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IOM Appeals for Funds to Assist Ethiopian Returnees from Saudi Arabia

Posted by African Press International on December 10, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ IOM is appealing for USD 13.1 million to address the needs of a projected 120,000 returning Ethiopian migrants from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The numbers of the returning migrants is increasing rapidly and there is an urgent need to provide round the clock assistance. As of Thursday 5 December, over 100,000 migrants had been received by the Government of Ethiopia. Out of these, IOM provided direct assistance to over 90,000 individuals. The arrivals continue at over 7,000 migrants per day.

The funds will help to maintain and increase the assistance that IOM is currently providing which includes: transportation, post-arrival medical and psychosocial first aid, provision of meals, water and high energy biscuits, temporary accommodation for migrants who arrive at night, as well as accommodation and transportation for unaccompanied minors. IOM is also distributing shoes and other non-food items to the extremely vulnerable returnees.

The Government of Ethiopia requested IOM’s assistance in managing this influx, with the government taking the lead in arranging for the returns.

Since the onset of the operation, IOM has provided support to 167 unaccompanied minors. The minors stay at the transit centre for an average of 10 days pending family tracing. On Thursday, IOM in coordination with UNICEF and the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, sent home 58 children in the company of social workers from the Ministry. The re-unification process after family tracing takes approximately six days.

IOM has already received USD 2.5 million through the Humanitarian Response Fund and Central Emergency Response Fund, leaving the gap of USD 13.1 million. The cost per beneficiary is estimated at USD 130. In-kind contributions from UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, IRC, ICR, Ethiopian Red Cross Society and other partners are being used to assist the arriving migrants. The donations range from water and sanitation kits, dignity kits, to ambulances, medicine, water tanks, blankets, tents, high energy biscuits and mobile toilets among others.

 

SOURCE

International Office of Migration (IOM)

 

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Pentagon approves $1.1 billion Raytheon missile sale to Saudi Arabia

Posted by African Press International on December 7, 2013

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon has approved the sale of more than 15,000 Raytheon Co anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia under two separate deals valued at nearly $1.1 billion.READ more…… 

 

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Managing the Influx of Vulnerable Ethiopian Migrants Returning from Saudi Arabia

Posted by African Press International on December 4, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 3, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Government of Ethiopia are working together to manage the influx of vulnerable Ethiopian migrants returning from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Ethiopia’s Bole International Airport receives an average of 7,000 migrants every day, as the Ethiopian government works around the clock to facilitate organized movement of its citizens from Saudi Arabia. Over 75,000 migrants have returned to Ethiopia since the operation began on 13 November 2013.

Out of the migrants that have arrived to date, 47,479 are men, 25,000 are women and 3,391 are children. 51,000 migrants are still expected to arrive in Addis Ababa in an exercise that the government estimates will be completed by 15 December.

IOM is facilitating airport reception, registration and transportation from the airport to the Transit Centres and onward to the bus station. For their transport home, IOM is providing $50 bus fare. Water and high energy biscuits are also given to the migrants at the airport reception and meals, water and high energy biscuits are provided at the Transit Centres. IOM has set up clinics at the airport where the arriving migrants can receive medical assistance. The arriving migrants have been treated for Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, Trauma, Urinary Tract Infections, pneumonia, dyspepsia and coughs. In collaboration with the Ethiopian Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ambulances are on standby to transfer patients that may need specialized medical attention.

The Ethiopian government has dedicated seven Transit Centres with a carrying capacity of 6,000 individuals in the capital Addis Ababa. In addition, the World Food Programme has provided seven tents that are used for accommodation. Migrants who arrive in the evening are hosted in these Transit Centres overnight and allowed to go home in the morning. Migrants who arrive during the day are allowed to get a bus home. This ensures that the Transit Centres have room to accommodate new arrivals.

Unaccompanied minors are temporarily hosted at the IOM Transit Centre in Addis Ababa as efforts are made to trace their families. In coordination with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), IOM is assisting in family tracing and re-unifying the minors with their families. The unaccompanied minors are transported to their areas of origin in the company of a social worker and handed over to their parents or guardians.

IOM has set up clinics within these reception centres and migrants who need medical attention are able to readily access it. The clinics are supported by five IOM doctors and 17 nurses including some medical personnel from the Ministry of Health. Psychosocial counselors have also been availed at the Transit Centres for migrants in need of counseling.

In support of the IOM and government initiatives, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has donated non-food items worth $100,000 for use at the Transit Centres. The IRC has also donated NFIs worth $60,000.

Thousands of irregular migrant workers have reportedly been arrested and deported after the expiry of an amnesty period during which the workers were allowed to legalize their status. The measure prompted an exodus of over 1 million foreigners.

