African Union Meets for AU-Horn of Africa Counter Trafficking Initiative

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IOM Egypt this week supported the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to organize the second ministerial meeting of the AU-Horn of Africa Initiative on Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants (AU-HoAI) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

The AU-HoAI was formally launched through the signing of the Khartoum Declaration on 16 October 2014. Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan are core countries to the initiative. The neighboring countries of Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan also are taking part. The initiative provides a forum to improve cooperation on migration management in the Horn of Africa and to address the challenges of human trafficking and irregular migration.

The event was attended by ministers from Kenya, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tunisia, Djibouti, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen, in addition to representatives of partner countries, including Italy, Malta, Norway, the Netherlands, Britain, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.

At the meeting, ministers agreed to: “ratify and implement relevant international and regional instruments that address human trafficking, smuggling of migrants and organized international crime.”

IOM – which with UNHCR and the African Union Commission forms the Initiative Secretariat – was mandated to follow up on implementation of decisions taken at the conference.

Ambassador Naela Gabr, Chair of Egypt’s National Coordinating Committee on Preventing and Combating Illegal Migration, said: “Egypt will engage with all [its] African neighbors in order to reach a consensus on the best way to confront illegal migration from and within the continent in a way that preserves the dignity and life of [its] citizens.”

The Initiative supports the implementation of a “Migration Policy Framework for Africa” and the “Ouagadougou Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings”.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Office of Migration (IOM).

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Malian, Mauritanian Border Guards Train Together

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IOM this week started a joint training session for Malian and Mauritanian border police officers in Sélibaby, southern Mauritania.

The training is part of a Japanese-funded IOM project: “Enhancing the collective capacity for managing borders and for protecting border communities between Mauritania and Mali”.

It is designed to improve the security of vulnerable border areas between the two countries by enhancing their border management capacity. It also seeks to facilitate greater bilateral cooperation between the two governments and wider engagement of the local population living in border areas.

The 10-day workshop will provide 18 Malian and Mauritanian police officers with essential border control skills, including travel-document examination. Trainees also will learn specific skills needed to conduct interviews with victims of trafficking, while respecting their need for sensitivity, confidentiality and non-discrimination.

Mauritania and Mali share a long, porous border that is difficult to control. Transnational threats, including terrorism, organized crime and illegal migration, remain ongoing concerns in the region.

The training follows previous workshops earlier this year in Bamako, Mali’s capital, and Ayoûn el-Atroûs, a Mauritanian town close to the Malian border.

By the end of the year, the project aims to provide training to a total of 130 Malian and 150 Mauritanian border police officers.

The curriculum emphasizes international human rights norms. It highlights the need for protection of vulnerable groups, ensuring that their rights are not compromised by measures to combat terrorism and trans-border crime.

Bringing together police officials from both sides of the border is a key aspect of this training. In addition to learning new skills and sharing experience, the participants build mutual trust and contacts that will last for years to come.

Malian participants at the Sélibaby workshop are from the Kayes region. Working at checkpoints on the Mauritanian border, they benefit from establishing contacts and better communication with their colleagues on the other side of the border.

Before the workshops, Mauritanian and Malian trainers participated in a three-week training course in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, as a part of a regional project also financed by the Government of Japan: “Coordinated Border Management in Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso”.

The course was facilitated by experts from EUCAP Sahel Mali, a European Union civilian mission in Bamako that provides training and strategic advice to the Malian security sector.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Office of Migration (IOM).

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IOM Hands Over Rehabilitated Market in Bangui, Central African Republic

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After 22 months of rehabilitation work, IOM has handed over to local authorities the rehabilitated market in the Ngebengewe district of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR).

The market is located at an important intersection between a mostly Muslim enclave and the mixed (Christian and Muslim) 5th district. ‎This area has seen some of the fiercest fighting since December 2013. Reopening the market is important to both communities as it symbolizes a return to normalcy and security in the area.

Madame Solange, representing female vendors at the market said: “We have been waiting for this day for months. This market is really important for us women. We live here in the neighborhood and grow our produce here. Going to other markets to sell our goods is expensive and dangerous. Going to other markets to buy food has also been difficult. People from all communities use our market – it is a space where they can meet and chat. It will be great to also have our market functioning normally. Hopefully, many of our neighbors will see this as a sign of peace and decide to come home.”

The market rehabilitation is part of IOM’s European Union-funded Community Stabilization Programme. The project was chosen by the community and the rehabilitation, albeit often interrupted by insecurity in the area, was carried out through on-the-job training programmes by local young people.

