This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.
Athens urged to fast-track asylum-seekers amid crisis over island shelters
A spike in the number of refugees reaching Greek island reception centres is likely to worsen the situation in already “dangerously overcrowded” facilities there, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
In a call for asylum-seekers to be moved urgently to the mainland, UNHCR reported that sea arrivals in September rose to more than 10,000 - the highest monthly level since 2016.
Here’s UNHCR spokesperson Liz Throssell:
“This spike has added to, has worsened what were already extremely difficult conditions on the Greek islands in the reception centres, which is why we are underscoring it is so important that urgent measures are taken now to get people who can be transferred off the islands to the mainland.”
According to the UN agency, there are more than 4,400 unaccompanied children on the islands, out of 30,000 people in total.
Of that number, 500 youngsters have also been housed with unrelated adults in a large warehouse-style tent, UNHCR says, describing the situation on Lesvos, Samos and Kos as “critical”.
At the weekend, a woman died in a fire in a housing container at the Moria centre in Lesvos, sparking a violent demonstration.
Most of those seeking shelter are from Afghanistan and Syria, along with Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
‘Sixth straight year’ of at least 1,000 deaths in the Mediterranean
For the sixth year in a row, 1,000 people are believed to have drowned in Mediterranean Sea crossings.
On Tuesday IOM, the UN migration agency, cited a recent spate of shipwrecks along the main migratory routes to Europe which have contributed to the toll.
In one incident off the Moroccan coast at the weekend, as many as 40 migrants are feared drowned.
Over the past six years, at least 15,000 men, women and children have lost their lives trying to reach Europe by boat – a situation that the UN agency likened to “carnage at sea”.
According to IOM data, the deadliest sea crossing is the central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy, with 659 migrant or refugee lives lost so far this year.
Nearly 270 others perished trying to reach Spain from North Africa, while 66 victims were recorded in the waters between Turkey, Syria and Greece.
Plunge in Russians’ alcohol consumption linked to ‘dramatic’ rise in life expectancy
And finally, strict laws put in place by the Russian authorities have resulted in a significant drop in alcohol-related deaths nationwide, the World Health Organization has announced.
The agency’s study on the effects of "alcohol control measures on mortality and life expectancy" shows that the amount of drink consumed per person fell sharply by 43 per cent between 2003 and 2016.
In the past, WHO has described Russia’s drinking habits as “hazardous” and linked to some of the highest levels of alcohol-related deaths in the world.
In the 1990s and 2000s, research showed that one in every two men of working age died prematurely because of alcohol abuse.
Among the measures taken by Russia, WHO highlighted those that targeted the consumption of homemade, smuggled or illegally produced drink, via price increases for a shot of vodka and limiting the availability of alcohol in some regions.
These have been credited with helping average life expectancy reach a historic high in 2018, of almost 68 years for men and 78 for women.
Natalie Hutchison, UN News.