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ICRD Analysis: Syrian Refugees Need Safe and Legal Pathways for Resettlement

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Syria remains a deadly and hostile country while its civil war is underway. This means civilians continue to require protection and refugees will need assistance in terms of resettlement and safe passage to third countries.

From its pre-conflict population of 20.5 million, 6.15 million people are internally displaced and 13.5 million people need humanitarian assistance.

By the end of October 2017 there were 5.31 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

Conditions for refugees remain precarious and there are a number of risks for those who reside in camp settings, including:

Lack of access to psychological support.
Protection concerns for unaccompanied minors.
Sexual and gender-based violence.
Poor health and bad hygiene.
Lack of protection to harsh weather conditions.
Limited financial resources.
While funding from donors to help humanitarian organisations is still vital and allows for much needed protection and assistance mechanisms to be put in place, there can be no alternative to asylum and resettlement to allow refugees to continue their lives and enjoy their full entitlement to rights in as safe an environment as possible.

In 2015, the EU asked 27 countries to take 160,000 refugees but by September 2017 only 29,162 had been taken in. The UK, who was not part of this scheme eventually agreed to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 through its own national Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme (VPRP).

However, many refugees are still making dangerous journeys from their country of origin, which exacerbates their suffering.

That’s why more safe and legal pathways are needed to ensure protection of Syrian refugees.

The UK position
The UK government settled on accepting 20,000 Syrian refugees. There has been opinion that the UK should accept more. The UK government has made clear though that it prefers to provide humanitarian funding to support those within the country believing that offering resettlement would encourage people to make the dangerous journey to the UK.

While aid can help attend to urgent needs there are many hard to reach areas in Syria, including those that are besieged. That means that humanitarian convoys can be denied entry. And so-called safe zones cannot truly protect the civilian population who have suffered disproportionately from the conflict. In addition Syrians are at risk of sexual violence, enforced disappearances and forced conscription as well as the recruitment of child soldiers. Evidence of torture and extra-judicial executions have also been uncovered.

Attacks on schools quadruple in conflict-hit eastern Ukraine – UNICEF

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Since the start of eastern Ukraines five-year conflict, more than 750 educational facilities on both sides have been damaged or destroyed due to hostilities

KYIV/NEW YORK, 21 May 2019 – Schoolchildren in conflict-hit eastern Ukraine have suffered a four-fold increase in attacks on schools during the first four months of the year, compared to the same period in 2018, traumatizing students and putting them at risk of injury or death, UNICEF said today.

Between January and April 2019, there were 12 attacks on schools, compared to three incidents during the same period last year. The alarming increase is reminiscent of the violence experienced by schoolchildren and teachers in 2017, when there were more than 40 attacks on education facilities.

“Schoolchildren are bearing long-lasting mental and physical scars of eastern Ukraines conflict,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Daily life at school is disrupted by shelling and shootings, forcing children to take cover in school basements and underground bomb shelters. In many cases, children have become too terrified to learn.”

Since the conflict began in early 2014, more than 750 educational facilities on both sides of the contact line have been damaged or destroyed due to hostilities. The proximity of military sites, bases and storage facilities as well as security checkpoints puts schoolchildren along both sides of the contact line in grave danger. In addition, mines and explosive remnants of war are threatening childrens safety and leading to trauma and emotional distress.

“Destroyed classrooms surrounded by sandbags to protect children from stray bullets are no place for a child to learn. All parties the conflict must protect schools and keep children safe,” Fore said.

UNICEF calls for an immediate end to the fighting and the protection of children at all times. UNICEF urges all governments, including Ukraine, to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, an intergovernmental political commitment to take concrete measures to protect students, educators and educational facilities from deliberate and indiscriminate attack during armed conflict.

Next week, the government of Spain will host the third International Conference on Safe Schools, an opportunity for states to highlight the progress they have made in implementing the Declaration.