 

SOURCE

International Office of Migration (IOM)

 

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Nearly two million Muslim pilgrims converged on Mecca for the 2012 Hajj

Posted by African Press International on October 7, 2013

Nearly two million Muslim pilgrims converged on Mecca for the 2012 Hajj

DUBAI,  – Public health officials in the Gulf states are playing down fears about an outbreak of the deadly MERS coronavirus among pilgrims travelling to the Hajj in Saudi Arabia this month, though doctors are advising the elderly, people with existing health conditions, pregnant women and young children to stay away.

As of 4 October, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), laboratories in the region had confirmed 136 cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), including 58 deaths since April 2012.

Most cases and deaths have been in Saudi Arabia, where two million Muslims are expected to converge in mid-October for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Madinah.

The virus is seen as a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which swept through Asia in 2002-3, killing over 700 people.

MERS-CoV can cause breathing difficulties, diarrhoea, kidney failure, and in extreme cases, death.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Minister Abdullah Al Rabia says his country is ready for an outbreak, but stressed that he was confident there would be no problem, given there were no recorded cases during either July’s Umrah pilgrimage or last year’s Hajj.

The country, which has had 120 cases and 49 deaths since September 2012, has assigned two laboratories for MERS-CoV-specific testing. It will also use existing health surveillance points at borders (set up to ensure pilgrims are vaccinated against Meningococcal Meningitis and Yellow Fever) to be on the look-out for cases.

Health authorities around the Middle East, many of whom already send large health support teams to the Hajj, will also be raising awareness of the virus among pilgrims, with a focus on reminding people what they should do if they return from Saudi Arabia and feel unwell.

Dubai Health Authority in the United Arab Emirates is to launch an awareness campaign for pilgrims travelling to the Hajj although details are yet to be released.

The risks of MERS-CoV transmission were discussed at length during a week-long meeting of the International Mass Gathering Medicine Conference held last month in Saudi Arabia, home to the Global Center for Mass Gathering Medicine run by the Saudi government.

Over 1,000 health officials from WHO, the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various governments from around the world attended the event, which focused on MERS-CoV.

One of the difficulties with the virus is that the early symptoms can be easily confused with the common cold. Unless doctors are specifically screening for the virus, it can be hard to pick up.

Another challenge is that despite more than one year of research, scientists remain unsure about the source of the virus and how it is transmitted.

“Until we have a definitive source of infection, it is hard to give targeted advice,” explained Richard Brown, a medical doctor and regional adviser for communicable disease surveillance and epidemiology for WHO’s South East Asia Regional Office.

Brown, who is also focal point for WHO’s International Health Regulations, told IRIN: “There is an assumption that the source is animals, and we have seen some very interesting studies about bats and camels, but if they are a possible source of infection, we don’t really know how it’s getting from those animals to humans, or whether perhaps even these animals are being infected from yet another, undiscovered source.”

He added: “People need to be careful in a very generic way, such as ensuring good hand hygiene. We would normally tell people to avoid very crowded situations, but obviously in this case, with the Hajj, that is unrealistic.”

“We would normally tell people to avoid very crowded situations, but obviously in this case, with the Hajj, that is unrealistic”

Anthony Mounts, a medical doctor and technical lead for the MERS-CoV response with WHO in Geneva, stressed the importance of global awareness about MERS-CoV, not just among countries in the Middle East, or those sending pilgrims to the Hajj.

“The Hajj could possibly be an issue, but actually there are pilgrims that go to sites in Saudi Arabia all through the year. When you look back at our data, we have not seen cases emanating from these people,” he explained.

Global threat? 

“However”, he added, “the concern extends beyond the countries in the immediate region. If you look at the way people travel in the region, in particular the workforce, they come from a lot of poor countries, from places like Pakistan, India and the Philippines, all of which are places which don’t perhaps have the best infrastructure to respond to a virus or even to detect it.”

Mounts said WHO is working globally to ensure all countries are able to test for MERS-CoV and know what to look for.

Brown agrees that while mass gatherings pose a particular risk for MERS-CoV, health actors must always be vigilant.

“The thing that almost makes it easier about Hajj is that you know when people are going and when they are coming back. But if you have migrant workers coming and going the whole time, then it requires constant vigilance,” he explained.

“When people are exiting the country, you should be giving them some basic health advice. And, if they are returning to their home countries, it’s about encouraging them to proactively mention to people where they have been to sensitize the clinician to the possibility of infection.”

In order to track the virus’ spread, WHO has set up the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on MERS-CoV.

However, at its third meeting last month, the Committee voted unanimously that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not at present been met.

This means there will not be a global high alert, as was seen over the last decade when there were outbreaks of SARS, Avian Flu H5NI and Swine Flu.

Experts find some comfort in two things: the pace of the disease has not accelerated, nor has the disease mutated.

