June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in UNHCR (17)


Six people confirmed dead, more missing after small boat capsizes off Mayotte (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: A boat carrying asylum seekers & migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. UNHCR/L.Boldrini)(October 9, 2012) - Six people died and 10 are still missing after a small vessel carrying 24 people capsized on Monday morning off the French territory of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported today.

“The capsizing is a reminder of the risks faced by people desperate to escape poverty, conflict and persecution,”  Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

“As in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aden, the seas around Mayotte are the scene of irregular movements of migrants and refugees searching for a better life or protection from persecution and war.”

This is the second such tragedy in a month, bringing to 69 the number of people reported dead or missing after incidents off Mayotte this year.

For decades, people have been using small open vessels known as “kwassa-kwassa” to sail from the Comoros to the more prosperous French territory of Mayotte, according to UNHCR.

(PHOTO: A general view of the island of Mayotte/UNHCR)Most of these movements take place without the requisite documentation and involve considerable risk to those attempting them. Asylum-seekers account for a small proportion of these movements but their numbers have been increasing in the last two years, Mr. Edwards said.

UNHCR said that last year there were some 1,200 applications for asylum in Mayotte, 41 per cent more than in 2010. The largest proportion of applicants – about 90 per cent – came from the Comoros, with citizens from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Rwanda and Burundi, accounting for the rest.

- This report first appeared at the UN News Centre

Welcome to Mayotte

Mayotte:  Is an overseas department and region of France consisting of a main island, Grande-Terre a smaller island, Petite-Terre, and several islets around these two. The archipelago is located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, namely between northwestern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique. Mayotte's area is 374 square kilometers and with its estimated 194,000 people is very densely populated. Its biggest city and prefecture is Mamoudzou. The territory is geographically part of the Comoro Islands, but has been politically separate since a 1974 referendum in which it elected to remain under French rule. The territory is also known as Mahoré, the native name of its main island, especially by advocates of its inclusion in the Union of Comoros. In a 2009 referendum, the population overwhelmingly approved accession to status of department. On March 31, 2011, Mayotte became an overseas department. (By Alex Ohan)


100+ International NGO's and Human Rights Groups Ask US to Intervene in Escalating DRC Crisis (NEWS) 

(Video: Human Rights Watch)

(HN, 5/4/12) -- Fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, and dissident groups thought to be led by renegade general Bosco Ntaganda; following a contested election in December which resulted in President Joseph Kabila's re-election.  Several electoral observation missions, including the Carter Center, questioned the credibility of vote.

Ntaganda recently  lead a mutiny in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to authorities; and Ntaganda was previously wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands for recruiting and using child soldiers in northeastern Congo. But since his arrest warrant was unsealed in 2008, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army and by many accounts has continued to recruit children to fight, playing a role in ethnic massacres, killings, rape and torture - as he did during DR Congo's bloody five-year war.

(PHOTO: DRC President Joseph Kabila/ElMundo)In early April, President Joseph Kabila also called for his arrest, following the defections of up to 500 Congolese troops. Some 20,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting, with about 5,000 crossing over into Rwanda says UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.

Known locally as the "Terminator", Ntaganda was thought to be in charge of a large contingent based in the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma until last month.

The Letter:

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State

United States Department of State, 2201 C St, NW, Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

We, the 142 undersigned Congolese and international civil society and human rights organizations, call on the government of the United States to provide urgent diplomatic leadership and support to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to arrest Bosco Ntaganda.

Ntaganda's brutal human rights abuses over many years have affected tens of thousands of Congolese citizens in eastern Congo. His position as a high-ranking officer in the Congolese army, together with his ability to continue to perpetrate abuses is the most flagrant case of Congo's destructive culture of impunity.

As you will know, Ntaganda is wanted on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to actively participate in hostilities in 2002-2003 in Ituri district, northeastern Congo.

Despite the warrant, and the Congolese government's legal obligation to execute it as a state party to the ICC, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army in 2009 and continues to be implicated in other grave violations of human rights, including unlawful killings, sexual violence, torture, and the recruitment of child soldiers. Until a few weeks ago, he lived openly in Goma, eastern Congo, without fear of arrest. He was considered by the Congolese government as necessary for the peace process.

Ntaganda's avoidance of arrest is emblematic of continued lawlessness in eastern Congo. The people of eastern Congo have long stood against impunity for the perpetrators of serious human rights violations. Their desire for justice burns strong, especially in the face of ongoing atrocities. Congolese and international human rights organizations have repeatedly denounced Ntaganda's promotion to general, his ongoing crimes, and the failure to arrest him. Congolese human rights activists have done so at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

We have new hope that justice might be done. In April, the situation changed dramatically when Ntaganda unsuccessfully sought to organize large-scale defections from the Congolese army. In the face of the crisis, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, at a public meeting in Goma, signaled a change in the government's stance toward Ntaganda.

He indicated he was considering arresting him and that indiscipline in the army would not be tolerated. Members of the international community, including the United States ambassador to Congo, as well as the Belgian foreign minister, the ambassador of the Netherlands to Congo and others, also publicly called for Ntaganda's arrest and his transfer to the ICC. These statements were very welcome.

(PHOTO: DRC child soldier/UNICEF)We now await concrete action to lawfully arrest Ntaganda in a manner that protects civilians from any potential fallout. Improved security for the population, based on the rule of law, begins with his arrest. It cannot wait any longer. Ntaganda remains at large, has recently separated from the army, and is reportedly at, or near, his ranch in Masisi territory, North Kivu, with a significant group of supporters. The failure to arrest Ntaganda is a source of anxiety and trauma for the population of eastern Congo who fear he could launch a new wave of violence and human rights abuses as he has done in the past. The recent violence in Masisi territory is a strong indication that this is already occurring and that Ntaganda is regrouping troops loyal to him. Lack of action to arrest Ntaganda could result in a further deterioration of the security situation and new attacks on civilians. This must be avoided.

On behalf of Congolese civil society and the thousands of victims of Ntaganda's crimes, we call on the government of the United States to:

:           Support the Congolese government to urgently plan and carry out a lawful arrest of Bosco Ntaganda, including providing support through the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, so that he can be brought to justice.

:           Press the government of Rwanda, which has backed Ntaganda in the past, to support the lawful arrest of Ntaganda by the Congolese government and not provide him with sanctuary.

:           Prioritize comprehensive security sector reform in Congo that includes a vetting mechanism to remove senior officers with a record of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and bring them to justice.

On March 14, our fight against impunity was given an important boost when the judges at the ICC in The Hague found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of war crimes committed in Congo. As Congolese human rights groups publicly said in the weeks that followed, it is now time for Lubanga's co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, to also face justice.

