHCR Child Protection Programme leads working with the Government of Uganda to deliver stability and support mechanisms to the most vulnerable.
At a reception celebrating the strong and enduring partnership between the UK and Uganda, in the 60th year of Independence, The Princess met with many who cherish that relationship including scholars, businesses, Government of Uganda officials, other Commonwealth High Commissioners, and representatives from many other charities The Princess is engaged with.
The reception served to highlight issues important to The Princess, including promoting conservation and ensuring the protection of Uganda’s refugee population.
Concluding project visits with Transaid and Sense International, HRH The Princess Royal visited Transaid, meeting women trainee HGV drivers taking part in the ‘Safe Way Right Way’ campaign, launched in 2013 in response to the demands for HGV drivers.
Transaid’s work provides focus on road safety campaigns and provides inclusive access to employment for women while filling gaps in the transport sector.
Following a tragic fire at Salaama School for the Blind on Monday, HRH The Princess Royal concluded her visit by meeting with Sense International representatives and with families it supports.
HRH The Princess Royal paid her respects to those affected.
- Worsening socio-economic conditions, new and ongoing conflicts and a shortage of humanitarian funds are increasing the risk of gender-based violence for forcibly displaced women and girls, the United Nations Agency for Human Rights said here on Friday. Refugees (UNHCR).
Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, UNHCR said in a statement that a "toxic mix of crises" is having a devastating effect on forcibly displaced people, felt all over the world. the world. , but women and girls suffer especially.
“Displaced women and girls are often the most vulnerable to shocks, given the loss of assets and livelihoods, the disruption of community safety nets, and their frequent exclusion from education and other national social protection,” UNHCR said.
He added that among refugee populations in Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, the Republic of the Congo and Zambia, UNHCR has reported severe nutrition problems, including malnutrition. acute, growth retardation and anemia.
In eastern and southern Africa, he said, more than three-quarters of refugees have seen their food rations cut and are unable to meet their basic needs. Inside Syria, 1.8 million people in displacement camps suffer severe food insecurity, while nine out of 10 Syrian refugees in Lebanon cannot afford food and essential services.
In the Americas, half of those forcibly displaced eat just two meals a day, and three-quarters reduce the quantity or quality of their food, according to the UNHCR statement.
The agency's data also showed that major deteriorations in food security are projected in Yemen and the Sahel, with millions of internally displaced people in countries like Somalia and Afghanistan living in situations where 90 percent of the population has no access. to enough food.
"Reports of girls being forced into marriage to allow the family to buy food are especially shocking. In East and the Horn of Africa, child marriages are increasing as a way of easing pressure on household income," she warned. UNHCR statement. and added that the risks of sexual violence are also exacerbated by the drought there, as women and girls are forced to walk longer distances to collect water and firewood. ■
Worsening socio-economic conditions, new and ongoing conflicts and humanitarian funding shortfalls are increasing the risk of gender-based violence for forcibly displaced women and girls, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning today.
“A toxic mix of crises -- conflicts, climate, skyrocketing costs, and the ripple effects of the Ukraine war – are inflicting a devastating toll on the forcibly displaced.
This is being felt across the world, but women and girls are particularly suffering,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
Many refugees and internally displaced people are unable to meet basic needs, owing to inflated prices and limited humanitarian assistance precipitated by disrupted supply chains and shortfalls in funding.
Displaced women and girls are often the most vulnerable to shocks, given the loss of assets and means of subsistence, the disruption of community-based safety nets and their frequent exclusion from education and other national social protection.
Faced with food shortages and surging prices, many women and girls are being forced to take gut-wrenching decisions to survive.
“With savings depleted, many are skipping meals, children are being sent to work instead of school and some may have no options but to beg or engage in the sale or exchange of sex to survive.
Too many are facing heightened risks of exploitation, trafficking, child marriage and intimate partner violence,” said Grandi.
Among refugee populations in Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Republic of the Congo and Zambia, UNHCR has recorded serious nutrition concerns.
These include acute malnutrition, stunting, and anaemia.
