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Migration: Commission and Greece agree joint plan for a new reception centre in Lesvos

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photo: IOM/Amanda Nero

Today, the Commission agreed a detailed plan with Greek authorities and EU agencies to establish a new, up-to-standard reception centre on the island of Lesvos by early September 2021. This is a key step towards resolving the situation after the fires that destroyed the Moria camp in September. It is the result of the work of the European Taskforce set up at that time. The memorandum signed today sets out the respective responsibilities and areas of cooperation between the Commission, the Greek authorities and EU agencies. Today’s agreement comes in addition to €121 million in EU funding granted to Greece last month for the construction of 3 smaller reception centres on the islands of Samos, Kos, and Leros, also to be completed by September 2021.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “With our agreement today, Europe and Greece are working hand in hand for the people on the islands. We will bring decent conditions to migrants and refugees who arrive, as well as supporting the communities on the Greek islands. It is also about fast and fair procedures, so the centres are what they should be – only a temporary stop before either return or integration. Managing migration is a European challenge and today we are putting European solidarity into practice.”

Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said: “This is about people and their basic right to feel safe. This agreement is an important step towards a sustainable solution in Lesvos and in making sure that a situation like Moria can never happen again. It is also an important step in changing how we approach migration management and it paves the way for bringing into practice the guiding principles of the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.”

A durable solution for Lesvos

In September, the Commission announced a European Taskforce to address the emergency situation in Lesvos, based on the principles of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. Today’s agreement sets out the following areas of cooperation between the Commission, the Greek authorities and EU agencies:

  • Development and construction of a reception centre designed to provide adequate conditions and to operate with swift, fair and effective procedures. The centre will have a living area with containers, a specific area for newly arrived people to help them through the first days, medical containers for immediate health care, recreational spaces for sports, playgrounds and prefabricated houses for formal and non-formal education. Common kitchens will allow to prepare food and shops will serve basic needs. Special rooms will be set up for people with disabilities.
  • Improved management of arrivals with full reception and identification procedures including health and security screening in a specifically set up area.
  • Seamless asylum and return procedures and integration measures to ensure that nobody is left in protracted uncertainty. Assisted voluntary return and reintegration programmes will be promoted for people who do not have the right to stay in the EU, but a detention area will also be established in the multi-purpose centres to support effective return. People in need of international protection will be better supported to start their integration process.
  • Reception conditions in line with EU law taking into account international standards and best practices, notably with regard to health, security, sanitation, food, information provision and counselling, clothing and non-food items, and common areas. A gender-based and child-rights approach will be followed taking into account the needs of families and children (both accompanied and unaccompanied) while ensuring that vulnerabilities are adequately identified and addressed.
  • Adequate staff training, capacity and planning, including risk assessment and contingency planning, to ensure the smooth operation of the new centre.

Background

The memorandum of understanding is one of a number of actions supported by the Commission to address the emergency situation following the fires in the Moria camp, in particular its former residents who found themselves without shelter. 12,362 people in the Moria camp were immediately affected. Today, 7,200 men, women and children are hosted in a temporary site.

The Commission announced a dedicated Taskforce to improve the situation on the island in a durable way. The Taskforce helps provide overall guidance to develop a solution to the situation in Lesvos.

Since its creation, the Taskforce operates at the temporary site to help improve conditions for the people accommodated there. The Taskforce works in close collaboration with EU Agencies and international organisations on the ground. Regular Steering Committees monitor the progress of ongoing work. The Taskforce has also been focusing on identifying and preparing an appropriate site for the new reception facilities together with the Greek authorities and relevant stakeholders.

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Human Rights

Over 1.9 billion people in Asia-Pacific unable to afford a healthy diet

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A child is tested for malnutrition at a UNICEF-supported health clinic in Bangladesh. According a UN report, malnutrition among young children and infants remains a pervasive problem in South Asia. UNICEF/Siegfried Modola

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and surging food prices are keeping almost two billion people in Asia and the Pacific from healthy diets, United Nations agencies said on Wednesday.

According to the 2020 Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, the region’s poor have been worst affected, forced to choose cheaper and less nutritious foods. The report is jointly produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“The outbreak of COVID-19 and a lack of decent work opportunities in many parts of the region, alongside significant uncertainty of food systems and markets, has led to a worsening of inequality, as poorer families with dwindling incomes further alter their diets to choose cheaper, less nutritious foods,” the agencies said

“Due to higher prices for fruits, vegetables and dairy products, it has become nearly impossible for poor people in Asia and the Pacific to achieve healthy diets, the affordability of which is critical to ensure food security and nutrition for all – and for mothers and children in particular.” 