We recognize the difficulties in bringing about the lawful arrest of Ntaganda, but we believe strongly that with the right political commitment they can be overcome. Please take all necessary and appropriate action to assist the Congolese government to make it happen.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned organizations

CC: Thomas E. Donilon, National Security Advisor

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative to the United Nations


International organizations

1. Amnesty International USA

2. Eastern Congo Initiative

3. The ENOUGH Project

4. European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)

5. Human Rights Watch

6. Humanity United

7. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

8. Jewish World Watch

9. Open Society Foundations

10. Sanela Diana Jenkins Human Rights Project

Congolese organizations

1. Action Communautaire pour le Développement Intégral et Intégré du Diocèse de Mbuji-Mayi (ACDIM), Kasai Oriental

2. Action des Chrétiens pour la Promotion de la Paix et le Développement (ACPD), North Kivu

3. Action Globale pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (AGPSP), North Kivu

4. Action Humanitaire pour le Développement Intégral (AHDI), North Kivu

5. Action Intégré pour le Développement de Ngandajika (AIDN), Kasai Oriental

6. Action Kivu, South Kivu

7. Action Paysanne contre la Faim (APCF), Kasai Oriental

8. Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), South Kivu

9. Action pour la Promotion de la Participation Citoyenne (APPC), North Kivu

10. Action pour la Protection des Droits Humains et du Développement Communautaire (APDHUD), South Kivu

11. Action pour le Développement Communautaire de Lusambo (ADCL), Kasai Oriental

12. Action Sociale pour la Paix et le Développement (ASPD), North Kivu

13. Actions des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT/NK), North Kivu

14. Actions pour la Promotion Socio-économique des Ménages (APROSEM), North Kivu

15. Africa Justice Peace and Development (AJPD), North Kivu

16. Aide Kivu, South Kivu

17. Amical des Anciens du Séminaire (AMAS), Kasai Oriental

18. Amis de Nelson Mandela, Kinshasa

19. Application des Droits Humains dans le Pays des Grands Lacs (ADHOPGL), North Kivu

20. Arche d'Alliance, North Kivu

21. Assistance Judiciaires aux Vulnérables (AJV), Equateur

22. Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO), national

23. Association Congolaise pour l'Accès à la Justice (ACAJ), Katanga

24. Association des Enfants et Jeunes Travailleurs (AEJT), South Kivu

25. Association des Volontaires du Congo (ASVOCO), North Kivu

26. Association des Volontaires pour le Développement Intégré du Kasaï (AVODIK), Kasai Oriental

27. Association pour le Développement Intégral au Congo (ADI), Orientale

28. Association pour le Développement de Kitamba-Mwenga (ADKI), South Kivu

29. Association pour le Développement des Initiatives Paysannes (ASSODIP), North Kivu

30. Association pour les Nations Unies de la RDC (ANU/RDC), South Kivu

31. Association Régionale de Développement Rural Intégré (ARDERI), Kasai Oriental

32. Bénévolat pour l'Enfance (BENENFANCE), North Kivu

33. Blessed Aid, North Kivu

34. Bons Samaritains des Grands Lacs (BOSAM GL/DDH), North Kivu

35. Bureau de Développement Communautaire (BDC), Kasai Oriental

36. Bureau Diocésain pour le Développement (BDD), Kasai Oriental

37. Campagne pour la Paix (CPP), North Kivu

38. Carrefour pour la Justice, Développement et les Droits Humains (CJDH), North Kivu

39. Caucus des Femmes Congolaises du South Kivu pour la Paix, South Kivu

40. Centre d'Appui et de Réhabilitation des Infrastructures pour le Développement (CARID), Kasai Oriental

41. Centre de Droits de l'Homme et du Droit Humanitaire (CDH), Katanga

42. Centre de Formation International en Droits Humains et Développement (CFIDH/D), North Kivu

43. Centre de Recherche sur l'Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (CREDDHO), North Kivu

44. Centre de Réhabilitation pour le Développement (CRDS), Kasai Oriental

45. Centre d'Etudes et de Formation Populaires pour les Droits de l'Homme (CEFOP/DH), Kasai Oriental

46. Centre Féminin pour la Formation et l'Information pour le Développement (CEFIDE), Kasai Oriental

47. Centre National d'Assistance aux Invalides du Congo (CNAICO), Kasai Oriental

48. Centre Olame, South Kivu

49. Civis Congo, North Kivu

50. Coalition Congolaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CN-CPI/RDC) , national

51. Coalition Congolaise pour la Justice Transitionnelle (CCJT), national

52. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa (COJESKI/RDC), national

53. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/NK (COJESKI/NK), North Kivu

54. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/SK (COJESKI/SK), South Kivu

55. Comité de Développement de Bilomba (CDB), Kasai Occidental

56. Comité de Suivi pour la Contribution des Communautés et des Églises à la Transformation Humaine (COSCET), Katanga

57. Comité des Observateurs des Droits de l'Homme (CODHO), Kinshasa

58. Congo en Images (CIM), Orientale

59. Congo Peace Network (CPN), North Kivu

60. Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement (CRONGD/KOR), Kasai Oriental

61. Construisons la Paix et le Développement Intégral (COPADI), North Kivu

62. Coordination de la Société Civile du Nord-Kivu

63. Dauphins Munzirwa-Kataliko, South Kivu

64. Défense et Assistance aux Femmes et Enfants Vulnérables (DAFEVA), North Kivu

65. Département des Femmes et Familles (DFF), Kasai Oriental

66. Diaconie et Développement Communautaire Intégral (DIDECOM), Kasai Oriental

67. Ditekema Esperance (DIES), Kasai Oriental

68. Encadrement des Femmes Indigènes et des Ménages Vulnérables (EFIM), North Kivu

69. Entente pour le Développement Intégré de Ngandajika (EDIGA), Kasai Oriental

70. Fédération des ONG Laïques à Vacation Economique du Congo (FOLECO/KOR), Kasai Oriental

71. Femmes Juristes pour les Droits de la Femme et de l'Enfant de Butembo, North Kivu

72. Femmes Solidaires pour la Paix et le Développement (FSPD), Kinshasa

73. Fondation AGAPE, South Kivu

74. Fondation Diocésaine (FONDI), Kasai Oriental

75. Fondation Point de Vue des Jeunes Africains pour le Développement (FPJAD), North Kivu

76. Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaise (FFC), national

77. Foyer de Développement pour l'Autopromotion des Pygmées et Indigènes Défavorisés (FDAPID/Hope Indigenous Peoples), North Kivu

78. Great Lakes Human Rights Program, North Kivu

79. Groupe d'Appui aux Exploitants des Ressources Naturelles (GAERN), Kasai Oriental

80. Groupe d'Assistance aux Marginalisés (GAM), South Kivu

81. Groupe d'Actions Non Violentes Évangéliques (GANVE), Katanga

82. Groupe des Associations de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et de la Paix (GADHOP), North Kivu

83. Groupe Justice et Libération, Orientale

84. Groupe Lotus, Orientale

85. Héritiers de la Justice, South Kivu

86. Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et la Paix (ICJP), South Kivu

87. La Kasaïenne de l'Industrie (LKI), Kasai Oriental

88. Ligue des Jeunes des Grands Lacs (LJGL), North Kivu

89. Midimu ya Ba Mamu (MIDIBAM), Kasai Oriental

90. Mutuelle d'Assistance aux Déshérités du Nord-Kivu (MADNOKI), North Kivu

91. Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l'Homme (OCDH), Kinshasa

92. Observatoire de la Parité, South Kivu

93. Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix (OGP), South Kivu

94. Organisation des Femmes et Enfants Déshérités (OFED), Kasai Occidental

95. Organisation pour la Défense des Droits des Communautés Locale et Peuples Autochtones (ODECOLA/N), national

96. Ouvriers du Monde (ODM), South Kivu

97. Parlement des Jeunes de la RDC (PJRDC), North Kivu

98. Programme d'Appui aux Initiatives des Femmes en Situation Difficile (PAFSID), Kasai Oriental

99. Projet de Développement Agricole et d'Appui aux Initiatives à la Base (PRODAIB), Kasai Oriental

100. Promotion et Appui aux Initiatives Féminines (PAIF), North Kivu

101. Réseau ARDA, North Kivu

102. Réseau des Associations Intégrées pour le Développement Communautaire et Droits Humains (Réseau AIDH/DH), North Kivu