Across eastern and southern Africa, more than three quarters of refugees have seen food rations cut and are unable to meet their basic needs.
Inside Syria, 1.8 million people in displacement camps are severely food insecure, while nine in 10 Syrian refugees in Lebanon are unable to afford essential food and services.
Across the Americas, half of those forcibly displaced eat only two meals a day, with three quarters reducing the quantity or quality of their food, according to UNHCR data.
Major deteriorations in food security are projected in Yemen and the Sahel, and millions of internally displaced people in countries like Somalia and Afghanistan live in situations where 90 per cent of the population are not consuming enough food.
There is a shocking, pernicious cycle of hunger and insecurity, each exacerbating the other and fuelling risks to women and girls, as harmful coping strategies are adopted across communities.
Reports of girls being forced into marriage to allow the family to buy food are especially shocking.
In the East and Horn of Africa, child marriages are on the rise, as a way of alleviating the strain on household income.
Sexual violence risks are also aggravated by the drought, with women and girls being forced to trek longer distances to collect water and firewood.
While the need for programmes to address gender-based violence has never been greater, UNHCR is concerned that funding has not kept pace.
UNHCR’s identified global needs for gender-based violence prevention and response programs in 2023 will reach around USD 340 million, the highest ever.
Marking this year’s UN theme for the 16 Days of Activism in uniting to end violence against women and girls, UNHCR is urging donors to support essential gender-based violence prevention and response services, and to sustain funding for life-saving humanitarian programs to ensure refugees and other forcibly displaced can meet their basic needs.
More information on UNHCR’s work to tackle gender-based violence can be found here: https://www.unhcr.org/gender-based-violence.html
- The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, on Thursday called on the European Union (EU) to place security and solidarity at the center of its action in the Mediterranean and on all other routes migratory
On the eve of the meeting of EU interior ministers at an extraordinary session of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council, the UN refugee chief said in a statement that so far this year, nearly 2,000 Migrants have died or disappeared trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
"While states point fingers and trade blame, lives are lost. What is needed are more state-led and better coordinated search and rescue efforts, predictable landings in safe locations, and expedited access to screening and asylum procedures. to identify those who may need international protection, and return those who do not with safety and dignity," he said.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has consistently advocated that the vulnerabilities of all migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean, including accompanied and unaccompanied children, victims of trafficking and survivors of torture, be identified. in order to activate national and international initiatives. protection and reception mechanisms.
Those arriving from conflict zones have in many cases suffered serious abuses and human rights violations, UNHCR said. ■
Mozambique is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.
In recent years, changing weather patterns have seen extreme weather events such as cyclones, tropical storms, floods and drought become more frequent and intense.
In March 2019, Cyclone Idai, struck Mozambique, as well as Malawi and Zimbabwe, followed in April by Cyclone Kenneth.
Some 250,000 people were displaced and 650 people killed.
This year, including Tropical Storm Ana and Cyclone Gombe, the country has endured five tropical storms and cyclones.
Gombe alone impacted 736,000 people.
In addition to the devastating impact of climate disasters, Mozambique is confronted by a major conflict waged by non-state armed groups in its northern Cabo Delgado province which has now spread to neighbouring provinces, including Nampula.
The violence has displaced close to 1 million people since 2017.
On 11 March 2022, Cyclone Gombe made landfall on Mozambique’s coast, before moving inland and blazing a trail of destruction through the provinces of Nampula and Zambezia.
Winds reached up 190 kilometres per hour, mowing down swathes of houses, schools, roads, and bridges, and flooding farmlands.
Fragile shelters housing displaced people and refugees stood no chance against Gombe’s ferocity.
The roof of Patrício’s home in Corrane site for internally displaced people in Nampula Province blew off and landed in the yard and the mud walls started to crumble and collapse.
“My wife Anastasia and our nine children just stared in shock at what was happening,” says Patrício.
“Within minutes, we were left out in the open.” His neighbours offered to shelter them in their home, and they stayed there for a week while they built a temporary shelter.
