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Death Toll among Refugees crossing Mediterranean is Highest Ever, says UN report

These dangers reinforce the urgent need to increase legal pathways for refugees to seek asylum in European countries, says Spindler

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A migrant prays on the Migrant Offshore Aid Station ship Topaz Responder after being rescued around 20 nautical miles off the coast of Libya, June 23, 2016. Image source: VOA

early 4,200 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea since Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed ashore on a Turkish beach one year ago, said the U.N. refugee agency report. During the first eight months of this year, the agency reports, more than 280,000 people have made the treacherous sea crossing to Europe.

The number of arrivals in Greece has practically dried up, following the implementation of a European Union-Turkey accord under which migrants are prevented from leaving Turkish shores. But the numbers leaving Libya for Italy remain high.

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UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said Friday that the change in the migratory pattern had caused a spike in the number of casualties.

Representational Image of Refugees. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Representational Image of Refugees.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“So far this year, one person has died for every 42 crossings from North Africa to Italy, compared to one in every 52 last year,” he said. “This makes 2016 to date the deadliest year on record in the central Mediterranean. The chances of dying on the Libya-to-Italy route are 10 times higher than when crossing from Turkey to Greece.”

Legal pathways

Spindler said these dangers reinforce the urgent need to increase legal pathways for refugees to seek asylum in European countries. These, he said, could involve resettlement or private sponsorship, family reunification and student scholarship schemes.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Children’s Fund estimated that 500,000 refugee and migrant children had fallen prey to smugglers. The agency said people smuggling and human trafficking were now estimated to be worth up to $6 billion annually.

Migrants stand in a line in front of Red Cross member after disembarking from the Italian navy ship Borsini in the Sicilian harbor of Palermo, southern Italy, July 20, 2016. Image source: VOA
Migrants stand in a line in front of Red Cross member after disembarking from the Italian navy ship Borsini in the Sicilian harbor of Palermo, southern Italy, July 20, 2016. Image source: VOA

UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe told VOA that children, especially unaccompanied youngsters, who use smugglers to reach European countries of destination were very vulnerable to exploitation.

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“It may mean that they have to pay off their debts in favours, in exploitative services, such as labour, sexual prostitution, sexual exploitation and so on,” she said. “But sometimes, just out of desperation, they will fall into the hands of other criminals, organised crime, et cetera.”

To help protect refugee and migrant children, UNICEF is calling for greater efforts in tracking and documenting smuggling and trafficking networks that target children on the move. (VOA)

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Burundi Refugees in Miserable Condition, Assistance Programme Strapped for Cash

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Burundi refugees
Burundian refugees gather on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Kagunga village in Kigoma region in western Tanzania. voa

The U.N. refugee agency warns that funds for humanitarian assistance for hundreds of thousands of Burundi refugees have dried up, leaving only enough cash for the most essential needs.

More than 420,000 Burundi refugees, who have sought refuge in Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance; but, the U.N. refugee agency says it has practically run out of cash.

Only 19 percent of the agency’s revised $429 million appeal has been received. UNHCR spokesman Andrei Mahecic says “hard choices must be made. With so little money on hand, priorities must be rearranged to make sure life-saving needs are met”.

“But, there is a cost, there is a human cost attached to it,” Mahecic said. “There simply is not enough aid to go around. The services are not kept up to the standards that they should be and, obviously, in many cases, we are now facing the situation where shelter is by now dilapidated. The tents would need replacing. Eighty-eight-thousand refugees are still living under plastic sheeting, obviously vulnerable to heavy rains and so on.”

Mahecic says many refugees risk catching communicable diseases, such as malaria and acute watery diarrhoea. He says health care services must be urgently expanded. Because the money is not available, he says only 56 percent of identified survivors of sexual and gender-based violence are receiving the physical and psychological care they need.

The World Food Program, which also is suffering from underfunding, has been forced to cut monthly food rations to 60 percent in Tanzania — home to the largest number of refugees.

The UNHCR is appealing for international support so it can maintain its critical humanitarian assistance for Burundian refugees in the countries of asylum. The Burundians fled their country after violence surged in 2015. Many of them are women and children.

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‘Education Crisis’ for Refugee Children : Over 3.5 Million Refugee Children Currently Missing out on Education

Refugee children will go back and rebuild their countries. So, they are the future. If we do not invest in their future, we do not invest in the world’s future.

