The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) confirmed that it is seeking details from Australian authorities about recent media reports of the navy forcing boats, presumed to be carrying asylum-seekers on their way to Australia, back to Indonesian territorial waters, as well as reports of plans to buy and provide vessels for future “push-backs.”

The United Nations and its humanitarian partners are ramping up efforts to assist more than 800,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon who are facing the onslaught of cold weather, rains and snowfall as a massive winter storm named “Alexa” moves across the region, the UN news service informs.

The UN appealed for 301 million dollars to provide humanitarian assistance to typhoon hit regions of the Philippines where aid workers are labouring around the clock to get in urgently needed survival supplies, such as food, clean water, shelter and basic medicines.

Bulgaria is building a fence in part of its border with Turkey to thwart the entry of illegal migrants, most of them asylum seekers flying from the war in Syria. The facility is a 107 km wire fence between the towns of Lesovo and Kraynovo and will be ready by February next year. Over 8,000 Syrian asylum seekers already crossed the border.

EU leaders decided to reinforce search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean to detect vessels and boats with migrants and prevent deaths and tragedies like the recent one in Lampedusa. But a reform on migration and asylum matters will have to wait until June 2014.

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman called on United Nations Member States to boost their assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians that have fled the crisis in their country, while urging for a political solution to end the conflict.