Many other shelters in Corrane IDP site and Maratane refugee settlement, also in Nampula province, were severely damaged that night.
Patrício’s village in Cabo Delgado was attacked three times by armed groups.
“The two first times, we fled to the bush and retuned to our homes after they had looted everything,” he says.
During the second attack in April 2020, Patrício’s 22-year-old nephew was shot dead and his 24-year-old daughter was kidnapped.
Since her abduction, he has had no news of her whereabouts or wellbeing.
“During the third attack in July 2020, they burned 70 houses, including mine, and beheaded some people.
We had no choice but to flee for our lives.
We ended up here in Corrane.” The succession of disastrous events has taken a toll on Patrício’s mental health and wellbeing.
Recently however, he and his wife have helped to build a new, stronger house for their family as part of a project supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partner Caritas.
The project actively involves displaced people in the design, construction and reinforcement of their new homes against climatic extremes.
They prepare the mud used for the walls and often assist workers in completing the roof.
The approach gives them a sense of ownership and the skills to rebuild or repair any damage in the future.
“We created a shelter with overhanging roofs around it to be able to withstand gale-force winds,” says UNHCR shelter officer Armando Macave.
“We also improved the structure of the shelter itself.” He explains that the new houses are built with locally-sourced wood and bamboo, reinforced with ropes recycled from old tires, and zinc sheets for the roofs.
So far, around 300 of the new shelters have been built at Corrane with plans to build a further 250 by the end of the year.
More funding and support is needed to be able to construct additional shelters for displaced people affected by extreme weather.
In the coming months, a similar approach will be used to build new homes for refugees and the surrounding host community in Maratane.
The settlement, which hosts some 9,300 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, was also devastated by Cyclone Gombe with 80 per cent of shelters damaged, and some completely destroyed.
Thousands of people from the local community were also affected.
“It was really tragic,” says 35-year-old Burundian refugee Dorotea Ndahisenga.
“In a matter of minutes, we did not have a home anymore.
The roof collapsed just after I had taken my seven children outside to safety.
It was like escaping a conflict.
The children were crying; I felt very lonely and powerless.
My husband left me earlier this year and there was no one I could rely on.” Dorotea and her children found short-term refuge at a neighbour’s house and then in an unoccupied shelter, but they hope to move into a new house the camp’s church is helping to build.
Despite such help, every day is a struggle for Dorotea.
“I cultivate potatoes on a small plot of land owned by a Mozambican.
My crops were destroyed when Gombe hit but I cleaned the devastation away and re-planted.
Now I have potatoes again.” Dorotea sells her produce to other refugees and uses the income to buy other food, but it is still not enough.
“I’m alone with seven children and I don’t know what our future is.
Hopefully, we can move soon to our new house where we will feel at home.” The climate crisis has amplified the vulnerability of refugees and displaced people like Patrício and Dorotea who were already struggling to find food, shelter, security and work.
In spite of this, they are determined to be prepared the next time disaster strikes.
“I am so happy to be able to move to a new house soon, and I’m also very satisfied with the whole process of having helped build it,” says Patrício.
“When I compare the previous shelter with this one, the new shelter is much better.
I know I will feel safer in this home, should there be new cyclones or tropical storms.
What I need now is a piece of land to cultivate my own food and be independent.”
The Egyptian authorities have failed to protect vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers from pervasive sexual violence, including by failing to investigate rape and sexual assault, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch documented 11 incidents of sexual violence committed in Egypt between 2016 and 2022 against seven Sudanese and Yemeni refugees and asylum seekers, including one child.
All six women, including a transgender woman, said that men raped them, and four said they were assaulted in two or more incidents, while the child’s mother said a man raped her 11-year-old daughter.
Three said the police refused to file incident reports, three said they were too intimidated to report the incident at all, and one woman said a police employee sexually harassed her when she tried to report a rape.
