Category Archives: News

08Oct/19

Russia Censors LGBT Online Groups

LGBT rights activists carry the rainbow flag during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, May 1, 2018.


© 2018 AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky

A Saint Petersburg court ruled last week that two lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) social media groups violated Russia’s notorious “gay propaganda” law and ordered the sites shuttered.

The groups – “Russian LGBT Community” and “Russia LGBT Network” – were hosted on VKontakte, a Russian social media platform similar to Facebook.

The court judgments state that the incriminating material was images representing same-sex relationships. The judge deemed this content as responsible for “rejecting family values, promoting non-traditional sexual relations and fostering disrespect for parents and/or other family members.”

Under the “gay propaganda” ban, adopted in 2013, portraying same-sex relations as socially acceptable is illegal. The rationale is that such information supposedly threatens the well-being of children.

The law has been used to target peaceful public protests, individuals’ social media posts, teachers, and Deti-404, a website providing psychosocial support for LGBT youth. It has been used to justify a criminal investigation of social workers who allowed a gay couple to adopt children, forcing the family to flee to the United States. Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights fined the government for using the law as the basis for denying registration to two LGBT groups.

Last year, Human Rights Watch wrote to the education ministry highlighting our research findings, which show that the law exacerbates the daily hostilities LGBT youth face and curtails the ability for mental health providers to intervene. The ministry’s response ignored concerns about violence and discrimination, and said the government was responsible for fostering “the spiritual and moral values of the people of the Russian Federation.”

In the new judgments, the court insisted that the law was protective of children’s rights. The decision even made oblique references the Convention on the Rights of the Child, claiming the government is protecting a child “from information and materials harmful to his well-being.”

A warped interpretation to be sure. Not to mention a legally insubstantial justification for its ruling.

In 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child made clear that Russia’s law “encourages the stigmatization of and discrimination” against LGBT people. The committee also affirmed children’s rights to receive and share information about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Far from offering protection, the law endangers LGBT youth. This latest ruling for censorship is just another example of LGBT discrimination.

08Oct/19

Decongestion of Greek Islands continues as 700 refugees move to mainland

Source: International Organization for Migration
Country: Afghanistan, Greece, World

The group arrived in Piraeus, the largest port in Greece, where the IOM then transported them to designated accommodation sites that have been set up on the Greek mainland.

Athens – Another 700 vulnerable refugees and migrants were safely transported from the Greek islands to the mainland on Monday (07/10) morning as part of Greece’s ongoing effort to decongest the overcrowded North-Eastern Aegean islands.

The group arrived in Piraeus, the largest port in Greece, where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) then transported them to designated accommodation sites that have been set up on the Greek mainland. The majority were families with children from Afghanistan and came from the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos.

“I was in Moria [on Lesvos] for the last 10 months. The situation was very difficult there for me and my family. This is a new day for us and we can now see the future from a different scope,” said Zeina, a 24-year-old woman from Afghanistan.

The latest arrivals bring to 3,887, the number of people that IOM has transferred from the ports to new and existing mainland accommodation facilities, where new places have been created.

“IOM is ensuring smooth and effective operations at all accommodation facilities on the mainland of Greece and providing comprehensive services to the vulnerable groups,” said Gianluca Rocco, IOM Chief of Mission for Greece.

“Among other services, we are providing interpreters, psychologists, social workers, legal counsellors and facility coordinators with a special focus on psychosocial expertise, legal support and child protection,” he added.

The recent tragedy at the Moria camp where migrants lost their lives further shows that the conditions are untenable for people there, the staff and the local community. With the recent increase in arrivals to Greece, the Moria reception and identification center (RIC) of Lesvos is now hosting over 13,000 refugees and migrants, more than four times its capacity.

A similar situation exists on the island of Samos, where the local reception and identification center (RIC) is hosting 5,800 migrants, with a capacity of 648. The facilities on the islands of Chios, Kos and Leros are also facing mounting overpopulation pressure.

Given the poor conditions on the overcrowded facilities of the islands, IOM is supporting the Greek authorities with the decongestion effort and the movement of vulnerable people arriving from the islands to open accommodation facilities on the mainland. The Organization, with EU funding, is complementing the effort with the expansion of existing accommodation and creation of new places on the mainland to host the most vulnerable populations coming from the islands.

IOM, in collaboration with partners, Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Arbeiter Samariter Bund (ASB) and UNICEF, provides site management support services at 29 open accommodation facilities currently hosting some 19,000 refugees and migrants. IOM also operates in 33 temporary facilities all over Greece, currently providing accommodation to some 4,200 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, with the support of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME).

For more information please contact Christine Nikolaidou at IOM Greece. Email: cnikolaidou@iom.int, Tel:+30 210 – 9919040 ext. 248

08Oct/19

UNHCR aids thousands of Congolese refugees returning home from Angola

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Country: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo

More than 4,000 refugees are expected to be assisted to return home in the coming weeks. UNHCR is providing returnees with transport, as well as cash assistance to help them reintegrate.