Over 300 young people participated in the rehabilitation and gained experience as carpenters, brick-makers and in general construction.

The Community Stabilization Programme has been running since March 2014 and will continue in areas outside Bangui until August 2017.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Office of Migration (IOM).

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IOM Middle East and North Africa Launches 2015 Annual Report

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The IOM Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has released its 2015 annual report. The report provides an overview of IOM’s main priorities and the impact of its work in the region.

In 2015, significant migration flows to, through and from MENA continued unabated. Ongoing conflict, economic stagnation and political turmoil were main drivers of migration, although motives for movements remain complex.

People move to, through and from the region for a variety of reasons. Labour migration to the Gulf States, partly from other Arab States, as well as from further afield, continues to be a central driver. North African countries have also continued to host large numbers of people from sub-Saharan Africa seeking employment there or attempting to cross the Mediterranean to make their futures in Europe.

Given the unprecedented scale and intensity of crises afflicting the region, IOM provided emergency assistance to migrants and host communities impacted by conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen, as well as investing in resilience-building and livelihood support.

Beyond emergency response, IOM worked closely with governments across the region to ensure the rights of migrants were respected and international protection standards upheld in the areas of immigration, border management and migrant assistance. Additionally, programmes targeting labour mobility as a means for national development were undertaken, particularly in Morocco, Egypt and Sudan.

Throughout the report, migrants from the Middle East and North Africa tell their own stories, drawn from IOM’s i am a migrant campaign.

In addition to describing IOM’s MENA programmes, the report contains a section on refugee resettlement activities in the region, which increased significantly in 2015. It also lists research and publications released in 2015.

“The evolving make-up of migratory flows to, through and from MENA in 2015 underscores the complex nature of migration drivers. IOM’s top priorities in the region remained saving migrant lives and upholding their rights. But we also focused on identifying and addressing the issues driving people to migrate,” said IOM Regional Director for MENA Carmela Godeau.

A statistical summary of all activities, and of beneficiaries reached, in the region in 2015 is forthcoming, as is an Arabic translation of the report.

The report can be found here: https://publications.iom.int/books/middle-east-and-north-africa-annual-r….

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Office of Migration (IOM).

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IOM Helps Ethiopian Child Migrants Return Home from Zambia

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IOM has helped 14 unaccompanied child migrants stranded in Zambia to voluntarily return home to Ethiopia.

The children were intercepted by Zambian police while attempting to cross into South Africa and were detained for several months. After their release, they remained stranded in Zambia, unable to return home due to lack of money.

Aged between 12 and 17, the children were lured to leave Ethiopia by smugglers promising attractive work opportunities in South Africa. These promises turned out to be little more than a scam to extort money from their families.

After months in prison, the children told IOM how fortunate they felt to be coming home alive. “The prison cells were squalid and over-crowded and we didn’t get enough food,” said 15 year-old Hassen*, one of the returnees.

But he and others in the group admitted that they were among the lucky ones to return home. Many other migrants remain stranded in Zambia and Malawi.

IOM is working with governments of origin and destination countries in the region to safely return and reintegrate vulnerable intercepted/stranded migrants.

The 14 child returnees are currently staying at the IOM Transit Centre in Addis Ababa, awaiting family tracing and reunification, carried out by IOM in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Women and Children.

In addition to assisting returnees, IOM is also supporting efforts by the Government of Ethiopia to address the challenges posed by irregular migration and human trafficking, as well as their root causes through various behavioral change communication and capacity building activities.

Despite these efforts, many young Ethiopians continue to be lured abroad by the dubious promises of unscrupulous people smugglers. In 2016 alone, IOM has helped a total of 1,657 Ethiopian migrants stranded in 10 countries to safely and voluntarily return home. This figure only represents a small proportion of the large number of Ethiopian migrants stranded in dire conditions along major irregular migratory routes.

*Note: Name changed to maintain anonymity.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Office of Migration (IOM).

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IOM Helps Ethiopian Child Migrants Return Home from Zambia

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IOM has helped 14 unaccompanied child migrants stranded in Zambia to voluntarily return home to Ethiopia.

The children were intercepted by Zambian police while attempting to cross into South Africa and were detained for several months. After their release, they remained stranded in Zambia, unable to return home due to lack of money.