UNICEF is working with partners across eastern Ukraine to provide much-needed counselling, psychosocial support, and information on the risks of mines to hundreds of thousands of children, youth and caregivers affected by the conflict. UNICEF is also providing support to education facilities so that repairs to damaged schools and kindergartens can be made, and education supplies such as educational kits, furniture and sport equipment can be replaced.

Notes to editors

Coronavirus stokes Middle East boiling points

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BBC:The Middle East has many reasons to fear the coronavirus pandemic, but it has one big advantage when it comes to resisting it. Most people in the region are young.

A rough average is that at least 60% are under the age of 30. That makes them less susceptible to developing Covid-19, the illness that has killed so many people in countries with older populations.

Most governments in the region saw what was happening elsewhere and had time to impose curfews and social distancing measures.

But that is where the Middle East’s advantages end. Years of strife in the world’s least stable region have left weaknesses that the pandemic is sure to deepen.

Medical capabilities vary widely. The best hospitals in Israel are as good as any in the world. The healthcare systems in Yemen, Syria and Libya – never strong – have been severely damaged, and in places destroyed, by years of war.

Yemen was already in the grip, the UN said, of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Now it has cases of Covid-19, which could spread fast in impoverished, overcrowded communities.

Aden, in the south, is in political turmoil. Even after two Covid-19 deaths were announced last week local residents were reported to be ignoring a curfew, still flocking to markets and mosques.

Troubled outlook

Those same young people who have the best chance of resisting the virus were, before it hit, leading demonstrations against their governments.

Every country has its own grievances, but in the Arab Middle East the protests have centred on corruption, cronyism and reform. Corrupt elites are accused of siphoning off public money that should have gone into public services, not least hospitals.

In Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq they forced out a president and two prime ministers. Protesters who refused to budge occupied the main squares of capital cities. In Iraq, they stayed put even after around 600 protesters were shot dead and thousands more were wounded.

Israel deciding whether Netanyahu will remain in power in heated national election

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Polls are open in what promises to be a high-stakes election for Israel, with 13-year incumbent PM Benjamin Netanyahu on track to become its longest-serving leader – if hes not toppled by the new Blue & White partys Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu, currently facing down an indictment on bribery and fraud charges, has promised to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a move long sought by the far-right parties he has courted in the run-up to the election.

The Likud party leader has also touted the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the US declaration of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as proof of his statesmanship.
Gantz, a former IDF commander, has argued against unilateral moves and called Netanyahus election-eve promise of the West Bank on a platter “irresponsible.” Gantz formed the Blue & White in February, in alliance with former finance minister Yair Lapid and former IDF commanders Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Yaalon.

The latest opinion polls show Likud and Blue & White winning about 30 seats each in the Knesset, meaning each would have to form a coalition in order to govern. While the Blue & White reportedly has a narrow lead, Netanyahus party is better positioned to form a governing bloc, the PM having made a point of cozying up to parties even further right than his own in recent months.

Netanyahu has also campaigned on his relationship with US President Donald Trump, appearing to take credit the day before elections for Trumps seemingly unprovoked decision to declare Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. Gantz has hinted he believes Trump is meddling in Israels election.

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Euro-Med reviews regional crises for new European Parliament members

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The European-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor urged newly elected members of the Parliament of the European Union to play a more active role in the humanitarian crises in the Middle East and to respond to the humanitarian challenge posed by the plight of refugees in Europe. The memos also described serious human rights violations by governments and non-state actors across the Middle East.

Euro-Med urges European Parliamentarians to focus on ending conflicts in the region and easing the suffering of the millions of civilians, as well as ending the supply of weapons to all parties involved in the conflict.

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In a series of memos sent after the ninth set of parliamentary elections, the Geneva-based organisation stated that refugee crisis that began in 2015 constituted the most serious humanitarian challenge for member states thus far. Euro-Med highlighted that the policies pursued by some member states deprived refugees of their rights under various international treaties.

The memos reminded European parliamentarians of the reasons that so many people in the Middle East were being forced to flee their homes, including serious human rights violations, and of the need for increased European influence to address these reasons.