103. Réseau d'Initiatives Locales pour un Développement Durable (REID), North Kivu

104. Réseau National des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (RENADHOC), national

105. Réseau pour la Réforme du Secteur de Sécurité et Justice, national

106. Réseau Provincial des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (REPRODHOC/NK), North Kivu

107. Réseau Provincial des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (REPRODHOC/SK), South Kivu

108. Réveil des Femmes pour le Développement Intégré (RFEDI), North Kivu

109. Réveil du Paysan (RDP), Kasai Oriental

110. Save Act Mines DRC (SAM/DRC), North Kivu

111. Service For Peace (SFP), Bas-Congo

112. Société Civile Noyau de Kadutu, South Kivu

113. Solidarité des Femmes Activistes pour la Défense des Droits Humains (SOFAD), South Kivu

114. Solidarité Action Sociale (SAS), South Kivu

115. Solidarité des Volontaires pour l'Humanité (SVH), South Kivu

116. Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI), national

117. Solidarité pour la Défense des droits de l'Homme (SDDH), Orientale

118. Solidarité pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (SOPROP), North Kivu

119. SOS Africa, North Kivu

120. Strong Roots, South Kivu

121. Syndicat des Associations Féminines pour le Développement Intégral (SAFEDI), Kinshasa

122. Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de Violences Sexuelles (SFVS), North Kivu

123. Synergie Vie et Paix (SVP), North Kivu

124. Toges Noires, Kinshasa

125. Union des Comites pour le Développement (UCODE), North Kivu

126. Union des Femmes Musulmanes du Congo, North Kivu

127. Union des Jeunes Congolais pour le Changement (UJCC), South Kivu

128. Union pour le Développement Familial (UDF), Kasai Oriental

129. Unions d'Actions pour les Initiatives de Développement (UAID), North Kivu

130. Voie des Opprimés (VDO), Orientale

131. Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), Kinshasa

132. Wamama Wa Jamaa, North Kivu



Somalia: Returning to my Homeland (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)

Michael Bociurkiw interviews UK-based Somali, Samira Hashi upon her return from her homeland and talks to her about leaving, why she went back, the dire situation in refugee camps and bringing about change.

Michael Bociurkiw: You fled Somalia as an baby at the beginning of the civil war, where did you and your family go? - how did you end up in the UK? 

Samira Hashi: I was born in 1990 in the city of Mogadishu, once known as the 'Jewel of Africa'. Ten days into my livelihood the civil war broke out in Somalia. 

My mother had two choices, to hang about and wait till things got worse of flee for a better life and future for herself and her children. My mother, one of the many educated people in Somalia, fled as early as possible. 

The nearest location for safety, at the time was Kenya, which hadn't even opened a refugee camp yet. Whilst they (refugee camps) were being established my family and I stayed in camps in Mombassa, later moving to another similar refugee camp in Otanga. For two years my family struggled to survive, barely being able to feed ourselves let alone put a roof over our heads. Luckily organizations such as the Red Cross were there to offer support and aid as well as relief from the trauma of the on-going war. 

I come from a very large family that are all spread around the world, they couldn't bare to see me and my family suffer and they did all they could to support us in such a difficult time as well as getting us out of that grueling situation. I moved to the UK at a very young age, we settled quickly and began out new lives here. I would say that was one of the best and most admirable decisions my mother made and I give her my greatest gratitude towards her. 

MB: What has life been like for you growing up in the UK? 

SH: Coming from a country with little solidarity, security and governing system, that is now recognized as a 'failed state', my mother put great pressure in teaching us the value of liberty and independence. 

Education was always her priority and she ensured me and my sisters obtained qualifications that would one day help us stand on our own two feet. As soon as we came into the UK me and my sisters began nursery and have been working consistently up the academic ladder. As a result of a strong, persistent mother all of my 4 older sisters have successfully passed higher education and have achieved a university degree, some now on advance levels working towards procuring their masters.

Currently I am studying International Business and Law at Kingston University, not only to demonstrate my intellectual ability but also to achieve my goal in establishing my own business. Education is an essential part of my life as one day I wish to enlighten and empower girls and young women all over the world using my knowledge and skills in life. 

MB: You are model and have grown in that field, how did you start and what are you looking to do now? 

SH: At a very young age I was aware that I was different from all of my other sisters. They are very reserved and shy and found that they sat well with the education system. I have always had this suspicion that although knowledge is power theirs more to life than just an exam paper and textbooks. I was desperate to explore the world, learn and experience things that a printed document written by a man twenty years ago couldn't teach me. My mother wasn't always fond of my new aspirations, she always believed I would get lost in this cruel, harsh, beautiful world. Despite all her pleading and appeal for me to stick with my sisters, I became to anxious and set out on a journey in finding myself and my purpose of living. 

Throughout my journey I came across a modelling agency at the age of 17 who seemed very intrigued in working with me. I signed the contract and later realised that this is something I entirely enjoy. It was more than taking a photo with a camera man that captured me, its the warmth feeling I felt when connecting with people I was working with. The ability to portray a strong emotion or expression without speaking, the idea of manipulating an image to create something that could be compared with art, it excited me. I grew a passion for modelling, I was determined to succeed and knew nothing could stop me other than myself. I learnt the ropes of the industry and gained further confidence.

Soon I felt restricted and believed I could achieve great things from my modelling career but felt I wasn't given the opportunities to deliver. This lead me to leaving my old agency and advertising and promoting myself to gain recognition from modelling agencies that were on a higher level. For one year I crafted and worked extremely hard, I was dismissed and rejected by a number of agencies still I refused to loose hope and give up on my dreams and ambitions. I learnt to brand myself, believe that I had the ability to be the best and make use of any opportunity that passed my way. I discovered my purpose in modelling when I got signed to one the biggest modelling agencies in the world 'Elite London'. It verified the belief I had in myself now knowing that individuals that have the ability to transform my modelling career are convinced that I can achieve great things.

Through my modelling career I understand that I could put myself in a position where I am recognised for the work that I do. I have never wanted to make a fortune or become famous. My aim in modelling is to become a role model, to get to a point in my career where I can bring about change and make a difference to the world. Where I have the ability and power to educate and inspire girls and young women and give a voice to those that are not heard.

I wish to motivate young people to take no notice of what their forced to believe and to create and carve their own pathways for themselves. Like myself to find their own destiny and work towards becoming a unique, successful, independent individual. 

MB: What motivated you to go back to Somalia now? 

SH: Somalia has always played a huge role in my life. My mother enlightened me and my sisters with the Somali culture from the clothes she wore, to the food we ate, the weddings we went to, the music she would sometimes blast from the stereo or laptop. My mother refused to let go of her culture and everything she knew just because she came into the UK. She wanted to teach us about our heritage and roots.

Other than the war my mother always embraced the good memories she held of our country and never failed to stop telling us stories. Somalia was always in my heart but I never felt any connection as I was to young to remember. The only recollection I had was what I saw on the news and many times that wasn't something positive.

I always knew I had some responsibilities towards my country as a young Somali growing up in London but I never thought of the extent or necessity that our help was needed. What motivated me to return was the desire to gain a deeper understanding of my country, to feel assured and content with my roots and myself, and to see what aid I can offer or facilitate in helping a country that most desperately needs it.  

As Somalia is my country of birth and previous home to my large family I felt obliged to return and participate in the process of development. At many of times prior to going back home and even when I was actually in Somalia I was scared for my safety and constantly prayed that God would protect me. Despite that, I defeated that anxiety for the purpose of a better future not only for myself and my family but for the whole of my country and its people. 

MB: Tell us about the documentary you worked on... 

SH: I recently contributed on a 60 minute documentary for BBC 3 which enabled me to return to Somalia and highlight issues such as; the war, famine and drought and bring them into the surface of the media.