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South Sudanese refugee children look out of a transit tent at the Imvepi refugee settlement camp in Arua District, northern Uganda, August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic - RC1C63EAF400 (VOA)

Geneva, September 13, 2017 : The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 3.5 million refugee children aged five to 17 did not attend school last year to the detriment of their future and the future well-being of society. The UNHCR is calling an education crisis for refugee children.

Children make up half of the 17.2 million refugees around the world and many of them are missing out on a productive future because they do not go to school.

Refugee children
Children of Rohingya refugees attend a temporary school run by a non-governmental organization at a camp for Rohingyas in New Delhi (VOA)

The UNHCR warns neglecting the education of millions of refugee children will undermine the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals — principally those targeting health, prosperity, equality and peace.

The refugee agency reports 91 percent of the world’s children attend primary school, compared to 61 percent for refugee children. It says that number drops to below 50 percent for refugee children in poor countries.

The agency finds those numbers drop precipitously as refugee children age, especially in the poorer countries. It says far fewer adolescents attend secondary school and enrollment in university is stuck at one percent.

Long-term consequences

UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told VOA denying refugee children access to an education is short-sighted.

“There is a clear need for more solidarity and for making sure that people who take refugees in low income countries also have access to education. This is crucial,” she said. “We know that these refugee children will one day go back to their home places and rebuild their countries. So, they are the future. If we do not invest in their future, we do not invest in the world’s future.”

Refugee children
Syrian refugee girls in a 4th grade classroom in the U.N.-run Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in northern Jordan. Guterres appealed to Arab states to overcome their divisions on Syria and help end the country’s six-year-old civil war. The U.N. chief is to attend an Arab Summit in Jordan on Wednesday.(AP Photo / Raad Adayleh) (VOA)

The UNHCR urges governments to include refugee children in their national education systems.

It also calls for more efforts to ensure refugee children are taught by properly trained and qualified teachers. (VOA)

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Stop Lecturing And Demonizing India over its Plan to Deport 40,000 Stateless Rohingya Muslims: Minister

The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming centuries-old roots

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Rohingya refugee watch children attend madrass in a temporary shelter on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Wednesday, Aug.16,2017. VOA
  • Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have slammed India’s deportation plan as “outrageous”
  • The government says the Rohingya Muslims are illegal immigrants and should deported because they pose a potential security threat
  • There is no other country in the world which hosts so many refugees, so don’t demonize us, don’t give us lecture
Rights groups should stop lecturing and demonizing India over its plan to deport 40,000 stateless Rohingya and recognize that the country has treated millions of refugees from across the world humanely, a senior official said this week.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing government says the Rohingya Muslims who have fled to India because of persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar are illegal immigrants and should deported because they pose a potential security threat.

“India is the most humane nation in the world,” said junior interior minister Kiren Rijiju, defending an order to states to identify and deport the Rohingya — including 16,500 registered with the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR).

“There is no other country in the world which hosts so many refugees, so don’t demonize us, don’t give us lecture,” Rijiju said.

Hundreds of thousands have fled Myanmar, where they are marginalized and sometimes subjected to communal violence, with many taking refuge in Bangladesh — and some then crossing a porous border into Hindu-majority India.

FILE - Children of Rohingya refugees attend a temporary school run by a nongovernmental organization at a camp for Rohingyas in New Delhi, India, Aug. 16, 2017.
FILE – Children of Rohingya refugees attend a temporary school run by a nongovernmental organization at a camp for Rohingyas in New Delhi, India, Aug. 16, 2017. VOA

On Monday, Myanmar security forces intensified operations against Rohingya insurgents, following three days of clashes with militants in the worst violence involving the Muslim minority in five years.

Indian minister Rijiju said registration with the UNHCR was irrelevant.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out states’ responsibilities toward refugees. Nor does it have a domestic law to protect refugees.

ALSO READ: Refugees in India Looming For Basic Rights: Here Is Why India Needs Refugee Law! 

The Rohingya will be sent back from India in a humane way, following due legal processes, Rijiju added.

“We are not going to shoot them, nor are we planning to throw them in the ocean,” he said Monday.

Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have slammed India’s deportation plan as “outrageous.”

Asia’s third-largest economy is bound by customary international law — the principle of non-refoulement — where it cannot forcibly return refugees to a place where they face danger, they say. (VOA)