Europe 

IOM scales up aid at EU-Belarus border, as migrant hypothermia deaths tick up  

It is estimated that there are up to 2,000 migrants and refugees at the border with Poland, predominantly Kurds from Iraq, but also Syrians, Iranians, Afghans, Yemenis, Cameroonians and others. There are large numbers of women and children among them.  For António Vitorino, Director General of IOM, the “priority is the safety of these stranded migrants, upholding their human rights and preventing more deaths as temperatures remain well below freezing.”  “We are committed to providing humanitarian assistance and working with authorities on both sides of the border, and those who wish to return voluntarily…

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Europe 

Drowning of 27 migrants in English Channel is worst disaster on record: IOM 

The incident amounted to the largest single loss of life in the English Channel since the UN migration agency, IOM, started recording data in 2014.   Another 106 migrants were rescued in French waters on Wednesday alone.   Risking everything  Ever-increasing numbers of people are attempting the journey in small, unseaworthy boats as they flee conflict or poverty or persecution in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea and elsewhere.   According to the International Organization for Migration, since 2014, 166 migrants have been recorded dead or missing in the English Channel and 22,930 have been recorded dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea. …

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Europe 

Belarus-Poland crisis: Human rights of trapped migrants ‘paramount’ 

Following weeks of rising tension, the development follows news footage earlier in the week showing migrants located between the countries, attempting to avoid teargas and make their way through barbed wire fences.  “It is a terrible situation, we are seeing people in terrible circumstances, in the bitter cold, even reports that people have died”, said Liz Throssell, spokesperson, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).   “This is why the High Commissioner has spoken out and other UN agencies have spoken out really clearly about this. The human rights of migrants and refugees have to come first. It is really important they must…

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Europe 

Resolve ‘intolerable’ Belarus-Poland border migrant crisis: UN rights chief

In a statement on Wednesday, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was appalled that large numbers of migrants and refugees continue to be left in a desperate situation in near-freezing temperatures.  “I urge the States involved to take immediate steps to de-escalate and resolve this intolerable situation in line with their obligations under international human rights law and refugee law,” she said.  Migrant numbers increasing  Poland, as well as Lithuania and Latvia, which are all EU members, have seen an increase in the number of migrants, many from the Middle…

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Europe 

Uphold safety, human rights on Belarus-Poland border, UN agencies urge

Alarmed by the latest reports, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) issued a joint statement calling on States to ensure “the safety and human rights of migrants and refugees”. The border became a flash point after the European Union imposed sanctions on Belarus on the basis of alleged human rights violations, following the crackdown on protests, and the forcing down of a commercial flight between two EU nations by Belarus in May, in order to remove a leading dissident, according to news reports. The…

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Europe 

Women under fire in Belarus, activists tortured and exiled – UN expert

“The Government’s efforts to promote some rights of women at a policy level are rarely translated into concrete advancement of women’s rights in law and in practice”, said Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus. “Flaws in legislation have for decades led to inequalities, discrimination, and protection gaps in cases of gender-based violence and abuses”. Physical, psychological pressure In presenting her report on the human rights of women and girls in Belarus, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, and intersex persons, Ms. Marin cited long-standing societal gender stereotypes…

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Europe 

Conditions worsen for stranded migrants along Belarus-EU border 

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, appealed for urgent action on Friday, to save lives and prevent further suffering at the border with Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The latest casualty was reported within the past few days.  UNHCR warned that the situation will further and rapidly deteriorate as winter approaches, putting more lives in danger.  For the Agency’s Regional Director for Europe, Pascale Moreau, “when fundamental human rights are not protected, lives are at stake.”  “It is unacceptable that people have died, and the lives of others are precariously hanging in the balance. They are held hostage by a political stalemate which needs to be solved now,” he said.  According…

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Europe 

Recent Kosovo-Serbia tensions could ‘unravel steady but fragile progress’ 

The warning came from Special Representative and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Zahir Tanin, in a briefing to the Security Council on Friday.   “[These events] are of deep concern to me and should be a warning to all members of this Council”, Mr. Tanin said, referring to two episodes involving the Kosovo Police.   Escalating events  ‘Steady but fragile progress’ must be protected through sustained dialogue and trust-building, SRSG Tanin tells Security CouncilRead the full statement of the Head of UNMIK to #UNSC and its Albanian and Serbian translations here:https://t.co/IUdwh2CExe — UNMIK (UN Mission in Kosovo) (@UNMIKosovo) October…

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Europe 

Portuguese beaches lead the way during UN, EU clean-up campaign 

Every year, millions of tons of litter end up in the ocean, often having a direct and deadly impact on wildlife, from seabirds to whales, fish to invertebrates.   With that in mind, the UN and the EU campaign has tapped into growing awareness of the issue, aiming to boost ocean activism at the grassroots level, through concrete action.   “The fish can get stuck in plastic, the turtles can eat the glass and other things can poke some of them”, four year old Gustavo Johns.  Launched in 2017, the campaign allows people from around the world to volunteer and contribute to…

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Europe 

Food Hero: Cultivating women farmers in Georgia

Irina Vasilyeva has been chosen as one of 17 Food Heroes by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO), as an example of how access to technical knowledge and innovation can empower smallholder farmers to become agents of change. Food Heroes are recognized for their commitment to provide food for their communities and beyond. She spoke to the UN ahead of World Food Day, marked annually on 16 October. “My name is Irina Vasilyeva, and I live in the ancient village of Vartsikhe, Bagdati municipality in western Georgia. This is an agricultural community…

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