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Most of 200,000 unaccompanied child migrants are Afghans: Report

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: September 2, 2020)

Over 200,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Europe over the past five years, with the highest percentage from Afghanistan. 

In a new report by Save the Children, published on Wednesday and titled Protection Beyond Reach, the organization said that most unaccompanied children in Europe are from Afghanistan, while others are from Syria and some from Africa. 

The report stated that the total number of children arriving is likely to be much higher, with many being forced into an existence in the shadows of Europe, at risk of exploitation and abuse.

In this five-year period, more than 700 children, including babies, lost their lives trying to reach European shores, during perilous journeys by sea.

While some of the children have been offered safety and protection, many struggle to get refugee status, live in constant fear of being deported or detained, and are unable to reunite with family members living elsewhere in Europe’ , the report stated. 

Save the Children said many children are fleeing from countries facing ongoing or protracted crises. “The conflict in Afghanistan – where most unaccompanied children in Europe are from – remains among the deadliest for children, who make up almost a third of all casualties in the country.”

However, many EU countries have stated that Afghanistan is safe for the children to return to. 

The report highlighted the mental health problems these children face and stated that they suffer nightmares and other symptoms of trauma and depression, including self-harm because of their experience in their country of origin and the arduous journey, their permits of stay being under constant review and their fears of being deported.

“While some improvements have been made, these are overshadowed by harsh border policies and measures to prevent vulnerable children from entering Europe altogether. Europe needs to draw lessons from the past. New migration policies should not come at the cost of children’s lives,” said Anita Bay Bundegaard, Director of Save the Children Europe.

According to Save the Children, most of the 200,000 unaccompanied children come from Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea and end up staying in Germany, Greece, Italy and Sweden.

Save the Children has meanwhile called on the EU to ensure the rights of children are at the heart of asylum and migration decisions and for the EU and its leaders to ensure that steps are taken to keep vulnerable children safe. 

“They must ensure that children can immediately access asylum and protection once they arrive in Europe, instead of being pushed back,” the report stated. 

The report pointed out that in Greece particularly, limitations on freedom of movement prevents people from leaving the islands while their asylum claims are being processed. According to Save the Children, since August 2019, on average 10,000 children were stranded on the Greek islands in inhumane conditions. 

Reliefweb meanwhile stated last month that 30,200 refugees and asylum-seekers reside on the Aegean islands. The majority of the population on the Aegean islands are from Afghanistan (48 percent), Syria (19 percent) and DRC (six percent). 

Women account for 22 percent of the population, and children for 32 percent of whom nearly seven out of 10 are younger than 12 years old. 

Approximately 12 percent of the children are unaccompanied or separated from their families and are mainly from Afghanistan

According to the report, discussions in Europe are no longer about the protection of asylum seekers but about the protection of borders and reducing the number of asylum seekers. 

Save the Children said it believes that the best guarantee to keep children safe and protected is a continued investment in strong child protection systems, including as part of asylum and migration laws.

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NATO Defence Ministers meet to address security challenges

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday evening that alliance defense ministers had taken “another important step” and agreed to establish a new NATO Space Center in Germany. 

Addressing an online press conference after the first day of the two-day defense minister’s meeting, Stoltenberg said the new center will “help to coordinate Allied space activities; support NATO missions and operations from space, including with communications and satellite imagery; and protect Allied space systems by sharing information about potential threats.”

He also said they had addressed Russia’s growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles and said the “challenge is serious, and growing in scale and complexity.”

A number of other issues were also addressed including that of new air and missile defense systems; strengthening NATO’s advanced conventional capabilities; and new fifth-generation fighter aircraft. 

Stoltenberg stated that ministers had also received a comprehensive report on the state of critical infrastructure, including ports and airports; supplies of fuel, food and medical equipment; and telecommunications, including 5G.

“While we have made progress, there are still vulnerabilities. For instance foreign control of the critical infrastructure upon which our societies and our militaries rely,” he said.

“Countries like China are investing aggressively in ports and airports, and our telecommunication networks remain vulnerable to attacks from the outside, and compromise from the inside.

“So we must continue to build up our resilience. And we have agreed that we will strengthen our resilience pledge when NATO leaders meet next year.”

On Friday, NATO’s training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq will be discussed.  

Addressing a pre-ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security and supports the Afghan peace talks.

He also said however that: “The Taliban must live up to their commitments, significantly reduce the levels of violence, and pave the way for a ceasefire.” 

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UN to probe Takhar airstrike after locals claim children were killed

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Thursday night it was investigating an Afghan National Army (ANA) airstrike in Takhar province that reportedly killed 12 children. 

In a post on Twitter, the mission said: “UNAMA civilian protection team following up on allegations of ANA airstrike yesterday against Taliban in Takhar province killing 12 children, girls & boys, & injuring 18 other civilians.”

UNAMA also stated that the United Nations will issue findings when complete. 

This comes after local officials in Takhar said early Thursday morning a mosque had been targeted in an airstrike killing children and injuring many others, including the mosque’s imam. 

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh rejected the claims in a Facebook post later in the day and said Taliban members had been targeted and eliminated. 

“The news of the killing of children in a mosque in Takhar is baseless. Those who dragged our forces to dust and blood yesterday were destroyed, and we have undeniable proof,” Saleh wrote.

This came a day after the Taliban carried out a massive attack against Afghan security forces in the province, killing as many as 50 soldiers. 

Reuters reported that Abdul Qayoom Hayrat, head of the provincial health department in Takhar, said that 10 of the dead soldiers were members of the Afghan special forces.

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COVID-19

Brazilian volunteer in COVID-19 vaccine trial dies 

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

Brazilian health authority Anvisa confirmed a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had died but said the trial would continue.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial,” Reuters reported.

A source told Reuters the trial would have been suspended if the volunteer who died had received the COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting the person was part of the control group that was given a meningitis vaccination.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which confirmed the volunteer was Brazilian, said a review committee had suggested the trial continue. 

The university is helping to coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil.

 

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