“Although we have seen human to human transmissions occur in healthcare facilities, between patients, from patients to doctors, among healthcare staff and close family members, we haven’t yet seen that third or fourth level of community transmission,” Mounts said, meaning when the disease is spread more randomly among strangers.

“There have been quite a lot of investigations looking for this [community transmission], they just haven’t found it yet. What’s more, the clusters that we have seen seem to extinguish themselves with relatively modest interventions, which was not the case with SARS.”

What is MERS-CoV? 

MERS-CoV is short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. It is a particular strain of the “coronavirus” family that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory conditions. It is regarded as a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which claimed more than 700 lives when it hit Asia in 2002-2003. It was initially labelled Novel Coronavirus (nCov).

How widespread is MERS-CoV? 

No one is really sure. It is possibly being under-reported because doctors are mistaking it for the common cold and people who are otherwise healthy are able to fight it off. While the World Health Organization (WHO) is taking MERS-CoV seriously, setting up anEmergency Committee to track its progress and organize the response, experts there do not believe it has met the criteria to be named an in international public health emergency. Nor does WHO advise against travel to any countries or special screening at points of entry.

How fatal is the virus? 

So far 58 people have died. At over 40 percent so far, the death rate of MERS-Cov is high compared to SARS. But it is possible people contracting the virus have been able to fight off the symptoms and therefore have not reported it. As such, only the most serious cases are being identified. The elderly or those who have underlying health conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, are most vulnerable to MERS-CoV. This is one explanation for the high death rate among those who get infected.

How would you know if you had MERS-CoV?

It is hard to tell because the symptoms are very similar to the common cold, though in the case of infection, they will rapidly escalate from a fever and cough to breathing difficulties. Many patients have also had gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, and some have had kidney failure.

What is the treatment for MERS-CoV? 

No vaccine is currently available. Treatment depends on the patient’s clinical condition and would involve general supportive medical attention. In advanced cases, patients have been submitted to intensive care units to support their breathing and other organ functions.

Does MERS-CoV come from camels? 

study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal found a high level of MERS-CoV antibodies among camels in the Middle East. This suggests that the virus, or something very similar, has recently been circulating among camels and this may be the source of the infections seen over the last year. However, researchers still do not know how the virus is being transferred from camels to humans. Given that none of the confirmed MERS-CoV patients had a history of direct interaction with camels, an intermediary carrier could be taking the virus from camels to humans. Scientists say it is also possible that the antibodies found in camels could be a very closely related virus, rather than the actual virus itself.

What about bats? 

A team of US and Saudi scientists have looked at bat populations in the Middle East to see if the nocturnal animals may be a source of MERS-CoV. They found that a faecal sample from one bat in Saudi Arabia yielded a fragment that was a 100 percent match for the MERS-CoV, though some have questioned whether the fragment was too small to give an accurate or useful reading. Again, there is still no information about how the virus has been or could be transmitted to humans.

How can you protect yourself from MERS-CoV?

Until more is known about where MERS-CoV comes from and how it is spread, it is hard to give specific advice. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends general common sense hygiene precautions. These include: washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and if water is not available to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.

Sources: World Health Organization; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The Lancet journal.

lr/ha/cb

source http://www.irinnews.org

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Landmines and fear – Bringing peace, stability and aid

Posted by African Press International on July 27, 2013

SANA’A,  – More than three years after a tentative truce between the Houthi-led Shia movement in the north of Yemen and the government, humanitarian access is starting to open up in the areas still under the control of the Houthi militant forces.

Despite repeated skirmishes, the Qatar-supported ceasefire has largely held since February 2010, not least because of a shift in the military’s focus to the south, where Islamist forces seized parts of Abyan Province in 2011, and the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule in 2012.

While delivering aid in areas under the control of the Houthis, or Ansar Allah as they now call themselves, has never been straightforward, there are signs that the current peace is tentatively leading to better humanitarian access.

“The openness has happened in a gradual manner as trust has gradually been rebuilt,” said Hélène Kadi, head of field operations and emergency operations at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen.

“Thanks to structured discussions, we have been able to increase our work in Sa’dah, even if there can still be issues with security, coordination delays and the unpredictability of the situation.”

In June, UNICEF started training 50 female volunteer teachers from rural areas in Sa’dah Governorate to work in girls’ schools. They have also trained 60 community leaders on nutrition, health, and water and sanitation (WASH), gave training to 22 communities’ midwives, and helped set up 25 new temporary classrooms in 10 districts in the governorate.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has had a sub-office in Sa’dah since 2007 and last year extended work to remoter areas of the governorate, said their spokesman in Yemen, Marie-Claire Feghali.

“We have started a better conversation with the Houthis in the north who, in the past, were very difficult in terms of accepting international assistance and particularly assessment,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

“But now there is much more opening and better discussion, and trust is building up in the north.”