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Thousands of Congolese refugees are returning from Angola to the Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where fighting amongst armed groups has lessened and security conditions have improved.

The first group of a few hundred people will return as part of a voluntary repatriation, which will officially being this week, following the signing on 23 August of a tripartite agreement between UNHCR and the Governments of Angola and DRC on voluntary returns.

In total, more than 4,000 refugees are expected to be assisted to return home in the coming weeks. UNHCR is providing returnees with transport, as well as cash assistance to help them reintegrate.

Meanwhile, since 18 August, some 12,000 Congolese refugees, including nearly 7,000 children, have spontaneously returned home from the Lovua settlement in Angola’s Lunda Norte province. UNHCR is grateful to the Angolan authorities for swiftly providing the returnees with trucks to assist them with their journey back to DRC.

Many of those returning spontaneously are facing extremely challenging living conditions. UNHCR is providing them with cash assistance, as well as humanitarian aid together with provincial authorities and NGO partners, at the border town of Kalamba Mbuji, where UNHCR has set up an emergency transit centre.

Similar assistance is also being provided to returnees who have reached Kananga, the capital of Kasai Central province.

Although fighting amongst armed groups has calmed, some refugees are still uncertain about the condition in which they will find their homes. Some are unwilling to return to their homes and are moving elsewhere, as they fear a return of inter-ethnic violence.

Public infrastructure, such as schools and health centers, have been badly damaged during multiple periods of fighting and are yet to be repaired. Existing facilities lack the capacity to meet all of the needs of returnees.

UNHCR continues to support the Government of DRC’s efforts to provide and restore basic services, and to promote social cohesion and reintegration efforts. UNHCR, through our partner War Child UK, is also conducting protection monitoring in Kananga and surrounding areas to identify and profile protection concerns, and ensure adequate responses.

However, massive financial support is needed from the international community, to humanitarian organisations and to the Government of DRC, to create sustainable conditions for returnees.

Current levels of funding are far below the amount needed to allow for a major rebuilding programme. For 2019, UNHCR has received just 57 per cent of US$150 million needed to help people affected by the DRC crisis.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

08Oct/19

EU donates €9.5 million to WFP, targeting 700,000 hungry South Sudanese

Source: European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, World Food Programme
Country: South Sudan

South Sudan’s food security situation remains dire, with 4.5 million people needing food and nutrition support until the end of the year. That number is projected to go up to 5.5 million people.

Juba, South Sudan – The European Union (EU) is providing US$10.4 million (€9.5 million) in humanitarian funding to the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) in South Sudan to provide food and nutrition support to tens of thousands of people as hunger persists in the country.

The contribution will provide life-saving food and nutrition assistance to more than 700,000 vulnerable people, including people who had to flee their homes, malnourished pregnant and nursing women, children under the age of five and refugees living in South Sudan. Of this, 520,000 people will receive cash assistance to buy food and basic commodities from local markets, thereby allowing households to acquire what they need the most and helping rural economies by injecting much-needed cash into them.

“Millions of people in South Sudan need food assistance,” said Christos Stylianides, the European Union’s Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. “With this aid package, we are helping the most vulnerable, particularly women and children.”

“We are very grateful to the European Union for this contribution which comes at a critical time,” said Ute Klamert, WFP Assistant Executive Director for Partnerships & Advocacy. “Although the food security situation has slightly improved, there is an urgent need to continue providing life-saving support to people at risk of hunger. Food assistance saves lives and can help build communities’ resilience to allow them to sustain themselves in the future.”

South Sudan’s food security situation remains dire with 4.5 million people needing food and nutrition support until the end of the year. The number of people in need is projected to go up to 5.5 million people from January 2020. January and following months are the time of the year when households face additional hardship as food reserves from their subsistence farming start to deplete.

The European Union is a long-standing partner of WFP assistance in South Sudan. The latest funding brings the European Union’s total contribution to WFP’s activities in South Sudan to US$123.8 million (€113.6 million) in the past five years.

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About the United Nations World Food Programme

The United Nations World Food Programme – saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

About EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid

The European Union and its Member States are the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity with people in need all around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises.

Through the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian aid Operations department (ECHO), the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the EU provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs.

Follow us on Twitter @WFP_SouthSudan and @WFP_Africa; @eu_echo

For more information please contact:
Tomson Phiri, WFP/South Sudan, Tomson.Phiri@wfp.org Mob: +211 922 465 247
Peter Smerdon, WFP/East Africa, Tel: +254 20 762 2179, Mob. +254 707 722 104

Mathias Eick, Regional Information Officer – EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) Mob: +254-722 719 604