Till now, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been supporting the authorities in the so-called “hotspots” on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants were received, assisted, and registered. Under the EU-Turkey deal, which came into effect this past Sunday, these sites have now become detention facilities, and all new “irregular” migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands will be returned to Turkey.UNHCR has a policy on opposing mandatory detention. Accordingly, it has suspended some of activities at all closed centres on the islands, including provision of transport to and from these sites.“UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention,” the agency said in a press release. “We will continue to assist the Greek authorities to develop an adequate reception capacity.” UNHCR’s new role in Greece Going forward, UNHCR will focus on protection monitoring to ensure that refugee and human rights standards are upheld, and provide information on the rights and procedures to seek asylum.UNHCR staff are identifying people with specific needs and will continue to be present at the shoreline and sea port to provide life-saving assistance, including transport to hospitals where needed. They are counselling new arrivals on asylum in Greece, including on family reunification and on access to services.UNHCR expressed concern that the EU-Turkey deal is being implemented before the required safeguards are in place in Greece, noting that Greece does not have sufficient capacity on the islands for assessing asylum claims, nor the proper conditions to accommodate people decently and safely pending an examination of their cases.The Greek authorities have already separated an estimated 8,000 refugees and migrants who had arrived on the islands before 20 March from people arriving after that date and therefore will be subject to the new return policy.Uncertainty is making the new arrivals nervous, the agency said. Many still hope that the border will open. Many have run out of money.There is also an urgent need for information. The Greek police have been distributing leaflets in Arabic and Persian informing people that the border is closed and advising them to go to camps where better conditions are provided. But the capacity of nearby camps has been reached, and more camps need to be opened including for candidates for relocation.
“I am puzzled and disappointed by this decision by the Myanmar Government,” said UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee. “This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.”Ms. Lee had been due to visit Myanmar in January to assess the state of human rights countrywide, including the human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.The Special Rapporteur said she hoped Myanmar would revisit the decision.This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.“Only two weeks ago, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative informed the Human Rights Council of its continuing cooperation with the UN, referencing the relationship with my role as Special Rapporteur,” she said. “Now I am being told that this decision to no longer cooperate with me is based on the statement I made after I visited the country in July.”Ms. Lee had previously been afforded cooperation and access to Myanmar, and had maintained a relationship of mutual respect with the Government. The Government has now claimed that her end-of-mission statement in July was biased and unfair. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate requires two visits to Myanmar a year, in order to report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. Since taking up the mandate in June 2014, she has visited six times. While the Government had responded positively to past requests to visit, access to some areas had been consistently refused, with the authorities citing security concerns. The Government is also not cooperating with the Human Rights Council independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar, established in March 2017. “It is a shame that Myanmar has decided to take this route,” said Ms. Lee. “The Government has repeatedly denied violations of human rights are occurring throughout Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine state. They have said that they have nothing to hide, but their lack of cooperation with my mandate and the fact-finding mission suggests otherwise,” said the expert.