Spain: Over 500 African Migrants Rescued in the Mediterranean

About 300 individuals were picked up on nine boats on Saturday while another 250 were rescued from eight vessels on Sunday.

More than 500 migrants were rescued by Spanish authorities, in the Mediterranean, over a two-day period, from 17 boats – three of which eventually sank. According to Reuters, the migrants hailed from North and sub-Saharan African countries.

RELATED: Brazil Fishermen Rescue African, Guyanese Asylum-Seekers

About 300 individuals were picked up on nine boats on Saturday and another 250 were rescued from eight vessels on Sunday. Last August, Spanish authorities came to the aid of 593 people – including 35 children and a baby – traveling on 15 small paddle boats in one day.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that Spain appears to be facing “another very challenging year” regarding helping and protecting migrants.

“This situation requires urgent measures from the central government, which needs to coordinate with the relevant ministries as well as the Guardia Civil border police, the maritime rescue service, the police and NGOs,” Maria Jesus Vega, a spokeswoman for UNHCR Spain, said.

“The solution to irregular immigration is necessarily a matter of creating opportunities in countries of origin and working to improve the paths of legal migration,” a spokesman for the interior ministry had explained in January.

The number of people crossing into Spain, from North Africa, has increased significantly in recent years while arrivals to Italy and Greece via Libya have dropped. At least 19,000 people arrived in Spain in 2017 – a 182 percent increase on the previous year.

International Organization for Migration, 6,872 people have been rescued – and 218 other died – while trying to enter Spain, by sea, since the year began.

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Brazil Holds Regional Meeting on Refugees

Representatives of about 36 countries and territories from Latin America and the Caribbean are participating as of today at a meeting that will contribute to the Global Pact on Refugees, which the United Nations should adopt in September.

The meeting is led by UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, and have the presence of observers from other nations, as well as entities of the Brazilian civil society.

The Latin American and Caribbean Consultation Meeting such as the Regional Contribution for the Global Pact on Refugees will be held for two days at the Itamaraty Palace, seat of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, and will assess the results reached by this country in international protection.

The event will compile and strengthen recommendations as of the experience of the Latin American and Caribbean countries in this field.

The UN office in Brazil recalled in a note spread here that the assessment of the regional results are based on the Brazil Declaration and Action Plan, adopted in December 2014 by 28 countries and three Latin American and Caribbean territories, adopting an action agenda for the following 10 years.

UNHCR statistics place Latin America and the Caribbean as a shelter for a 16 percent of about 65 million people force to be displace due to conflicts, wars and persecutions throughout the world.

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100,000 people displaced by fighting in Raqqa, Syria, since April – UN

Some 100,000 people have been displaced due to heavy fighting near the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, since April this year, a UN human rights chief says. Children are the worst hit, many subjected to torture, sexual violence and executions.

“We need to see a step-change in access to the increasingly dire situation in northeastern Syria…With some 100,000 people displaced due to fighting around Raqqa since April, access is needed now through every possible modality,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said in a statement to the UN Security Council on Syria on Tuesday. 

According to O’Brien, the protection space is “shrinking, humanitarian conditions are worsening, and the level of despair is rising” across the entire country. In Idlib alone, there are over 900,000 displaced people, he said.

READ MORE: US begins arming Kurdish militia fighting ISIS near Raqqa

This is “not due to insecurity or poor infrastructure, but by increasingly strict limitations by local authorities, non-state-armed groups, as well as terrorist organizations, and the actions of some neighboring countries.”

The city of Raqqa, some 40km from Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest reservoir, was captured by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) back in 2013. Since then the city has been a scene of heavy battles and numerous offensives.

Clashes and airstrikes have recently intensified near the city as US-backed Syrian rebels reached the northern entrance of Raqqa, AP reported on Tuesday, citing activists.

Airstrikes in mid-May killed nearly two dozen farmworkers in a village in eastern Raqqa, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said earlier in May.

Hussein called on all forces operating in Syria to be more careful to correctly distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians.

READ MORE: Safe zones in Syria come into force: Here’s what we know about

In the meantime, O’Brien praised efforts of Iran, Russia and Turkey which established a memorandum on the creation of four de-escalation zones which came into force earlier in May.

This “memorandum that stipulates, in no uncertain terms, that fighting must significantly decrease and unhindered humanitarian access be enabled to these four areas,” he said.

‘Children tortured, subjected to sexual violence & executed’

Children remain the worst-affected group of population amid Syrian crisis, O’Brien said, adding that some 7 million children are now living in poverty in the war-torn country.

“Tens of thousands of children have been killed, and for those who have survived till today, the outlook remains bleak,” he said.

According to O’Brien, Syrian children “have been forcibly detained, they have been tortured, subjected to sexual violence, forcibly recruited and in some cases executed.”