As a young Somali who fled in 1990 my age and the war in Somalia are in correlation; we both turned 21 last year. The idea of the documentary was to reach out to a young audience that may not have any concept of current affairs and issues occurring on the other side of the world. The documentary was mind-blowing as it fulfilled all my desires in gaining a connection with Somalia and grasping a broader concept of its current state.

Working on this documentary not only altered my views on my country, it also changed me as a person. My experiences in Somalia has made me more humble than I ever thought by appreciating the simplest things that we take for granted, such as clean water that runs continuously from our taps. The programme that was once only supposed to be a personal journey, I am now seeing as a platform to bring about change.

MB: What are the conditions like for the people you met .... is there one particular person or memory that touched you? 

SH: The conditions in Somalia were not as vibrant and radiant as the stories my mother used to always share with us. The powerless state has little effect in protecting and preventing the on-going war that's now long over due.

Somali's have been fleeing since 1990 and continue to still leave hastily in their thousands. Current invasion of Al'Shabaab militants have left the country in turmoil and people in fear, restrictions on aid and external intervention has left the Somali people to perish due to the famine and drought. Hope for a better further and better lives melt away day by day. Even when they think the suffering is all over, Somali's overcome many more barriers and hurdles.

The refugee camp at times cannot accommodate the thousands of displaced people so they have to sit and wait for days sometimes months for just a piece of sheet of plastic to shelter themselves and their families. Food is always scarce and with such harsh conditions of heat and lack of water, Somali's are bound to deteriorate.

A special memory that I refuse to neglect is the protection and safety of Somali refugees in one of the camps in particular area situated in Ethiopia called 'Halloweyn'. The security and preservation in some these refugee camps is extremely poor. One of the issues raised and covered in the documentary is the number of rape victims that actually occur so often in the camps and the diminutive action taken to prevent this as well the level of awareness which is more less being concealed.

I interviewed two young women who had been subjected to rape by the locals due to travelling far into the woods to collect wood fire to cook and feed their families. I then discovered that this happens so often that the Somali refugee's had protested outside the UNHCR compound in Dollo Ado, for their voices to be heard and someone to do something about it.

It is embarrassing to say that this issue has not once been raised in the UK media or in fact anywhere else. I am currently in the process of establishing my own charity that helps protect vulnerable women all over the world and I feel compelled to begin with Somali women. I am going to develop this charity by initially gaining support from the large Somali Diaspora located all over the world. I want to raise a petition that helps support my concerns and votes against the defective security and protection system that is currently in place in this particular refugee camp. I plan to transmit these problems to my local MP who I hope could then highlight them within the House of Parliament.  My objective this year is to help establish a beneficial system where Somali women within the 'Halloweyn' refugee camp our guarded from rape and gender based violence.

Simple almost effortless arrangements could be put in place for example; a security guard that safeguards the women and observes whilst they collect the wood fire, women proceeding into the outskirts only in large numbers, only men collecting the wood fire or even a half way meeting point. This will ensure and shield the well-fare of not only the mental mind state of Somali women but also their health and future refuge. 

MB: What more can the rest of the world do... what is your message? 

SH: The outside world can:

  • Raise more awareness about Somalia
  • Deal with issues that are could easily be dealt with but are overlooked by the war and famine such as; the number of rapes that occur within the refugee camps
  • Urge the Somali Diaspora (especially the young) to do more for their country as hope lies within them. We are the future of Somalia
  • Highlight areas such as; Somali-land that has maintained a safe and working system for the Somali people - Showing that not everything within the Somali community is negative.
  • Please get involved and sign up for my petition and help protect our girls, young and old women  

My message: This is not the end for Somalia, we have a very bright future and only us the people of the country can bring about those changes. Don't give up on such a beautiful place and don't loose hope. Believe and we will all achieve a better and safer environment for ourselves and our children. 

You can contact me if you wish to help or discuss any of the issues that I have raised further



UN, Children's Group Slams Italy Decision to Close Migrant Port (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN, September 30, 2011) - Using strong language somewhat uncharacteristic of the United Nations, the world body joined with the respected Save the Children to slam an Italian Government decision to close a port that has become a crucial transit point for refugees fleeing the violence and unrest in North Africa.

Lampedusa was declared an unsafe port by the Italians yesterday, meaning that aid groups are unable to transport refugees there.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Save the Children have been working together since 2006 at the Reception and Rescue Centre of Lampedusa.

The three groups said in a news release Friday: "This decision could undermine the entire rescue at sea system for migrants and asylum seekers and at the same time could make rescue operations much  more hazardous and complex.

"Since it is no longer  possible to dock in Lampedusa, the ability of the Coast Guard and the "Guardia di Finanza" to carry out rescue at sea will be compromised by the distance they will have to travel to reach the next safe port, e.g Porto Empedocle, 120 nautical miles away. This would have severe implications on rescue operations when the weather is bad, or when it involves transporting people in need of urgent medical assistance, minors and other vulnerable individuals."
Aid groups say that migrants are hosted in the centre only for a minimum period of time to allow for assistance and identification before being transferred to appropriate facilities elsewhere in Italy.
"It is important that Lampedusa remains a safe harbour in order to save lives," the release said.

For its part, Italy says it cannot cope with the high numbers of migrants ending up on its shores. More than 48,000 have reached the shores of southern Italy since the start of the year.

Recently, 11 people were injured after refugees clashed with riot police on Lampedusa after hundreds of protesters -trying to resist repatriation - burned the reception centre down.

The organizations are also expressing their concern over the recent de facto detention of migrants on ships and question its legal basis and the conditions under which the migrants are kept.  The groups said they want the practice stopped, that "appropriate solutions" are found as soon as possible in line with existing provisions in Italian and  international law.

- HUMNEWS staff, UN


As Many as 12 Million in World Stateless - UN (REPORT)

In Search of Identity: An ailing 75-year-old Bihari sits alone in his room in a camp in Bangladesh. Credit: UNHCR(HN, August 25, 2011) - As many as 12 million people in the world are stateless and are being denied basic human rights, according to a new report issued by the UN refugee agency.

The problem is particularly acute in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. 

Countries with the most number of people without citizenship include: Estonia, Iraq, Kenya, Latvia, Burma, Nepal, Syria and Thailand.

"These people are in desperate need of help because they live in a nightmarish legal limbo," High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said. "This makes them some of the most excluded people in the world. Apart from the misery caused to the people themselves, the effect of marginalizing whole groups of people across generations creates great stress in the societies they live in and is sometimes a source of conflict," he added in a message to launch a new campaign, which comes ahead of the 50th anniversary on Tuesday of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Defining exact numbers of stateless people is problematic, says UNHCR. Inconsistent reporting combined with different definitions of statelessness means the true scale of the problem remains elusive.

To overcome this, UNHCR is raising awareness about the international legal definition while improve its own methods for gathering data on stateless populations. Pockets of statelessness exist throughout the world and it is a problem that crosses all borders and walks of life.

There are numerous causes of statelessness, many of them entrenched in legalities, but the human consequences can be dramatic. Because stateless people are technically not citizens of any country, they are often denied basic rights and access to employment, housing, education, and health care. They may not be able to own property, open a bank account, get married legally, or register the birth of a child. Some face long periods of detention, because they cannot prove who they are or where they come from.

State succession carries a risk that some people will be excluded from citizenship if these issues are not considered early on in the process of separation. The world welcomed the birth of South Sudan in July, but it remains to be seen how new citizenship laws in both the north and south will be implemented.

