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Registration gives many Rohingya refugees identification for the first time

By Alex St-Denis in Coxs Bazar, Bangladesh | 17 May 2019

Nasima Aktar is among hundreds of thousand..

By Alex St-Denis in Coxs Bazar, Bangladesh | 17 May 2019

Nasima Aktar is among hundreds of thousands of stateless Rohingya — many of whom have spent a lifetime without official documentation — for whom getting an official identity card is a significant step.

“We want documents for Rohingyas. This is our document,” says Aktar, who recently received a plastic identity card bearing her basic biodata, photo and country of origin in a registration drive in Bangladesh.

There are more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees like Nasima living in crowded settlements in southeast Bangladesh of whom an estimated 741,000 have fled a violent crackdown by the Myanmar military since August 2017.

“Having an identity is a basic human right … its also an incredible step into a more dignified life.”

Despite living in Myanmar for generations they were not able to acquire formal citizenship and documentation that comes with this, leaving them stateless and deprived of basic rights.

She is now among more than a quarter of a million Rohingya refugees who have been registered in a push since June last year by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in support of the Bangladesh government, in an effort that also helps to safeguard their right to voluntarily return home to Myanmar.

“Having an identity is a basic human right,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi during a recent visit to Coxs Bazar. “And remember: many of these people, all their life, did not have a proper identification. So, for them, its also an incredible step into a more dignified life.”

To date, a total of 270,348 refugees have been registered in the settlements of Ukhia and Teknaf Upazilas. On average, over 4,000 refugees are being registered a day in the exercise, with the aim of concluding the registration of all those in the settlements late this year.

The exercise also improves the accuracy of data on refugees in Bangladesh, which will help the authorities and humanitarian partners to better understand the needs of the refugee population. It will allow them to plan and target assistance more effectively, particularly for vulnerable groups such as children, women, and those with disabilities.

Refugees are registered using biodata and biometric data, including fingerprints and iris scans to provide them with a unique identity. At the end of the registration process, refugees receive a plastic ID card that includes a photo, and basic information such as date of birth and gender. Only refugees over the age of 12 receive the card but families also receive an attestation showing the details of all family member.

All information on the documents is in English and Bengali and indicates Myanmar as the country of origin. The documents were developed in cooperation with the Bangladesh government and carries both government and UNHCR logos.

“They understand that this exercise has nothing to do with forcible return,” UNHCR registration officer Nurul Rochayati explains. “This exercise is to establish their protection in here, and to establish their right to return. They will return when theyre safe, in safety and dignity.”

To better explain the benefits of registration, UNHCR and the Bangladesh authorities in recent months held meetings with the community including with leading Rohingya figures, such as imams, elders and teachers. Community outreach teams, that include refugees, go out regularly to talk about the registration process and encourage people to attend.

With the cyclone season underway, registration will also help reunite families in case they get separated during storms.

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Norway Should Immediately Investigate the Mysterious Death of Palestinian Shatha Al-Barghouti

Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to immediatel..

Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to immediately investigate the death of 17-year-old Palestinian Shatha Al-Barghouti, who died last Wednesday while in custody of the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, Barnevernet.

Shatha had petitioned Barnevernet to be reunited with her parents. However, two weeks before her reunification, she was found dead and her death was explained as suicide.

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Shatha Al-Barghouti was taken, along with her two younger siblings, from her parents about seven years ago by Barnevernet on grounds of parental neglect, although, Shathas parents tried desperately to prove otherwise and showed great remorse over the reasons that led to such situation.

Barnevernet has been widely criticised on both national and international levels for many reasons, one of which has been over how the agency takes over custody too easily, where it has a too low threshold for taking action and confiscating children from their parents. The agency has been also ill-reputed for the suffering and abuse some children experience while living in its orphanages.

According to Shathas parents, she had petitioned Barnevernet to be reunited with her parents as she was close to the age of becoming legally responsible for herself. However, two weeks before her reunification, Shatha was found dead and her death was explained as suicide.

The family refuses such explanation and consistently demands an immediate independent and transparent investigation into the death of their eldest daughter. The family also fears for the fate of Shathas two younger siblings and demands to regain custody over them again immediately to provide the necessary safety for them that Barnevernet crucially failed to provide for their late elder sister.

Therefore, Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to immediately intervene and launch a serious investigation into the circumstances that led to Sathas death, in order to hold accountable anyone who might have contributed to this fate.

Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to thoroughly revise the mechanisms and structures that govern Barnevernets conduct, and to undertake immediate disciplinary actions against it

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Euro-Med Monitor also demands the immediate release of Sathas two younger siblings, Mohammed and Ahmed, to be reunited with their deeply aggrieved parents, whove been living in terrible fear and trauma ever since the three children were taken away from them.

Euro-Med Monitor emphasizes that giving the parents another chance to prove themselves worthy of the custody over their two remaining children is the least the Norwegian government could do to compensate for the negligence that led to Sathas death.

Finally, Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to thoroughly revise the mechanisms and structures that govern Barnevernets conduct, and to undertake immediate disciplinary actions against Barnevernet to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children held by the agency so that the terrible incident of Sathas death would be the last of such kind.

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Deadly airstrikes and drone hits displace thousands of civilians in Libya

Intensifying clashes in the southern Libyan town of Murzuq involving air and drone strikes in recent..

Intensifying clashes in the southern Libyan town of Murzuq involving air and drone strikes in recent days have left at least 90 people dead and displaced thousands of “terrified” civilians, the UN said on Tuesday.

“Casualties on all sides of the fighting have continued as a result of airstrikes by planes and drones, indiscriminate rocket attacks and shelling, and direct fighting on the ground,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHAs warning over the small oasis town echoes concerns by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and other UN agencies.