READ MORE: Dozens of civilians, incl women & children, killed in US airstrikes in Syria – state media

He reminded that outside the country, Syrian children are “left to face an uncertain and traumatic future on their own”.

“They have become stateless, abandoned by the world,” he said.

“How are these children meant to function as adults? What future do these children have – illiterate, orphaned, starved, traumatized and maimed?” O’Brien said in an emotional plea to the UNSC.

“What future does a country have when its next generation is a lost generation? For these suffering children, what’s at stake isn’t politics. It’s their lives and their futures. It is their innocent voices, their suffering that need advocating,” he added.

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Turkey could send 15k refugees a month to Europe to ‘blow its mind’ – interior minister

Turkey's interior minister says Ankara could send 15,000 refugees a month to Europe, to “blow its mind.” He said the bloc is “playing games” to prevent Turkey from becoming strong, taking direct aim at Germany and the Netherlands.

“I’m telling you, Europe, do you have that courage? If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don’t send each month and blow your mind,” Süleyman Soylu said late Thursday, according to Hurriyet.

The minister was referring to a deal between the EU and Ankara, under which Turkey agreed to help stop the flow of refugees across its border and take back migrants rejected for asylum in Europe.

 
FILE PHOTO. © Eric Vidal

Ankara agreed to the deal in exchange for billions in refugee assistance from the EU and accelerated talks on becoming a member of the bloc.

It also rallied for visa-free travel to Europe's Schengen zone as part of the deal, but was told by the EU that a list of 72 conditions must first be met – a key sticking point of which is Turkey's strict anti-terrorism laws, which Europe has said must be loosened in order for the agreement to go ahead.

The EU parliament has also expressed concern about Turkey's “disproportionate” reaction to last year's failed coup attempt, which prompted Ankara to launch a mass crackdown. Those targeted included Turkish opposition figures, teachers, journalists, and civil servants deemed sympathetic to Kurdish separatism and self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey says was the mastermind behind the unrest.

Europe's hesitation to fulfill its side of the refugee deal has led to Ankara threatening to pull out of the agreement numerous times. However, a German government spokesman said on Friday that there are no signs that the refugee deal has been suspended, Reuters reported.

Soylu went on to specifically address Germany and the Netherlands, both of which have interfered with rallies aimed at encouraging expatriate Turks to vote ‘yes’ in an upcoming referendum which would give Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

 
© Umit Bektas

“Who are the main ones trying to get things done? Germany and the Netherlands. Are the elections going to be held in Germany? Will the charter change in Germany or the Netherlands?” he asked, referring to the April 16 referendum.

“This is our internal issue. What do you care? Why are you getting involved in it? Did you accept Turkey into the European Union? Did you provide support to Turkey in its fight against terrorism?” he said.

“There are games being played against Turkey in order to prevent it from becoming strong in the future,” Soylu said.

He went on to state that Turkey is in its strongest period and that “some people can't handle it.”

Turkey has been particularly vocal against the Netherlands in recent days, after Dutch authorities banned ministers from addressing a rally in Rotterdam and dispersed hundreds of protests outside the Turkish consulate on Sunday.

Erdogan has made his distaste for the country well known since then, accusing it of acting like “Nazi remnants,” state terrorism, and having a “rotten” character.

Ankara has also imposed diplomatic sanctions on the Netherlands, suspending high-level talks and barring the Dutch ambassador from returning to Turkey.

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Stranded Migrants in Greek Camp Protest over Living Conditions

About 60,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece from border shutdowns throughout the Balkans.

A group of migrants and refugees on Monday blocked a Greek minister from entering the former Athens airport terminal, where they have been stranded for months, in a protest against their living conditions.

Dozens of protesters, among them many children, rallied outside a gate chanting, "Go, Go!" and "Liar!" to Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas. One migrant handed him a crying child as he reached the chained gate.

The government wants to clear out the entire compound, which consists of venues used in the 2004 Olympic Games and the former Athens airport, as Greece has agreed to lease it to private investors under its bailout program. About 1,600 people, mostly Afghans, are camped in these facilities.

About 600 people live at the former arrivals' terminal where Monday's protest took place.

The protest, a day after local media reported that a group of migrants were going on hunger strike, was brief. Mouzalas said the reports that they were going on hunger strike were unfounded.

About 60,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece from border shutdowns throughout the Balkans, halting the onward journey many planned to take to central and western Europe.

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Trump travel ban unlawful, could lead to torture of refugees: U.N.

U.N. human rights experts said on Wednesday U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority states contravenes international law and could lead to people denied asylum being sent home to face torture.

