Posts Tagged ‘UNHCR’

Today: World Refugee Day 2019

June 20, 2019

Many are the initiatives on this day. UNHCR lists just a few ways that you can take action right now and spread this message even further:

Sometimes good news fall on the right day: a French court acquitted Tom Ciotkowski, a British human rights defender who documented police abuse against migrants and refugees and volunteers who were helping them in Calais. Amnesty International France’s Programme manager on Freedoms, Nicolas Krameyer said: “Today’s decision, delivered on World Refugee Day, is not only a victory for justice but also for common sense. Tom Ciotkowski is a compassionate young volunteer who did nothing wrong and was dragged through the courts on trumped up charges”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/european-governments-should-stop-treating-solidarity-and-compassion-as-a-crime/]

EuroMed Rights focuses on the current practice of stopping people from disembarking ships/boats on the Mediterranean Sea shoreline, particularly in Tunisia. In many aspects, this situation is emblematic of the obstacles faced by refugees in obtaining protection and access to rights in the Euro-Mediterranean region. It is also emblematic of the unfailing solidarity with refugees of local organisations and individuals.

Freedom United issues a call to close Libyan slave markets.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is featuring stories of survival—a collection of video testimonies and first-hand accounts from people who have risked everything for a chance at safety. As an organisation working with refugees and people on the move, we know that nothing—not a wall, or even an ocean—will ever stop people who are simply trying to survive.

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https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/06/france-acquittal-of-young-man-for-showing-compassion-to-refugees-in-calais-shows-solidarity-is-not-a-crime/

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/world-refugee-day-deadlock-at-sea-obstacles-to-the-right-of-asylum-the-tunisian-case?e=1209ebd6d8

https://www.freedomunited.org/

https://www.msf.org/refugees-around-world-stories-survival-world-refugee-day

The Emirates trying to do good with one hand but what horror with the other!

May 8, 2019

The two faces of the UAE on human rights:

While major NGOs are involved in a campaign to save the life of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, Sharjah – the third largest and third most populous city in the United Arab Emirates – launches an international award for refugee work.

Update 6 May 2019:  Ahmed Mansoor remains in isolation in Al-Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi with no bed or water, despite an unconfirmed report that he may have ended his hunger strike recently. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/10/mea-laureate-ahmed-mansoor-on-hunger-strike-in-emirates/

Mansoor is being kept in an isolation ward in Al-Sadr prison in Abu Dhabi, where he is being held in “terrible conditions” in a cell with no bed, no water and no access to a shower. His health has deteriorated significantly, and he is in bad shape, moving slowly when he is allowed out of his cell. He is not allowed to have regular family visits, another reason he started his hunger strike in mid-March. The NGOs – Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), ARTICLE 19, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), CIVICUS, English PEN, FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Front Line Defenders (FLD), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), IFEX, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Martin Ennals Foundation, PEN International and Reporters Without Borders (RSF)- call on the UAE to immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed Mansoor, and other unlawfully detained human rights defenders.

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Filippo Grandi in Security Council denounces ‘toxic language of politics’ aimed at refugees, migrants

April 10, 2019

Dissecting the term “refugee crisis” itself, Mr. Grandi asked the Security Council to consider to whom, exactly, that applied: “It is a crisis for a mother with her children fleeing gang violence; it is a crisis for a teenager who wants to flee from war, human rights violations, forced conscription; it is crisis for governments in countries with few resources that, every day, open their borders to thousands. For them, it is a crisis.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, briefs the Security Council. (9 April 2019)

But it is wrong, he continued, to portray the situation as an unmanageable global crisis: with political will and improved responses, as enshrined by the Global Compact for Refugees, adopted last December, it can be addressed, and the Security Council has a critical role to play, particularly in terms of solving peace and security crises, supporting countries that are hosting refugees, and working to remove obstacles to solutions.

Conflicts, Mr. Grandi pointed out, are the main drivers of refugee flows: of the nearly 70 million people that are displaced, most are escaping deadly fighting. However, from the point of view of the UN High Commission for Refugees, approaches to peace-building are fragmented; addressing the symptoms, rather than the causes.