The alert follows reports by local media that the clashes involved tribal opponents of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) of commander Khalifa Haftar, which began an offensive on the southern outskirts of Libyas capital, Tripoli, in April.

Asked about the identities of the victims in Murzuq, Mr. Laerke replied that they included children.

“It is a civilian area, its in a country where people tend – families tend – to be big and there are many children,” he said, before highlighting a deadly mortar strike on a house for displaced people in the Bendalwah neighbourhood earlier this month.

“We know for a fact at least (of) six children, two of them were killed, four of them were injured in a strike that hit a house, hosting internally displaced people on 8 August,” Mr. Laerke added.

According to the UN migration agency, IOM, 9,450 people have been displaced by the violence in and around Murzuq since the beginning of August.

At least 3,000 of them have been uprooted since violence intensified last week, IOM said.

“Most families previously displaced within neighbourhoods of Murzuq City have also left the town to nearby communities,” an IOM statement read. “Reported displacements include around 300 migrants from Niger, Chad and Nigeria.”

Families too terrified to seek safety

Nonetheless, many “are of course terrified that if they move, they will be perceived as affiliated to one side of the other and maybe targeted”, Mr Laerke said. “Some families are reluctant to leave the affected areas because they are afraid of reprisals.”

To respond to urgent needs, the UN and partner humanitarian organizations “are responding with emergency health care, food distribution, shelter and non-food items”, Mr. Laerke added, noting that access remains difficult, “due to the active fighting”.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) shipped medical supplies to support health facilities in Murzuqs conflict zone, with enough supplies to help 60,000 people for three months and 600 surgical procedures.

Access is far more limited inside Murzuq itself, “with many roads damaged and many roadblocks,” Mr. Laerke said.

Amid growing humanitarian needs, the OCHA spokesperson appealed to all parties involved in the fighting to “allow people to leave if they so wish, so they can reach a place where they can be assisted, and of course to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure in the first place, according to international humanitarian law.”

Additional support from the international community is needed to help the vulnerable, Mr. Laerke said, noting that the $202 million Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya is currently only 30 per cent funded.

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Euro-Med and HUMENA: Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem amounts to ethnic cleansing

Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and HUMENA for Human Rights and Civil Participa..

Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and HUMENA for Human Rights and Civil Participation said in a statement that the systematic destruction of Palestinian homes and property in occupied East Jerusalem is approved by the US administration, which legalized these crimes by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel amid international silence that amounts to complicity.
In a report that monitored human rights violations in Jerusalem during July 2019, the Euro-Med and HUMENA said that Israeli authorities have stepped up their arbitrary violations against Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem. Last month witnessed the largest mass destruction in a single day since 1967 as Israeli authorities demolished 11 residential buildings (72 apartments) in a crime amounting to ethnic cleansing.

The report, entitled “Wadi al-Hummus in Jerusalem; facing Israeli ethnic cleansing,” said that the destruction of Palestinian buildings resulted in the displacement of 22 people, including (14) children, and deprived more than (70) families from their apartments, most of which were still under construction.

The report added that since the beginning of 2019, Israeli authorities destroyed more than 59 houses in East Jerusalem until mid-2019. While 2018 witnessed 215 demolitions.

In addition to Wadi al- Hummus neighborhood, Israeli occupation forces destroyed a car park, a garage, a warehouse, a car wash and five shops in the last month.

The Euro-Med and HUMENA monitored five complex violations as part of crimes of settlement expansion and Judaization of the occupied city, most notably the seizure of a Palestinian house and a building evacuation by force in order to hand both over to Israeli settlers. Moreover, at the same time of the demolition of Palestinian homes, Israeli occupation authorities approved the establishment of 216 new housing units in the Gilo settlement.

Several parties, including the Israeli government, municipal authorities of Jerusalem or judicial authorities, collude to carry out systematic demolitions aimed to forcefully displace Palestinians. Which falls within the occupation’s efforts to change the demographic reality in the occupied city.

This systematic policy pursued by Israel takes place without any regards to the principles of international law, which reflects Israels pursuit of demographic change in East Jerusalem by employing all its government, political and security arms.

On the other hand, the two organizations documented two incidents that signify the Israeli occupation’s disregard for Palestinian childhood; such as the summoning of 4-year-old Mohammed Rabi ‘Alayyan, and the 6-year-old Qais Firas Obeid, under the pretext of throwing stones at their forces.

The report also documented 43 Israeli raids on different towns and neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem; which entailed the arrest of 102 civilians, including 19 children, a woman, a girl and a female journalist.

For instance, in five raids that included shooting and direct assault in the neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces injured seven civilians, including a child, a journalist and an elderly.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and HUMENA called on the international community to break their silence and undertake serious actions to retribute the crimes of the occupation and its serious violations of the international law and the international humanitarian law.

The report warned that the silence of the international community after said home demolitions in Wadi al-Hummus – which amounts to a war crime of ethnic cleansing – would essentially encourage the Israeli occupation to continue and escalate the policy of house demolitions and forceful displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The Israeli policy of handing notifications of imminent demolition to Palestinians in the city continues, especially amidst rumors of Israeli plans to destroy more than 25 Palestinian houses under the pretext lacking permits, which Israel rarely grants to any Palestinian properties in the city.

The report also called on the international community to assume its responsibilities towards protecting East Jerusalem and its Palestinian population as inhabitants of an occupied territory, in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, particularly resolution 181.

The two organizations stressed the need for ending the policy of racial discrimination between Palestinians and Israelis through advancing necessary investigations, prosecution and trial procedures to put an end to such violations. They finally called on international organizations concerned with childhood to urgently intervene to protect Palestinian children in East Jerusalem from Israeli arbitrary arrests, summons and house arrests.

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