Landmines and fear

The Houthi movement has “de facto control” on the ground in Sa’dah Governorate, with their influence also spilling over into parts of Hajjah, Amran and Al-Jawf governorates.

Since the 2010 truce, Sa’dah has seen ups and downs in humanitarian access, with occasional outbreaks of violence between the Houthis (Shia) and Salafist (radical Sunni) groups.

Aid agencies have had difficulty carrying out assessments, faced restrictions on movement, and have had access limited by insecurity. Medical NGOs Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-Spain and MSF-France stopped operations in Sa’dah in late 2011.

“There is no open fighting. But there are risks from landmines, and there is still the fear of what might happen next”

The UN Humanitarian Air Service is sometimes unable to land in Sa’dah because of insecurity. On the ground, things are frequently tense, particularly in Kitaf District and Dammaj village on the outskirts of Sa’dah town.

“There is no open fighting. But there are risks from landmines, and there is still the fear of what might happen next,” one aid worker, who asked not to be named, told IRIN.

There are almost weekly reports of blasts from landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Initial survey work on these explosive remnants of war has just started, according to this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan.

“We continue to see improvements in terms of access, and the authorities are cooperating. I wouldn’t say it’s improving day by day, but at least now we can sit down to plan an issue and address the situation,” the aid worker said.

At least 10 UN agencies and NGOs work in Sa’dah, with 67 projects planned for this year, mainly focusing on WASH, health, shelter and protection in 2013.

Too soon to return

The six rounds of fighting from 2004 to 2010 affected more than a million people. Some 227,000 continue to need humanitarian assistance in Sa’dah this year.

The conflict officially displaced 103,014 people (IDPs) within the governorate, and around 190,000 IDPs to surrounding regions.

Unlike in Abyan, where more than 90 percent of the 200,000 people displaced by the violence in 2011-12 have returned home, the IDP situation in the north is proving more protracted. Despite the truce, so far only 69,772 IDPs have returned.

Many of those reluctant to return cite security concerns, including revenge attacks and fears of a seventh round of fighting. Landmines also need to be cleared, homes rebuilt and livelihoods re-established.

“The displaced are hoping and willing to go back. But they don’t have livelihoods at the moment. They are really suffering. In the north, infrastructure, houses and farms have been destroyed – everything needs to be rehabilitated. The displaced cannot go back to nothing,” Mohamed Saad Harmal, assistant to the head of government’s Executive Unit for IDPs/camps, told IRIN in Sana’a.

Many in Sa’dah depended on seasonal work or smuggling over the nearby border with Saudi Arabia, but employment restrictions and the tightening of controls are making such work scarce.

If the provision of humanitarian aid in Sa’dah improves, and stability returns, large-scale returns could begin. But the lack of basic services is given by many IDPs as a key reason why they have not yet returned home.

Health facilities in Sa’dah struggle to attract qualified doctors and nurses, and there is little equipment to work with.

Around 8,000 families have returned to Sa’dah from Haradh, in neighbouring Hajjah Governorate, but they return to the Haradh area each month to pick up monthly food rations.

“One of the key issues back there is that there are no schools,” Mudhish Yahya, an IDP from Sa’dah now living in al-Mazraq Camp 1 near Haradh, told IRIN. “Some were destroyed. In some areas, there just weren’t any schools anyway.”

Save the Children is planning to include 15 schools in Sa’dah in their Child-Friendly School programme, which launches in September. They have also rehabilitated several health clinics, and they expanded health and nutrition programmes by 40 percent in 2012.

“The needs are huge here and are largely a consequence of destruction resulting from the six Sa’dah wars,” Save the Children’s country director, Jerry Farrell, told IRIN. source http://www.irinnews.org

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Despair at a migrant dead-end in Yemen

Posted by African Press International on June 29, 2013

Ethiopian teenage migrants taking part in a voluntarily programme to return home

HARADH,  – In temperatures in the high forties around 1,000 Ethiopian migrants, sweating profusely, turn their backs to Saudi Arabia and start the walk south – away from the Yemeni border town of Haradh and their dreams of a new life.

On the road they silently pass others heading north, still hopeful of crossing the border.

Haradh is at the crossroads of these dreams – a potential gateway to a new life in Saudi Arabia, but getting there is becoming increasingly difficult.

To get here, the migrants have endured considerable hardship; often taking on debt to fund the journey, walking for weeks to get to the East African coast and then crossing the shark-infested Red Sea.

Thousands get picked up by smugglers in Yemen who kidnap and torture them to extract ransom money.

Then, they reach what for many is the end of the road and their hopes: a dusty poverty-stricken town, 10km from an increasingly impenetrable Saudi Arabia.

