Albania’s bunkersFrom the 1960s to the 1980s, Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha fortified Albania by building more than 750,000 bunkers in anticipation of an invasion from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Greece and NATO. In the event of an invasion, rather than relying on the services of the army, Hoxha believed that citizens should take up arms and seek refuge in the bunkers scattered across the entire country. The invasion did not occur and Albania’s bunkers, serving no purpose, faced abandonment and decay. Four decades later, Albanians have found a new purpose for them. In addition to individuals using the bunkers for personal needs, the growing tourism industry would facilitate a new use for the abandoned structures.

Albanian Tourism

From 1946 to 1992, Albania was under the rule of a strict communist regime that barred the country from international tourism. Albania’s past significantly tainted the international community’s image of the country. However, in the past two decades, the Albanian government has managed to improve the attractiveness of the country as reflected by the increase in tourists.

Between 2007 and 2017, the number of tourists to Albania increased fivefold from about 1.1 million annual visitors to about 5.2 million annual visitors. The increase was stimulated by direct actions from the government such as fiscal incentives for constructing new hotels in the country as well as concrete development plans advertising the geographic location of the country and its rich cultural heritage. While in 2002 the poverty rate stood at 49.7%, the country made major strides with a poverty rate of 33.8% in 2017.

Revitalization of Albania’s Bunkers

To earn an income, many Albanians turn to tourism for work. In particular, the free-standing historic bunkers are undergoing refurbishing to serve as house tattoo studios, cafes, restaurants and even accommodations for tourists. In 2012, professors and students from the POLIS University and FH-Mainz in Germany embarked on the Bed & Bunker project to repurpose Albania’s bunkers as bed and breakfast hostels for tourists. The group began this project with the mission of preserving Albania’s heritage, succeeding in raising awareness for this cause.

Albanian-Canadian architect, Elian Stefa, has come up with further step-by-step guides and proposals for revitalizing the bunkers. In other words, people are recognizing the bunkers’ value and transformative plans have already come to fruition while other repurposing plans will soon occur.

Economic Growth

The demand for Albania’s bunkers as hotels and service amenities for tourists is growing. Bunkers, as displays of the country’s convoluted but rich history, has helped bring down the unemployment rate and stimulate economic growth in Albania. Between 2014 and 2020, the unemployment rate almost halved, decreasing from 18.06% to 11.7%. Furthermore, the GDP has risen as well with growth from about $12 billion in 2010 to roughly $15.3 billion in 2019. With more people working, Albania was able to decrease its poverty rate to 33.8% in 2017. Furthermore, since the bunkers are scattered throughout the country, the economic growth is not only limited to urban centers, with communities in the countryside also benefiting.

Using History to Serve the Present

Built in the 20th century, Albania’s bunkers were abandoned as the anticipated war they were built for did not manifest. This, however, did not discourage individuals from revitalizing Albania’s bunkers to serve the growing tourism sector. This growth had a positive effect, incentivizing individuals to ensure the preservation of the bunkers and uphold the rich Albanian heritage. Moreover, the resulting increase in revenue from tourism has created new jobs, reducing the poverty rate by 16% in 15 years.

– Max Sidorovitch
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in GermanyFrom 2006 to 2016, elderly poverty in Germany (people older than 55 years old) increased from 4.5 to 5.6 million people. According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), the percentage of people who face poverty while receiving retirement money could increase from 16.8% to 21.6% by 2039. In other words, one in five German pensioners could face impoverished conditions by 2039. Germany intends to combat elderly poverty with a basic pension plan.

Elderly Poverty in Germany

People who receive “less than 60%” of their average working salary from their retirement funds are currently considered at risk of facing poverty. This equals a monthly retirement income of less than €905 or $997. The percentage of people depending on other financial government assistance may also rise from 9% to 12% by 2039. These people would have monthly retirement incomes of no more than €777.

3 Main Pension Systems

A German pensioner can choose from three main pension systems. The German pension apparatus consists of a “pay-as-you-go system,” which is combined with other supplemental plans. The supplemental pension plans intend to provide funds in addition to the state pension that pensioners already receive.

  1. State Pension. This pension plans awards about 70% of net income to people older than 65 who have been working in Germany for at least five years. Enrollment in the state pension plan is mandatory for everyone working in Germany.
  2. Company Pension. The company pension plan is a plan workers can monetarily contribute to via the employer. The plan intends to augment the state pension plan and has become the most popular retirement plan in Germany.
  3. Private Retirement Scheme. This plan is established through insurance organizations and banks. The German government promotes these plans through tax incentives and bonus benefits.

