[35°N] 22 November 2018 – HEC Paris celebrates the opening of its first office for West and Central Africa, in Abidjan.
Just 8% Away…”Thirty-one countries formally joined the Paris climate change pact Wednesday, bringing the total number of countries ratifying the treaty to 60 and raising hopes that it will enter into effect by the end of the year. The number is higher than the 55-country threshold needed for the treaty to enter into force. But because together those countries account for 48 percent of total global emissions — short of the 55 percent threshold — the agreement must wait for more nations to join…U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he is confident of reaching the magic number before the next U.N. climate conference, which starts Nov. 7 in Marrakech, Morocco. He urged people everywhere “to become warriors for the planet.” (AP http://yhoo.it/2cRRD6f)
Rift Valley Fever Outbreak…”Health workers in western Niger are racing to contain an outbreak of Rift Valley fever that has killed at least 21 people over the past month, an aid agency said on Wednesday…The highly contagious disease, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes or close contact with contaminated animals, has infected 52 people in Niger’s western region of Tahoua since late August, the country’s health ministry said. The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) and Niger’s health authorities have opened an emergency treatment centre, in the region’s hardest-hit district of Tchintabaraden, to look after the infected and stop the disease from spreading. (Reuters http://bit.ly/2cRRBLG)
I can’t get no respect…Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte demanded on Wednesday the European Union show him respect worthy of a president, despite giving the bloc a one-finger gesture and a vulgar four-letter rebuke after its legislators expressed concern about his drug war. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2djYwjq)
Congolese former rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda has ended an unprecedented hunger strike in his detention cell in The Netherlands after a two-week standoff with the judges at his war crimes trial. (AFP http://yhoo.it/2cDmDp2)
The UN voiced concerns over Mali’s shaky peace deal Wednesday following deadly clashes between groups that have signed up to the agreement. (AFP http://yhoo.it/2dbqZcm)
At least 44 people – including 37 demonstrators and six police officers – have been killed in protests over Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s perceived bid to extend his rule, Human Rights Watch said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/2cDkWrR)
Sudan said Wednesday it is hosting about 400,000 South Sudanese refugees who fled a brutal civil war that erupted in the world’s youngest country after it broke away in 2011. (AFP http://bit.ly/2cRRiAr)
Amnesty International accused a Nigerian police unit on Wednesday of torturing suspects and demanding bribes to free them – allegations dismissed by the police. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2dhvzBw)
At least two students were injured on Wednesday when South African police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse protests over the cost of education, university and student representatives said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2djXUdr)
Dozens of airstrikes battered Aleppo and its outskirts overnight, AFP’s correspondent in the battleground northern Syrian city said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/2cDnndZ)
At least nine civilians including women and children were killed in an airstrike near an oasis town in central Libya, a hospital doctor and local officials said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/2cDnciR)
A boat carrying around 600 people capsized off Egypt’s coast, killing at least 29, officials said on Wednesday, in the latest disaster to befall migrants attempting to make the crossing to Europe. (Reuters http://bit.ly/2djXTGl)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry demanded on Tuesday that Russia and the Syrian government immediately halt flights over Syrian battle zones, in what he called a last chance to salvage a collapsing ceasefire and find a way “out of the carnage”. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2cDpazx)
The Saudi Civil Defense says a citizen has been wounded by a projectile fired from Yemen into the southern border region of Najran. (AP http://yhoo.it/2dbquyH)
Egypt’s Coptic Christian church is facing criticism over its role in organizing rallies in support of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during his visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly. (AP http://yhoo.it/2djXe7X)
A U.N. expert is calling on the world community to do more to help North Korea cope with fallout from deadly Typhoon Lionrock and says officials in the reclusive country should allow access to those in need. (AP http://yhoo.it/2d03MYO)
When likes land you in jail…Pakistani police say they have arrested a 16-year-old Christian boy on blasphemy charges after he “liked” an “inappropriate” photograph on Facebook of the Kaaba in Mecca, one of the holiest sites in Islam. (AP http://yhoo.it/2cR8XK4)
The Red Cross appealed Wednesday for $15.5 million in emergency funding to help flood-ravaged North Koreans, warning of a “secondary disaster” in the impoverished country unless urgent assistance is provided. (AFP http://yhoo.it/2d02qgu)
One of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s harshest critics was removed as the chairwoman of the Senate Justice Committee Monday in the midst of an investigation into Duterte’s alleged ties to the extrajudicial killings of drug suspected drug dealers and users. (VOA http://bit.ly/2d02LzT)
