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Nearly 1,000 migrants returned to Libya in the first two weeks of 2020: IOM

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Geneva – At least 953 migrants, among them 136 women and 85 children, have been returned to Libyan shores in the first two weeks of 2020. Most were disembarked in Tripoli and all were taken to detention centres. NGO search and rescue vessels reported having rescued 237 others. These returned migrants are among the more than 1,000 who have left Libya by sea since 1 January, driven in part by the heaviest clashes Tripoli has seen since hostilities began nine months ago.

Migrants who spoke to International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff at disembarkation points in Libya said that the escalation in hostilities in and around the capital, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation are the main reasons behind this increase in departures.

During the same period last year, 23 bodies were recovered by the coast guard and no migrants were returned to Libya. The current sudden increase in departures is especially alarming given the very limited search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean.

IOM has consistently called for the dismantling of the detention system, and the orderly release of migrants. Alternative solutions that safeguard lives must be found to alleviate the suffering of thousands of men, women, and children who are held in inhumane conditions.

While IOM teams are present at disembarkation points to provide emergency assistance to migrants, including basic health assistance and screenings, the Organization reiterates that measures to protect lives and guarantee the safety of these people are not in place.

Over 1,000 other migrants who have registered for IOMs Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme are still trapped in Libya due to the security situation. The challenging and unsafe environment in the countrys capital has disrupted aviation activities thus hindering an important lifeline for stranded migrants.

“While our operations and programmes continue across the country, they have been largely affected, especially with regards to the safe movement of migrants to transit points and airports. A minimum degree of security is needed for us to be able to safely assist 500 people scheduled to return home in the coming days,” says IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda.

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UN report details scale of rights violations suffered by children in Syrian war

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UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Publishes Report on Childrens Rights over the course of the Syrian War

GENEVA, 16 January 2020 – Children in the Syrian Arab Republic have been robbed of their childhood as they are forced to participate in a brutal war and endure numerous violations of their rights by all parties to the conflict while remaining acutely vulnerable to violence and abuse, the Commission of Inquiry for Syria noted today in its latest report.

In a 25-page report released today, entitled “They have erased the dreams of my children,” the three-person Commission outlines the multiple rights violations children have been subjected to – including over five million children displaced internally and abroad – and how boys and girls have been robbed of their childhood over the course of the brutal eight and a half-year war.

“I am appalled by the flagrant disregard for the laws of war and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all parties involved in the conflict”, said Commission of Inquiry Chair Paulo Pinheiro. “While the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has the primary responsibility for the protection of boys and girls in the country, all of the actors in this conflict must do more to protect children and preserve the countrys future generation,” he noted.

Children have been killed and maimed, and subjected to myriad violations by warring parties, states the report, which covers the period between September 2011 to the end of October 2019. On multiple occasions, pro-Government forces used cluster munitions, thermobaric bombs and chemical weapons causing scores of child casualties. Rape and sexual violence have been used repeatedly against men, women, boys and girls as a tool to punish, humiliate and instil fear among communities. Government forces have detained boys as young as 12, subjecting them to severe beatings and torture.

The devastating situation of education in Syria is particularly highlighted as an area of concern. Since the start of the conflict thousands of schools have been destroyed or used for military purposes and more than 2.1 million boys and girls are not regularly attending classes of any form. “Urgent efforts are required by the Syrian Government to support as many children as possible to return to education,” noted Commissioner Karen AbuZayd. “Armed groups holding territory also need to act with haste to facilitate access to education,” she added.

Armed groups targeted schools and used educational facilities for military purposes. Children were detained and used as bargaining chips for prisoner swaps or to extract ransom. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorists recruited and used boys to fight on the frontlines. At its peak, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) subjected girls as young as nine to rape and sexual slavery. Boys, meanwhile, were given military training and routinely exposed to extreme violence, including witnessing public executions or forced into the role of executor.

The impact of the conflict on the long-term physical and mental health of boys and girls has been severe. Today, large numbers of children suffer from disabilities as well as devastating psychological and development issues. The report also outlines how over five million children have been displaced by conflict and have become increasingly vulnerable to violations.