Trump's executive order curbing immigration has aroused an international outcry, even among U.S. allies, and sown chaos and bewilderment among travelers. Legal challenges have spread with three U.S. states suing to overturn the order, saying it flouts constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

In a statement, the U.N. experts urged the Trump administration to protect people fleeing war and persecution and uphold the principle of non-discrimination based on race, nationality and religion. The United States should not force back refugees, a practice known as refoulement, they said.

"Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one’s nationality and leads to increased stigmatization of Muslim communities," the experts' statement said.

"Recent U.S. policy on immigration also risks people being returned, without proper individual assessments and asylum procedures, to places in which they risk being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws which uphold the principle of non-refoulement."

The independent experts included the U.N. special rapporteurs on migrants, François Crépeau; on racism, Mutuma Ruteere; on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson; on torture, Nils Melzer; and on freedom of religion, Ahmed Shaheed.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on Monday that discriminating against people on the basis of their nationality is illegal.

The U.N. experts voiced concern that people travelling to the United States could be subject to detention for indefinite periods and ultimately deported. They called on Washington to live up to internationally agreed obligations to offer refuge to those fleeing persecution and conflicts.

Melzer also urged Trump not to consider returning to waterboarding and other methods of torture as interrogation techniques used during George W. Bush's administration but banned by his Democratic successor Barack Obama. Trump has said he believes waterboarding works but his top defence and security appointees have said they would oppose any use of it.

“Any tolerance, complacency or acquiescence with such practice, however exceptional and well-argued, will inevitably lead down a slippery slope towards complete arbitrariness and brute force,” Melzer said.

(Refiles to fix punctuation in paragraph 4 quote)

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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United States: Resistance against Trump Grows.

The Miami Journal, a digital publication of that city, showed this Sunday the following title: The Trump Revolution, "Chaos, indignation, and dozens of people affected by presidential veto".

According to EFE agency, the measures approved this Friday by Trump, under the pretext of protecting the country against terrorism were denounced by organizations that believe them unconstitutional.

Those dispositions establish to prevent for 90 days the granting of visa and entry to all citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, as well as the welcoming of refugees for 120 days.

Who were the first victims? Parents travelling to the U.S. to meet their families, universities students from those countries or refugees escaping war conflict zones.

The Miami agency also reported that, during the first 24 hours, there were cases of people who weren’t given authorization to fly towards the United States from Egypt, Turkey or Holland.

But also, for example, in New York, more than a dozen of travelers were arrested at JFK airport, next to two Iraqis who carried their visa in order.

One of them, Hameed Jhalid Darweesh, was released after hours of arrest only through the intervention of several organizations and two North American congress members.

Darweesh had been granted visa for him and his family after having cooperated for years with the Pentagon armed forces in Iraq.

"I supported the U.S. Government in the other side of the world, but when I’ve got here they told me 'no', and they treated me like I had broken the rules and done something really ban ", he declared.

For example, they took up to 12 hours confirming half-way that the temporary veto includes the citizens from those seven countries, "regardless if they had permanent residency in the United States."

Including people residing legally in United States for years, "forced now to get an exemption to return there, a process that will come to a decision "case by case."

According to journalistic investigations, nearly 500 000 citizens from those seven nations have earned the permanent residence in the last ten years.

The Wall Street Journal hinted that citizens from these countries count - even though- with passport from another nation, something that will be public shortly.

Bottom line is? No one can deny that in this huge board a marked delicate situation is brewing.

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Russia Calls on the USA to Avoid Aerial Ban Areas in Syria

Moscow, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) Russia today called on the United States to weigh the possible consequences of the creation of aerial ban areas in Syria, especially for the lives of refugees.

'It is a matter of utmost importance to avoid a worsening of the refugee situation,' Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said while commenting on a decision by US President Donald Trump.

The new US head of state signed yesterday another controversial provision, this time for the Pentagon to present within 90 days a plan to create the so-called humanitarian security areas.

Peskov acknowledged that Washington never consulted Moscow about that measure, even though Russian combat aviation has been operating in Syrian airspace since late 2015.

Trump considered the day before that Europe made a huge mistake in allowing the entry of thousands of refugees to Germany and other nations of that region and affirmed that he did not want that for the United States.

More than five million Syrians were displaced from their homes because of a conflict that in barely six years left more than 200 000 dead people, many of them civilians.

Damascus accuses Washington of artificially promoting chaos and destabilization in the Levantine country that led to an armed confrontation in which violent groups received material and financial aid from abroad.

Press media here recall the disastrous experience of creating flight ban areas in Libya when North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) aviation bombarded that country from March to October 2011.

The country suffered hundreds of civilian's fatalities because of NATO attacks, which interpreted a UN Security Council resolution to protect the Libyan population according to its whim.

Moscow repeatedly called on the West to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians, especially after the liberation of the eastern part of Aleppo last December.

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