Landslides and flash floods in Indonesia have left at least 20 people dead as torrential downpours continued to pound the nation’s many islands Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/2cDple4)
A dozen more Philippine mines, mostly nickel projects, are in danger of being suspended in an ongoing environmental crackdown on the sector, an environment undersecretary said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2d02JrH)
Suriname is a nation in crisis: Businesses are closing, food prices are soaring and hospitals are running out of basic supplies such as paper towels and bandages. (AP http://yhoo.it/2djZb4o)
In Argentina, teachers, students and trade unionists are protesting against mass redundancies in education, which they say are part of a process of undermining public education and a move towards a new model based on market needs. (IPS http://bit.ly/2d04KUM)
A Brazilian judge has decided that the corruption case against former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, his wife, and six others will move forward, according to state media. (CNN http://cnn.it/2djXqUD)
More than £100m of the UK aid budget will be spent on returning Somali refugees to the country they fled and encouraging people escaping war zones not to cross the Mediterranean under plans outlined by Theresa May in New York. (Guardian http://bit.ly/2dhv36B)
Temporary home to thousands of migrants trying to reach Britain, the French city of Calais is a major battlefield for presidential candidates who are seizing on fears of immigration in campaigning for spring elections — and following in the footsteps of far-right leader Marine Le Pen. (AP http://yhoo.it/2cDnjuF)
Hungarian prison inmates are ramping up their production of razor wire, working around the clock as Hungary prepares to build a second fence on the border with Serbia to keep out refugees and other migrants. (AP http://yhoo.it/2cRP7wy)
A European law and human rights commission on Wednesday criticized proposed constitutional changes in Azerbaijan that would extend the president’s term, a conclusion that drew an angry response from the ex-Soviet nation. (AP http://yhoo.it/2d03cKp)
Greece has rejected asylum requests from three of a group of eight Turkish soldiers who fled there after the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July, police sources said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/2dbphaF)
A U.N. official on countering torture has criticized a Turkish government decision to postpone his visit to the country saying the move “sends the wrong message.” (AP http://yhoo.it/2cRQFH3)
Antibiotic Resistance on Pace to Cause Global Economic Damage Akin to the 2008 Financial Crisis (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/2cKfuIK)
A tale of two summits for Central American refugees (IRIN http://bit.ly/2cDpL4b)
These Two Political Trailblazers Have Advice for Future Female Leaders (UN Dispatch http://buff.ly/2d2hclo)
Calling Syrian refugees like me Skittles would be funny if it weren’t so cruel (Guardian http://buff.ly/2dbflOB)
#MindYourOwnBusiness (Africa is a Country http://buff.ly/2cRPfwf)
Tired of war: South Sudan street artists calling for peace – in pictures (Guardian http://bit.ly/2cDoquq)
Charity overhaul in China, but only with government approval (IRIN http://bit.ly/2d03lhb)
UN and Obama Summits: What’s Next? (The Interpreter http://buff.ly/2cDs5bH)
[VOA] Police in Ivory Coast arrested opposition figures and used teargas to disperse demonstrators gathering on Thursday to protest against a new draft constitution due to be voted on in a referendum later this month.
MALMO, 15 October 2015 (IRIN) – Sweden is experiencing a rapid rise in the numbers of unaccompanied refugee children seeking asylum there. In the first two weeks of October alone, well over 4,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in the country, bringing the total this year to 18,000, more than two and a half times the 7,000 that came during the whole of 2014.
Most enter via the central train station in Malmö, a half-hour train ride from Copenhagen. At least 100 unaccompanied minors are arriving every day in this southern Swedish city, the majority having fled the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan.
“Sweden has a well-organised system for asylum seekers and is renowned for its treatment of refugees during the asylum process,” explained Ida Holmgren, a migration expert at the Swedish Red Cross. “There is also a more generous interpretation of the European family reunification laws.”
Sweden is the most popular destination for refugee children travelling alone to Europe: it receives nearly a third of all unaccompanied minors. But it is a growing phenomenon too in several other EU countries. Last year, their numbers totalled 24,000, nearly 80 percent more than in 2013. And this year, nearly 40,000 unaccompanied minors – mainly boys aged between 13 and 18 – are expected to apply for asylum in Europe, according to a recent report by the Swedish Migration Agency.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has also noted the “worrying” trend. Estimates by international aid agencies suggest that between four and seven percent of all asylum seekers in the EU are unaccompanied minors. Most arrive by sea to Italy and Greece, but, according to the OECD, only a quarter of all unaccompanied minors in Italy apply for asylum there, and in Greece almost none do. Instead, most follow in the footsteps of adult refugees and head north towards countries such as Sweden, Germany, Austria and the UK.