"The dissolution of states, formation of new states, transfer of territories and redrawing of boundaries were major causes of statelessness over the past two decades. Unless new laws were carefully drafted, many people were left out," said Mark Manly, head of the statelessness unit at UNHCR.

In the 1990s the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Yugoslav federation and Czechoslovakia left hundreds of thousands of people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia stateless. While most cases have been resolved in these regions, tens of thousands remain stateless or at risk of statelessness.

An unfortunate consequence of statelessness is that it can be self-perpetuating. In most cases where the parents are stateless, their children are stateless from the moment they are born. Without a nationality, it is extremely difficult for children to get a formal education or other basic services.

Discrimination against women compounds the problem. UNHCR analysis reveals that at least 30 countries maintain citizenship laws that discriminate against women. And in some countries, women run a risk of becoming stateless if they marry foreigners. Many states also do not allow a mother to pass her nationality on to her children.

But, there is a growing trend for states to take action to remedy gender inequality in citizenship laws. Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya and Tunisia have all in recent years amended their laws to grant women the same rights as men to retain their nationality and pass it on to their children. Changing gender discriminatory citizenship laws is a UNHCR goal this year.

An underlying theme of most stateless situations is ethnic and racial discrimination that leads to exclusion, where political will is often lacking to resolve the problem. Groups excluded from citizenship since states gained independence or were established include the Muslim Rohingya of Myanmar, some hill tribes in Thailand and the Bidoon in the Persian Gulf States. In Europe, thousands of Roma continue to be stateless in various countries.

Meanwhile, Croatia, the Philippines, Turkmenistan and Panama have all decided in recent months to become party to one or both of the international treaties on statelessness. Yet the issue remains a low priority in many countries due to political sensitivities.

The number of states party to the 1961 Convention and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons is low. As of today, only 66 states are parties to the 1954 Convention, which defines who is considered to be a stateless person and establishes minimum standards of treatment. Only 38 are parties to the 1961 Convention, which provides principles and a legal framework to help states prevent statelessness.

"After 50 years, these Conventions have attracted only a small number of states,'' said Guterres. "It's shameful that millions of people are living without a nationality  a fundamental human right. The scope of the problem and the dire effects it has on those concerned goes almost unnoticed. We must change that. Governments must act to reduce the overall numbers of stateless."



As Drought Worsens Pressure Increases on Kenya to Open More Space for Somali Refugees (REPORT)

(HN, UPDATED JULY 11, 2011 1850GMT) - Kenya is struggling to cope with the thousands of starving Somalis crossing over the border as the East African country came in for criticism for refusing to open more space for refugees.

While Kenya has accepted hundreds of thousands of Somalis - fleeing hunger and unrest in their own country - the United Nations and other agencies are pleading for more camps to relieve severe over-crowding at the congested Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya, with half-a-million people the largest of its kind in the world. 

The aid organization, CARE, says that more than 66,000 refugees have been registered in Daadab since the start of 2011, and is now at more than 300% capacity. An empty facility adjacent to Dadaab, constructed with donor money, is sitting empty as the Kenyan Government mulls over the situation.

Somali refugees wait to get water in Ifo camp. Long lines and difficulty getting ample water is a growing problem in Dadaab due to the growing numbers of Somalis fleeing to Kenya. CREDIT: UNHCRMeanwhile, with upwards of 12 million people affected by the drought in the region, the UN is now classifying the drought as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

"I have no doubt that in today's world, Somalia corresponds to the worst humanitarian disaster. I have never seen in a refugee camp people coming in such desperate conditions," said Antonio Guterres, the head of UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.

UNHCR estimates that a quarter of Somalia’s 7.5 million population is now either internally displaced or living outside the country as refugees.

Said UNHCR: "The Somali refugees are arriving in an appalling state of health, dehydrated and severely malnourished, especially children. Malnutrition rates among newly-arriving refugee children under the age of five range from 40 to 50 per cent."

Aside from Kenya and Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti are also severely affected.

Guterres expressed concern for the plight of children. "These people are arriving in awful conditions, especially the children - almost half of which are arriving with acute or moderate malnutrition...Women are exhausted after having walked for two weeks in some cases."

Guterres is expected to meet with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki early this week, however the government is expected to cite national security for its reluctance to accept an unlimited number of Somali refugees. (In the aftermath of Al Qaeda's 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, the US pressed the Kibaki Government to stem the flow of Islamic extremists from Somalia).

Further north, about 1,700 Somalis are arriving daily in southeast Ethiopia. Today the country said it needed $398 million to help cope with the drought.

"It is estimated that a total of 4.5 million people will require humanitarian assistance during the remaining period of the current year from July to December 2011," Agriculture Minister Mitiku Kassa told reporters.At a press conference in Nairobi Saturday: Valerie Amos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

The European Union on Wednesday announced it would provide 5.67 million euros to help the millions of people affected by the drought - bringing to 70 million euros the bloc's assistance to the drought crisis.

But the UN said donations are at less than the half way mark for its appeal.

Said OCHA chief Valerie Amos at a press conference Saturday: " We will need to increase our efforts in all these countries to get to those who most need our help. And we will have to ask our donors to do more. They have been generous with Ethiopia and I hope that that generosity will continue and extend to the neighbouring countries."

- HUMNews Staff 


On World Refugee Day, UNHCR Reports Highest Number of Refugees Worldwide in Fifteen Years 

(CREDIT: UNHCR, World Refugee Day 2011) (HN, June 20, 2011) - June 20th is always the United Nations globally recognized `World Refugee Day’.  But this year the day holds significance for more people on the planet than in the last 15 years. 

That’s because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that as of last year, 43.7 million people around the world have been displaced from their countries by war, conflict or persecution.  

Adding insult to injury, eighty percent of those refugees fleeing the safety of their own homes are being kept safe with food, shelter and water by some of the world’s poorest nations, and UNHCR is warning that these countries cannot continue to afford this cost alone.

This past weekend António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, spent time with the actress Angelina Jolie meeting with some of the refugees who most recently fled  Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain and other Middle East nations currently experiencing internal turmoil which has forced thousands to stream across their nations borders for other countries such as Turkey and Malta.  

(CREDIT: UNHCR, Gooodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie at a camp for Syrian refugees in the southern Turkish town of Altinozu.)In a statement reflecting `World Refugee Day’, Guterres says, “Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. It’s poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden.”

UNHCR’s 2010 Global Trends report, flags Pakistan, Iran and Syria as the world’s biggest hosts of refugees by amount of people who have fled there – totaling three million collectively that the countries have taken in; 1.9 million refugees are being housed in Pakistan alone.

And the world’s refugee populations are only expected to grow as predicted by UNHCR, next year and beyond.  In 2010, the refugee agency projected that 747,000 locations places were needed to resettle the global flow of refugees, and the 22 countries that accept such displaced people, led by the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden and Norway, took in only 98,000 people. In 2011, UNHCR estimates that 805,000 locations for refugees to be resettled will be needed.  

The developed nation housing the largest refugee population is Germany, hosting 594,000 people.  Guterres urged industrialized nations to increase the number of people they accept who are seeking asylum, lessening the burden on already poor and overwhelmed countries, some whom, like Syria, are going through their own internal strife and seeing its own people flee to Turkey.

Civilians fleeing the fighting in north-west Syria has picked up significantly in the last two weeks with more than 9,600 people now living in four camps managed by Turkey and the Turkish Red Crescent.

(CREDIT: IGEO, a camp for Darfur, Sudan refugees in Chad.)Not only are there more refugees in the world today but more people are staying in a `refugee state’ much longer than ever before.  Some like those in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere spend their whole life in refugee camps. 

