May 23, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Witnesses: ‘Panic’ after deadly Manchester Arena blast

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“Panic”, “chaos”, “confusion” – these are just some of the words used by witnesses to describe what followed a blast at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in the northern English city of Manchester that killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens on Monday night.

“We just heard a bang,” concert-goer Sadat Khan told Al Jazeera.

“A few seconds later there was a massive stampede of panic and shouting and screaming,” Khan said.

He added that those near him, the majority of whom were children and teenagers, ran towards the exits, “jumping on chairs and trying to run as fast as they could”.

Police on Tuesday said they are still gathering information about the explosion, which they are treating as a “terrorist incident”.

Sam Ward, another witness, described a “huge” explosion.

“Imagine like a two-story brick wall had separated itself from a building,” Ward told Al Jazeera.

Video from inside the arena showed concert-goers screaming as they made their way toward exits amid a sea of pink balloons.

Catherine Macfarlane told the Reuters news agency the blast hit after the concert was over.

“We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming,” Macfarlane said.

“It was a huge explosion – you could feel it in your chest. It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out.”


People said they are treating the explosion as a “terrorist incident” [Andrew Yates/Reuters] [Reuters]

Police responded to reports of an explosion shortly after 10:35pm (21:35 GMT) at the arena, which has the capacity to hold 21,000 people, where the US singer had been performing to an audience that included many children.

Messages flooded social media as loved ones searched for news regarding family and friends who had attended the concert.

Near the arena, witnesses said the said they saw concert-goers fleeing in panic after hearing the explosion.

“We basically heard two loud bangs,” Alan Brennan told Al Jazeera. “One was very quickly followed by the other.”

He said he looked outside and could “see people running, screaming ‚Ķ there were lots of children screaming. It was horrific.”


Grande tweeted that she was “broken” after the incident¬†[Andrew Yates/Reuters]¬†

Paula Robinson, 48, was at the train station next to the arena with her husband when she felt the explosion and saw dozens of teenage girls screaming and running away from the arena.

Robinson took dozens of teenage girls to the nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel and tweeted out her phone number to worried parents telling them to meet her there. She said her phone has not stopped ringing since her tweet.

“Parents were frantic running about trying to get to their children,” she added.

A father who attended the concert with his young daughters spoke of disbelief. 

“Why? What’s the point? I mean we brought our children out for a day out thinking we’ll have a really good concert, they’ll remember the concert but probably for the wrong reasons. Innocent people.”


Still image taken from video shows a street scene near Manchester Arena after a blast [Reuters via Facebook user: Calimarco PT-Personal Trainer]

Shortly after the explosion, Greater Manchester Police tweeted asking people to stay away.

“The incident took place outside the venue in a public space,” police said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.”

The local ambulance service said on Twitter it had taken 59 casualties from the incident and treated “a number of walking wounded on scene”.

manchester arena attack location map infographic

British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the incident, calling it an “appalling terrorist attack”.

“We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack,” May said in a statement.

May will hold a meeting of the country’s top security committee at 9am (08:00 GMT).


A bomb disposal robot is unloaded outside the Manchester Arena [Nigel Roddis/EPA]

A “precautionary controlled explosion” was carried out near the venue on a package that was believed to be a suspect device, but turned out to be “abandoned clothing, not a suspicious item”.

Manchester Arena, which opened in 1995, is the largest indoor arena in Europe, according to its website.

A spokesman for Ariana Grande’s record label said the singer was “okay”. The concert was part of Grande’s The Dangerous Woman Tour.

Grande tweeted that she was “broken” after the incident.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/witnesses-panic-deadly-manchester-arena-blast-170523045601181.html

at 4:09 pm

Location of the Manchester Arena attack

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manchester arena terrorist attack map infographic

Source: Al Jazeera News

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2017/05/location-manchester-arena-attack-170523111954746.html

at 4:09 pm

James Bond actor Roger Moore dies

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Roger Moore, the longest-serving actor to play the iconic British spy James Bond, has died in Switzerland aged 89 after a brief bout with cancer.

His family confirmed on Tuesday via Twitter that “our father, Sir Roger Moore, passed away today”.

“We are all devastated,” the message said.

Moore acted in a total of seven James Bond films, including The Man With the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me.

Born in London on October 14, 1927, Moore – the only child of a policeman – studied painting before enrolling in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

He played a few small roles in theatre and films before his mandatory army duty, then moved to Hollywood in the 1950s.

In 1954, he appeared opposite Elizabeth Taylor in The Last Time I Saw Paris and with Eleanor Parker in Interrupted Melody the following year.

