News in Brief 24 February 2017 (PM)

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Photo: UNEP

Tighter rules needed to combat air pollution, UN experts urge

Countries have a duty to strengthen legislation that prevents and controls exposure to toxic air pollution, UN human rights experts have urged.

The appeal for better regulation comes from the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, together with his fellow UN experts.

Around seven million premature deaths each year are linked to exposure to air pollution, according to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates.

Toxic air pollutants are associated with an increased risk of disease from stroke, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases, including asthma, the experts said.

Children, women of reproductive age, the elderly as well as people in poor health and those living in less wealthy communities remain the most vulnerable.

The experts also pointed to a lack of accountability and called for long-term incentives for pollution reduction and technical innovation.

They called for a better regulation of toxic emissions from industrial sources or vehicles, the strengthening of waste management and recycling practices, and the promotion of renewable energies.

Recent deportations in Americas and globally 'dangerous trend', UN warns

The world is witnessing a "dangerous trend" in the Americas as well as globally regarding the deportations of illegal immigrants, a spokesperson for the UN human rights chief has said.

Migrants in an irregular situation are criminalized, detained and deported, Ravina Shamdasani of the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) explained.

Meanwhile, the US has issued new guidelines allowing authorities to send illegal immigrants back to Mexico even if they are not from there, according to media reports.

OHCHR is concerned that the implementation of the new executive orders and memos issued this week could breach the United States' human rights obligations.

Ravina Shamdasani has the details.

"We are witnessing a dangerous trend in the Americas as well as globally and migrants are increasingly being scapegoated for a whole host of issues. Those in an irregular situation were criminalized, detained and deported. We are concerned that the implementation of the executive orders and memos issued this week could breach the United States' human rights obligations. While States do have– it is legitimate function of the Government to be able to implement migration policies and border security, these must be carried out with full respect for human rights laws and standards."

Cécile Pouilly, a spokesperson for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said her agency would take a close look at the new executive order as soon as it was made public.

UNHCR has already issued three statements on the Mexico-US border and on a previous executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries to enter the US.

The order has since been suspended.

IOM condemns attacks on foreign nationals by South Africans

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has strongly condemned the attacks, looting and burning of property owned by foreign nationals in South Africa.

The agency's spokesperson Itayi Viriri issued a statement expressing concern over the recent spate of violence targeting migrants in parts of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

"We encourage citizens who are aggrieved by various societal issues to raise them with the local authorities. Certainly we can say even evidence that has been shown by various research groups in South Africa, that there is no real tangible evidence that there is an increase of crime because of migrants. On the contrary, research shows that immigrants who go to South Africa mostly do not harm the long-term employment prospects and wages of native-born workers. In fact, quite a lot of them create small businesses. In fact, most of them being targeted now are small business owners."

In previous bouts of violence in 2008 and 2015, IOM had assisted the authorities in helping some of the people affected by the violence go back to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and other countries.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 3’41”

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