News in Brief 20 September 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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An aid convoy waits to cross into Syria. Photo: UN Monitoring Mechanism (UNMM)/Tonglet

Aid deliveries to Syria halted after deadly aid convoy attack

An attack on an aid convoy in Syria which killed at least one humanitarian worker and an unknown number of civilians has been condemned by the UN, which has now suspended deliveries of supplies throughout the war-torn country.

Jens Laerke from UN humanitarian coordinating agency, OCHA, described his "shock" and "disgust" at Monday evening's incident in north-west Aleppo.

"In this very, very dark day for humanitarians in Syria and, I think, across the world, because I think there has been a moment of shock and, frankly, disgust, by this attack. We remain committed and undeterred to continue to the best of our ability to help all Syrians in need."

The joint UN/Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) convoy was made up of 31 trucks loaded with food, medical items and blankets for 78,000 people.

It had full permission to access those in need, according to the UN.

Representing the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Benoit Carpentier expressed his horror at the attack which killed regional SARC director Omar Barakat.

He said that local sources indicated that an air strike hit the convoy as it was unloading in Urum al-Kubra late on Monday night.

In the wake of the attack, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said that it would make "every effort" to gather evidence so that those responsible are brought to justice.

Refugees' security situation is "critical" in reception centres, warns UNHCR

Serious concerns over the security of asylum-seekers in Greece have been raised by the UN in the wake of a large fire at a reception centre.

Initial reports indicate that no one was killed or seriously injured in the blaze at the Moria facility on the island of Lesvos, which the UN Refugee Agency says began after a dispute between those staying there.

Agency spokesperson William Spindler said that the incident confirmed the "critical security situation" at reception sites.

"UNHCR has repeatedly been calling upon the security and law enforcement authorities to increase security to protect refugees, migrants, aid workers and civil servants working in these sites… Poor living conditions, combined with a prevailing feeling of uncertainty, regularly fuel despair and frustration among asylum-seekers in Greece."

According to UNHCR, 4,400 people were staying at the centre at the time of the incident, which is above capacity.

It's calling on the authorities to reduce tension and overcrowding by transferring unaccompanied children to the Greek mainland, and to register asylum claims more quickly.

In a separate development, UNHCR also announced on Tuesday that the number of refugees and migrants reaching European shores this year has passed the 300,000 mark.

Rights experts to examine 800 enforced disappearances from 36 countries

And finally, enforced disappearances are "a very frightening trend" and they're on the rise, rights investigators have said.

The warning, from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, comes as it begins the task of looking into more than 800 cases from 36 countries.

Five independent human rights experts make up the investigating panel, which sits in Geneva.

Their role is to help families track down or ascertain the fate of reportedly disappeared relatives.

In addition, the experts also monitor how well Member States protect citizens from enforced disappearance, by meeting with country representatives and civil society organisations.

This session will also explore the link between enforced disappearances and migration, in light of numerous recent instances where people have fled their homes after being threatened in countries including Syria and Eritrea.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 3’45″




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