In 2010 for instance, 7.2 million people, the highest number in ten years, had been exiled from their home countries for five years or more; mostly due to the length of the conflict they were fleeing from, which prevented people from returning to their homes. Only 197,600 refugees, were able to return to their homes in 2010, the lowest number since 1990.

UNHCR puts the official number of refugees who registered with it last year, along with the agency for Palestinian refugees at 15.4 million in 2010; with another 27.5 million people – the highest level in ten years - having been displaced by conflict within their own home countries’ borders.

--- HUMNEWS staff


Recent Fighting in Somalia Displaces 33,000 People Says UNHCR (NEWS BRIEF)

Somali refugee camps in Dadaab PHOTO CREDIT: UN News(HN, April 8, 2011) Some 33,000 people have been displaced in the past six weeks due to fighting in southern and central Somalia between government forces and Al-Shabaab militants.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) more than half of these are people who have been displaced in Mogadishu – the Somali capital already shelters about 372,000 of the more than 1.4 million people displaced people in this African nation.

Adrian Edwards, the agency’s spokesperson in Geneva told a news conference that the “UNHCR is monitoring a deteriorating situation in south and central Somali where sporadic fighting has continued to be reported in the towns of Doolow, Bulo, Hawo, Luug, Elwaag, Dhoobley, Diif and Taabdo”

He went on to say “We are again urging all armed groups and forces in Somalia to avoid targeting civilian areas and to ensure that civilians are not being placed in harm’s way.”

“According to local sources, the town and its surrounding areas remain tense. Pro-Government forces have been consolidating their control of the town, which they took earlier this week,” said Mr. Edwards.

Many of the most recently displaced people are people who have fled shelling in their towns.

In Bulo Hawo, a Somali town across the border from Mandera in north-western Kenya, people are in desperate need of shelter. UNHCR staff report that 150 permanent shelters and some 400 to 500 temporary structures were destroyed during recent shelling. The market area has also been destroyed and many people are sleeping outside.

Mr. Edwards said that, security and access permitting, UNHCR hopes to have its staff, as part of joint UN assessment missions, visit these areas and plan distributions of aid.

Meanwhile, UNHCR said the number of Somalis arriving in Kenya has been growing over the past three months, with over 31,000 having arrived this year alone. Kenya hosts more than half of the 680,000 Somalis who live as refugees in neighboring countries. 

- HUMNews Staff, UN News Center


As Libya Burns Bangladeshi Migrant Workers Told to Stay Put (NEWS BRIEF)

There are more than 60,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers in Libya. Only a fraction have been evacuated.(HN, March 16, 2011) --- In a shocking move, the Government of Bangladesh, claiming there is little danger to their safety and security, has told tens of thousands of its migrants workers to remain in Libya.

"We are discouraging those Bangladeshi who are still in Libya from coming back. These are poor workers. We are afraid if they come back they will lose everything," Bangladesh's manpower secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan was quoted as saying."If they are not in direct danger, we advise them to stay where they are."

About 60,000 Bangladeshis working on construction sites in Libya have struggled to escape since the violent rebellion against Colonel Gaddafi began. The situation is deteriorating by the day as forces loyal to the recalcitrant leader continues its offensive against opposition forces.

Officials in Dhaka have admitted they had no resources to send ships or planes, and turned to UN agencies to pick up the slack.

Only about 7,500 Bangladeshis have left, but those that remain are being advised by the government not to leave - even though the UN High Commission for Refugees has called for a mass evacuation.

Migrant workers' remittances are a huge income earner for the impoverished country.

Meanwhile other countries with large numbers of migrant workers in Libya are continuing evacuations. Nigeria has chartered Boing 747 aircraft to bring home its nationals.

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies


African Asylum-Seekers Among 1000s Stranded in North Africa (Report)

Source: ReliefWeb(HN, March 3 2011) - As distressed migrants, most of them from developing Middle Eastern and Sub-Saharan African countries, flee to Libya's border crossings, the numbers entering neighbouring countries is reaching close to 200,000.

However some African officials admit that many of those they have been forced to repatriate are nationals who entered Libya illegally and are undocumented - in effect, a vulnerable sub-class of migrants who are at extreme risk.

Officials and evacuees interviewed by the regional media say that they were in Libya in the process of seeking passage to Europe.

Some quoted in Nigerian newspapers said they have variously spent between four and 17 years in Libya.

The Ghana News Agency said many of the 10,000 or so Ghanians stranded in Libya were "illegal immigrants and undocumented."

Indicative of the diversity of those fleeing Libya is that one of the people evacuated was professional boxer Bash Ali, who said he was in Tripoli for medical treatment.

Upon returning to Nigeria he was quoted by the Daily Trust Newspaper as saying: “I am proud to be a Nigerian… I am proud of this encouraging exercise. Home is home… and home is sweet. Nothing is more comforting than to be among your people at home."

Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said yesterday that over 1,000  Nigerians are still stranded in Libya, with the same figure already evacuated.

The rescued Nigerians hinted at some surprise of having their government step up to the plate in this crisis.

A spokesman for the repatriated Nigerians, Chief Festus Koiki said: "For the first time in the history of Nigeria, the Federal Government has demonstrated its ability and capability to address the plights of distressed Nigerians in the Diaspora, which is unprecedented.”

Nigeria has had strained relations with Libya for the past decade.

Aid agencies say they are worried for thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers, and irregular migrants still inside Libya and in circumstances of considerable danger of reprisal attacks.

According to a report from the Ghana Embassy in Libya, a number of Nigerian nationals suffered such reprisal attacks, the Ghana News Agency reported.

At least two sub-Saharan Africans are already reported to have been lynched in Benghazi on suspicion of being mercenaries for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, others fear being hunted down by insurgents, a report by UN OCHA released today said.

Actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie"With these new waves of uprising and conflict, there is and will continue to be massive new displacement. The world needs to address this moment. We have to give people safe passage, evacuation if needed, and ensure they have asylum. We don't want to look back and find their deaths are on our hands," UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie said.

Meanwhile, transit camps operated by relief agencies are said to be bursting at the seams as an endless stream of migrants heads towards border crossings in the East with Egypt, in the West with Tunisia, in the South with Niger and towards the port in Benghazi.

The UN said today about 100,000 Africans may try to cross from Libya into poverty-stricken Niger in coming weeks, placing a huge strain on the land-locked country.

Reports indicate more than 50 flights, using commercial and military aircraft from a handful of countries, will be operated today to evacuate the migrants.

Separately, The Eldershave called on the international community to maintain pressure on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to step down as the only way to end the bloodshed in Libya.

Welcoming the strong resolution adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council to try to halt the violent repression in Libya, they urged the rapid implementation of agreed measures including an arms embargo, targeted financial sanctions and travel bans.

The Elders also underlined the need for swift humanitarian assistance to those in need, including people fleeing the violence.

Ultimately, the Elders say, it is Gaddafi's departure from power, along with that of key members of his regime, that will forestall further bloodshed.

The Chair of The Elders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said: “This is a moral universe – the Libyan people have right on their side and I am confident that they will succeed in their quest for freedom. I admire their courage in facing up to a leader who has in effect declared a brutal war on his own people to cling onto power. Gaddafi must recognise the truth – that the people of Libya are demanding change and he cannot stand in their way.”

- HUMNEWS staff, files



Displacement of Migrants From Libya Now Full-Blown Humanitarian Crisis (Report)

(HN, March 2, 2011) - UPDATED 1440 GMT - The situation at the Libya-Tunisia border is at a crisis point, with as many as 15,000 people crossing a day from Libya.