“There’s a general feeling of depression. They come with dreams. Some just keep trying – they owe so much money”, Fatwa Abdok, psychiatrist, MSF

“There’s a general feeling of depression. They come with dreams. Some just keep trying – they owe so much money,” Fatwa Abdok, a psychiatrist working with Médecins Sans Frontières in Haradh, told IRIN.

She describes hearing testimonies of “torture you can never imagine” from those held captive by smugglers.

“Some of them are completely destroyed. Some get consumed just coping with it. It all depends on the strength of the person. Some recover when they have food and a place to sleep. Ethiopians are strong people, but some go crazy,” she said.

The numbers of arrivals in Yemen from the Horn of Africa in the last three years has doubled – from 53,382 in 2010 to a record 107,532 in 2012.

Ethiopians make up the majority of arrivals – up from 64 percent in 2010 to 78 percent last year.

The fence

“The Saudis have cracked down. The border’s not closed but it’s more difficult to get in,” said one aid worker who asked not to be named.

“You see the migrants on the road and they’re stuck. They trudge up to the border from Haradh. It’s an awful place. There’s nothing there. They trudge up to the border and they come back and they’re stuck.”

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia announced plans to resume construction of a 3m-high fence along its 1,800km border with Yemen.

Work on the controversial project initially started in 2003, but was suspended a year later. In 2008 a fence was put up along the coastal area around Haradh where much of the cross-border smuggling of people, drugs and weapons is concentrated.

In addition to the fence, Saudi Arabia has also cleared the border areas of settlements and uses floodlights and thermal detection cameras to try to stop the often heavily-armed smugglers.

Growing crisis

These restrictions have led to a build-up of pressure in Haradh and the surrounding Hajjah Governorate, where poverty is widespread.

The governorate, which depends on economic ties with Saudi Arabia, already supports more than a 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled neighbouring Sa’dah Governorate after the 2004 Houthi uprising and subsequent conflicts.

Some of the IDP families at the al-Mazraq IDP camps a short drive from Haradh rely on breadwinners in Saudi Arabia, but residents complain that the border restrictions have pushed them into poverty.

“We used to work in construction in Saudi, but now because of the fence, lots of Yemenis have been jailed there. Now there are video cameras and machine guns stopping us getting across,” said one camp resident, Saleh Hassan.

Recent changes to Saudi labour laws have also threatened tens of thousands of Yemenis with expulsion, which would further add to the country’s economic difficulties two years after the turmoil of the Arab Spring.

Press reports quoted government officials this week saying 53,000 Yemenis had been deported from Saudi Arabia since the beginning of June, and tens of thousands more are expected in the coming days.

Women migrants at the IOM centre in Haradh

Community leaders in Haradh say the new restrictions have led to a significant decrease in economic activity, making it more and more difficult for the town to support the tens of thousands of African migrants.

“We are afraid for the migrants because of the torture they often suffer, and also of them. Now with the fence up, they are creating more problems,” the head of the local council in Haradh, Sheik Hamoud Haidar, told IRIN.

“We are afraid of them because they are hungry. A hungry man is an angry man.”

Around 2,000 migrants have also been freed around Haradh in recent months following army raids on smuggling yards to free them from captivity. Deportations from Saudi Arabia also push African migrants back into Haradh – an estimated 40 percent of the 3,000 migrants using the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Migrant Response Centre in Haradh have come from Saudi Arabia.

“It is clear that it is the right of any country to close its borders to clandestine operations. Having said that, we are today faced with 25,000 people who are trapped in the border,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

“Every time there is a military operation, we discover another 500 or 700 who have been in this or that camp controlled by human traffickers and abusers. So the number is only increasing – 25,000 is something that Yemen today cannot absorb.”

Repatriation

The increase in demand for migrant services in Haradh this year came at just the wrong time for the supply of humanitarian relief services, which face cutbacks due to funding shortfalls.

IOM suspended large-scale repatriation flights in September 2012, and the World Food Programme’s provision of hot meals to around 3,000 migrants at the IOM centre was scaled back temporarily in January by 90 percent, though these have now been restored.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been working with NGO InterSOS and the Yemeni government in supporting a Child Protection Centre in Haradh, where IRIN met 50 Ethiopian children getting ready to fly back home.

“We were beaten, tortured and scarred by armed gunmen when we arrived in Yemen. We escaped and made it into Saudi Arabia, but we were caught,” said Saed Oumar Youssouf, 16.

“After a night in jail, and 12 nights elsewhere, we were shipped back to Yemen.”

All the children said they were looking forward to returning to Ethiopia. Preliminary registration for repatriation at the IOM centre in Haradh restarted at the end of May, and since early June 633 migrants have voluntarily returned on IOM-organised flights to Ethiopia, with places given as a priority to the most vulnerable.

