News in Brief 08 March 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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The European Union is in discussions with Turkey to take back refugees who left its shores. Photo: UNHCR/M. Henley

EU refugee deal with Turkey must come with guarantees, warns UN

Any deal to fix the European migrant crisis that involves mass returns of refugees to Turkey needs to include assurances about their safety, the UN said Tuesday.

Speaking after early details emerged of a plan to return tens of thousands of asylum-seekers from the European Union, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, insisted that international law must be respected.

UNHCR's Vincent Cochetel said that guarantees should be made public before the next EU Council meeting in nine days.

"Collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention on Human Rights; an agreement that would be tantamount to the blanket return of any foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law, is not consistent with international law."

Turkey already hosts close to three million refugees and the UN Refugee Agency says that it "still struggles" to meet their basic needs.

The UN Children's Agency, UNICEF, meanwhile, cautioned that 40 per cent of the refugees now in the EU are children, and that the fundamental principle of "Do no harm" must be respected in any discussions with Turkey.

Syria people "had one meal every two days" before aid arrived

"Life-saving" and "life-changing" aid is arriving in Syria, the UN food agency said Tuesday, amid reports of continuing air strikes in parts of the country.

Bettina Luescher from the World Food Programme said that aid trucks have now reached 150,000 people in besieged areas, including in Moadamiyet, south-west of Damascus.

"It is life-saving, it is life-changing. People have told us before the food came for example in Moadamiyet, they were only able to eat one meal every two days, and now they are able to eat twice a day. That's the difference these convoys have made."

The security situation remains precarious in Syria, however, despite a cessation of hostilities that has reduced the overall level violence.

UN agency OCHA said that armed conflict, including airstrikes, have been reported in and around Aleppo in the north-west of the country, and other so-called "pockets".

This caused a new wave of displacement in February, bringing the total number of displaced to 167,000 people in Aleppo governorate alone.

Talks to secure peace in the war-torn are due to resume in Geneva on the afternoon of Thursday 9 March, the office of the Special Envoy for Syria has confirmed.

Yemen conflict leaves 2.4 million displaced: UN

The conflict in Yemen has forced well over two million people to leave their homes and the situation is likely to get worse, UN humanitarian experts have warned.

A total of 2,430,178 people are now registered displaced, almost a year after fighting escalated between Saudi-backed coalition forces acting for the government, and Houthi rebels.

Here's Leo Dobbs, from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, which raised the alarm with UN partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM):

"Most of the displaced people are in areas of conflict… we have been trying to get aid into these areas, these displacement areas and we are imploring all sides to allow humanitarian access to these hardest-hit areas."

Nearly 70 per cent of all those displaced are in just five governorates affected by the fighting: Taizz, Hajah, Sana'a, Amran and Sa'ada.

Noiseless cars set to offer sound advice

And finally…if you thought you'd heard it all, just have a listen to this:

(noise of car sound simulation)

If you're wondering what it is, it's the new Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System that's going to be installed on hybrid and electric cars, to make them safe.

The initiative is set to be adopted at the world forum which decides on vehicle and road safety regulations.

UNECE, the UN agency overseeing the initiative, says that so-called "silent cars" are more dangerous than their traditional combustion engine counterparts when driven at lower speeds, such as in parking lots.

Now it looks like the problem's been solved, with the new system set to kick in at speeds ranging from nought to 20 kilometres per hour.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 4'03"


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