26 July 2019

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Libya Migrants

Good afternoon and happy Friday, everyone.  I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Libya.

The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the news that some 150 refugees and migrants lost their lives after the boats they were in capsized off the coast of Libya on 25 July.  Children and pregnant women are among the missing.

He is also concerned by reports that many of the survivors rescued by the Libyan coast guard were placed in the Tajoura migrant detention centre, which is close to a military facility and was hit by an airstrike on 2 July that resulted in more than 50 deaths.

The Secretary-General reiterates that Libya is not a safe country of asylum and that refugees must be treated with dignity and respect, and in accordance with international law.

In addition, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, said this was the worst Mediterranean tragedy this year.  In a social media post, he added that restoring rescue at sea, ending refugee and migrant detention in Libya and increasing safe pathways out of Libya must happen before it is too late for many more desperate people.  UNHCR urges States to come forward with additional help, including further resettlement places and other safe pathways out of Libya for people who are vulnerable and at risk.  In addition, UNHCR says more must be done to arrest and prosecute the ruthless traffickers and smugglers who profit from people’s desperation.

**Security Council

This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, briefed the Security Council on a recent visit to Afghanistan.

She began by offering her deepest condolences to the Government and people of Afghanistan following yesterday’s attacks.  Indiscriminate attacks that kill women and children are an affront to our humanity and a crime under international humanitarian law, she said.  The United Nations stands with Afghans as they work for lasting peace and security.

Afghanistan is at an important crossroads, the Deputy Secretary-General told members of the Council.  She welcomed the Government’s commitment to peace and to upholding the democratic rights of all Afghans, but she also reminded them that the voices of women, especially the victims must be heard at the table in the peace process and beyond.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacebuilding and Political Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, had travelled with the Deputy Secretary-General.  In her remarks to the Security Council this morning, she called on the Afghan people to hold a presidential election that will be credible and on time.


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that, despite repeated calls by the United Nations to respect the principle of precaution and distinction in the conduct of hostilities, the latest relentless campaign of airstrikes by the Government and its allies in north-western Syria has continued to hit medical facilities, schools and other civilian infrastructure such as markets and bakeries.

She said that it seems highly unlikely, given the persistent pattern of such attacks, that they are all being hit by accident.  She warned that intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes, and those who have ordered them or carried them out are criminally responsible for their actions.

At least 10 different locations — 8 in Idlib and 2 in rural Aleppo — have experienced civilian casualties as a result of airstrikes in the past 10 days alone, causing a minimum of 103 civilian deaths, including at least 26 children. Three of the attacks took place this past Wednesday.  The High Commissioner said that her Office has documented the killing of at least 450 civilians since the latest campaign by the Government and its allies in north-west Syria began more than three months ago.


Turning to Honduras, our humanitarian colleagues today said that, as of yesterday, the Government has registered nearly 29,000 dengue cases.  Honduras declared a national health emergency earlier this month due to the growing number of cases of dengue.  So far, 54 people have died, the majority children and adolescents under 15 years old.  The UN is supporting national and local authorities with medical supplies and equipment; community vector control and surveillance; door-to-door awareness campaigns and fumigation; and direct technical support for community health centres.

**Photo Exhibit

And a future event for you.  On Monday, 29 July, at 12:30 p.m., the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will open a photo exhibition at the Sputnik area of the UN Visitors Lobby on girls trapped in crises around the world.

Titled “One Day, I Will”, the exhibit will be presented by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and supported by the Permanent Missions of France and Morocco.  The portraits will be displayed on the outside fence of UN Headquarters on First Avenue and in the UN Visitors Lobby from 29 July to 9 September.  Monday’s event will kick off the 2019 World Humanitarian Day campaign, which will honour women humanitarians during the month of August.

That’s it from me. Are there any questions?  All right.  Over to you, Monica.

For information media. Not an official record.