Aged between 12 and 17, the children were lured to leave Ethiopia by smugglers promising attractive work opportunities in South Africa. These promises turned out to be little more than a scam to extort money from their families.

After months in prison, the children told IOM how fortunate they felt to be coming home alive. “The prison cells were squalid and over-crowded and we didn’t get enough food,” said 15 year-old Hassen*, one of the returnees.

But he and others in the group admitted that they were among the lucky ones to return home. Many other migrants remain stranded in Zambia and Malawi.

IOM is working with governments of origin and destination countries in the region to safely return and reintegrate vulnerable intercepted/stranded migrants.

The 14 child returnees are currently staying at the IOM Transit Centre in Addis Ababa, awaiting family tracing and reunification, carried out by IOM in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Women and Children.

In addition to assisting returnees, IOM is also supporting efforts by the Government of Ethiopia to address the challenges posed by irregular migration and human trafficking, as well as their root causes through various behavioral change communication and capacity building activities.

Despite these efforts, many young Ethiopians continue to be lured abroad by the dubious promises of unscrupulous people smugglers. In 2016 alone, IOM has helped a total of 1,657 Ethiopian migrants stranded in 10 countries to safely and voluntarily return home. This figure only represents a small proportion of the large number of Ethiopian migrants stranded in dire conditions along major irregular migratory routes.

*Note: Name changed to maintain anonymity.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Office of Migration (IOM).

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Netherlands, IOM Build Libyan Coast Guard Capacity to Save Lives at Sea

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The Netherlands and IOM Libya have signed an agreement for an 18-month project aimed at enhancing the Libyan Coast Guard’s capacity to save lives at sea and supporting the humanitarian repatriation of vulnerable migrants from Libya.

The EUR 1.5 million project, which will run through October 2017, will provide lifesaving equipment, basic infrastructure and capacity building for the Coast Guards.

It will also provide assisted voluntary return to stranded migrants in Libya to help them to return to their home countries. The most vulnerable migrants will also get reintegration assistance in their home countries.

May 2016 saw a spike in the number of maritime incidents off the Libyan coast, making it the deadliest month to date this year, with 1,086 migrants reported as dead or missing. Between 22 and 28 May alone, over 3,600 migrants were rescued at sea and brought back to Libya.

Dutch Ambassador to Libya Hans Sandee welcomed the project. “This is an important first step. The Coast Guard plays a key role when it comes to saving lives and border management,” he said.

IOM Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi thanked the Netherlands and emphasized the importance of the project and others like it to resolve the Mediterranean migrant crisis. “It is tremendously important to work closely with Libyan counterparts, including the Libyan authorities and the Libyan Coast Guard, to increase their capacity,” he said.

The project’s primary beneficiaries are migrants, with a particular focus on the stranded and most vulnerable. Other beneficiaries will include civil society organizations, local authorities, the Coast Guard and Libya’s Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Office of Migration (IOM).

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Extradition of Alleged Smuggler First Step to Justice for Migrants Dying at Sea

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Since 2013 at least 10,000 people have died at sea trying to reach safety in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean. Many perished at the hands of smugglers, who often exploit the most vulnerable. Survivors of these voyages tell tales of horrific abuse and deprivation. Yet few have been held accountable for these crimes – perhaps until now.

On 24 May, an alleged Eritrean smuggler, Medhanie Yehdego Mered, was extradited to Italy from Sudan on charges of masterminding a vast criminal smuggling network, according to BBC reports.

Mered stands accused of contributing to hundreds of deaths at sea, including at least 359 people who died when a smuggling ship sank between Lampedusa and Malta in 2013.

While allegations have arisen that the wrong man was apprehended – a possible case of mistaken identity – the extradition order nevertheless represents a potential sea change in the prosecution of these seemingly invisible criminals.

Prosecuting an individual for a crime committed at sea and determining jurisdiction can be incredibly complex. The prosecution depends on extensive investigation by law enforcement agencies to prove that a smuggling incident is not simply a single disembarkation of migrants, but the work of a transnational criminal network.

Transnational criminal law does not stand silent on this issue. Even if a crime is committed outside of its territory, a State can prosecute the crime if it is executed with a view to commit a crime on the territory of that State.

“In some cases the flag State of the vessels that come to the rescue of migrants whom smugglers – as part of their plan – leave to their fate on the high seas, could ascertain jurisdiction in the case of prosecution of the smugglers,” said Kristina Touzenis, Head of IOM’s International Migration Law Unit.