"We can see acres of people waiting to cross the border. Many have been waiting for three to four days in the freezing cold, with no shelter or food," said Ayman Gharaibeh, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) emergency response team at the border. "Usually the first three days of the crisis are the worst. This seems to be getting worse by the day," he added.

More than 75,000 people have crossed the Tunisian border since 19 February, the vast majority Egyptian nationals. An estimated 40,000 more are waiting to enter from the Libyan side of the border. The majority are from developing countries such as Niger, Chad, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, and Vietnam.

There are also sizeable populations of migrant workers stuck in Tripoli, which is becoming increasingly tense and dangerous.

Some 2,500 Somali migrants are holed up in the violence-affected city and unsure what to do, say Somali migrants there.

“We have not left our house in the last 12 days. If we go out we are liable to be attacked," one of the Somalis, Mohamed Aweys, told IRIN by phone from Tripoli. "A friend who went out on 1 March to get some supplies has not returned. We have not seen or heard of him since; his mobile is switched off."

Humanitarian presence in Libya as well as numbers of people crossing into neighbouring countries. CREDIT: ReliefWebThere are also another 500 Somali migrants in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, Aweys said, had been targeted as suspected pro-Gaddafi mercenaries. "We spoke to some of them on the phone in Benghazi and they are hiding in their homes."

Another Somali in Tripoli, Mahamud Ahmed, told IRIN: "We have nothing to do with their [Libyans'] problems. Most of us came here to escape our own problems and look for a better life and now we are caught up in a life-and-death situation."

In a sign of the increasing scope of the humanitarian crisis on the borders, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR are urgently appealing to governments for a massive humanitarian evacuation of tens of thousands of Egyptians and other third country nationals who have fled Libya. They want a supply of massive financial and logistical assets to a joint humanitarian programme they established today - including planes, boats and expert personnel.

With tens of thousands of them stuck at the border, and more expected, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists in Geneva that it was "becoming critically important that onwards transport becomes quickly available to avoid a humanitarian crisis."

Many of the people fleeing Libya are vulnerable women and children according to UNICEFBy last night, shelter with tents was expected to have been given to a total of about 12,000 people. Two airlifts are planned for Thursday with tents and supplies for up to 10,000 people.

The water and hygiene situation at the border remains precarious. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has been asked to help with improving these facilities - providing relief to over-stretched Tunisian civilians, the Tunisian Red Crescent and the military.

There are huge numbers of migrants stranded on the Libyan side. Fleming in Geneva said the refugee agency was particularly concerned "that a large number of sub-Saharan Africans are not being allowed entry into Tunisia at this point. UNHCR is in negotiations with self-appointed volunteers from the local community who are guarding the border."

The emergency response leader Gharaibeh said most of those crossing the border were fit young men. "This is the only reason why the situation has not degenerated into a huge crisis so far."

Migrants from sub-Sahara Africa are seen as particularly vulnerable, as they may be targeted as suspected mercenaries. "We have heard several accounts from refugees who tell us their compatriots have been targeted and killed. Others tell us about forced evictions and attacks on their homes," Fleming said in Geneva.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Libya, the Egyptian government reported that some 69,000 people had crossed into Egypt from Libya since February 19.Lack of public facilities are border crossing makes the transit excruciating

"The majority of those who have crossed are Egyptians, most of whom have already been transported to other towns and cities. Around 3,000 people remain in the arrival/departure area awaiting onward transportation," Fleming said.

Today, the Egyptian Red Crescent was due to transport a consignment of UNHCR medical supplies and food into eastern Libya. The food and medicine is being sent in response to requests from tribal leaders who UNHCR met over the weekend, and is expected to arrive tomorrow. Further convoys are being prepared.

On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for immediate and safe access to western Libya.

It has an emergency team that includes surgeons and nurses, as well as medical supplies, on the Tunisian border waiting to enter western Libya as soon as security conditions permit.

Another emergency team, which also includes medical staff, is already at work in hospitals in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

"This crisis has been going on for 14 days. It's high time, and absolutely vital, that the needs of people affected are met. We call on everyone taking part in the violence to respect the right of the wounded and sick to seek medical care, and to ensure that humanitarian assistance is able to reach those in need," said the ICRC's director general, Yves Daccord.

"Right now, the situation is far too unstable and insecure to enable much-needed help to enter western parts of the country," he added. "Health and aid workers must be allowed to do their jobs safely. Patients must not be attacked, and ambulances and hospitals must not be misused. It's a matter of life and death."

- HUMNEWS staff, UN


At Christmas, Mia Farrow Wants People to 'Get Angry' (Interview)

(HN, December 21, 2010) - Acclaimed actress and humanitarian activist has served as a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) for the past decade. She has travelled extensively to places such as Darfur in Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - meeting with the victims of conflict and working to bring greater international attention to humanitarian crises.Actress Mia Farrow in the field. CREDIT: UNICEF

Just a few days before Christmas, Farrow says she wants people to feel a real outrage about fellow human being who have literally nothing.

"I think the saddest person in the world is the one who did nothing because they could only do a little. We can all find ways to reach out to those who are in need," Farrow told UNHCR in an interview.

Recently, she completed a personal project to match photographs taken during her travels to the John Lennon song, "Imagine." The video can be seen on YouTube.

Excerpts of the interview:

What was your idea behind making this project?

I have taken a lot of photographs over the years  some of them on trips with UNICEF, some of them on my own journeys  and I was listening to the song at the time that would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday. I came to the line, "Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can," and I went to some of the photographs where it didn't require imagining for me. I've witnessed people with nothing. And then I thought: Was there something I could put together? I think the song is such a beautiful song, in its message, in its melody. I chose the pictures to go with the lyrics. I had returned from Uganda with UNICEF and I wanted to bring it emotionally to the destructive forces that have displaced all the people in the photographs. And I wanted to end with the dreamer and the thought: "If only the world could live as one."

Did you set out to illustrate the song with your photographs or the other way around?

No, it was hearing the song and the words and then coming up with the right photograph. For me, these photographs are not just pictures, they are of people I have spent time with. So I started imagining. Then I went to my photographs and played the song and began to assemble them in batches that would go with each wave of imagining. My daughter-in-law helped me with the technical side. But the people in the photographs are with me always. I couldn't hear a song like that without my mind going to the people.

Many of the photographs are of refugees and refugee children. Was that a deliberate choice?

Yes. My focus has been on people who are displaced primarily by conflict. Exceptions would be places like Haiti, but there, too, people are longing for peace. So many people there have nothing and they're longing for peace, peace of mind. There are all kinds of peace.

You have been able to move between these two extreme worlds of people in refugee camps and then life in the United States. Do you think that people understand what it's like to be a refugee?

How can we? Even though I might spend a lot of time in these situations  I've made 13 journeys to the Darfur region alone  I have a passport out. While I have experienced their circumstances, the huge difference is that I can leave and they can't. So I can never really fully understand their position and I hope I never will be in a similar position. But if I am, I hope that I will have the grace and the strength to maintain the hope that they have.

Were you hoping the slide show would inspire people or to provoke them in some way?

I wanted people to get angry, really. I wanted people to feel a sense of outrage that while we go about our business  and I know many people in my country and elsewhere are having difficult times  that we can scarcely imagine having nothing. I think that if people look into the eyes of our fellow human beings who have literally nothing, not even safety, then are we not compelled to do something?

On December 14, UNHCR marked 60 years since its creation. What are your thoughts looking forward?

