Global perspective Human stories

News in Brief 7 September 2020

News in Brief 7 September 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

UN appeals for distraught migrants ‘trapped’ on cargo ship after fleeing Libya

UN humanitarians have launched an alert over the plight of migrants rescued by a cargo ship in the Mediterranean sea, which has not been given permission to take them to a European port.

The group of 27 people is said to be distraught amid worsening conditions, according to the UN migration agency IOM, and the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

It said that they include a child and a pregnant woman, and that they’ve been onboard the Maersk Etienne for more than a month.  

Governments have been refusing permission for the ship to disembark, in contravention of international law, the UN agencies said in a joint statement.

“The absence of a clear, safe, and predictable disembarkation mechanism for people rescued in the Mediterranean, continues to pose avoidable risk to life,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino. 

Echoing his comments, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, insisted that rescue at sea “is a basic humanitarian imperative”, and that the Maersk crew had fulfilled their “maritime obligations and prevented further death in the Mediterranean”.

The incident is the second time this year that a merchant vessel has been stranded after caring for people rescued at sea in the Mediterranean. 

In July, the Talia took four days out of its scheduled journey to care for 50 people who had to wait four days before they were allowed to disembark in a safe port. 

300 Rohingya refugees land at Aceh after months-long ordeal

In a related story, dozens of Rohingya refugees are believed to have died in the Andaman sea after spending more than 200 days afloat, owing to a “collective unwillingness” of countries to take them in, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

UNHCR said that 300 Rohingya refugees – who made headlines when hundreds of thousands fled persecution in Myanmar in 2017 - had landed on the northern coast of Aceh, Indonesia, early on Monday morning.

After months at sea in desperate conditions, UN staff there are supporting local authorities to assess the needs of the refugees, it said in a statement.

Their hazardous ordeal had been “prolonged by the collective unwillingness” of countries to act, the UN agency said.

It noted too that the Bali Process which was created five years ago by countries in the region to prevent such tragedies from happening – had failed to save lives through rescue and disembarkation.

Among the rescued group, two-thirds are women and children. More than 30 people are believed to have died at sea.

Time to replace air pollution with blue skies for all, urges UN chief

To the issue of air pollution now, which is responsible for an estimated seven million premature deaths every year, predominantly in low and middle-income countries.

In an appeal for greater efforts to tackle the problem, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that air pollution also increases the risks associated with COVID-19.

The economy, food security and the environment were also affected by the problem, he added, his message coinciding with the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, commemorated worldwide on Monday.

Globally, nine out of every 10 people breathe unclean air, according to the UN.

Although COVID-19 lockdowns have brought cleaner air in many cities through falling emissions, they are on the rise again and are higher than ever in some places. 

To counter this, Mr Guterres called for reinforced “environmental standards, policies and laws” to prevent dangerous emissions. 

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • Alert over migrants stranded following Mediterranean rescue
  • Andaman Sea ordeal claims 30 Rohingya refugee lives
  • Call for world action over clean air and blue skies
Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
Photo Credit
IOM Libya