Smugglers may even see themselves as heroes, not criminals. Meron Estefanos, a Stockholm-based journalist who has interviewed Mered, said: “He never understood why he was wanted. He saw himself as a human rights activist who helped people to cross.”

The legal road will not be easy for prosecutors, but the extradition order may be a major shift towards stemming the ever-increasing number of deaths at sea at the hands of dangerous smuggling networks.

“In this crisis, we are not facing random acts of nature, but the crimes of men. We must find, identify and prosecute these groups,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Office of Migration (IOM).

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Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 207,260; Deaths 2,856

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IOM reports an estimated 207,260 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 8 June, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

Deaths so far this year are 2,856, compared with 1,838 through the first six months of 2015. In other words, fatalities in the Mediterranean in 2016 are over 1,000 more than last year’s mid-year total, although we now are some three weeks shy of 2016’s mid-year point.

IOM’s total estimate of fatalities has risen since earlier this week due to new data from Spain indicating that at least 40 migrants have perished in Western Mediterranean waters since the start of this year. The worst incident IOM has learned of occurred in early March, when 20 migrants who left North Africa are believed to have drowned when their craft foundered. IOM has also learned of incidents in April and May, in which fatalities of six and five migrants, respectively, were reported.

Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM’s spokesperson in Rome, reported Thursday that 1,147 migrants were en route to Italian ports following rescues at sea. Kelly Namia from IOM Athens reports that arrivals in Greece’s Aegean islands remained low this month, with five of June’s first eight days registering arrivals of fewer than 20 migrants. Only one day, 2 June, recorded over 100 arrivals.

See chart (below) for monthly arrival totals in Greece.
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Syrians continued to comprise the largest group arriving in Greece in May, with 525 Syrians registered by Greek authorities last month – compared with nearly 30,000 in January. Afghans (270 arrivals) were the second largest group. In January, over 18,000 Afghans arrived.

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IOM Turkey reported this week that Turkish authorities through 9 June have apprehended a total of 56 alleged traffickers in 562 separate cases. Nearly half of them were detained in February. Turkish authorities in May intercepted 1,109 irregular migrants in Turkish waters, down from a high of 8,747 in February.

For the latest Mediterranean Update infographic please go to:
https://missingmigrants.iom.int/sites/default/files/Mediterranean_Update_10_June_2016_1.pdf

For latest arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean, please visit: http://migration.iom.int/europe

Learn more about Missing Migrants Project at:
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Source:: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 207,260; Deaths 2,856

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Statement by Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner, on the human rights situation in Eritrea

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Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office. issued the following statement today (9 June) on the publication of a report by the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea:

I was very concerned by the report published yesterday by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which notes that there has been no improvement in the situation. I call on the Eritrean Government to uphold its international human rights obligations and to address human rights violations.

The Eritrean Government’s willingness to grant some United Nations organisations and foreign journalists access is a first step in this direction.

The fact that particularly large numbers of people from Eritrea still want to leave their country for Europe reflects the desperation felt by many Eritreans. The most critical issues are indefinite national service and the human rights violations associated with it, the complete lack of rule‑of‑law structures and accusations of torture and rape.

In its report, the Commission of Inquiry writes that it has reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea and calls for the situation to be referred to the International Criminal Court for consideration. I urge the Government in Eritrea to address this criticism in a constructive manner. This means working unreservedly with the United Nations and its bodies. The situation in Eritrea will be on the agenda of the negotiations at the Human Rights Council’s 32nd session.Only through dialogue and cooperation will Eritrea be able to continue focusing on the path it is taking towards opening the country.

Background information:

The United Nations Human Rights Council can set up commissions of inquiry. The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea comprises three experts, who work independently of the Secretariat of the United Nations and the Member States. Former Australian diplomat Mike Smith is its chairperson.

Germany supported the establishment of a commission of inquiry on Eritrea in 2014 and backed the extension of its mandate the following year. The Commission presented its second report today in which it notes that crimes against humanity have been committed and calls for a referral to the International Criminal Court. The situation in Eritrea will be on the agenda of the talks during the Human Rights Council’s 32nd session, which will take place from 13 June to 1 July.

Link: external link, opens in new windowhttp://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIEritrea/PagescommissioninquiryonhrinEritrea.aspxI

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Germany – Federal Foreign Office.