In particular, the memos highlighted the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, described by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world that has resulted in untold suffering for civilians.

Parliamentarians were reminded that indiscriminate airstrikes by the Saudi-led military alliance and the repeated use of cluster munitions against civilians constituted a flagrant violation of the laws of war and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The memos also addressed the actions of Houthi forces, such as the use of landmines and the indiscriminate firing of rockets from positions in Yemen into civilian areas of Saudi Arabia, as well as arbitrary arrests and torture being practiced by both parties.

Euro-Med highlighted government repression in Sudan. Since mid-December last year, the regime in Sudan has responded violently to peaceful popular protests. Government forces have used live ammunition against peaceful protestors, killing dozens, and have arrested and unlawfully detained hundreds more, including members of political parties, students, doctors, journalists and human rights activists.

Also highlighted in the memos was the deteriorating human rights situation in Saudi Arabia over the past two years, most notably the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Despite the international pressure, the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice and no measures have been taken to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Saudi authorities have also arrested peaceful human rights activists and critics of the government for no reason other than criticising the government or demanding their basic human rights, the memos noted.

Call on UK Parliament For action against Gaza massacre

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Great Return March: Sign the petition and send a letter to your MP

On the 30th March 2018 Palestinians launched the “Great Return March”, a peaceful series of demonstrations reaffirming the Palestinian right of return – as enshrined by international law – and protesting against the inhumane living conditions caused by a decade long illegal blockade of Gaza.

The Israeli government responded to unarmed civilian protestors with violence, and has indicated it will continue using live ammunition against Palestinians exercising their right to demonstrate.

As of the 10th April 2018, at least 31 Palestinians have been killed, 1297 shot, and a further 1554 injured. With demonstrations set to continue up until the 15th May – to coincide with the 70thanniversary of the 1948 “Nakba” when Palestinians were expelled from their land – it is essential that the international community intervenes to prevent further massacres.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Israeli soldiers were not merely using excessive force, but were apparently acting on orders that all but ensured a bloody military response to the Palestinian demonstrations. The result was foreseeable deaths and injuries of demonstrators on the other side of a border who posed no imminent threat to life.” It is notable that there has not been a single Israeli casualty, and that Palestinians have refrained from escalating violence despite the attacks on them.

The targeting of civilians is a war crime, and there is now ample evidence of Israeli forces carrying out extrajudicial killings of unarmed demonstrators and even members of the press. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman shockingly responded to this by claiming that there are “no innocent people in Gaza”.

The refusal of the Israeli government to investigate the use of lethal force against civilians demonstrates how little regard they have for Palestinian lives. Israel, as an occupying power, is legally responsible for the wellbeing of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Despite this, Israel have imposed a debilitating decade long siege on Gaza that has triggered major socio-economic and health crises. 80% of the population are dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, and 42% of essential medicines are currently at zero stock.

The UN warns that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 unless urgent action is taken. As it stands, 97% of the water is not safe for consumption and there are electrical blackouts for around 16 hours each day. Former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, stated that “the closure of Gaza suffocates its people… Its a collective punishment for which there must be accountability.”

In the face of ongoing Palestinian suffering, the UK government still continues to approve arms exports to Israel despite its own guidelines prohibiting any sales of weapons that risk being used in violation of international law.

We, the undersigned, therefore call upon the British government to fulfil its legal obligations as a third state actor in upholding international law. We call upon the government to:

– Support the UNs call for an independent and effective investigation into the use of lethal force by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians exercising their right to demonstrate.

At least seven children killed in yet another attack on civilians in northwest Syria

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NEW YORK, 7 July 2019 – “At least seven children are confirmed to have been killed in an attack yesterday on the village of Mhambel in northwest Syria. It has been reported that most of those who lost their lives were internally displaced, having already been forced from their communities by previous waves of fighting.