Health

IOM’s operations in Haradh are focused on the Migrant Response Centre set up in October 2010. It has voluntarily repatriated nearly 10,000 migrants since then, and treated 52,000 at the health centre, where they deal with 100-150 cases per day depending on the season.

New arrivals in Yemen
Year Total arrivals Ethiopians
2010  53,382 34,422
2011  103,154 75,651
2012  107,532 84,376
2013* 42,137 35,240
*up to 31 May                                                Source:UNHCR

“The numbers are just growing. Many of the cases we see are infectious diseases and diarrhoea; their immunity is very weak due to malnutrition,” said IOM’s doctor at the centre, Fadl Mansour Ali.

He said a large number of patients had malaria and other parasite infections, and also depression and anxiety.

Not everyone recovers. The morgue in Haradh has room for 17 bodies, but has been keeping around 50, almost all unclaimed bodies of dead migrants. The electricity supply is unreliable and the single generator repeatedly breaks down creating a terrible smell.

Korom Asmro Noqassa from the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia shares a bed with another patient inside the small cabin that forms the main part of the IOM clinic.

After four months in Haradh, he says he is ready to go home. “I wanted to go back as soon as I realized it was so hard to get across; back home maybe I can find a job and support my family. Most here want to go back home now,” he said.

“I’m going to tell people my own story. Smugglers cost money and aren’t reliable. But it’s very hard for people to say that they have failed.”

Changing perceptions

There is broad recognition that tackling the migration at source can really help reduce the suffering.

“IOM is talking about flying back 500 but by that time there will be another 2,000 here,” said Haradh local council chief Sheik Haidar.

“I’m willing to go to Ethiopia and Djibouti to explain how challenging migration is because the picture there now is that you can go to Saudi, [and you can get] thousands of dollars and dream jobs,” he added.

Conversations with migrants in Haradh suggest many think it will be socially difficult to explain their lack of success, and that means thousands continue to cross into Yemen with little appreciation of the risks and difficulties.

“The problem is that somehow at the origin people are not receiving the information. They are still thinking that this is an El Dorado and it will change their lives,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

“The reality is that the border is now totally fenced or closed and the camps that are receiving them in Yemen are completely overwhelmed, so it’s a dramatic situation.”

He says part of a solution would be a regional conference between the concerned countries including Yemen, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia among others.

“It’s a case that has to be addressed with a sub-regional approach. The point is simply to say that it goes beyond the possible effort of the government of Yemen and the possible financial means and capacity of Yemen.”

jj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Gay refugees face a number of challenges

Posted by African Press International on May 8, 2013

Analysis: The plight of LGBTI asylum seekers, refugees

By Kyle Knight

Gay refugees face a number of challenges

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Some states persecute LGBTI
  • Threat of humiliation, exclusion
  • Abuse of LGBTI in camps often goes unreported
  • Aid agencies beginning to adjust

KATHMANDU, 7 May 2013 (IRIN) – Refugees and asylum seekers face a host of challenges when crossing borders, but the obstacles are particularly pronounced for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) persons, say experts.

“LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees face a range of threats, risks and vulnerabilities throughout the displacement cycle,” Volker Türk, director of international protection at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), told IRIN from Geneva.

“And while the world has come a long way since first recognizing asylum claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the 1980s, residual factors ranging from criminalization to disbelief result in LGBTI people suffering at the hands of a variety of actors as they flee oppression and seek safety,” he said.

A new edition of the Forced Migration Review (FMR) released on 29 Aprilhighlights many of the remaining challenges for LGBTI migrants and asylum seekers.

According to UNHCR, targeting people based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity for persecution, discrimination, and harassment can stem from the belief that they are encouraging unwanted or unnatural social change.

LGBTI people leave home for the same reasons as everyone else: to flee war, persecution, and oppression; to seek stability, education, employment, and freedom. In situations of upheaval or conflict, sexual and gender minorities have become targets for scapegoating or “moral cleansing” campaigns, compounding the inherent vulnerability created by unrest, activists say.

LGBTI persecution 

LGBTI people experience torture, violence, discrimination, and persecution in countries around the world, sometimes deliberately carried out by the state and often conducted with impunity.

Homosexual acts are punishable with the death penalty in five countries (Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen), as well as some parts of Nigeria and Somalia, the International Lesbian and Gay Association, the oldest and only membership-based LGBTI organization in the world, reported in 2012.

According to research by Human Rights Watch, gay Iranians are fleeing, frequently to Turkey, due to the state-sponsored persecution they face at home, while thousands of LGBTI people have sought international protectionin Europe in recent years on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

And while few countries keep LGBTI-specific data, Norway and Belgium, which both track asylum decisions based on sexual orientation and gender identity, have shown a steady uptick in recent years.

From 2008-2010, LGBTI asylum decisions in Belgium increased from 226-522. During the same period in Norway they increased from 3-26.