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Source:: Statement by Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner, on the human rights situation in Eritrea

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AUC discusses Strategy (2016 – 2018) to Transform its Finance Function with International Partners

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The Directorate of Programming, Budgeting, Finance and Accounting (PBFA) of the African Union Commission (AUC) organized a meeting yesterday 9 June 2016 at the AUC Headquarters Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with International Partners highlighting pertinent areas of its strategies to transform the Finance function by 2018. The meeting was highly attended by International partners including United States of America, United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Canada, Netherlands and Denmark Embassies as well as the World Bank and the European Union. The objective of the meeting was to set a platform for communication and strengthening of the Partnership between the AUC and its International Partners.

Speaking during the meeting, Mrs. Assietou Sylla Diouf, the Director of PBFA expressed appreciation to Partners for their continued support to the AUC over the years and for taking time off their busy schedules to attend the highly crucial meeting. Mrs. Diouf highlighted some of the achievements of the PBFA within the past 5 years which included implementation of the SAP ERP and its roll out to a number of AU field offices, adoption of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), addressing the cash-carrying risk and the development of crucial policies such as revised financial rules and regulations, the fraud and anti-corruption policy and the enterprise risk management policy and among others.

However, despite the achievements attained so far, the Directorate is desirous, as part of its continuous improvement initiatives, to carry out projects to transform the Finance function into a “GO TO” Business Partner by 2018.

The Director presented the Directorate’s strategy over the next three years (2016 – 2018) which include, among others:

Restoring the Accounting function to the expected standards in terms of operational processes and reporting
Revisiting the Information System Architecture by deploying SAP to all AU Organs and implementing the SAP Grant Management and Business Planning and Consolidations Modules.
Revisiting the end to end Budget process.
Design and development of a comprehensive financial framework based on risk approach.

The Director further solicited the support of the Partners to enable the actualization of the strategy.

The meeting had significant contributions and feedback from the international partners, giving them insight into proposed plans to strengthen the Finance function so as to further enhance the Commission’s capacity to deliver on its objectives.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of African Union Commission (AUC).

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“Light in darkness for persons with albinism” – UN experts hail progress despite dire obstacles

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Speaking ahead of International Albinism Awareness Day on Monday 13 June, a group of seven United Nations human rights experts* hails the fast-growing movement to defend the human rights of persons with albinism, and their increased engagement to fight for their rights. However, they warn that the way ahead is still long and fraught with hurdles.

“On this second International Albinism Awareness Day, we celebrate persons with albinism who have overcome tremendous challenges to de-mystify albinism using the example of their lives.

These include Tanzania’s first Deputy Minister of State with albinism, Abdallah Possi and Kenya’s Member of Parliament with albinism, Isaac Mwaura.

Supermodels with albinism are also shattering stereotypes. From the United States of America, Hong Kong and South Africa, these models both humanize the uniqueness of albinism and showcase its beauty in a world that has ridiculed and misunderstood the condition for centuries.

Artists in various walks of life including the notable Salif Keita of Mali, Yellowman of Jamaica, the Winter brothers of the USA, have all paved the way for new voices such as that of Moses Swaray in Liberia and Keisha of Tanzania.

In sports, persons with albinism compete with success, such as gold medalist skier, Kelly Gallagher, and the well-known wrestling champion, Mwimba Texas from the DR Congo.

There are also numerous persons with albinism leading diplomatic offices, and those at the helm of civil society, leading non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and religious communities across the world.

These success stories were far less only five years ago. The increase today is a testament to the fruit of heightened awareness-raising activity around the world.

But despite these successes, it remains a serious matter of concern that, since the first International Day was celebrated last year, physical attacks against persons with albinism, particularly women and children, continue and have now been reported in areas and countries where it was believed not to have been an issue.

New cases of violence show that a lot of work remains to be done to bring tangible hope and change to the lives of persons with albinism, who continue to suffer discrimination and live in fear of attack. Moreover too often persons with albinism are not provided with reasonable accommodation for their visual impairment and do not have access to adequate health care.

In a time when diversity is celebrated, no one should be cast out, violated or attacked due to their appearance. As deep efforts in human rights have been made, persons with albinism should be enjoying the fruits of these efforts.

The road ahead toward achieving this goal is long yet possible. The success of those with albinism who have overcome formidable challenges and the commendable efforts made by some States on the issue are both a good beginning and a ray of hope.”

(*) The experts: Ms. Ikponwosa Ero, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Ms. Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Mr. Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; and Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

ENDS

The Independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

Check the special website: “People with albinism: not ghosts, but human beings – http://albinism.ohchr.org/

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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