..[he goes into more detail on the Libyan situation]…

The UN refugee chief went on to exhort the Security council to step up support for the developing countries that host 85 per cent of the world’s refugees, to avoid leaving governments politically exposed, and refugees destitute. With regards to the return of refugees and migrants to their countries of origin, Mr. Grandi countered the misconception that UNHCR blocks returns: refugees have both a right to return, and also a right to not return, he said, in the absence of security and basic support. The informed choice of refugees must be respected, and returns must be dignified.

Mr. Grandi concluded by returning to the consequences of the toxic language surrounding refugees and migration, citing the example of the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, which left 49 dead. The response of the New Zealand Government should, he said, be seen as an good example of effective leadership and how to respond to such toxicity, in a firm and organized manner, restating solidarity with refugees, and reaffirming the principle that our societies cannot be truly prosperous, stable and peaceful, if they do not include everyone.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/04/1036391

Aziz: thank you for the attention but now I have go back to detention…

February 18, 2019

Last Wednesday, 13 February 2019, Abdul Aziz Muhamat was awarded the 2019 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defender in Geneva. Some time earlier Behrouz Boochani was awarded the Australian Victorian Prize for Literature. What they have in common is that they are detained – for almost 6 years – on Manus Island under Australia’s off-shore refugee policy.  Their stories testify to the cruelty of this regime and the humanitarian deficiency of a country that claims a strong liberal tradition and is itself a nation based on immigration. Successive governments have defended this policy as necessary to stop trafficking although it is hard to see how forced stays of such length would attract anybody except the most desperate refugees. And anyway even those recognized as refugees would not be allowed to settle in Australia!

Aziz’ impassioned acceptance speech in Geneva, spoke of the solidarity he feels for his fellow detainees in the face of daily humiliating and degrading treatment. Therefore he vowed to return to his detention centre in the Pacific, return to be a number (“On the island, officials refer to me as QNK002. I have no identity other than that number“). See:

Read the rest of this entry »

South Sudanese doctor wins 2018 Nansen Medal

October 2, 2018

Dr. Evan Atar Adaha speaks after accepting the 2018 Nansen Refugee Award. He and his team carry out an average of 58 operations a week in difficult conditions at Maban County Hospital in South Sudan.
Dr. Evan Atar Adaha speaks after accepting the 2018 Nansen Refugee Award.  © UNHCR/Mark Henley

The South Sudanese doctor, Evan Atar Adaha, was chosen for his 20-year commitment to providing medical services to people forced to flee conflict and persecution in Sudan and South Sudan, as well as to the communities that welcome them. Dr. Atar runs the only functional hospital in Upper Nile State, an area larger than Ireland. Located in the town of Bunj, in Maban County, it serves more than 200,000 people, including 144,000 refugees from Sudan.

Presenting the Nansen award in Geneva’s Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that most of the doctor’s patients were refugees and he had lived through displacement himself, after fighting forced him to close his first hospital in Kurmuk, Sudan. In addition, he embodied “not only solidarity, but courageous solidarity” with his refugee patients, “two commodities that are very scarce in today’s world.”

Originally from Torit, a town in southern South Sudan, Dr. Atar studied medicine in Khartoum, Sudan, and afterwards practised in Egypt. In 1997, as war ravaged Sudan’s Blue Nile State, Dr. Atar volunteered to work there. In 2011, increasing violence forced him to pack up his hospital and flee with his staff and as much equipment as he could transport, a journey that took a month. In his acceptance speech, Dr. Atar said “However, this award is not for me as an individual. The award is for my team back in Maban.”

The keynote speaker at the event, actor Cate Blanchett, who is a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, earlier told the audience: “It is a formalised way of saying ‘thank you’ to one person specifically, but more importantly, it carries with it the inexpressible thanks to all who work in the humanitarian fields – often at great personal cost.” Blanchett concluded: “People like Dr. Atar inspire us to build a better future for everybody.”

The event was hosted by South African actress and advocate for UNHCR’s LuQuLuQu campaign Nomzamo Mbatha. She introduced the evening’s performers including Indian sitar player Anoushka Shankar, Syrian dancer and choreographer Ahmad Joudeh and Norwegian singer Sigrid.

