News in Brief 14 November 2017 (AM) – Geneva

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The UN has been responding to the urgent humanitarian needs in and around Sabratha, a smuggling hub near the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Photo: UNHCR

Libya's detention of migrants "is an outrage to humanity": Zeid

The EU's support for Libya's Coast Guard which has resulted in thousands of migrants being detained in "horrific" conditions is "inhuman" and an "outrage to…humanity", the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein's statement follows a probe by UN monitors who visited migrants held in state detention centres in Libya at the start of the month.

His comments are read by UN human rights office spokesperson Jeremy Laurence:

"Monitors were shocked by what they witnessed: thousands of emaciated and traumatized men, women and children piled on top of one another, locked up in hangars with no access to the most basic necessities, and stripped of their human dignity."

The European Union is providing assistance to the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant boats in the Mediterranean.

This includes in international waters, despite concerns raised by rights groups.

Nearly 20,000 people are in custody now, up from about 7,000 in mid-September.

The spike in numbers came after authorities detained thousands of migrants following clashes in Sabratha, a smuggling and trafficking hub, about 80 kilometres west of Tripoli.

In his statement, UN rights chief Zeid said that many of those in detention had already been exposed to trafficking, kidnapping, torture, rape and other sexual violence or exploitation.

His office has urged the Libyan authorities to stamp out human rights violations in centres under their control, while also calling on the international community not to turn a blind eye to the "unimaginable horrors" endured by migrants in Libya.

Opening smaller ports in Yemen is not a solution to blockade

A proposal to deliver vitally needed aid to Yemen via smaller ports than the ones under blockade would not be a solution to the catastrophic humanitarian situation there, a senior UN official has said.

Speaking over the phone to journalists on Tuesday, Jamie McGoldrick, who's the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, called for the reopening of Yemen's major import hubs, Hodeida and Saleef, along with Sana'a airport.

Smaller ports such as Aden in southern Yemen and Jazan – which is in neighbouring Saudi Arabia – lack the capacity to handle the amount of fuel, food and medicines that's needed, Mr McGoldrick said.

"Coming from Jazan in the north or coming from Aden in the south to serve the bulk of the population that we have identified, in the northern part of the country, it would be very difficult in many places because of for security issues, because of logistical issues. And there's an estimated another USD$ 30 per metric tonne and this is something that would then reduce the amount of money we have to serve the population and right now our humanitarian response plan is only 57 per cent funded."

Mr McGoldrick said that the Arabian peninsula country had just 20 days' worth of diesel left in the north and three months' reserves of wheat.

He added that he had heard reports about Aden and other ports opening but had not received confirmation that this had happened:

The decision to blockade Yemen was taken by the Saudi-led coalition which has been engaged in the three-year war against Houthi militants there.

The conflict has left more than seven million people close to famine and a total of 21 million people needing assistance, in one of the poorest countries in the world.

With humanitarian supplies "dangerously low", Mr McGoldrick warned that

efforts to keep famine and disease at bay risked setbacks.

Myanmar Rohnigya refugees face exploitation, sexual abuse – IOM

Exploitation is rife among desperate Rohingya refugees who have fled violence in Myanmar and sought shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh.

That's according to UN migration agency IOM, which is coordinating efforts to help the more than 617,000 people who have arrived in Cox's Bazar since the end of August, following a state-led military operation in Myanmar.

Here's IOM spokesperson Joel Millman:

"With almost no alternative source of income, the refugees are willing to take whatever opportunities they are presented with, even ones that are risky, dangerous and that involve their children. Once they start the job, they usually find that they are not paid what was promised. They are often deprived of sleep, made to work more hours than was agreed, not allowed to leave their work premises and not allowed to contact their family. Women and girls are often physically or sexually abused."

Much of the abuse happens in neighbourhoods surrounding the refugee settlements, Mr Millman said.

He added that it is very difficult to estimate the scale of the abuse, which was reported among Rohingya refugees from Myanmar already based in Bangladesh before the current mass influx.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 4’30″

 

 

 

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