Beginning with Live and Let Die in 1973, Moore would make six more James Bond films: The Man With the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Octopussy, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only and A View to a Kill over the next 12 years.

And while the Bond of the Ian Fleming novels that the films were based on was generally described as being in his 30s, Moore would stay with the role until he was 57.

He continued to work regularly in films after handing over Bond to Timothy Dalton, but never with the same success.

His post-Bond films included such forgettable efforts as The Quest with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Spice World with the Spice Girls.

UNICEF role

In 1991, Moore became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, having been introduced to the role by the late actress Audrey Hepburn.

As Hepburn had, he threw much of his energy into the task.

“I felt small, insignificant and rather ashamed that I had traveled so much making films and ignored what was going on around me,” he said in describing how the work had affected him.

Moore received the Dag Hammarskjold Inspiration Award for his work with UNICEF and was named a commander in France’s National Order of Arts and Letters in 2008, an award he said was worth “more than an Oscar.”

That same year he published an autobiography, My Word Is My Bond, which included details about his work on the Bond films, his friendship with Hepburn, his encounters with Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and other stars, and his health struggles – including a bout with prostate cancer, which he beat.

Source: News agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/james-bond-actor-roger-moore-dies-170523144420772.html

at 4:06 am

New Venezuela clashes after man set ablaze

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Doctors rallied in Venezuela in the latest street protests against President Nicolas Maduro as the death toll climbed to 49 with the deepening unrest entering its eighth week.    

New clashes broke out between protesters and police on the outskirts of Caracas, where demonstrators blocked streets with barricades.    

After marches by various civil groups, it was the turn of the Venezuelan Medical Federation to vent its frustrations on the streets.    

More than a thousand of its sympathisers marched towards the health ministry in Caracas. Police fired tear gas to drive them back in scenes familiar after weeks of turmoil.    

WATCH: Venezuela: Thousands cross into Colombia for better prospects

“The country is verging on catastrophe. The health system is a disaster,” said Fernando Gudayol, a 50-year-old surgeon. “One is always afraid to come out, but we will carry on doing it until there is a change.” ¬† ¬†

The opposition is demanding elections to remove Maduro from power. They blame him for an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food, medicine and basic supplies.    

“A simple infection can turn into something serious for a lack of antibiotics and any kind of supplies, and for a lack of maintenance of the equipment,” said Eliecer Melear, a 41-year-old urologist.¬†¬†¬†¬†

Maduro’s supporters staged a counter-demonstration near the presidential palace.¬†¬†¬†¬†

“What lack of medicine?” asked medical student Rangel Vegas, 31. “We are in the streets and in the clinics giving a response to what communities need.”

Maduro called for a further “march for peace” on Tuesday.

Meanhwile, protesters set late president Hugo Chavez’s childhood home in western Venezuela on fire on Monday, an opposition lawmaker said.

While demonstrators are decrying Maduro for the country’s triple-digit inflation, rising crime, and shortages of food and medicine, they have also destroyed at least five statues commemorating Chavez, Maduro’s mentor and the founder of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution.”

Demonstrators lit the house in the city of Barinas, where Chavez spent his early years, aflame along with several government buildings, said Pedro Luis Castillo, a legislator who represents the area.

The burnings capped a violent day in Barinas – known as the cradle of Chavez’s revolution – during which protesters clashed with national guardsmen, businesses were shuttered, and roads were blocked with fire-filled barricades.

READ MORE: Huge marches as Venezuela marks 50 days of protest

Yorman Bervecia, 19, was shot and killed during a protest, according to the nation’s chief prosecutor. His death brings to at least 49 the number killed in two months of anti-government protests.

“It is pretty symbolic that the citizens are venting their frustrations on the author of the Bolivarian revolution,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas.

The street clashes engulfing Venezuela appear to be turning increasingly violent, with both security forces and youth protesters looking more unruly.

Opposition leaders are urging restraint from their followers, but say security forces and pro-government militias – not the protesters – are behind the vast number of deadly attacks.

Maduro accused protesters on Sunday of setting fire to a government supporter, saying what he calls “Nazi-fascist” elements are taking root inside the opposition’s ranks.

Maduro said Orlando Zaragoza, 21, suffered burns to almost all his body when he was doused with gasoline and set on fire at a protest in Caracas a day earlier. Videos circulating on social media show a man covered in flames fleeing a small mob.