The Commission urges States to ensure the protection of displaced children, particularly with regard to the obligations upon all States to repatriate children with familial links to ISIL fighters. “States have well defined obligations to protect children, including from statelessness. Failing to abide by such fundamental principles would be a clear derogation of duty,” noted Commissioner Hanny Megally.

Among the recommendations to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and other key actors aimed to improve the protection of children in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Commission urges parties to respect the special protection children are entitled to under international humanitarian and human rights law and to ensure accountability for violations that have occurred. The Commission also makes a series of recommendations aimed at increasing the support for children who have suffered abuses.

Nearly 1,000 migrants returned to Libya in the first two weeks of 2020

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Geneva – At least 953 migrants, among them 136 women and 85 children, have been returned to Libyan shores in the first two weeks of 2020. Most were disembarked in Tripoli and all were taken to detention centres. NGO search and rescue vessels reported having rescued 237 others. These returned migrants are among the more than 1,000 who have left Libya by sea since 1 January, driven in part by the heaviest clashes Tripoli has seen since hostilities began nine months ago.

Migrants who spoke to International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff at disembarkation points in Libya said that the escalation in hostilities in and around the capital, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation are the main reasons behind this increase in departures.

During the same period last year, 23 bodies were recovered by the coast guard and no migrants were returned to Libya. The current sudden increase in departures is especially alarming given the very limited search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean.

IOM has consistently called for the dismantling of the detention system, and the orderly release of migrants. Alternative solutions that safeguard lives must be found to alleviate the suffering of thousands of men, women, and children who are held in inhumane conditions.

While IOM teams are present at disembarkation points to provide emergency assistance to migrants, including basic health assistance and screenings, the Organization reiterates that measures to protect lives and guarantee the safety of these people are not in place.

Over 1,000 other migrants who have registered for IOMs Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme are still trapped in Libya due to the security situation. The challenging and unsafe environment in the countrys capital has disrupted aviation activities thus hindering an important lifeline for stranded migrants.

“While our operations and programmes continue across the country, they have been largely affected, especially with regards to the safe movement of migrants to transit points and airports. A minimum degree of security is needed for us to be able to safely assist 500 people scheduled to return home in the coming days,” says IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda.

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IRC warns 650,000 civilians may be forced to flee if escalation in north-west Syria continues

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New York, NY, January 16, 2020 — The humanitarian situation in northwest Syria is reaching catastrophic levels, and with the attacks yesterday on a marketplace and an industrial zone that reportedly killed at least 15 people, and warnings to civilians in central Idlib and Western Aleppo to evacuate the area, 650,000 people could be impacted and at risk of displacement.

International Rescue Committee Middle East Policy Director, Misty Buswell, said, “The situation in northwest Syria was already at breaking point, and the events of the last few days mark a dangerous and deadly turning point in the conflict. An additional 650,000 people, the majority of them women and children, could be forced to flee their homes if the violence continues. This is on top of nearly 350,000 in Idlib who have been displaced since December, bringing the total number who have fled in the last 9 months to nearly three-quarters of a million.

Many of the displaced people are living in tents in the open in freezing winter conditions and urgently need shelter and food, with the ongoing risk of flooding further compounding the misery. Ahmad, a displaced person in Idlib, told the IRC that he lost his home to an airstrike and he and his family have been forced to flee three times in the past six months. The conflict has taken a psychological toll on his children, the youngest of whom was only 4 meters from the house when it was hit. An IRC assessment in Idlib last year found that half of parents reported their children showing signs of severe emotional distress, and the current violence will add to the psychological terror they are experiencing.

Hospitals and health facilities in Idlib were already full, and medical supplies stretched, even before this wave of violence. Doctors have told the IRC that they are seeing a worrying increase in malnutrition cases, particularly among babies, due to displacement, poor food security and increased poverty as a result of the conflict. Increasing insecurity has forced the suspension of three IRC supported health facilities in central Idlib since December, further limiting the lifesaving response, and an IRC partner in Western Aleppo had to stop its protection programs for women and girls yesterday, leaving the most vulnerable without essential protection services. Since the end of April, 1,460 civilians, including 417 children, have been killed as a result of the military escalation, according to the UN.

