News in Brief 19 May 2017 – (AM) Geneva

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Newly arriving refugees wave and laugh as the large inflatable boat they are in approaches the shore, near the village of Skala Eressos, on the island of Lesbos, in the North Aegean region of Greece. Photo: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

Thousands more migrants rescued on Mediterranean Sea crossing

Nearly 3,000 migrants have been saved in a single day after trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to Europe.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that several ships were involved in more than a dozen rescue operations on Thursday.

The majority of those plucked from the water were taken to Italy, while more than 500 migrants were taken back to Libya.

Casualty numbers are not yet known, although IOM reported that the remains of six people had been found in recent days along the Libyan coast.

Another well used Mediterranean sea route to Europe is via Turkey to Greece.

IOM said that more than 5,000 migrants had crossed the Aegean Sea that separates the two countries in the first four months of the year, with Syrians and Iraqis forming the majority.

That number is far below what it has been in recent years, but what is new is that the route is being used by migrants from several far-flung countries, including Kuwait, IOM's Joel Millman said:

"So we're observing this and wondering the degree to which Turkey continues to be an escape valve let's say for the Iraq-Syria conflict and the corridors in the Kurdish region, which would make a lot of sense. But what is the surprise is how many other country nationals seem to be accessing Turkey to make this same voyage to Greece, and I would include, we continue to see Haitians and Dominicans from the Caribbean coming to Greece from Turkey. Tiny numbers, but it's still going on."

Worldwide, IOM reports more than 1,900 accidental migrant deaths so far this year; the Mediterranean region accounts for about two-thirds of that total.

Pledge to probe Venezuela protesters' deaths welcomed

In Venezuela the ongoing loss of life in anti-government demonstrations reflects the "alarming" situation there, the UN human rights office said on Friday.

To date there have been 42 confirmed deaths related to the most recent protests against President Nicolas Maduro, against a backdrop of rising tension and serious economic hardship.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, which is seeking access to the country, said that it welcomed the Venezuelan Attorney General's announcement that the deaths will be investigated.

Here's OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville:

"There are of course allegations of excessive use of force by security forces, so I stress again the importance of them operating in accordance with international human rights standards. Also, there are reports of violence by armed groups…proliferation of weapons. We also urge protesters to use peaceful means, I think that's very important as well…It's very alarming what's happening in Venezuela."

Mr Colville also expressed concern that civilians have been detained and brought before military tribunals.

And he added that the decision to take away the passport of opposition politician Henrique Capriles was "unlikely to help" reduce tensions.

Mr Capriles was due to meet the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York on Friday, but his lawyer will take his place, Mr Colville told journalists.

Concern over "selective" detention in Argentina

Rights experts at the UN have expressed alarm at what they call the "selectivity" of Argentina's criminal justice system against vulnerable individuals.

According to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, those most likely to be arrested there on suspicion of committing crime include street children under 16 years old, indigenous people and migrants.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are also unfairly targeted, the experts said in a statement, at the end of an official visit to Argentina.

Panel members Sètondji Adjovi and Elina Steinerte also said they were "particularly alarmed" at the "disproportionate response" by the authorities to protests carried out by the country's indigenous peoples.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 3'56''

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