80 migrants rescued off Libya coast

Crew members of the ‘Ocean Viking’ rescue ship, operated by French NGOs SOS Mediterranee and MSF, arrive with rescued migrants on board of a ‘rhib,’ before boarding the rescue vessel on Saturday, following their second rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2019

80 migrants rescued off Libya coast

  • Norway’s minister of justice and immigration, Joran Kallmyr, said on public television that the migrants should be “transported back to Africa, either to Tunisia or Libya”

ON BOARD THE OCEAN VIKING: The Ocean Viking charity ship rescued more than 80 migrants off the coast of Libya on Saturday, according to Doctors without Borders (MSF), which operates the vessel along with the French charity SOS Mediterranee.
The migrants, mainly Sudanese men and adolescents, were picked up after the Ocean Viking rescued 85 people including four children on Friday. The white rubber dinghy was spotted after a plane was seen repeatedly flying over it, MSF mission head Jay Berger said.
European forces regularly patrol the central Mediterranean looking for boats leaving the Libyan coast, particularly during mild weather.
The Ocean Viking sailed toward the area where the plane seemed to be focusing on and found the dinghy, Berger said.
“But the plane never tried to communicate with us,” he added.
Some 170 migrants, all from sub-Saharan Africa, are now on board the Ocean Viking, which left Marseille on Sunday. An AFP journalist is also on board.

Political crisis
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has taken a hard line against migrants and this week sparked a political crisis by pulling his support from the country’s governing coalition, has sent a warning to Oslo, where the rescue ship is registered.
“Italy is not legally bound, nor disposed to taken in clandestine, unidentified migrants from on board the Ocean Viking,” he wrote.

HIGHLIGHT

The migrants, mainly Sudanese men and adolescents, were picked up after the Ocean Viking rescued 85 people including four children on Friday.

He has said the same about more than 100 migrants on Spanish charity Proactiva’s Open Arms ship, which Hollywood star Richard Gere boarded on Friday.
Norway’s minister of justice and immigration, Joran Kallmyr, said on public television that the migrants should be “transported back to Africa, either to Tunisia or Libya.”
“They should not be sent to Europe because then this action will be an extension of the refugee route instead of a rescue operation,” Kallmyr said.
Gere, who boarded the Open Arms on Friday, said he had just arrived from the nearby Italian island of Lampedusa.
“We brought as much water and as much food as we possibly can, for everybody on board,” he said.
“Everyone is doing OK now but they were on two boats on the ocean. One of the boats was turned back by the Libyan navy. We don’t know what happened to them.
“The most important thing for these people here is to be able to get to a free port, to be able to get off the boat, to start a new life for themselves.”
Salvini also commented on the American movie star saying he hopes Gere “gets a bit of a suntan.”

 


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.