It’s not clear what triggered the attack, which is under investigation, although some eyewitnesses told local media that Zaragoza was caught robbing demonstrators who had gathered by the tens of thousands to protest Maduro’s rule.

Source: News agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/venezuela-clashes-man-set-ablaze-170523010923129.html

at 4:06 am

UN envoy: Liberation of Mosul from ISIL is ‘imminent’

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The liberation of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul “is imminent” and the days of ISIL’s self-declared caliphate “are numbered”, the UN envoy for Iraq says.

But Jan Kubis told the UN Security Council on Monday that despite progress, fighting remains “a tremendous challenge” because ISIL fighters are increasingly using civilians as human shields in “a last-gasp effort that reveals little more than the inherent inhuman barbarity of the terrorists”.

Kubis paid tribute to Iraqi security forces and their coalition partners for trying to limit the impact of military operations to protect civilians, “even if that comes at the cost of prolonging a harsh, bitter campaign that continues to claim both civilian and military lives”.

Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led coalition, officially launched the operation to retake Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, in October.

The city’s east was declared “fully liberated” in January and the fight for the west was launched the following month. It has been marked by some of the most grueling and deadly combat in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to date.

The city fell to ISIL fighters during a lightning charge in June 2014 that left nearly one-third of Iraq in their hands and plunged the country into its most severe crisis since the US-led invasion in 2003.

ISIL’s “caliphate”, declared after the June 2014 military campaign, once stretched across northern Syria through much of northern and western Iraq. But the group, also known as ISIS and Daesh, is now under attack in both countries and the territory it controls has shrunk.

READ MORE: Iraq: Dozens killed in wave of suicide car bomb attacks

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has announced the next steps are to secure the Iraq-Syria border and to liberate west of Ninewa and Anbar governorates, the UN envoy said.

“Although large-scale military operations against ISIL will hopefully conclude by the end of this year, the security environment will remain volatile and will be characterised by continued cowardly terrorist attacks by Daesh, targeting civilians in many parts of the country,” Kubis said.

“Whenever given the opportunity, Daesh, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups will likely seek to tap into and deepen sectarian, tribal or ethnic divides, including by cooperating with criminal gangs,” he added.

To deal with these challenges, he said a long-term, comprehensive reform of the security sector “is imperative”.

Kubis expressed continuing concern at the delay in returning displaced residents to areas liberated long ago and at many hundreds of alleged disappearances that remain unresolved, saying these and other issues can undermine efforts towards national reconciliation and a political settlement in Iraq.

Source: Reuters news agency

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/envoy-liberation-mosul-isil-imminent-170523024826682.html

at 4:06 am

Ariana Grande concert: Blast a ‘terrorist incident’

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A blast at the end of an Ariana Grande¬†concert in the northern English city of Manchester has killed at least 19 people and wounded 50 others, with police calling it a “terrorist incident”.

If confirmed, it would be the deadliest attack on Britain since four men killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005.

A bomb disposal unit was on the scene at the Manchester Arena, with a fleet of ambulances early on Tuesday.

Police said they are still gathering information and are setting up a telephone hot-line to help people locate loved ones. 

“So far 19 people have been confirmed dead with around 50 others injured,” Ian Hopkins,¬†Greater Manchester chief constable, said in a statement, adding that those wounded were being treated¬†at six hospitals across Greater Manchester. ¬†¬†

“This is currently being treated as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise.”

Police responded to reports of an explosion shortly after 10:35pm (21:35 GMT) at the arena, which has the capacity to hold 21,000 people, where the US singer had been performing to an audience that included many children.

READ MORE: The legacy of the 7/7 London bombings

A video posted on Twitter showed fans screaming and running out of the venue.

“A huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena,” concert-goer Majid Khan, 22, told Britain’s Press Association.

Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters news agency the blast hit after the concert was over.

“We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming,” Macfarlane said.

“It was a huge explosion – you could feel it in your chest. It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out.”


A bomb disposal robot is unloaded outside the Manchester Arena [Nigel Roddis/EPA] 

Greater Manchester Police tweeted asking people to stay away.

“The incident took place outside the venue in a public space,” police said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.” ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†

The local ambulance service said on Twitter it had taken 59 casualties from the incident and treated “a number of walking wounded on scene”.¬†

A “precautionary controlled explosion” was carried out near the venue on a package that was believed to be a suspect device, but turned out to be “abandoned clothing, not a suspicious item”.

Manchester Arena, which opened in 1995, is the largest indoor arena in Europe, according to its website. 

A spokesman for Ariana Grande’s record label said the singer was “okay”. The concert was part of Grande’s The Dangerous Woman Tour.