Yet again, it is innocent women and children who are bearing the brunt of the conflict, and who will suffer the most if this violence escalates further. All parties to the conflict need to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and spare civilians from the worst effects of the fighting. It is critical for the ceasefire that was agreed in northwest Syria to be implemented fully and without further delay. And it is time, once and for all, for the parties to the conflict to come back to the negotiating table and find a peaceful resolution. The very lives of 3 million civilians in northwest Syria depend on it.”

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Libya: Tens of thousands of children at risk amidst violence and chaos of unrelenting conflict

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NEW YORK, 17 January 2020 – “Children in Libya, including refugee and migrant children, continue to suffer grievously amidst the violence and chaos unleashed by the countrys longstanding civil war.

“Since April last year when hostilities broke out in Tripoli and western Libya, conditions for thousands of children and the civilians have deteriorated further. Indiscriminate attacks in populated areas have caused hundreds of deaths, and UNICEF has received reports of children being maimed or killed. Children are also being recruited to the fighting. Meanwhile, more than 150,000 people, 90,000 of whom are children, have been forced to flee their homes and are now internally displaced.

“Infrastructure on which children depend for their wellbeing and survival has also come under attack. Nearly 30 health facilities have been damaged in the fighting, forcing 13 to close. Attacks against schools and the threat of violence have led to closures and left almost 200,000 children out of the classroom. Water systems have been attacked and the waste management system has virtually collapsed, greatly increasing the risk of waterborne diseases including cholera.

“The 60,000 refugee and migrant children currently in urban areas are also terribly vulnerable, especially the 15,000 who are unaccompanied and those being held in detention centres. These children already had limited access to protection and essential services, so the intensifying conflict has only amplified the risks that they face.

“UNICEF and our partners are on the ground providing affected children and families with support in accessing healthcare and nutrition, protection, education, water and sanitation. We are also reaching refugee and migrant children with assistance, including those held in detention centres. Sadly, attacks against the civilian population and infrastructure, as well as against humanitarian and healthcare personnel are seeking to undermine humanitarian efforts.

“Today, children in Libya are in a dire and untenable situation that the rest of the world should find unacceptable. We urgently call on all parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to protect children, end the recruitment and use of children, cease attacks against civilian infrastructure, and allow for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to children and people in need. We also call on Libyan authorities to end the detention of migrant and refugee children and to actively pursue safe and dignified alternatives to detention.

“Ahead of a planned peace summit in Berlin, Germany this Sunday, we call on parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to urgently reach a comprehensive and durable peace agreement for the sake of each and every child in Libya.”

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Guatemala’s children bear brunt of prolonged drought and rising heat

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by Anastasia Moloney | @anastasiabogota | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 21 January 2020 17:14 GMT Image Caption and Rights Information

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA, Jan 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Rising numbers of children in Guatemala are going hungry as drought linked to climate change reduces food harvests, fueling child malnutrition rates in the Central American nation, the United Nations and charities said.

Guatemala, which has one of the world’s high rates of child malnutrition, recorded more than 15,300 cases of acute malnutrition in children under 5 last year, up nearly 24% from 2018, according to government figures.

The number of children acutely malnourished was the highest since 2015, when a severe drought hit Central America.

Guatemala’s farmers are reeling from a series of prolonged droughts in recent years and from a lengthy heat wave last year as climate change brings drier conditions and erratic rainfall, U.N. officials said.

Children living in poor highland farming communities and along the “Dry Corridor” – running through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua – are bearing the brunt, they said.

“There is an increase in cases of acute malnutrition that are related to climate change and the long periods of drought from June to October (last year),” said Maria Claudia Santizo, a nutrition specialist at the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.

Drought is also adding to the area of Guatemala suffering problems, she said.

“With climate change, the dry corridor has expanded,” Santizo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Libyas Humanitarian Coordinator underlines the need to restore essential services for people affected by conflict

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by Intisar Alqsar

Moftah, a 10-year-old boy from Tawergha, a town south-east of the Libyan capital Tripoli, lies in his hospital bed, exhausted after receiving his first daily dose of medication to treat acute anaemia. His mother tells us, “Moftah has had anaemia from the time he was 1 year old and since then we have had to come to the hospital three times a day for treatment. This trip has become our daily routine and we dont mind. We want our child to live his life like any normal healthy child, playing with joy.” She tears up as she says this.