But information about abuses against LGBTI people – called “Country of Origin Information” (COI) in the asylum process – can be scant in hostile countries, argued Christian Pangilinan, a Tanzania-based refugee lawyer cited in the Forced Migration Review.

For transgender people, COI can mislead agencies, such as in Iran where authorities “allow transsexual surgery as a forced method of preventing homosexuality rather than supporting trans identities,” according to a gender expert’s FMR chapter.

Crossing borders of geography and identity 

The multiple document checks migrants might encounter can be particularly difficult for transgender or gender-variant people. While international standards for travel documents officially recognize three genders – marked M, F, or X – only a handful of countries have incorporated the third category, meaning that high-security travel environments, such as airports oremergency residential camps, can threaten humiliation or exclusion to people whose gender identity or expression is different from what is indicated by their documents.

Sexuality and gender are nuanced personal matters. According to research by psychologists, some individuals may have had limited experience expressing or experiencing his or her deeply-felt sexual orientation or gender identity, and may outwardly appear very different than how he or she feels – to the extent of even being in a heterosexual relationship.

With the asylum process taking increasingly extended periods of time, some may start the migration or asylum process with one identity, and change over time, complicating the matter both personally and administratively and exposing the individual to further discrimination or ill-treatment.

UNHCR’s guidelines for claims to refugee status based on sexual orientation and gender identity take the progressive step of acknowledging that “sexual orientation and gender identity are broad concepts which create space for self-identification” which may“continue to evolve across a person’s lifetime”.
Nonetheless, according to UN Office of Drugs and Crime guidelines, discriminatory attitudes regarding sexual orientation and gender identity can mean the credibility of LGBTI people is dismissed by authorities.

“That no one should be compelled to hide, change or renounce his or her identity in order to avoid persecution is a central tenet of refugee law, and this applies to sexual orientation and gender identity on equal footing with other claims,” UNHCR’s Türk told IRIN.

“There is no space for decision-makers determining refugee status to expect them to conceal who they are.”

Safety and security 

“There is harassment in the camp against us, sometimes beatings,”said Yoman Rai, a 19-year-old Bhutanese refugee living in a camp in Nepal. “We have a protection unit and complaint mechanism, but we are still facing problems,” he said, adding that just last month a transgender woman was beaten by other people in the camp.

Security in refugee camps is complicated and contingent on numerous, unpredictable factors. For members of the LGBTI community, vulnerabilities are exacerbated. Sexual abuse is common, but often goes unreported because the right questions are not being asked, and because survivors of sexual violence are reluctant to report events that will “out” them to legal authorities.

Life can be particularly difficult in a refugee camp

Explained Rai: “Many Bhutanese are not `out’ to anyone except for the outreach workers because they still believe being LGBTI will put them in danger and negatively affect their resettlement process,” adding that the outreach educators’ network was operated by a Nepalese LGBTI rights NGO.

Emergency shelter settings -such as relief camps or refugee housing- posespecific challenges for transgender people. Access to male-female gender-segregated facilities, such as dormitories or bathrooms, can be perilous. New research is exploring how immigration detention centres can respect and protect LGBTI residents, a US-based prisons expert explained in FMR.

For LGBTI migrants who end up in urban areas, research has shown that cities can be unwelcoming and unfamiliar and access to basic social services limited by scant local resources, exclusion of foreigners, or limitations to access including finances, language, and cultural barriers.

“The single most threatening factor for these migrants is isolation,”said Neil Grungras, executive director of the Organization for Refugee Asylum and Migration (ORAM), a leading advocacy group for refugees fleeing persecution due to sexual orientation or gender identity.

With UNHCR data showing the average major refugee situation lasting 17 years, these circumstances can impinge on a significant portion of an individual’s life.

Migrant populations are generally more at-risk for HIV due to disruption and displacement, and according to UNAIDS are often overlooked in host-country HIV policies.

“It is critical that refugee organizations identify what the best ways of offering protection are, such as providing access to safe shelter, requesting expedited resettlement, and, if possible, working with the police and refugee communities to address specific threats of violence,” said Duncan Breen, a senior associate in the refugee protection programme at Human Rights First.

Evolving frameworks 

Recent UN reports and statements demonstrate increased international attention to the human rights of LGBTI people.

On the programme level, agencies have begun to adjust to include considerations of sexual orientation and gender identity.

For example, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is implementing a “safe space” project for refugees at its four US Refugee Admissions Program Resettlement Support Centers.

Jennifer Rumbach, IOM resettlement support centre manager for South Asia, told IRIN the programme is designed to help LGBTI refugees at “every step along the way – whether during counselling, interviews, orientations, travel, or post-arrival…

“Disclosing sexual orientation and gender identity overseas works to the refugees’ benefit because it ensures we can provide appropriate and respectful services, ask questions that are critical to their resettlement experience, and try to get them any special help they need while they wait to be resettled,” she explained.