Grande tweeted that she was “broken” after the incident.


Concert goers react after fleeing the Manchester Arena [Jon Super/Reuters] 

Paula Robinson, 48, was at the train station next to the arena with her husband when she felt the explosion and saw dozens of teenage girls screaming and running away from the arena.

Robinson took dozens of teenage girls to the nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel and tweeted out her phone number to worried parents telling them to meet her there. She said her phone has not stopped ringing since her tweet.

“Parents were frantic running about trying to get to their children,” she said.

READ MORE: Birmingham’s Muslims challenge ‘jihadi capital’ label

British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the “appalling terrorist attack”.

“We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack,” May said in a statement.

May will hold a meeting of the country’s top security committee at 9am (08:00 GMT).

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn commented on Twitter, saying: “Terrible incident in Manchester. My thoughts are with all those affected and our brilliant emergency services.”

The incident comes ahead of a general election, expected to take place on June 8. Reports said the ruling Conservative Party would suspend campaigning.

Nigel Farage, who led the anti-immigration UK Independence Party through Britain’s divisive vote to leave the European Union tweeted: “Horrified at the bombing in Manchester. No doubt we will find out who the perpetrator is soon.”


Police set up a cordon outside the Manchester Arena in northern England late on Monday [Jon Super/Reuters]

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/uk-police-confirmed-fatalities-manchester-concert-170522230211269.html

May 22, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Who and where are the Kurds?

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Up to 30 million Kurds, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, do not have an official country or homeland.

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago, Kurds dispersed into mostly four nations (Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran). They have pursued autonomy or independence.

In each of the four nations, Kurds have had years of unstable relationships with governments.

In 1992, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was formed by the Kurdistan National Assembly, the first democratically elected parliament in Kurdistan (and in Iraq).

Opinion: Iraq’s regional decentralisation debate is heating up

The KRG, which is a secular government, is modeled along the lines of a modern independent nation-state in a federation with the rest of Iraq.

Today at least 5.2 million people live in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to the KRG.

READ MORE: Sulaimania: Saving the dream city of a Kurdish prince

The government has its own parliament, military (the Peshmerga), borders and foreign policy.

According to the CIA factbook, Kurds make up about 10 percent of the population in Syria, 19 percent of the population of Turkey, 15-20 percent of the population of Iraq, and nearly 10 percent of Iran.

The infographic below shows where the Kurds live and who the major Kurdish factions are in the region.

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2017/05/kurds-170522122738085.html

at 4:03 pm

Indonesian police detain 141 men over ‘gay sex party’

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Indonesian police have detained 141 men including several foreigners in a weekend raid for allegedly holding a gay party at a sauna in northern Jakarta, Indonesian police said.

Police spokesperson Argo Yuwono said in a statement that those detained had “violated pornography laws”, and that the sauna was the venue for a sex party promoted as “The Wild One.”

“Our officers did an undercover investigation and raided the place on Sunday,” North Jakarta Chief Police Detective Nasriadi told AFP news agency.

Ten people including the sauna’s owner, several staff members, a gym trainer, receptionist and a security guard have been charged, while others were being questioned, police said.

If found guilty, they face penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines.

READ MORE: Caning law pushes Aceh’s LGBT further underground

Nasriadi said people attending the event had to had to pay an entry fee, which included admission to a striptease show on one floor of the building, and that the main “sex party” took place on another floor which was dimly lit.

Some of the detainees were paraded in front of the media at a press conference, wearing black masks on Monday.

The raid is the latest incident against homosexuality in the Muslim-majority nation.

A similar raid took place earlier this month in the city of Surabaya, where officials published HIV test results of several men suspected of gay sex.

Indonesia has strict anti-pornography laws under which offenders can face up to 15 years of imprisonment.

Last week, an Islamic court in Aceh sentenced two men to public caning after being convicted of engaging in gay sex, sparking condemnation from rights groups.  

Source: News agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/indonesian-police-detain-141-men-gay-sex-party-170522134905046.html

at 4:03 pm

Palestinians on strike in solidarity with prisoners

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Israeli forces have shot and injured at least 11 Palestinian protesters who staged a general strike in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Hundreds of protesters blocked roads in cities and towns of the West Bank on Monday. Stores and government offices closed down, public transportation ground to a halt and main thoroughfares in Palestinian cities were empty of people and cars.

The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency said Israeli forces shot and injured the 11 Palestinian protesters during clashes in the West Bank.