Although the journey to and through Europe is becoming more difficult and more dangerous, young people appear to be increasingly willing to take the risk. “That is not to say that these young refugees are daredevils or risk takers,” Holmgren, of the Swedish Red Cross, told IRIN. “It is the extreme situation in their home countries that forces them to make the perilous journey to Europe.”
She added that many families could only afford to pay smugglers for one family member. “Women and young children are considered least likely to survive the journey. It is often an older child or teenage boy who is sent first.”
For Amjad Ibrahim, who already had friends and relatives living in Sweden, the choice was easy. Ibrahim was only 13 years old when he left his family’s home in war-torn Damascus and travelled alone to Sweden in early 2014. His story is a typical one.
“There wasn’t enough money for all of us to travel, so I left by myself. My older brothers were not willing,” he told IRIN.
The family agreed it would be easier for them to reunite once the youngest son had arrived safely in Sweden.
The 13-year-old travelled to Turkey in a car and then paid a smuggler to take a boat to the coast of Italy. “I was very scared. We were 200 people in a small boat. I got very seasick and threw up,” he said.
After surviving an eight-day journey across the Mediterranean, he flew to Copenhagen, and then took a train to Malmö. Three of his brothers have now joined him in Sweden, but their parents are in Turkey, waiting for an interview at the Swedish embassy in Ankara.
EU countries unprepared
NGOs warn that many countries are ill prepared to handle the rapid increase in arrivals of unaccompanied children. Responsibility usually falls on local municipalities that struggle to provide adequate support and schooling. In Kent, southeast England, authorities have run out of foster placements and lack enough social workers to deal with the recent influx of young asylum seekers coming to the UK on their own.
In Austria, a country that currently has one of the highest numbers of asylum seekers per capita in Europe, there is an acute lack of reception centres for unaccompanied children. Emergency centres for new arrivals were opened in military barracks at the end of last year with many children referred to the same buildings as adults, according to Asylkoordination Österreich, a local NGO.
And on the Greek island of Kos, unaccompanied children are reportedly being kept in police cells with adult criminals while they wait for authorities to place them in care facilities on the mainland.
Malmö has seen such a rapid increase in the number of unaccompanied minors arriving since last year that local authorities recently declared a humanitarian emergency.
Social workers and bed spaces are in very short supply, and since the end of September newly arrived unaccompanied children have had to be accommodated in local sports halls, hotels and care homes for the elderly.
Vladana Andersson, a social services section manager who has worked with newly arrived youngsters for the past four years, said the pressure on services is taking a toll on staff and the children they care for. “Our work is all about logistics. We can no longer offer the same level of attention, such as relationship-building, taking the children to a gym or other activities, or just sitting down with them.”
Holmgren said things like access to education and the appointment of a qualified legal guardian to support minors in their asylum applications and help them get bank accounts and ID documents were “critical”. If guardians are not appointed quickly, or heavy workloads prevent them from being effective, children often struggle to get legal assistance.
Guardianship standards vary across the EU.
In the Netherlands, there is mandatory training and certification of legal guardians for unaccompanied refugee children, Holmgren said. Belgium also offers “adequate legal support” for minors during the asylum process and family reunifications. “In Sweden, all minors have a right to a legal guardian, but there are less clear requirements for these guardians.”
Delays in the asylum application process have a major effect on children’s wellbeing, said Sarah Crowe, a spokeswoman with UNICEF.
“Many children are left in legal limbo. It is not unusual that the processing time is 16 or 18 months, which is an eternity in a child’s life,” she said. “Children need to get settled as quickly as they can, and get access to health and education systems.”
Asylum applications take an average of seven months to be processed in Sweden, shorter than many other EU countries. But applications for children to be reunited with their families often take much longer.
Ibrahim had to wait more than a year for permanent residency in Sweden, but he was able to start school after four months. Now he is in Grade 9 at an inner-city school in Malmö.
“I like it here,” he said with a shy smile. “All my classmates are Swedish, and I also have a Swedish girlfriend. But I miss my parents. It’s been nearly two years since I saw them.”