“This latest outrage adds to the mounting child casualties caused by intensifying violence over the past few weeks, including in Al Wadihi, southern Idlib, northern Aleppo and northern Hama. At least 140 children have been killed in northwest Syria since the start of the year.

“The obvious disregard for the safety and wellbeing of children evident in these attacks is appalling. My heart breaks for the young lives lost and for all the children in the area who remain in harms way.

“I strongly and unequivocally urge the parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to ensure that children in the northwest and across the country are protected from the ongoing violence.”

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Ashland Library’s first ‘Food For Fines’ a success

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ASHLAND – Last month, Ashland Public Library tried something new.

The library agreed to give patrons a clean slate, wiping out overdue fines in exchange for donations of non-perishable foods and household items for local charities.

In just one week, the library collected 736 items for Associated Charities, Ashland County Council on Aging, Catholic Charities, Rape Crisis Domestic Violence Safe Haven and The Salvation Army Kroc Center.

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The response was far greater than library director Heather Miller expected. And particularly surprising and heartwarming, Miller said, was the fact that library staff members contributed more than half of those items.

Miller said she told staff members they could donate items on behalf of patrons. For each item donated, one outstanding line item on a patron’s account would be removed.

Line items can be as little as 10 cents for an item that was one day overdue or as much as several dollars for an item returned a few months late, Miller said. Fees for lost or damaged materials were not waived as part of the program.

“This was truly about paying it forward, adn our staff was so generous in donating,” Miller said.

At the end of the collection period, which ran March 17-23, fines on children’s accounts were cleared first. When no children’s fines remained, adult accounts were chosen from a randomized list to benefit from the staff’s generosity.

“I requested that we do children first because I felt that would have the biggest impact in the community,” Miller said.

In total, $567.90 in fines were cleared.

Jamal Khashoggi case: UN’s Agnes Callamard & fiancée Hatice Cengiz at London event

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Amnesty International will host a high-profile event in London next week (Tuesday 9 July) on the murder of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The event – “Jamal Khashoggi’s Assassination: The Open Secret” – is organised by the ALQST Saudi Arabian human rights organisation and the Diwan London organisation, and will be attended by the following speakers:

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur investigating Jamal Khashoggis murder

Hatice Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggis fiancée

Karen Attiah, Jamal Khashoggis editor at the Washington Post

Yahya Assiri, founder of ALQST

Moderator: Sahar Al-Faifi, civil rights activist and blogger

Last month, Agnes Callamard said there was “credible evidence” that senior Saudi Arabian officials were implicated in Khashoggis “premeditated” murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

Khashoggi was reportedly strangled moments after entering the building on 2 October and his body has never been recovered. Eleven alleged suspects are currently on trial before the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh for the murder.

Amnesty has said the trial “lacks credibility and transparency”.

Israeli army kills three Palestinian children in Gaza

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Three Palestinian boys aged between 13 and 14 have been killed in an Israeli air strike in the southeastern Gaza Strip near the fence with Israel, according to health officials.

Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson for the health ministry in the besieged enclave, identified the children as Khaled Bassam Mahmoud Abu Saeed, 14; Abdul Hameed Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abu Zaher, 13; and Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullah al-Sutari, 13.

He said ambulances brought their bodies to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

Palestinian news agency Wafa said the Israeli army “reportedly opened fire toward the ambulances and prevented their access” to the scene of the bombing, located northeast of Khan Younis.

The killings come a day after Palestinian group Islamic Jihad announced an Egypt-brokered ceasefire with Israel.

The declaration came hours after Israel launched air raids hitting more than 80 locations in the Gaza Strip after it said rockets were fired from there into southern Israel.

Egyptian mediators are attempting to negotiate a truce between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Israel, and avoid a full-scale war.

For the last seven months, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been staging regular demonstrations along the fence with Israel to demand the right to return to their homes from which they were forcibly expelled from in 1948.

They also demand an end to the years-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Strip, which has devastated the coastal enclaves economy and deprived its more than two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

Since the rallies began on March 30, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more wounded by Israeli forces.

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