The Palestinian prisoners entered the 36th day of the mass hunger strike inside Israeli jails on Monday.

Ma’an estimates that more than 1,300 Palestinians are currently on strike behind bars in Israeli prisons, while Israeli outlets have placed the number in the high hundreds.

The Palestinian prisoners’ affairs committee also called for a “day of rage” on Tuesday, when Trump visits the West Bank, for “the voice of the prisoners to be heard by the president”.

READ MORE: Palestinian basic rights ‘not on the agenda’ for Trump

The hunger strike has been led by Marwan Barghouti, a senior leader in the Fatah faction imprisoned for 15 years, who said all other attempts to redress their concerns have failed.

The hunger strikers’ demands include longer and more regular family visits, landlines installed in prisons and better healthcare for the roughly 6,500 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

With rights groups and analysts arguing that Palestinian hunger strikers are entering a crucial stage, anger is growing in the streets.

Farah Bayadsi, a lawyer at the West Bank-based prisoner advocacy group Addameer, said hunger strikers have been unable to directly meet with observers from the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).

Despite their declining health situations, many prisoners have been moved back and forth between different jails, Bayadsi told Al Jazeera.

READ MORE: How Israel is targeting Palestinian institutions

Alaa Tartir, programme director at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, says Israeli authorities had hoped to break to the hunger strike before the US president’s visit.

“One of Israel’s priorities now, as Trump’s visit looms, is to end this hunger strike and squash solidarity with the hunger strikers in the streets of the occupied West Bank,” he told Al Jazeera ahead of Trump’s arrival. “To achieve these goals, using violent measures and repressing techniques is the panacea for Israel.”

Tartir added: “As hunger strike intensifies, Israel is becoming more concerned and nervous.”

The Israeli Prison Service did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.

Trump’s visit

The protests coincided with the current US President Donald Trump visit to Israel and occupied Palestinian territories.

The strike has closed down Jerusalem’s Old City, where Trump will visit Christian and Jewish holy sites later on Monday.

Trump opened his first visit to Israel on Monday, a two-day stop aimed at testing the waters for jumpstarting the dormant peace process.

The last round of peace talks, led by then-President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, fell apart in 2014.

One point of contention is the fate of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.

During his presidential campaign, Trump advocated breaking with decades of precedent and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, deeply alarming Palestinians.

He has since said the move was still being looked at.

Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, says Trump’s comments about striving for a negotiated solution between Israel and the Palestinians are not promising.

“The time is now for the world to end Israel military rule,” she told Al Jazeera. “It‚Äôs not going to come through negations; it’s only going to come through exerted efforts to hold the Israelis accountable by boycotting through sanctions and bringing them before the international criminal courts.”

OPINION: Palestinians expect nothing good from Trump

“That Palestinians have to negotiate their freedom and prove ourselves worthy of freedom is repugnant,” Buttu added, arguing that Trump should use its multi-billion dollar financial support to Israel as weight to pressure it from ending its occupation of Palestinian territory.

“I have very little faith that he will be able to do anything with the Israelis to change their policy,” she concluded. “I don‚Äôt anticipate anything positive is going to come out.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/palestinians-strike-solidarity-prisoners-170522135954198.html

at 3:58 am

UN urges Libya to release all refugees, asylum seekers

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The head of the UN refugee agency has urged Libyan authorities to free all asylum seekers and refugees from its detention centres.

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, visited one of the detention centres in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Sunday.

“I fully appreciate that the government has security concerns,” he said, but added that “other solutions” could be found for people fleeing countries in conflict such as Syria and Somalia.

Thousands of refugees are being held in dozens of detention centres in Libya, after being stopped or rescued from rickety boats as they attempted the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe.

“I was shocked at the harsh conditions in which refugees and migrants are held,” Grandi said in a statement released on Sunday by the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

“Children, women and men who have suffered so much already should not have to endure such hardship.”

UN needs to do more for refugees in Libya

The UN refugee agency has secured the release of more than 800 refugees and asylum seekers from Libyan detention centres over the past year and a half, the statement said.

Grandi promised to reinforce his agency’s presence in Libya if security conditions allowed it, and also to provide assistance to thousands of Libyans displaced by conflict.

“The time has come for us, as the UN refugee agency, to step up our presence and activities in the country,” Grandi later told AFP news agency.

He said that doing so could take time for political and security reasons, however.

“But meanwhile we are doing whatever we can to help the Libyans manage better these issues,” he said.

Source: AFP news agency

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/urges-libya-release-refugees-asylum-seekers-170521203216971.html

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