I think in the face of displacement it's our feelings of helplessness that are our worst enemy. They are an indulgence that we can't give in to. And that comes to why I love UNHCR so much, because you're addressing the needs of the most vulnerable population on earth. I think the saddest person in the world is the one who did nothing because they could only do a little. We can all find ways to reach out to those who are in need.


Sweden, UK, Denmark Sending Iraqis Back to Danger - UN (News Report)

(HM, December 17, 2010) - Iraqi Christians who fled danger at home are being sent back to Iraq on deportation flights that have been condemned by the United Nations.

The world body's refugee agency - the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - is strongly reiterating its call on countries to refrain from deporting Iraqis who originate from the most perilous parts of the country, including Baghdad.Nearly 70 people died when security forces stormed the church in Baghdad to free dozens of hostages held by militants

UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a media briefing today in Geneva that as recently as Wednesday, Sweden once again forcibly returned a group of some 20 Iraqis to Baghdad. Among this group – sent back on the eve of Ashura – had been five Christians originally from Baghdad. 

UNHCR staff in Baghdad have already interviewed three of the Christians and three Iraqi Muslims among the group - all said that they originated from Baghdad. The deplaning asylum-seekers said they had been accompanied by as many as 60 Swedish policemen - two for every deportee.

One of the Christian men said he had escaped Iraq in 2007 after militiamen directly threatened to kill him. Fearing for his life, he travelled through several countries in the Middle East and Europe before reaching Sweden where he applied for asylum. He said his claim had been rejected three times in 2008 as he was not considered to have been personally targeted. The others UNHCR spoke to said their asylum claims had been rejected on the basis of improved security conditions in Iraq. 

This forced return come at a time when UNHCR's five offices in Iraq are noting a significant increase in Christians fleeing Baghdad and Mosul to the Kurdistan Regional Government Region and Ninewa plains.

Since the Baghdad church attack on October 31 in which almost 70 people were killed - the worst massacre of Iraqi Christians since the war began here in 2003 - and subsequent targeted attacks, the Christian communities in Baghdad and Mosul had started a slow but steady exodus. Some 1,000 families have arrived since the beginning of November in the Kurdistan Regional Government Region. UNHCR says it has heard many accounts of people fleeing their homes after receiving direct threats.

In addition, UNHCR offices in neighbouring Syria, Jordan and Lebanon are reporting a growing number of Iraqi Christians arriving and contacting UNHCR for registration and help. Churches and non-governmental organizations are warning UNHCR to expect more people fleeing in the coming weeks. Many of the new arrivals say they are fleeing in fear as a result of the church attack. One man who had now registered with UNHCR in Jordan narrowly escaped the attack, having left the church minutes before the bombing took place. This refugee had been deported from Europe just days beforehand.

Fleming said that over the past months there have been many deportation flights originating from Europe – from the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden – and UNHCR has spoken out on each occasion.

The countries undertaking the highly-controversial deportations are not necessarily given the list of the people on the flights, but UNHCR staff wait at Baghdad Airport to try and conduct interviews. In this case of the Swedish deportation this week, twenty deportees were on the flight, reportedly accompanied by as many as 60 policemen. 

“Churches and NGOs are warning us to expect more people fleeing in the coming weeks. Many of the new arrivals explain that they left in fear as a result of the church attack on 31 October,” said Ms. Fleming.

Jemini Pandya, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said some groups had been quoted as saying that Christians are legitimate targets for attack in Iraq. While all ethnic minorities are vulnerable, Christians are understandably worried and nervous. 



(REPORT) Benin suffering from the worst floods since 1963 

(Photo UN News) 

(HN, October 25, 2010) -- Nearly 700,000 people have been affected by severe flooding in the West African country of Benin and at least 60 people have been killed, according to the United Nations.

“Seasonal heavy rains have been hitting West Africa for several months and normally last until November,” said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement. “However, what has happened this year goes well beyond normal flooding for Benin.”

The deluge – the most extreme since 1963 – has had an impact on 51 out of 77 communes in the last five weeks. Along rivers and lakes, fragile huts have been submerged in up to two meters of water.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will begin airlifting supplies, including some 3000 tents, from its emergency stockpiles in Copenhagen.

Edwards said that while the UNHCR's normal work in Benin was with the refugee and asylum-seeking population of some 7,300, "we have been called upon to help with the emergency shelter needs of some of the homeless people in southern parts of the country where we have a presence.”  

Food production has also been badly hit by the floods. Elisabeth Byrs of the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said an appeal for funds and aid is being planned.
Experts had assessed needs for fresh water and purification measures, food and shelter, she added.

Earlier this month the U.N. reported that the floods affected 1.5 million people in regions in West and Central Africa with Benin being hit the worst. The floods have destroyed entire villages, killing more than 100 people in Nigeria alone. There have been 377 flood related deaths according to the report.

A cholera outbreak has added to the misery, with over 800 cases counted across Benin. In the aftermath of the flooding, Chad, Northern Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria are also facing serious cholera epidemics, according to the U.N.

The heavy floods are caused by torrential rains and high water level waters of the Niger and other rivers.

- HUM News Staff


(NEWS BRIEF) UN agency warns of tragedy unfolding in southwest of flood-hit Pakistan


(HN, September 3, 2010) – The United Nations refugee agency has called for boosting relief efforts in the flood-hit province of Balochistan in south-western Pakistan, where some 2 million people have been affected by the recent disaster and the humanitarian situation is deteriorating.

“By any definition it is a humanitarian tragedy in Balochistan. We need to scale up our activities in the province, if not, I think we are heading for a major humanitarian disaster there,” Mengesha Kebede, Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Mr. Kebede, who just returned from a visit to Balochistan, said the situation in the remote province has been largely overlooked as attention followed the flow of the Indus River south, ignoring the mounting crisis to the west.

There are almost two million people affected by floods in Balochistan, he said, noting that over half of them have been displaced, including 600,000 who had fled flood waters in Sindh province.

“I have worked in humanitarian situations globally and worked in refugee camps in Africa during emergencies, but to be honest I had never seen a situation as devastating as I saw in Balochistan,” said the UNHCR official.

“I owe it to the people there to put this on the table and help end their plight,” he stated, stressing the need to focus on the areas of sanitation, shelter, food and health care.

There were some 28 camps set up in the province but conditions were a major concern. “We are focusing on identifying and improving the most critical issues in relation to camp layout, hygiene and health conditions,” he said.

UNHCR is one of numerous UN agencies that are on the ground in Pakistan to try to provide relief to the victims of the disaster, which has left a fifth of the country under water and affected over 17 million people.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has so far delivered one-month food rations to nearly 175,000 people in eight districts in Balochistan, while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is providing water daily to over 200,000 people and has built emergency latrines in the most affected areas.

Stefano Savi, head of UNICEF’s office in Balochistan’s provincial capital Quetta, noted that, as in most disaster situations, children are among those most affected. “If we don’t scale up our nutrition activities, the lives of thousands of children are at risk,” he warned.

“The psychological impact of this disaster on children must also not be underestimated,” he added, “and this is why we are working to make their lives as normal as possible, through the establishment of child-friendly spaces and learning centres.”

The nearly $460 million sought by the UN and its humanitarian partners in the initial floods response plan for Pakistan is currently 63 per cent covered, having received $291 million in funds and an additional $20 million in pledges.

UNHCR has revised its section of the wider appeal from $41 million to $120 million as the needs of the flood victims continue to outpace the ability of aid groups to respond.

The award-winning Hollywood actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie has released a video message this week in which she appeals to the public to step up their financial support for aid efforts in Pakistan.

“This is not just a humanitarian crisis – it is an economic and social catastrophe,” she said.

- UN News