British radio and television presenter Anita Rani hosted a Facebook Live stream of the ceremony on the UNHCR Facebook page.

For last yer’s award see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/01/ceremony-of-the-2017-nansen-medal-for-nigerian-zannah-mustapha-on-line-2-october/

Fo more on this and other awards in the refugee world: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/unhcr-nansen-refugee-award

http://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/latest/2018/10/5badfc784/south-sudanese-surgeon-receive-2018-nansen-refugee-award.html

Some FACTS about refugee flows (which Hungary seems not to know)

July 26, 2018

UNHCR just published its Global Trends Report 2017 (see link below) and it contains some interesting facts, some myth-busting:
Fact 1:  85% refugees are hosted in the developing world (many of which are desperately poor and receive little support to care for these populations). At the end of 2017, Turkey continued to be the country hosting the world’s largest number of refugees, with 3.5 million. Lebanon continued to host the largest number of refugees relative to its national population, where 1 in 6 people was a refugee under the responsibility of UNHCR.

 Fact 2: Two-thirds of all refugees come from just five countries. Altogether, more than two-thirds of all refugees worldwide came from just five countries, namely:
1. Syrian Arab Republic (6.3 million)
2. Afghanistan (2.6 million)
3. South Sudan (2.4 million)
4. Myanmar (1.2 million)
5. Somalia (986,400)

Fact 3: Four out of five refugees remain in countries next door to their own. About 2.7 million people were newly registered as refugees during 2017. Crises in South Sudan and Myanmar caused new refugee numbers to grow. Most of them fled to neighboring countries or elsewhere in their immediate region. Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to 31 per cent of the global refugee population.

Still, Hungary found it necessary to pass legislation that criminalizes individuals and groups deemed to be supporting asylum-seekers, refugees and undocumented migrants. On 21 Jun 2018 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said: “Parliament’s decision is an attack on fundamental human rights and freedoms in Hungary. The constant stoking of hatred by the current Government for political gain has led to this latest shameful development, which is blatantly xenophobic and runs counter to European and international human rights standards and values.” …“To target those dealing with the most vulnerable, simply because they are foreigners, is truly disgraceful.”

The new legislation criminalizes a range of activities, including distributing information on migration-related matters, providing advice to migrants and refugees, and conducting human rights monitoring at borders. The authorities will be able to arrest, charge and immediately remove from Hungary’s border area with non-Schengen countries any lawyer, adviser, volunteer or legally resident family member suspected of helping a person to make an asylum claim or obtain a residence permit, or of providing other legal or humanitarian assistance. Under the legislation, individuals could face up to one year in prison and organisations could be banned. In addition, foundations that provide funding for NGOs that work on migrant issues could face charges. Hungarian authorities also announced this week that they would introduce a 25 per cent tax on funding for NGOs which “support immigration”. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/18/excellent-background-piece-to-hungarys-stop-soros-mania/

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http://www.unhcr.org/statistics/unhcrstats/5b27be547/unhcr-global-trends-2017.html?utm_source=NEWS&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Opening_Global+Trends+report&utm_campaign=HQ_PS_EN_NEWS_B-JULY_180725_PROS_5

https://reliefweb.int/report/hungary/ 

Ceremony of the 2017 Nansen Medal for Nigerian Zannah Mustapha on-line 2 October

October 1, 2017

The ceremony includes performances by the renowned Afrobeat musician Tony Allen, an acoustic set by Japanese artist Miyavi, a classical violin piece from renowned artist Mariela Shaker and speeches from keynote speaker, Syrian refugee Nujeen Mustafa, as well as from the winner.

The ceremony is organized by UNHCR in cooperation with the Government of Norway and the Norwegian Refugee Council, the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the Administrative Council of the City of Geneva and the IKEA Foundation, to celebrate the outstanding achievements of individuals, groups and organizations who support those forced to flee.

The event is not open to the general public, but the will be streamed via Facebook Live – giving the on-line audience a unique insight into the back-stage preparations, as well as some of the performances.

