This is the News in Brief from the United Nations
UN rights chief urges action to protect migrants in central Mediterranean
With hundreds of migrants still dying in shipwrecks in the central Mediterranean, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday called on Libya’s unity government and European Union countries to urgently reform their search and rescue policies and practices, to better save lives.
Michelle Bachelet said “the real tragedy” is that so much of this suffering and death is preventable.
People drown either because help comes too late, or not at all, she said. Meanwhile, those who are rescued sometimes face long delays at sea before they can safely disembark, or are returned to Libya, which is not a “safe harbour” due to ongoing violence.
Her office (OHCHR) has issued a report which notes that at least 632 people have died on the central Mediterranean route to Europe this year, despite a significant drop in the overall number of migrants making this journey in recent years.
The report expressed concern that the EU and its Member States have significantly cut back on maritime search and rescue operations, while humanitarian NGOs have been blocked from carrying out lifesaving rescues.
At the same time, private commercial vessels have increasingly avoided helping migrant boats in distress because of delays and stand-offs over bringing them to land.
Libya political forum meets on December elections
In more news on Libya:
The UN mission in the country, UNSMIL, has convened stakeholders for a two-day virtual meeting towards finalizing the proposed constitutional basis for parliamentary and presidential elections in December.
Addressing the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum on Wednesday, UNSMIL chief Ján Kubiš urged participants “to focus on what unites you and not on what divides you and to remain mindful of the aspirations of millions of Libyans who placed their hope in this Forum.”
The meeting is the latest development in the wake of the historic October 2020 ceasefire agreement between rival administrations in the North African country, which has been in turmoil since the overthrow of former leader, the late Muammar Gaddafi, a decade ago.
UNSMIL facilitated the first round of the Forum, held last November, which brought together 75 men and women representing the full social and political spectrum in Libya.
Participants agreed a Roadmap to credible, inclusive and democratic elections to be held on 24 December this year, a date which will mark the 70th anniversary of Libya’s independence.
Pandemic heightening risks facing older refugees in Latin America
The COVID-19 pandemic is putting older refugees across Latin America at risk, damaging their well-being and access to vital rights and services, according to a study published on Wednesday by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the NGO HelpAge International.
The joint assessment was carried out in five countries: Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Peru.
Most of the people interviewed reported limited access to health care. Forty-two percent were not receiving treatment for prior conditions, while six per cent of those infected with COVID-19 said they did not get adequate care.
Displaced older people have also seen a reduction in daily contact with their families, as well as limited community activities or opportunities for recreation, which has significantly aggravated feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Prior to the pandemic, one in four were having to skip meals, and the crisis has caused 41 per cent to further reduce their food intake.
Additionally, 64 per cent of those surveyed had no monthly income before the pandemic. Of those who did, 62 per cent felt it was not enough to meet their basic needs.
Dianne Penn, UN News