News in Brief 24 November 2017 – Geneva (AM)

Rohingya return plan must guarantee their safety: UNHCR

The proposed return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar from Bangladesh must be safe and voluntary amid serious concerns for their security if they go home, the UN said on Friday.

UN Refugee Agency UNHCR issued the appeal a day after the two countries said they had agreed to the return of people who have fled Myanmar's Rakhine State since August.

Well over 600,000 people have sought shelter in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar so far � and more continue to do so every day � following a military operation tantamount to ethnic cleansing by Myanmar that was launched in response to separatist violence in August.

Here's UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards:

"Refugees are still fleeing and many have suffered violence and rape and deep psychological harm. Some have witnessed the deaths of friends or family members. Most have little or nothing to go back to, their homes and villages destroyed. Deep divisions between the communities remain unaddressed and humanitarian access in northern Rakhine State remains negligible. It is critical that returns do not take place precipitously or prematurely."

Mr Edwards said that it was essential to address why the Rohingya fled in the first place � as recommended by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a report on the exodus.

Major concerns include the Rohingyas' lack of citizenship and fears that they may be confined to ghettos.

Cautious UN welcome for announcement on Yemen blockade lifting

The announcement on Friday that a blockade on all goods entering Yemen is to be eased slightly for the first time in more than two weeks by a Saudi-led coalition has received a cautious welcome from UN aid teams.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a flight from Jordan to the Yemeni capital Sana'a has been given clearance to proceed on Saturday.

But spokesperson Jens Laerke explained that the major sea ports of Hodeida and Saleef remain closed, as the main source of aid to the war-torn country:

"You know humanitarians are serving the needs of seven million people who are completely dependent on us. We are supplying for example clean water for four million people and this comes at a time of threat of famine in the country. With the cholera outbreak just starting to diminish in the country we have been worried that the gains we have made on cholera and the gains that we have made on famine have been reversed by this blockade. Thankfully we have started to see some movement."

Yemen, already one of the poorest countries in the world, has been brought to its knees by the ongoing conflict between a Saudi coalition in support of President Mansour Al Hadi and Houthi-backed rebels.

The blockade was imposed after a missile attack on the Saudi capital, Riyadh, effectively closing air, sea and land access to Yemen.

Mediterranean Sea is the "world's deadliest" migration route

And finally to Europe, where the Mediterranean Sea has been declared "by far the world's deadliest" route for illegal migration.

In a new study for the UN migration agency IOM, researchers found that nearly 34,000 people lost their lives in the last 17 years trying to reach Europe's shores.

The data also shows a spike in migration through non-legal channels from North Africa and Turkey to Europe in the 1970s, linked to new visa requirements for temporary workers at the time.

This policy "encouraged those who were already in Europe to stay" and increased illegal migration of family members by smugglers, the report notes.

Source: United Nations Radio