Human Rights

News in brief 27 May 2016 (AM)

Greek refugee sites “are unfit for people to live in”

In Greece, concern is growing over so-called “sub-standard” conditions facing refugees and migrants after they were moved from a makeshift camp in the north of the country.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, says that several locations provided by the authorities are not suitable for human habitation.

The situation is also fuelling tensions between the different communities who were previously at the Idomeni camp on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Here’s the agency’s Melissa Fleming:

“Some of them were taken to refurbished facilities, most of them were taken to facilities like warehouses and abandoned factories that had not been prepared properly and were not fit for human habitation. So we are scrambling now to do what we can in the facilities that we think could be made at a minimum decent and those facilities that we do not think are completely inappropriate even if they are refurbished, we are advising the government to move them away.”

UNHCR reports that a number of the sites are already overcrowded, and that food and water supplies are insufficient, along with a lack of toilets, showers and electricity.

Within the European Union, latest figures show that among the 22 countries which have pledged to house more than 7,700 refugees, only 1,581 have been relocated.

Number of migrants and refugees crossing Mediterranean “passes 200,000?

In southern Europe, the number of people crossing the Mediterranean Sea is believed to have passed 200,000 already this year; there have also been nearly 1,500 fatalities.

The announcement by UN partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM) follows a week in which dozens of people lost their lives in separate accidents at sea.

On Wednesday, more than 100 people are believed to be missing after their fishing boat capsized as the Italian navy attempted to help the more than 600 migrants on board.

Here’s IOM spokesperson Joel Millman:

“Deaths which were remarkably low for the month of May are no longer remarkably low because in the last 24 hours there are at least three incidents on the Mediterranean where we report fatalities. There have been some bodies recovered including that of a young mother who was asphyxiated or burned to death on a boat, we’re not sure which, but she left a child who has been rescued.”

Most of those travelling across the western Mediterranean Sea route from the African coast came from Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa, according to IOM.

It says that the high numbers making the crossing are explained by the fact that most people pay as little as US$85 to make the sea journey.

Americas rights defenders threatened by funding crisis

A funding crisis affecting a human rights body in Latin America could leave vulnerable groups much less able to defend themselves, the UN has warned.

In a statement the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) described the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a “pioneering” strategic partner.

OHCHR said that unless the Commission received funds in the coming weeks, the ability to respond to victims of violations across the Americas “may be seriously diminished”.

Citing undue pressure on the Commission “from a number of States”, the UN agency called for the required resources to be found so it can fulfil its mandate.

Water, a key element in Middle East cooperation

A bid to use science to promote peace in the Middle East is to get under way, focussing on the sensitive issue of water availability, it’s been announced.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)-led meeting in Geneva brings together members of parliament from the region, including from Israel and the Territories Occupied by Israel.

With the help of scientists from CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, the event’s aim is to come up with concrete, cooperative projects to solve the problem of water access.

Here’s IPU’s Jemini Pandya:

“The concept is that if you can agree on how you work together on some basic, but potentially very conflictual issues, then you lessen in the long-term any possibilities for real, major conflict.”

IPU stressed that water is a key potential future source of conflict, citing a study by the World Resources Institute which predicted that eight Middle Eastern countries will be among the worst affected by the issue of water availability by 2040.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 4’15?

Source: United Nations Radio.