“Not only are refugee women and girls in Egypt living in vulnerable situations at risk of sexual violence, but the authorities seem to have no interest in protecting them or investigating the incidents, let alone bringing the rapists to justice,” said Lama Fakih, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“The authorities’ evident lack of interest in these cases leaves refugee women with no place to turn for justice.” Sexual violence against women and girls in Egypt has been a pervasive problem in recent years as the government has largely failed to establish and carry out proper policies and investigation systems or enact necessary legislation to address the problem.
In 2017, a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey stated that Cairo, where more than a third of refugees in Egypt live according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), was the world’s most dangerous megacity for women.
Many refugee communities in Cairo and Giza are located in poorer neighborhoods and areas with high crime rates.
This exacerbates the risks for refugee women and girls, whom attackers already appear to target based on their actual or perceived vulnerability linked to poverty and legal status.
Human Rights Watch interviewed six women and the mother of the child, three aid workers, and a lawyer, all in Egypt.
In four cases, Human Rights Watch reviewed additional evidence including photographs and medical reports corroborating the accounts.
All six women said they experienced severe physical effects of the rape, such as bleeding or inflammation, difficulty walking, bruises, soreness, and other injuries.
Three of the rapes resulted in pregnancy.
Police referred none of the four who approached them to forensic or health care services.
Survivors also reported several psychological issues including sleeping problems, constant feelings of fear including of being followed, anger, frustration, depression, and memory issues.
The transgender woman said she had suicidal thoughts.
Five of the women are Sudanese, two refugees and three asylum seekers registered with UNHCR.
The other two are Yemeni, one a registered refugee and the other a registered asylum seeker.
All arrived in Egypt between 2016 and 2020.
One rapist was from Syria, another from Sudan, and the rest were Egyptian.
At least one attack, in which the woman was abducted and repeatedly assaulted, appears to have been racially motivated.
The survivor reported that the Egyptian rapist said, “let us enjoy this Black skin color.” The women all said they could not afford to hire a lawyer.
Egyptian authorities should perform their legal duties under domestic law and international human rights law and thoroughly investigate all rape allegations, Human Rights Watch said.
This would include filling out a First Information Report, a written document prepared by police when they receive initial information or allegation that a crime has occurred, the first step to ensure access to justice.
The authorities should also establish “firewalls” to separate enforcement of immigration laws from the need to protect people, including in the context of police response to violent crime.
Refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants who are undocumented, or whose documentation has expired, should be able to report violent incidents to the police without fear of reprisals related to their legal immigration status.
As of August 2022, Egypt hosted more than 288,000 UNHCR-registered refugees and asylum seekers, the majority from Syria or sub-Saharan Africa.
Many others most likely remain undocumented.
Official numbers show that sexual and gender-based violence is a pervasive problem for Egypt’s refugee communities.
In 2021, UNHCR said it provided gender-based violence response services to more than 2,300 registered refugees.
The agency said that rape was the most common form of sexual and gender-based violence reported in 2019, with African nationals constituting the majority of survivors.
During October 2019 alone, the agency received reports of 85 rapes and 30 other sexual assaults, 18 physical assaults, and six cases of psychological abuse.
Human Rights Watch wrote to the Egyptian Prosecutor General, Ministry of Interior, and the National Council for Women, on October 27, 2022, requesting figures on the sexual violence cases at courts and prosecution, procedures for registering complaints, and available services for survivors.
At the time of writing, these officials had not responded.
Human Rights Watch also wrote to UNHCR on October 13, 2022, requesting figures on sexual violence incidents reported to the agency and its partners and information about any trainings the agency may provide to the Egyptian police personnel.
At the time of writing, UNHCR had not responded.
Egypt lacks gender-responsive policing.
The authorities deploy female police to combat sexual harassment on the streets during holidays, but it is very rare to find a female officer in a police station.
Poor police response to rape allegations and authorities’ failure to properly investigate allegations harms Egyptian women as well, but refugee women face additional obstacles.
“Asylum seekers and refugees fleeing persecution or other harm in their own countries should be protected in Egypt, not subjected to further abuse,” Fakih said.
“The Egyptian government should overhaul its system for responding to sexual assault incidents, and make sure that sexual and reproductive care and services for sexual violence survivors are readily available, including emergency contraception.” Refugees in Egypt Egypt is a party to the 1951 United Nations and 1969 African refugee conventions.
