News in Brief 18 July 2017 (AM) – Geneva

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Tripoli Street in Misrata, Libya. Photo: UNHCR/Helen Caux

Libya “executions” should face investigation, says UN rights office

Reports indicating that suspected terrorists have been executed by forces aligned with the Libyan National Army (LNA) should face an independent investigation, the UN said on Tuesday.

OHCHR, the UN human rights office, made the appeal after videos appeared on social media showing detainees being shot while kneeling down and with their hands tied behind their backs.

Liz Throssell, from the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, said that reports suggested the involvement of Special Forces commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli.

“In March, amid fierce fighting for control of the Benghazi neighbourhood of Ganfouda, a video circulating on social media allegedly showed al-Werfalli shooting dead three men who were kneeling and facing a wall with their hands tied behind their backs.”

LNA forces effectively control the east of Libya, which has been in turmoil since the fall of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

An internal probe was announced earlier this year but no information has been shared yet, according to the UN rights office.

It remains deeply concerned about the safety of detainees amid widespread impunity.

UNHCR in $420 million appeal to end perilous Mediterranean journeys

Staying with Libya, a top UN refugee expert said on Tuesday that much more needs to be done to tackle the “devastating toll” caused by refugee journeys departing from its shores.

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR‘s Special Envoy to the Central Mediterranean Situation, told journalists in Geneva that 2,360 people had died on the sea route in the first six months of the year.

An unknown number of people have also perished inside the country, Mr Cochetel explained, the victims of traffickers who capture and abuse travellers, holding them in detention centres:

“We are hearing the same tales of horror from people who are experiencing serious human rights violations both on their way to Libya and on the way to Libya…forced labour for many who cannot afford any more the cost of the rest of the journey, so they are supposed to perform heavy work until such a time that the traffickers decide to put them on a boat, and for the vast majority of women who are in those warehouses are forced into prostitution.”

Libya has long been a destination for migrant workers and asylum-seekers, arriving principally from Niger and Algeria.

And as increasing numbers of people try to pass through lawless areas of the country, UNCHR’s Vincent Cochetel said that the best course of action is to make them aware of the dangers before they set out.

But a communication campaign alone isn’t enough, which is why the agency has appealed for US $ 421 million from the international community.

UNHCR wants to use some of the money to help Libya’s neighbours speed up asylum-processing claims and offer better reception facilities to those in need of protection.

Niger, a case in point, has capacity to handle just 100 asylum applications per year.

The UN agency’s Mr Cochetel also wants to see more commitment from Member States to tackle the criminal gangs that control the flow of people across the Mediterranean.

These are the same groups that sell smuggled oil to registered tankers that dock regularly along the Libyan coast, he said.

IOM hails Germany’s family reunification programme for migrants

A family reunification programme for vulnerable refugees seeking shelter in Germany has helped more than 50,000 people in the last 12 months, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has announced.

The German scheme supports applicants in Iraq, as well as many fleeing the Syrian conflict, based in Turkey and Lebanon.

IOM ensures that their forms are filled in correctly, to avoid delays in reuniting them with family members, who have already been granted asylum by Berlin.

Here’s IOM spokesperson Joel Millman:

“There have been cases where the waiting list has dropped from 10 months to as little as three weeks for some families. We think that this is an extremely important programme because it shows the will of one EU country, Germany, to manage resources and a consistent plan.”

As well as family reunification, the scheme’s other main aim is to show vulnerable people that official migration channels do exist.

The IOM announcement coincides with data showing that just 10,000 people have now crossed over the so-called Eastern Mediterranean sea route to Greece so far this year.

That figure was exceeded more than six times over last January alone, the UN migration agency said.

To date, more than half a million Iraqis and Syrians have registered for asylum in Germany since 2015 and some 355,000 have been granted refugee status there.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 4’37″