For more on the Nansen and other awards: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/27/new-how-to-digest-over-175-human-rights-awards-in-a-few-minutes/

Source: UNHCR – The Ceremony

Louise Arbour of Canada appointed Special Representative for International Migration

March 13, 2017

On 9 March 2017 the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, announced the appointment of Louise Arbour of Canada as his Special Representative for International Migration. The Special Representative will lead the follow-up to the 19 September 2016 High-level Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.  Ms. Arbour will work with Member States, in partnership with other stakeholders, as they develop a first-ever global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.  She will lead United Nations advocacy efforts on international migration, provide policy advice and coordinate the engagement of United Nations entities on migration issues, particularly in implementing the migration-related components of the New York Declaration.  She previously served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.  She is a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and of the Court of Appeal for Ontario.  From 2009 to 2014, Ms. Arbour was President and CEO of the International Crisis Group.

Louise Arbour Walk of Fame 20150608

Louise Arbour smiles after having her star unveiled on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto on 8 June, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese (Canadian Press).

Talking about refugees, please note that the Sergio Vieira de Mello Lecture by Angelina Jolie on 15 March [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/27/angelina-jolie-gives-2017-sergio-vieira-de-mello-lecture-on-15-march-2017/] is ‘sold out’, but it will be streamed live on UN TV and UNHCR’s Facebook.

Sources:

Secretary-General Appoints Louise Arbour of Canada Special Representative for International Migration | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thehouse/first-ottawa-visit-by-trump-cabinet-member-focuses-on-security-border-1.4015295

The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Amnesty International’s Statement to the UN Human Rights Council 2017

February 15, 2017

The document “The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Item 3: Amnesty International’s Written Statement to the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February- 24 March 2017)” could of course be obtained directly from AI. However, I do it via: http://www.refworld.org/docid/58a195034.html, in order to highlight this very useful service provided by the documentation service of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which regularly gives links to documentation concerning countries of origin of refugees. The entry will look like this:

Title The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Item 3: Amnesty International’s Written Statement to the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February- 24 March 2017)
Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 13 February 2017
Topics Human rights activists | Human rights and fundamental freedoms
Reference IOR 40/5647/2017
Cite as Amnesty International, The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Item 3: Amnesty International’s Written Statement to the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February- 24 March 2017), 13 February 2017, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/58a195034.html %5Baccessed 13 February 2017]
Disclaimer

In their submission AI states in part:

In 1998 the international community adopted, by consensus, the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms thereby recognising the importance that civil society actors play in the defence of the values that underpin human rights. The Declaration stresses that we all have a role to fulfil as human rights defenders and urges States particularly to protect human rights defenders from harm as a consequence of their work.

However, almost two decades after that historical moment human rights defenders continue to be harassed, tortured, jailed and killed for speaking out against injustice. During the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in the USA last year, the security forces used excessive and unnecessary force when arresting members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Indigenous communities who oppose its construction.

Over 3,500 human rights defenders have been killed since the Declaration was adopted in 1998 and according to recent figures released by Frontline Defenders, the number of killings in 2016 marked an increase in the number reported in the previous year.

These killings usually occur after threats and warnings. Berta Cáceres, the leading indigenous, environmental and women’s rights defender from Honduras was killed in March 2016 despite enjoying a high national and international profile. In the aftermath of her killing, Honduras was under increased pressure to protect its human rights defenders, nonetheless, in October 2016, José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionisio George of the Unified Movement of the Aguán were murdered, and currently international organization Global Witness, along with Honduran organizations MILPAH, COPINH and CEHPRODEC are facing a smear campaign against them for their work defending land, territory and environmental rights.

Amnesty International also continues to receive reports of human rights defenders being subjected to unfounded criminal proceedings, arbitrary detention and judicial harassment, which prevents them from speaking up against injustice, delegitimizes their causes and creates a chilling effect on activities that promote human rights. Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi is serving 22 years’ imprisonment after being convicted of national security related charges in Iran. Her conviction stems from her peaceful human rights activities, including her work to end the death penalty and her 2014 meeting with the former European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

In Egypt civil society has been subjected to an unprecedented crackdown. In 2016, the authorities intensified a criminal inquiry into NGOs’ registration and foreign funding that could lead to criminal prosecution and sentences reaching up to life imprisonment. The authorities have also subjected NGO personnel to interrogation, freezing of personal and organizational assets, preventing leading human rights defenders from foreign travel, arbitrary arrest and detention.

