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Thousands of refugees without shelter after Moria camp fire

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: September 9, 2020)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Wednesday a fire broke out at the controversial Moria Reception and Identification Center on the Greek island of Lesvos overnight and destroyed more than 80 percent of the camp. 

IOM said there were no initial reports of casualties but over 12,600 migrants and refugees were now displaced. 

“This devastating tragedy compounds the already existing challenges and difficult conditions at Moria due to overcrowding and COVID-19,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino.  

“We are doing everything we can to support the Greek authorities and the affected migrants and refugees, to ensure their immediate care and safety as we work together on longer-term solutions.” 

IOM said it was mobilizing to provide immediate support to the authorities and people affected, particularly the unaccompanied children and said that the organization, along with other groups, is committed to transporting 400 unaccompanied children from Lesvos to suitable accommodations on the mainland and to escort them during the transfer.

Athens meanwhile declared a state of emergency on Lesvos and sent police reinforcements to the island, off Turkey, to help keep order, Reuters reported.

Deputy Migration Minister George Koumoutsakos said about 3,000 migrants and refugees would be temporarily housed in tents as the government struggles to find alternative shelter for the migrants, some of whom were now camped out in fields nearby.

The cause of the fire was not yet known but authorities were investigating whether they were started deliberately.

Reuters reported the fire broke out just after midnight and by dawn on Wednesday most of the camp was a smoldering mass of burned containers and tents, with a few people searching through the debris for their possessions.

“There was not just one but many fires in the camp. Migrants threw stones at firefighters trying to put out the fires. The cause is under investigation,” Constantine Theophilopoulos, fire brigade chief for the northern Aegean, told ERT TV.

Initial reports suggested the fires broke out at different locations in the sprawling camp after authorities tried to isolate some individuals who had tested positive for COVID-19.

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Talking to the IEA is the ‘only way forward’, UNAMA official

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

The devastating earthquake on Wednesday is just one of several emergencies facing Afghanistan, and continued dialogue with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) authorities remains the only way to address ongoing challenges in the country, the UN Security Council heard on Thursday. 

Before being briefed by Ramiz Alakbarov, Acting Special Representative at the UN’s Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, and Martin Griffiths, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator ambassadors stood and observed a minute of silence for the victims of Wednesday’s deadly earthquake. 

Alakbarov provided an update on the earthquake, before turning to the ongoing human rights, economic and humanitarian challenges the country is facing. 

He said despite difficulties, “we firmly continue to believe that a strategy of continued engagement and dialogue remains to be the only way forward for the sake of the Afghan people, as well as for the sake of regional and international security.” 

He also said the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. 

He stated that the economic crisis is perhaps the single most important issue in Afghanistan, and a potential driver of conflict and misery. It is estimated the economy contracted by up to 40 percent since August last year. 

Unemployment could reach 40 percent this year, up from 13 percent in 2021, while the official poverty rate could climb as high as 97 percent he said. 

“If the economy is not able to recover and grow meaningfully and sustainably, then the Afghan people will face repeated humanitarian crises; potentially spurring mass migration and making conditions ripe for radicalization and renewed armed conflict,” he warned. 

According to him, Afghanistan also remains highly vulnerable to future climate and geopolitical shocks. Drought, floods, disease outbreaks affecting both people and livestock, as well as natural disasters like the earthquake, are further deepening vulnerabilities. 

Alakbarov stressed the need to prioritize rural areas, with focus on agricultural and food systems to prevent hunger. This will also help to reduce child labour, improve health outcomes, and create the environment that will enable social development and change. 

“It will also pave the way for substitution agriculture to replace the poppy cultivation, allowing us to capitalize on the de facto authority’s recent ban on poppy and narcotic cultivation,” he said.  

“While doing so we need to continue to provide adequate attention to clearance of widely unexploded ordnance of war. This bottom-up approach to economic recovery is shared by the de facto authorities and would help the most vulnerable.” 

He said armed opposition attacks against the de facto authorities doubled in May, compared to the previous month and that while the number of Daesh attacks has generally decreased, their geographic scope has widened from six to 11 provinces.  

“We cannot exclude the possibility of increased instability if peoples’ rights are denied and if they do not see themselves in their government,” he said. 

Alakbarov said in the coming month, the UN will seek to promote political consultation and inclusion, and engagement with the IEA will continue. 

Addressing humanitarian response, Alakbarov highlighted how aid partners have reached some 20 million Afghans between January and April this year alone, including nearly 250,000 returnees and some 95,000 people affected by floods and weather-related events. 

However, the humanitarian crisis persists, and sustained support will be needed through next year, he said.

Griffiths, the UN’s relief chief meanwhile reported that more than 190 aid organizations are operating in Afghanistan, where nearly half the population, 19 million people, are facing food insecurity. 

This includes more than six million people at emergency level – the highest number of any country in the world at risk of famine-like conditions, he said. 

Griffiths also underscored the pressing need for funding. A $4.4 billion humanitarian plan for Afghanistan is only one-third funded, despite pledges of $2.4 billion made at the launch in March. 

 

 

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In major security shakeup, Iran replaces IRGC intelligence chief

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of the armed forces, has replaced its intelligence chief Hossein Taeb in a surprise shakeup.

The major shakeup in the IRGC’s intelligence apparatus comes after a series of recent incidents inside Iran, including sabotage and cyberattacks, assassinations, and the mysterious killings of IRGC members as well as scientists and engineers, RFE/RL reported Friday.

Tehran has blamed some of the incidents on Israel, its regional foe.

The IRGC said Taeb would be replaced by General Mohammad Kazemi, who was previously in charge of the IRGC’s Intelligence Protection Unit, which focuses on surveillance within the force.

The IRGC did not say why Taeb, who had held the post since 2009, was removed. It added that Taeb had been appointed as an adviser to IRGC chief Major General Hossein Salami, suggesting he was demoted, RFE/RL reported.

 

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US releases Guantanamo prisoner, hands him over to IEA officials in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

The United States has released an Afghan national, Assadullah Haroon, detained in the Guantanamo prison and handed him over to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in Kabul.

According to a statement issued by IEA spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Friday, Haroon was released after 15 years in the prison as a result of “efforts of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [IEA] and its direct and positive interaction with the United States”.

“IEA considers this as its duty to release Afghans detained in other countries and strives to ensure that no Afghan remains oppressed in any country of the world,” the statement said.

“We are currently in contact with some of the countries where Afghans have been detained and efforts are underway to release them soon,” the statement read.

Mujahid also thanked Qatar for “paving the ground” for the release of Haroon.

He also said the IEA is hopeful that the last remaining Afghan prisoner, Muhammad Rahim Sekundar, held at Guantanamo is also freed and able to rejoin his family in his homeland.

The prison has drawn worldwide condemnation for holding large numbers of prisoners without charging them or holding trials. Its population peaked at about 800 inmates, then declined sharply during the 2009-2017 Obama administration.

At least 37 detainees remained at Guantanamo Bay, as per a statement by the US Defence Department in April.

 

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