It has no national asylum system and does not send refugees to refugee camps.
Most asylum seekers and refugees live in urban areas and UNHCR handles registration, documentation, and determination of refugee status for asylum seekers and refugees in Egypt.
The government allows those registered with UNHCR to regularize their residency via renewable six-month residence permits.
However, ongoing barriers to registering with UNHCR and to obtaining or renewing residence permits have left many asylum seekers and refugees undocumented or with expired permits, increasing their vulnerability to exploitation, abuse, and deportation.
Human Rights Watch and other organizations have previously documented serious abuses against asylum seekers and refugees by Egyptian authorities.
These include forced labor and physical abuse, in some cases during or following raids to check residency permits; arbitrary detention in poor conditions in Egyptian police stations; and deportations of asylum seekers to a country where they risked facing persecution, torture, or other serious human rights abuses, in violation of the principle of nonrefoulement under international law.
Reports have also indicated that Black refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa experience racist harassment and violence by the Egyptian police as well as members of the public.
Barriers to Police, Legal, and Medical Assistance In addition to refugee survivors of sexual violence, Human Rights Watch interviewed three staff members of two international aid agencies as well as a lawyer with a local women’s rights organization, who all work with survivors of sexual violence among refugee communities in Egypt.
The three aid workers said that police stations are often not safe places for refugees because police can detain them if their residency permit is invalid, which is often the case due to renewal barriers.
They also said Egyptian police in most cases would ask the rape survivor to provide the full name of the rapist to agree to fill out an incident report.
Filing a report is necessary, but not a guarantee, that the police would initiate an investigation.
One aid worker said that police sometimes do not even allow refugee women to enter the police station or require them to pay a bribe to enter.
A local rights group said that between 2020 and mid-2021, they documented eight cases of refugee and asylum-seeking women who were unable to file reports of rape incidents in five police stations in Cairo and Giza because police there demanded that survivors state the full name of the rapist, which they did not have.
The group also said that authorities did not refer any of the eight women to medical or forensic services.
An Egyptian lawyer who specializes in sexual violence cases said that because refugees are usually without legal aid services, they are not able to follow other legal avenues to register a complaint when police are unwilling to file a report of a rape allegation.
In August 2017, June 2021, and February 2022, police did not allow one asylum seeker and two refugee women interviewed to report rape incidents in police stations in the Cairo neighborhoods of Ain Shams, the Tenth Neighborhood, and Dar al-Salam.
Two of these women said that the police at these stations required them to provide the full name and address of the rapists to register their complaints, but both did not have this information, while the third one said that a police employee touched her on a sensitive part of her body, causing her to leave the police station without filing a report.
Another refugee woman, who said she was raped in October 2021, and the refugee mother of the girl who was raped in May 2020 at age 11, said they both did not attempt to report the incidents.
The mother said she thought the police would ask her for evidence of the rape that she would not be able to provide, and the other woman said that her community members told her that the Egyptian police would not take her allegation seriously.
One aid worker said that their organization never recommends to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) refugees who are sexually assaulted to report incidents to the police, out of fear that police will instead arrest them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Human Rights Watch has previously documented cases of systematic arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and other abuses, including sexual violence, against LGBT people by Egyptian police and National Security Agency officials.
The transgender woman refugee said that a group of Egyptian men raped her in a private car after abducting her at knifepoint in January 2022.
She said she did not file a police report about the incident because of a previous experience in 2020 at a Cairo police station, where she was arbitrarily detained in a men’s cell on “morality” charges due to her gender identity, during which time a police employee sexually assaulted her.
Human Rights Watch has previously documented that transgender women are likely to face sexual assault and other forms of ill-treatment when detained in men’s cells.
All six women interviewed and the mother of the child who was raped said they could not afford a private lawyer to represent them.
The girl’s mother and another woman said they were unemployed, while the others worked in low-paid positions, such as domestic workers or henna makers.
Three were single mothers.
