News in Brief 18 November 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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A mother embraces her children after crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

Mediterranean deaths spike "six times higher than 12 months ago"

An estimated 365 people are missing, presumed dead, after at least six Mediterranean sea crossings ended in disaster just this week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said.

The agency's Leonard Doyle said the development means that the death toll for migrants so far this month is already six times higher than it was last November.

"And this of course is due to bad, you know, appalling weather, migrants assuming and paying in the hope and expectation that they will get a decent passage across the Mediterranean; then coming down to the beach and being confronted with a rubber raft, and not having any option, sometimes physical restraints on them even going back."

Some 4,636 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea so far in 2016 – that's well over 1,000 more deaths than last year.

IOM says that this week's fatalities all followed a similar pattern, with migrants using rubber dinghies that are totally unsuitable for the high seas to take them from North Africa to Europe.

Appeals to Myanmar, Bangladesh over Rakhine state violence

Myanmar and Bangladesh have been urged by the UN to protect citizens following the resumption of fighting in Rakhine state that's reportedly displaced thousands of people.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has appealed for calm and access to Myanmar's northern state, where government forces launched a security operation one month ago.

Reports indicate that hundreds of homes have been burned to the ground since fighting erupted once again at the weekend in Rakhine, which is home to an estimated one million Rohingya Muslims.

But UNHCR's Adrian Edwards said this information could not be verified by the agency, which has not been into Rakhine state for more than a month.

"We appeal for calm and for humanitarian access to meet the needs of thousands of people who have reportedly been displaced from their homes by the ongoing security operation which has been under way for over a month. The affected population is believed to be in urgent need of food, shelter and medical help."

UNHCR has also appealed to the government of Bangladesh "to keep its border with Myanmar open" for civilians fleeing violence.

United States "will work with the UN" under Trump, says DSG Eliasson

The election of Donald Trump as the next US president will not change the long-standing partnership the superpower has with the United Nations.

That's the message from UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who spoke to journalists in Geneva on Friday.

He said he had twice met the president-elect in the past – though not recently – and had never been aware of any "hostile" attitude towards the UN.

"So our working premise is that the United States will continue to work with the United Nations, not only because to me, it's the right thing to do, but also, that it's in the enlightened self-interest of any Member States, particularly the larger nations."

Mr Eliasson described how the US had supported the work of the UN since it was created, not least in peacekeeping, humanitarian action and standing up for human rights and the rule of law.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General did warn over potential stumbling blocks between the partners however, such as the recent Paris Agreement on climate change, before describing it as an "existential threat" which countries needed to act upon.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’13″

 

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