Amnesty International notes with concern that the organisations, networks and methods people rely on to stand up for their communities are also attacked. Unions are threatened. Lawyers and activists in China have been ill- treated and sometimes tortured in detention. In Pakistan, human rights defenders are labeled as ‘foreign-agents’. In Viet Nam, attacks against human rights defenders are common, and include beatings and daily harassment and surveillance.

In other parts of the world, newspapers are closed down. Social media are banned and digital conversations monitored. Taking to the streets to protest is impossible.

In Turkey, against the backdrop of the failed military coup in 2016, unfair criminal prosecutions under criminal defamation and counter-terrorism laws targeted political activists, journalists and other critics of public officials or government policy. Over 180 media outlets have been arbitrarily shut down and 80 journalists remain in pre-trial detention.

States also repeatedly interfere with human rights defenders’ ability to communicate safely and expose human rights violations to regional and international human rights mechanisms, including this Council and its mechanisms. Recently the Special Rapporteur on the situation on the situation of human rights defenders noted, with great concern, the number of human rights defenders that received social media threats simply for meeting with him on his visit to Mexico at the beginning of this year.

In Burundi in January 2017, the Bujumbura Court of Appeal ruled to disbar three lawyers and suspend another. Each had contributed to a civil society report to the UN Committee against Torture prior to its review of the country in July 2016. The permanent closure of five human rights organizations and the suspension of five others was ordered in October 2016 on the allegation that they tarnished the image of the country. One of the suspended organizations was later banned following publication of a controversial report.

……..Amnesty International urges the Human Rights Council to:

  1. Renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and cooperate fully with it, including by encouraging swift and comprehensive responses to communications from the Special Rapporteur and acceptance of requests for country visits.
  2. Reaffirm that protecting human rights is necessary for individuals to live in dignity, and that deepening respect for these fundamental freedoms lays the foundation for stable, safe and just societies;
  3. Recognize the legitimacy of human rights defenders and applaud the role they play in the advancement of human rights, and urge States to facilitate and publicly support their work;
  4. Urge States to adopt and implement legislation which recognises and protects human rights defenders;
  5. Stress the urgent need for all States to establish national protection mechanisms for human rights defenders at risk;
  6. Urge States effectively to address threats, attacks, harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders, including, where applicable, by thoroughly, promptly and independently investigating human rights violations and abuses against them and bringing alleged perpetrators to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty, and providing effective remedies and adequate reparations to the victims;
  7. Urge States to ensure that the criminal justice system or civil litigation is not misused to target nor harass human rights defenders;
  8. Refrain from bringing criminal charges or, other judicial proceedings or taking administrative measures against human rights defenders because of the peaceful exercise of their rights;
  9. Ensure that those who challenge injustice peacefully are not portrayed as threats to security, development or traditional values;
  10. Emphasize the fact that human rights defenders who work on gender equality, women’s rights or LGBTIQ rights face particular risk of being subjected to certain forms of violence and other violations that need to be particularly addressed;
  11. Pay particular attention to other groups who may be at risk, such as those who work for economic, social and cultural rights, defenders who work in the area of business and human rights; in an area exposed to internal conflict or a natural disaster; defenders living in isolated regions or conflict zones; and defenders working on past abuses, such as the families of victims of enforced disappearance;
  12. Condemn any acts of intimidation or reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate or seek to cooperate with international human rights mechanism;
  13. Urge States to cooperate fully with the recently mandated Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights to prevent, end and redress acts of reprisal and intimidation.

Source: Refworld | The Situation of Human Rights Defenders – Item 3: Amnesty International’s Written Statement to the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (27 February- 24 March 2017)

Greek Volunteers share UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award 2016

September 6, 2016

Today, 6 September, UNHCR announced that the Hellenic Rescue Team and Efi Latsoudi of “PIKPA village” on Lesvos are the joint winners of  the 2016 Nansen Refugee Award. Read why:.. Read the rest of this entry »