According to a 2018 UNHCR report, 35 percent of refugee women in Egypt were unemployed, while 49 percent were only employed occasionally on a seasonal basis.
Two of the women said they received threats from unknown phone numbers following the rape incidents, most likely from the attackers or people related to the attackers.
Human Rights Watch reviewed screenshots shared by the women showing the threatening texts.
Such messages would be valuable information in official investigations, but none were underway.
Some rape survivors among refugee women in Egypt experience repeated incidents of sexual assault due to their vulnerability linked to their legal and economic status, the impunity for attackers, and lack of protection, as was the case for four women interviewed.
Another aid worker said that 20 of dozens of survivors she worked with over six months between 2021 and 2022 experienced multiple assaults.
None of the women received post-rape care at public health institutions, but all received some health care services and psychological counseling at an international aid agency, they said.
They all said the agency’s response was helpful, but the services were not always quickly accessible.
One woman said that in June 2021 she approached a government hospital in Cairo, seeking health care after being raped.
She said she was bleeding, but that a doctor at the reception told her “I am sorry, but I cannot help you.” Two survivors and the mother of the child said the assaults resulted in pregnancy.
Abortion at any stage is criminalized in Egypt, including in cases of rape.
One adult survivor and the girl’s mother, however, were able to secure pills outside legal healthcare settings for medical abortions.
The other woman learned about her pregnancy too late for a medical abortion and was also pressured by her mother not to go for an abortion.
Accounts by Survivors The following are accounts by several survivors, all of whom were given pseudonyms for their protection.
“Sara,” 32, a Sudanese refugee On February 8, 2022, Sara said, she went out with her two children in the evening to buy some groceries in the Ain Shams suburb of Cairo, where she lives.
She said that when she arrived back home and opened the door of her flat, she suddenly found two men she believed were from Sudan, from their dialect, behind her who shoved her and the children into the flat and closed the door: One of the men kept my six-year-old daughter and my two-year-old son in the living room, the other one grabbed me into a bedroom.
He had a knife and said, “if you cry, I will give this knife to my friend and he will kill your kids,” and then he raped me.
After the two left, my kids came to the bedroom; we all were crying.
Sara decided to report the incident to the police at the Ain Shams station two days later: When I went to the police station, a police employee at the front gate stopped me.
I told him I wanted to report a rape incident.
He asked if I had the names or addresses of the two men, which I did not, so he told me “You cannot fill in a report.” He did not even let me into the police station.
Sara said that her daughter had developed urinary incontinence following the incident.
She said, “My daughter has been asking me, ‘Mama, those who beat you, will they come again?’” Sara said she has never felt safe in Egypt and was previously sexually assaulted in December 2016: I was taking a microbus in Nasr City (a neighborhood in Cairo).
I was pregnant at this time, and an Egyptian guy sitting next to me started to touch my body.
I asked him to take his hands off me and he showed me some money to get me to allow it.
I shouted at him and the car stopped.
Most of the passengers blamed me saying I was “not a polite woman.” “Soaad,” 53, a Sudanese asylum seeker Soaad said that on June 23, 2021, she went to a home in the Mokattam neighborhood of Cairo to make henna tattoos for a bride and her other family members: I went to the house at around 3 p.m. and continued to work until 3 a.m. the next day.
They paid me and everything was okay.
A young man from the family told me that he could give me a ride, so I got into his car and fell asleep on the way.
I then woke up in the basement of some building under construction totally naked with both my hands and my legs tied and my mouth taped shut.
Soaad said she did not see the man who gave her the ride.
She said there were three other young attackers, all Egyptian, who kept her for three days in the basement and most likely drugged her to facilitate the rape: For three days they gave me only water, dates, and tea.
After I drank this tea I would sleep for long time, and during this time they would rape me, anal[ly] and vaginal[ly].
When I regained consciousness, I was crying and asked them “why are you doing this?” They said, “We will release you after two weeks when you get pregnant.” I told them I could not be pregnant at my age, and they said, “then let us enjoy this Black skin color.” They put out cigarettes on several parts of my body.
