News in Brief 13 February 2018

13 February 2018

Myanmar urged to address statelessness issue to resolve Rohingya crisis

The issue of statelessness must be addressed to solve the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the Security Council heard on Tuesday.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenča briefed ambassadors on the violence which has pushed nearly 700,000 members of the minority Rohingya community across the border into Bangladesh since last August.

He said the UN Secretary-General has stressed the importance of implementing recommendations made by an Advisory Commission tasked with improving the lives of all people in Rakhine state, located in western Myanmar.

The commission, headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, issued a report in August that included recommendations focusing on issues such as citizenship verification, rights and equality before the law, and freedom of movement.

“As suggested by the final report of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, we urge the Government to take a leadership role in promoting intercommunal cohesion, create an environment conducive for dialogue, foster values of tolerance and respect for basic human rights between Rakhine and Rohingya communities, and to accelerate and align the citizenship verification process in alignment with international standards and treaties. Overall, addressing the root causes is fundamental to ensuring a durable, genuine solution to this crisis. We have consistently said the problem is statelessness. This must be addressed.”

Refugees perish seeking safety in Uganda: UNHCR

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is “deeply saddened” by reports of four Congolese refugees who drowned as they were seeking safety in Uganda, after their boat capsized on Lake Albert.

Spokesperson Babar Baloch warned on Tuesday that even more lives could be lost on the perilous lake routes as increasing numbers of refugees escape intercommunal violence and conflict.

Refugees crossing to Uganda talk of growing attacks against civilian populations, as well as killings and destruction of private property.

UNHCR staff also received many reports of civilians being hacked to death and killed with arrows.

Since the beginning of the year, 34,000 people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo have arrived in Uganda, while 22,000 crossed Lake Albert just last week.

Mr. Baloch said that refugees use small canoes or overcrowded and rickety fishing boats which can take up to 10 hours to cross and often carry more than 250 people.

Refugees, asylum seekers “grasping for hope” on Manus Island

In more news from UNHCR:

Since 2013, more than 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been forcibly transferred by Australia to offshore “regional processing facilities”, the UN agency reported on Tuesday.

More than 500 now live in new Australian-built accommodation centres on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea after the closure of the processing centre there 100 days ago.

But conditions are unsafe and do not meet basic needs.

UNHCR Regional Protection Officer Rico Salcedo said: “there is a sense of desolation as people are grasping for hope”.

Many are staying in their rooms, meeting fewer people and talking less to those around them.

The need for greater mental health support, emergency medical care and specialized torture and trauma counselling remains critical and unmet, according to Mr. Salcedo.

Meeting these necessities is particularly important now because the most vulnerable are unable to seek assistance outside accommodation sites.

“We cannot emphasize enough that solutions must be found for all, outside of Papua New Guinea, as a matter of urgency. Australia remains ultimately responsible, as the State from whom these refugees and asylum seekers have sought international protection, for their welfare and long-term settlement outside of Papua New Guinea.”

Audio Credit:
Dianne Penn, United Nations
Audio Duration:
4'5"