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News in Brief 29 July 2020

News in Brief 29 July 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

African refugee and migrant abuse, span whole journeys, warn humanitarians

Thousands of refugees and migrants in eastern and western Africa are dying while others face harrowing abuse, in their attempts to reach the continent’s Mediterranean coast in search of a better life, UN humanitarians said on Wednesday.

Testimonies published by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the Danish Refugee Council, reveal random killings, torture, forced labour and beatings.

Smugglers and traffickers were key abusers, but so too were State officials, to a surprising extent, said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean:

“In 47 per cent of the case(s), the victims reported the perpetrators of violence are law enforcement authorities, whereas in the past we believed that it was mainly smugglers and traffickers,” he said. “Yes, they are key perpetrators of violence, but the primary perpetrators of violence are people who are supposed to protect.”

Data suggests that at least 1,750 people died leaving western or eastern African nations en route to countries including Libya, Egypt or Algeria in 2018 and 2019.

This represents more than 70 deaths a month, “making it one of the most deadly routes for refugees and migrants in the world”, UNHCR said in a statement.

Almost three in 10 people died as people attempted to cross the Sahara Desert, according to the UN agency. Other lethal hotspots included locations in southern Libya such as Sabha, Kufra and Qatrun, in addition to the “smuggling hub” of Bani Walid southeast of Tripoli and several places along the west African section of the migrant route, including Bamako in Mali and Agadez in Niger.

COVID-19 pandemic linked to 300 million drop in tourist numbers

The COVID-19 crisis has cost global tourism $320 billion in the first five months of the year, with 300 million fewer visitors than normal.

Announcing the findings on Tuesday, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said that the setback is more than three times the losses seen during the global economic crisis of 2009.

According to the UN agency’s World Tourism Barometer, lockdowns imposed in response to the pandemic led to a 98 per cent fall in international tourist numbers in May, compared to 2019.

While tourism is slowly returning in some destinations, traveller confidence has dropped to record lows.

The agency also highlighted that travel restrictions and border shutdowns are still in place in most destinations and major outbound markets are at a standstill, such as the United States and China.

Nonetheless, most members of an expert UNWTO panel said that they expected international tourism to recover by the second half of 2021, with others forecasting a rebound in the first part of next year. 

Peaceful assembly defined by UN Human Rights Committee

People have the right to demonstrate peacefully and Governments should respect international law and let them do so, senior UN-appointed independent rights experts said on Wednesday.

The legal advice is from the UN Human Rights Committee whose 18 experts monitor how countries implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The panel’s General Comment, notes that protesters have the right to wear masks or hoods to cover their face and that Governments should not collect personal data to harass or intimidate participants.

The development comes at a time of worldwide protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and clarifies how “peaceful assembly” should be understood by the 173 countries which have ratified the Covenant. 

Committee member Christof Heyns, said that it was a “fundamental human right” for people to gather to celebrate or to air grievances, “in public and in private spaces, outdoors, indoors and online.”

“Everyone, including children, foreign nationals, women, migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, can exercise the right of peaceful assembly”, he added.

The Committee’s advice also notes that Governments could not prohibit protests by making “generalised references to public order or public safety, or an unspecified risk of potential violence”.

In addition, Governments “cannot block internet networks or close down any website because of their roles in organising or soliciting a peaceful assembly”, according to the Committee.

It also stressed the right of journalists and human rights observers to monitor and document any assembly, including violent and unlawful ones.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • African migrants, refugees, abused throughout journeys
  • 300 million fewer tourists due to COVID: WTO
  • Peaceful assembly defined by UN rights committee
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