News in Brief 11 January 2017 (AM)

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Migrant and asylum seeker camp on the Greek island of Lesvos covered in snow as icy temperatures and heavy snowstorms affect region. Photo: IOM 2017

Major concern expressed for migrants as winter freeze continues

Freezing temperatures across much of Europe and the eastern Mediterranean have led to "dozens of deaths" of migrants due to exposure, according to the UN Migration Agency (IOM).

IOM expressed particular concern for more than 15,500 migrants and asylum seekers housed in camps on Greek islands that have been hit hard by snowfall in recent days.

Two Iraqi migrants were found frozen to death in a forest in Bulgaria, and the agency has received reports of fatalities on mountain passes in Lebanon, and the Balkans.

Following the deaths of more than 5,000 migrants trying to reach Europe last year, IOM Director General William Swing said that it was "imperative that the world respond to the dangers exposed by these extreme weather conditions with food aid, shelter and other resources."

Pakistan urged to find four missing human rights campaigners

The Pakistani authorities are being urged to "make it a matter of the highest priority" to find and protect four human rights and social media campaigners who disappeared last week.

The call comes for the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, David Kaye, who said that "no government should tolerate attacks on its citizens."

He added that by urgently investigating the disappearances, which happened between 4 and 7 January, the government would "send a strong signal" that they take freedom of expression seriously.

Mainstream media outlets previously accused Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed, Salman Haider and Ahmed Raza Naseer, of promoting blasphemy, which is a criminal offence in Pakistan.

Mr Kaye said the government should take "every step possible" to find the four men and make sure they return home safely.

Thousands of refugees in Turkey access aid via debit cards

Thousands of refugees in Turkey are taking part in an innovative programme which allows vulnerable families to use debit cards to access aid.

The programme, which is funded by the European Union in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) and others, works by transferring cash to the cards, so refugees can prioritize their own spending.

WFP said they aimed to help up to one million refugees during the first half of this year, to cover essential supplies such as food, rent medicine and warm clothing.

The so-called Emergency Social Safety Net programme (ESSN), which includes the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish government as partners, "demonstrates what we can achieve working together" said Jan Lewis, head of the European Commission aid department in Turkey.

One refugee, Abu Adbullah, whose wife is battling cancer, told WFP that the assistance would help his family get by "while I do everything I can to help my wife's medical treatment."

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2'21"

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