Soaad said she was only freed when an older man, who may have been a relative of the three, came to the basement and beat them.
He then gave them the keys to his car, ordering them to take Soaad away or he would call the police: The three took me in the car and dropped me somewhere I could not recognize.
They took all my money and my mobile phone.
I walked to a main road and asked a guy on motorbike to take me to the nearest transportation station and he gave me 20 EGP (US$1).
I took public transport to al-Hay al-Asher [Tenth Neighborhood].
Once I arrived, I fainted; people in the street woke me up but I could not speak at all.
Then they took me to the police station where the police told me they could not file a report because I did not know the names of the [attackers].
At the police station, Soaad said, a police officer said to her, “It is just youngsters who tricked you, they will not do anything further.
It already happened; if you register a complaint, what are you going to achieve?” She said that she was still bleeding two days later when she went to report the incident at another police station in Dar al-Salam: I told them everything that happened.
They then told me to go and report it at Mokattam police station.
One police employee said to me, “You just want to file a report to travel out of Egypt to Europe [referring to refugee resettlement facilitated by UNHCR], and to get money from UNHCR.
What is our responsibility here?” “Amal,” 29, a Sudanese refugee Amal said that in August 2017 she and her friend, a woman from South Sudan, took public transportation while heading to a condolence ceremony in Ramadan City, close to Cairo: We took a small van with three Egyptian male passengers in it and an Egyptian male driver.
On our way my friend noticed that the driver was taking a different route than the one to our destination, and she asked him “where you are going?” One passenger then pulled out a knife and told my friend to shut up, and another pulled out an electric shocker and told me the same, so we figured out that the three and the driver made up the whole transportation thing [as a ruse].
Amal said the driver headed to a remote area and stopped there: Two men each raped one of us, then they left us in this remote area.
We kept walking following the lights until we finally found a main road.
Our clothes were completely in disarray as well as our hijabs.
We waved for cars to help us, and after many attempts one guy stopped and drove us to the nearest transportation station.
Everyone in the street was looking at us and asking, “what happened to you?” Amal said she decided to report the incident to the police, but her friend told her she could not report it because her husband might kill her if he learned about what happened, so Amal went on her own to Ain Shams police station: I entered the police station and met a police employee.
I told him what happened with me, and he touched my body and said to me, “How did they assault you?
I want to see how this happened.” Then I left without filling in a report.
Amal said this was not her first experience of sexual violence in Egypt.
She described a prior incident in which she was gang raped by smugglers: I arrived in Egypt with my husband in July 2016.
The smuggler who facilitated our illegal entry to Egypt was chasing us asking for more money.
He was fighting with my husband, and we left the whole district after the smuggler and his men intercepted us in the street and attacked my husband, injuring him.
But they learned about our new location and one day came asking for my husband while he was at work.
When they learned this [that he was at work], they sexually assaulted me.
“Eman,” 45, a Yemeni refugee Eman said that on January 11, 2022, she went to buy groceries in her neighborhood, Hadayek al-Ahram in Giza. In the shop, some Egyptian men began to harass her: They approached me and called me “you boy, you girl,” because I am a transgender woman.
I stayed in the shop until they left to avoid meeting them outside.
I went out after they left, but while walking home the same men came out of a nearby car and asked me to get in the car.
They threatened me with a pocketknife, so I had to go with them to a remote area.
I tried to resist but couldn’t; they all raped me and then threw me in the street.
Eman said she never considered reporting the incident to the police after her experience in detention serving a prison sentence on “morality” charges linked to her gender identity in 2020 at a Cairo police station, where she was sexually assaulted by a police officer: I spent six months at this police station, and police there treat people like me as a slave.
Once I arrived at the station, the police took me to the thugs who control the cells and offered me to whoever pays most.
I was raped more than once by other inmates.
I saw people detained for no reason, sometimes they arrested people who visited the police station to file reports.
I can’t go to police stations in Egypt.
They degrade and hate people like me and will find any way to detain someone like me.
One day a police officer came to the cell where I was being held and asked all inmates to go out to the corridor except for me.