However, the outbreak of violence in Libya in 2011, and the persistent insecurity and recurring armed clashes since, have made sustaining these hospital visits extremely challenging for the family. “The medicine is only available at Misrata Hospital, about 40 km away from Tawergha. Usually, we go to Misrata to buy the medicine.” But the journey is dangerous, especially at night. “The security situation has forced us to stop his treatment for several months … which negatively affects Moftahs health, since he needs three doses day.”

Read more on United Nations OCHA

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New Report: Israel Aims to Change Jerusalem Identity by Shutting Down Institutions and Confiscating Land

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Geneva – The Israeli authorities have continued their human rights violations in Jerusalem in November 2019, as they escalated their attempts to end Palestinian presence and change the city’s identity by closing institutions, confiscating land, and displacing residents, according to a monthly report published by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.

The US Administration’s attitude towards the Palestinian issue encouraged the Israeli authorities to commit more violations in the Palestinian Territories, especially after the recent US decision to consider settlements in the West Bank legitimate and dont violate international law.

Anas Jirjawi, Euro-Med Monitors Director of the Middle East and North Africa[hhmc]

[contfnewc]

Euro-Med Monitor said in its monthly report, which monitors Israeli violations in Jerusalem that the Israeli forces committed 400 violations in Jerusalem which fall under 18 types of human rights violations. The majority of these violations were raids, with a total of 25.8%, followed by arrests, with a total of 20.3%, and checkpoints and freedom of movement, with a total of 16.5%.

The report documented 25 shootings and direct assaults carried out by Israeli forces in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, which resulted in the death of Fares Abu Nab, 23. This incident constitutes a use of excessive force without him posing any danger or threat to the lives of Israeli forces. In addition, 17 Palestinian civilians, including two women, were wounded with rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters, and dozens were suffocated by tear gas while 14 Palestinians were beaten by Israeli forces.

This month, Israeli authorities closed four Palestinian establishments, including the official Palestine Television headquarters, which suggests that Israel is proceeding with its policy that aims to end the existence and operation of official Palestinian institutions, restricting work of official Palestinian figures in the city, and preventing any manifestations of Palestinian sovereignty.

The report documented 103 raids into the towns and neighborhoods of Jerusalem by Israeli forces. The raids included the arrest of 78 Palestinian citizens, including 12 children, a woman, the Palestinian Minister and Governor of Jerusalem, and the Director of the Directorate of Education. The report said that Israeli forces summoned 11 Palestinians and imposed house arrests on at least eight citizens, including children, following imposing fines on them.

The report documented 20 demolitions of Palestinian homes and properties in occupied Jerusalem. Nine homes were demolished, one of which was destroyed by its owner to avoid paying huge fines. In addition, six barns and warehouses were demolished in the city while ten other facilities were notified of demolitions.

These demolitions are carried out by Israeli army forces as part of a systematic policy of forced displacement of Palestinians, in order to change the demographic character of the city, nothing that such actions amount to a war crime.

The report documented four confiscation orders issued by Israeli forces, which seized 790 dunums in Jerusalem for the purpose of building the separation wall as well as roads while 6,850 dunums in the West Bank were affected.

The report documented two Israeli decisions regarding the approval of the Jerusalem train plan and the establishment of 11,000 housing units in a new neighborhood in the abandoned Qalandia Airport to expand the settlement of Atarot north of Jerusalem. The Geneva-based group noted that an Israeli decision to ban the work of UNRWA in Jerusalem was also issued.

Tunisian Authorities must meet protesters demands and respect their right to peaceful demonstration

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Geneva –Tunisian authorities must respect the right to peaceful demonstration, meet the protesters demands, and refrain from dealing violently with the protests that erupted this week, following the suicide of a young man after he did not receive his payment from work, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement.

“The protesters’ demands should be heard from the highest levels of authority. Force, in all its forms should not be used against protesters, and all security measures in Jilmah must be withheld.”