As a result, progress is also slowing on improving nutrition, a key target for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As of 2019, over 350 million people in the region are estimated to have been undernourished, with an about 74.5 million children under five stunted (too short for their age) and 31.5 million suffering from wasting (too thin for height). 

‘Impact most severe in first 1,000 days’ 

The UN agencies went on to note that while nutrition is vitally important throughout a person’s life, the impact of a poor diet is most severe in the first 1,000 days, from pregnancy to when a child reaches the age of two. 
“Young children, especially when they start eating their ‘first foods’ at six months, have high nutritional requirements to grow well and every bite counts,” they said. 

The agencies called for an integrated systems approach – bringing together food, water and sanitation, health, social protection and education systems – to address underlying factors and achieve healthy diets for all mothers and children. 

‘Changing face of malnutrition’ 

They also highlighted the “changing face” of malnutrition, with highly processed and inexpensive foods, readily available throughout Asia and the Pacific. Often packed with sugar and unhealthy fats, such food items lack the vitamins and minerals required for growth and development and also increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

The report urged governments to invest more in nutrition and food safety to promote healthy diets, as well as regulate sales and marketing of food for consumers, especially children. It also highlighted the need for action within the private sector, given the sector’s important role in the food system and its value chains for achieving healthy diets. 

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Human Rights

Israel: ‘Halt and reverse’ new settlement construction

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A little boy stands on the remains of his family's demolished home in the West Bank. (File) UNRWA/Lara Jonasdottir

Israel’s decision to advance plans for some 800 new settlement units, most of which are located deep inside the occupied West Bank, has sparked the concern of UN Secretary-General António Guterres. 

In a statement issued on Monday by his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, the UN chief urged the Israeli Government to “halt and reverse such decisions”, calling them “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”. 

‘No legal validity’ 

Mr. Guterres reiterated that Israel’s establishing of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”. 

“Settlement expansion increases the risk of confrontation, further undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and further erodes the possibility of ending the occupation and establishing a contiguous and viable sovereign Palestinian State, based on the pre-1967 lines”, he said. 

Pushing forward 

Israel has given the green light to 780 new homes in West Bank settlements on Sunday in a move widely seen as being influenced by the imminent transfer of power in the United States. 

Breaking with decades of US diplomacy, outgoing President Donald Trump, in 2019 unilaterally declared that the settlements no longer breached international law. 

Against that backdrop, Israel has been increasing construction and either approved or made plans for more than 12,000 homes in 2020, according to news reports.

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Spectre of unrest, violent repression looming over Haiti

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Fire residues and debris at a protest site in Port-au-Prince in July 2018. MINUJUSTH/Leonora Baumann

Increasing political tensions in Haiti coupled with insecurity and structural inequalities could result in protests followed by violent crackdowns by authorities, the United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) warned on Tuesday.

According to the office, criminal activities, such as kidnappings, gang fights and widespread insecurity have increased, with “almost total” impunity. 

Added to the volatile mix is resurging political tensions over the timing and scope of elections and a constitutional referendum proposed by the Government, OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado told journalists at a regular briefing in Geneva. 

“Calls for mass protests have been growing. This in turn raises concerns of renewed human rights violations by security forces during the policing of protests as seen during the months-long protests in 2018 and 2019, as well as during demonstrations in October and November of last year.” 

According to an OHCHR report on the unrest, protests started relatively peacefully in July 2018 but became increasingly violent over time, with many violations and abuses of the rights to life, security of the person and effective remedy.  

‘Pattern of violations’ 

The report also documented violations to the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. In 2019 demonstrations, barricades were set up that blocked people’s access to hospitals and passage of ambulances. Health facilities were also attacked, severely impacting the daily lives of the Haitian people, particularly those in a vulnerable situation. 

In addition, protesters and criminal elements imposed “passage fees”, further impeding the movement of people and goods and exacerbating economic hardship. 

“The report shows a pattern of human rights violations and abuses followed by near lack of accountability,” Ms. Hurtado said. 

‘Guarantee accountability’ 

The OHCHR spokesperson called on Haitian authorities to take “immediate action” to avoid repetition of such violations and abuses by ensuring that law enforcement officers abide by international norms and standards regarding the use of force when dealing with protests; as well as ensuring that gangs do not interfere with people’s right to demonstrate peacefully. 

She also urged the Government to guarantee accountability for past violations and abuses, ensuring justice, truth, and reparations. Alongside, Haiti should take steps to address people’s grievances and the root causes that fuelled the protests, she added. 

“OHCHR stands ready to continue supporting State authorities in their fulfilment of human rights international obligations [and] expresses its willingness to continue working towards the establishment of a country office,” Ms. Hurtado said, welcoming commitments made by the Haitian National Police to reform practices documented in the report. 

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