When everyone went out, he asked me to take off my shirt and looked at my breasts.
He said, “How could these naturally be your breasts?
How are they this big?” Then he started to touch me; after he finished, he made a scene pretending that I was harassing him and started beating me on my face until I bled from my nose.
Eman said she reported this assault to the chief of the station, but the officer was already suspended.
She said later she was pressured to drop it: Some time after the assault the chief pressured me to drop the complaint.
He said to me, “Drop it or I will make your life a hell,” and he threatened to fabricate more cases against me.
I had to drop the complaint eventually as I am a foreigner and have no one in this country.
Even my only friend who used to visit me stopped after the police repeatedly asked him if he had sex with me.
Eman said she frequently hears stories of “transgender people held in detention in Egypt.” “Their lives are miserable in these places,” she said.
Human Rights Watch reviewed screenshots of threatening WhatsApp messages Eman received.
In one of them, an unknown number texted her, “Why you are in Egypt you bitch and slut, I swear I will get you arrested motherfucker; I know you and will reach you.” Human Rights Watch reviewed two photographs Eman shared showing bruises on her body resulting from the 2022 rape.
“Fatma,” a Yemeni asylum seeker, raped at age 11 Fatma’s mother said that in May 2020 she sent Fatma to buy some groceries not far from their home.
She asked her to take a Tuk-tuk (a three-wheel vehicle) as usual, but roughly 20 minutes after Fatma went out, she came back crying and her face was red: I asked Fatma what happened, and she said the Tuk-tuk driver [an Egyptian man] took her to a remote area and took off her pants.
She was 11 back then and just had her period a few months before.
I took her to the bathroom, gave her a shower, and checked her vagina.
Everything was fine but she was crying, and I was shocked.
The mother said one month later she noticed Fatma did not have her period: I started to notice pregnancy symptoms.
I was shocked because [I thought] she was still a virgin, so I sought the help of a neighbor doctor.
She checked the girl and told me she was pregnant.
I took her to more than one doctor to discuss any possibility of abortion, but all refused.
While visiting doctors, Fatma was always crying and asking me, “What are you doing to me, mama?” The mother said she managed to secure some pills that ended the pregnancy: I gave her these pills and some specific drinks.
After the abortion she was so sick and did not eat; she was very weak.
Later I spoke with her and explained what happened so she would know; she cried and was shocked.
After the rape incident, her mother said that her daughter was frequently crying and screaming and had sleep problems.
She remains anti-social, rarely leaves their home, and wants to drop out of school, her mother said.
Human Rights Watch reviewed a medical examination report issued by an international aid agency on June 30, 2020, after the attack on the girl.
The report stated, “Pregnancy test was done: positive.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced that its first aid convoy since August has arrived in the capital of Ethiopia's northern Tigray region.
"UNHCR's first convoy since August arrived in Mekelle, Tigray, with life-saving humanitarian aid, including medicines and shelter kits to treat the sick and repair destroyed houses," the UN refugee agency said on Monday. .
"More are on the way as UNHCR ramps up the delivery of protection and solutions in northern Ethiopia," UNHCR said in a statement on social media.
The arrival of the aid in Tigray came after the top brass of the Ethiopian government and the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the de facto ruler of the Tigray region, agreed to facilitate humanitarian access in the affected parts. by the conflict in northern Ethiopia in an agreement. provided by the African Union (AU).
The parties to the conflict agreed to promote unimpeded humanitarian access for all those in need in Tigray and neighboring regions and to facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid workers.
They also agreed to provide security guarantees for aid workers and humanitarian organizations, as well as protection for civilians in accordance with the provisions of the "permanent cessation of hostilities" agreement signed by the two parties on November 2.
The AU commended these confidence-building measures and encouraged the two sides to move towards full implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement, as part of overall efforts to end the conflict and restore peace, security and stability. in Ethiopia.
Africa's second most populous nation has witnessed a devastating conflict between allied government troops and forces loyal to the TPLF since November 2020, which has left millions of people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. ■