But ORAM’s Grungras warned:“We have to be extra careful to talk with refugees and migrants on their own terms – to understand them as they understand themselves, and not label them as“LGBTI” just because it fits our programmes.”

In spite of challenges such as a dearth of respectful terms used in some languages referring to sexual and gender minorities, IOM’s programmes also attempt to engage with local terminology.

“While it’s important for staff to understand sexual orientation and gender identity terms used by the international community, we make special efforts to use relevant and respectful local terminology in our signs, handouts and interview and counselling scripts,” said Rumbach.

Supporting and protecting LGBTI people as they migrate requires nuance, sensitivity, and an appreciation of evolving identities, legal frameworks, and programmatic potential.

kk/ds/cb

source irinnews.org

 

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Aid drops as rich nations struggle

Posted by African Press International on April 6, 2013

NAIROBI,  – Official Development Assistance (ODA) has continued to fall as wealthy countries battle an ongoing global financial crisis and a struggling Eurozone, accordin g to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) latest report. Aid decreased by 4 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, which had already experienced a 2 percent decline on the previous year, the report found. 

This is the first time since 1996-1997 that aid has fallen in two successive years.

Most assistance – approximately US$125.6 billion in 2012 – still comes from members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), but emerging donors such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are becoming increasingly important to humanitarian aid.

Below are some of the key ODA trends from recent years:

Big donors still key – The G7 countries provided 70 percent of total net DAC ODA in 2012, with DAC-EU countries contributing 51 percent. ODA rose in nine countries, with the highest jumps coming from Australia, Austria, Iceland, Korea and Luxembourg. Fifteen countries recorded drops, with those worst-affected by the Eurozone crisis – Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal – making the biggest cuts.

The largest DAC donors were the US, the UK, Germany, France and Japan. A number of countries gave significant portions of their gross national income (GNI) as ODA, with Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands contributing over the “0.7 percent of GNI” target first committed by wealthy nations in 1970 and reaffirmed several times since. The UK recently confirmed that it would spend 0.7 percent of its new budget on international development. On average, however, in 2012 DAC countries spent 0.43 of their GNI on aid.

DAC countries feeling the pinch – A number of the world’s biggest donors are suffering internal economic crises that have affected their ODA spending; Japan, Spain and Greece saw negative growth while the US saw growth of under 2 percent in 2011, and the UK’s GDP rose by less than one percent.

Non-traditional donors on the rise – Contributions from emerging donor nations are becoming increasingly important to global aid, especially as traditional donors struggle with economic crises at home. In 2011, Saudi Arabia contributed over $5 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2007, while Turkey more than doubled its ODA in the same period, reaching $1.27 billion in 2011. According to the OECD, development assistance from non-DAC countries exceeded individual DAC country contributions. For instance, in 2010, “Saudi Arabia provided $3.48 billion in gross ODA, exceeding the gross ODA volumes of 12 of the 23 DAC countries. In the same year, China provided an estimated $2 billion in gross ODA, and Turkey $967.4 million”.

Non-traditional donors offer an alternative source of development finance for poor countries, sometimes setting up their own development initiatives – such as the India-Brazil-South Africa Trilateral – separate from the OECD.

Increased humanitarian aid – Twenty years ago, contributions for humanitarian aid made up 3.3 percent of total bilateral commitments from DAC countries, with other commitments going to other forms of assistance, such as economic or administrative aid. Today, humanitarian aid makes up 8.6 percent of these commitments. The highest aid contributions by DAC countries are to social and administrative infrastructure such as education and healthcare – an estimated 39 percent – while economic infrastructure like transport, agriculture and mining received 16.2 percent of DAC ODA.

Different donors tend to prioritize different sectors – Luxembourg spent over 18 percent of its aid on humanitarian needs and 0.1 percent on economic infrastructure, compared to South Korea, which spent 1.3 percent on humanitarian aid and 42.8 percent on administrative infrastructure. The US and European Union institutions, meanwhile, spent over 6 percent of their total assistance on food aid.

OECD statistics show that aid for bilateral projects rose by 2 percent, while aid to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and UN agencies fell by 7.1 percent.

A geographical shift in aid – The past five years have seen a decrease in aid to sub-Saharan Africa – the world’s poorest region and traditionally the largest beneficiary of ODA – going from 47.8 percent of total DAC and multilateral aid in 2005/2006 to 41.8 percent in 2010/2011. Aid to South and Central Asia rose from 11.5 percent to 19.8 percent over the same period. The Middles East and North Africa also saw a drop of 9 percent between 2005/2006 and 2010/2011, while Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean all witnessed increases in aid.

kr/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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