Anas jerjawi, Euro-Med Monitors Director of Middle East and North Africa region[hhmc]

[contfnewc]

In the last presidential elections, Tunisia demonstrated a rare democratic experience in the Arab region. However, in the last few days, the Tunisian Authorities’ violent dispersal of protesters in Jilmah city, southern the country, raises a serious concern about Tunisias return to restricting freedoms and crackdown on dissident.

Eyewitnesses and local media outlets said that Abdel Wahab al-Hablani, 25, burned himself to death on 29 November in Jilmah downtown, in Sidi Bouzid Governorate.

Al-Hablani used to work within “Mechanism 16”, an unofficial job in a governmental body. However, he was recently fired at a time where he hadn’t been receiving his payments for a year, according to al-Hablani relatives.

Protests began after al-Hablanis funeral on Saturday evening and went on for three days. The protesters demanded improving the city’s infrastructure, including providing drinking water, building a hospital, and improving the administrative services.

Eyewitnesses said that security forces used tear gas to break down the protests, on the evening of Monday, December 2, and took strict security measures that might increase tensions in the city.

“The protesters’ demands should be heard from the highest levels of authority. Force, in all its forms should not be used against protesters, and all security measures in Jilmah must be withheld.” Anas Aljerjawi, Euro-Med Monitors Director of Middle East and North Africa region. “An investigation must be opened into al-Hablani case and the events that followed.”

Aljerjawi stressed on Article 8 in the Tunisian Constitution, which was adopted on January 27, 2014. The Article assures that, “Youth are an active force in building the nation. The state seeks to provide the necessary conditions for developing the capacities of youth and realizing their potential, supports them to assume responsibility, and strives to extend and generalize their participation in social, economic, cultural and political development.”

Euro-Med Monitor concluded its statement by calling on the Tunisian authorities to curb the culture of violence and instead foster respect for their citizens’ right to freedom of speech and expression in the country. Additionally, Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Tunisian government to urgently address economic and development issues in remote cities to insure a decent living for all Tunisians.

Massive rains trigger flash floods in Djibouti, more than 150,000 people affected

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1. Highlights

• Massive rains triggered flash floods in Djibouti: the equivalent of 2 years of rainfall occurred in in one day. Houses, infrastructure, schools and community buildings were damaged.

• Some 150-250,000 people were somewhat affected, countrywide. Over 5,000 people hosted for several days in collective centres.

• The government is leading relief operations and activated the emergency plan (ORSEC).
Humanitarian partners, civil society and armed forces stationed in Djibouti are supporting the response.

• A rapid needs assessment is ongoing, countrywide, with the participation of 50 staff from government, UN and NGOs.

2. Situation Overview

Some 150-250,000 people have been somewhat affected by heavy rains across the country, mostly in Djibouti town. Nine people (7 children) reportedly lost their lives. Some 300 families have reportedly been affected in Tadjourah region, and 400 in Arta area. Information from other areas is being sought. Initial government estimates indicate that some 20,000 families (100,000 persons) are likely to need some form of humanitarian assistance. With the current weather forecasts, which predicts heavy rains until the end of November, the number of affected people could further rise.

According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Solidarity (MASS) more than 5,000 extremely vulnerable people, including 2,000 children under five years of age, were hosted in 12 collective centers (schools, community development centers) across Djibouti and have since returned to their home or their families ones. Many people are being hosted by friends and relatives across the city. While water pumping reached household level, in some dwellings the water is returning.

Despite substantial decreases of the rainfall, and while water pumping operations managed to considerably reduce stagnant water, in some areas of the city the water is resurfacing. The Ministry of Interior, the national road agency, the hydraulic department and FAO are investigating the cause of this phenomenon and find solutions. Road access remains difficult in some areas.

In Djibouti town, at least 14 schools were flooded to different degrees, with damages to roof, electricity, sanitary facilities and equipment reported. Similarly, some eight Community Development Centres suffered similar destructions. In Tadjourah, roadways have been damaged. The Wadi-Marsaki dike has withstood the high floods. The Djiboutian Road Agency (ADR) has reported that the Sagallou dike has been completely damaged and is seeking support for reconstruction.

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