Despite the three main pension plans that Germany has implemented, those working for a lifetime in Germany still struggle to make ends meet after retiring. This is especially relevant for those employed in low-earning careers.

The Basic Pension Plan

Since the amount of state pension given to a pensioner depends on their net income, those who participated in low-earning jobs are at increased risk of facing poverty. To address this, Germany recently decided to implement a new basic pension plan, which ensures that those who have been working in Germany for a significant amount of time will receive a basic amount of pension.

In January 2021, the German federal government enacted the basic pension plan to combat elderly poverty in Germany. This plan guarantees that individuals who have contributed to the German state pension system for a minimum of 35 years receive a basic pension in addition to their original state pension. The additional basic pension ensures that the pensioner has enough money to pay for fundamental necessities. No application is necessary as the government utilizes an automatic system for these basic pension benefits.

According to German legislator Malu Dreyer, more than 1.4 million people will benefit from the basic pension plan. Furthermore, a significant portion of women will benefit from the plan as four out of five beneficiaries will be women. The plan also rewards those who took time off work for familial caretaking as long as their total employment time meets the minimum requirements.

Looking to the Future

In hopes of decreasing elderly poverty rates, Germany implemented the basic pension plan, which aims to provide its low-earning citizens with enough funds to secure their basic needs after retiring. The state pension only provides the pensioner with 70% of their net income, which can be problematic for citizens who spent their lives working in low-paying positions.

The German government estimates that the plan will benefit more than 1.4 million people, providing hope that more than a million elderly citizens will not live the remaining years of their lives in poverty. Overall, the German government presents a clear path ahead for combating elderly poverty in Germany.

Lauren Spiers
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19's Impact on Women and Poverty in CroatiaThe Republic of Croatia is a country located in Central and Southeast Europe, bordering Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Montenegro. Since proclaiming independence in 1991, the country introduced policies, programs and reforms to improve the quality of life of its citizens. But, COVID-19’s impact on women and poverty in Croatia has had serious consequences for the country.

COVID-19 and Unemployment

COVID-19 devastated many countries in a social, political and economic areas. However, Croatia was particularly hit hard. Starting in 2008, the country experienced a global financial crisis that had tremendous consequences. The European Commission Autumn Economic published a report estimating a recession of approximately 9.6% GDP in 2020, nearly 7% worse than the previous year. The main reasons behind the decrease are the fall in the tourism sector, domestic consumption and eradication of exports. In addition, registered unemployment skyrocketed by 21.3% during the first year of the pandemic.

Poverty in Croatia also increased after two earthquakes in 2020 negatively impacted Croatia’s pandemic and health crisis management. In response, the European Union deployed resources for the recovery of all the member countries, especially those who also suffered natural disasters during the pandemic.

Despite this bleak outlook, an analysis by The Ministry of Finance argues for an “optimistic growth of 5%” in 2021, provided Croatia sees an increase in domestic demand and continues receiving recovery funds from the European Union.

Women and Poverty in Croatia

According to a report by the World Bank, COVID-19 is not the only factor pushing women towards poverty. Undoubtedly, women are more likely to be employed in the informal, low-skilled and part-time jobs that were hardest hit by the pandemic. In many cases, these jobs disappeared and women suffered income loss. In addition, women who lost their jobs or work at home are less likely to be guaranteed social security and health coverage by the emergency packages created since the outbreak of COVID-19. For this reason, COVID-19’s impact on women and poverty in Croatia has been severe.

Both the European Union and the World Bank are aware of the many barriers women have to overcome. In response, they created several policies to find a solution. Some of the policies include providing equal access to the labor market for all women and removing any barriers to women’s employability.

The Government Response

Croatian authorities have become aware of the extreme need to reduce poverty in Croatia, especially for women. In 2019, authorities passed a National Action Plan for Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) to be carried out until 2023. This plan aims to prevent, protect and guarantee women’s rights in the country. The policy seeks to ensure that every woman has access to education, public health and active participation in the labor market.

The NAP prioritizes nine objectives to aid in prevention, participation, protection and implementation. Among these objectives are an increase in women’s role in decision-making processes and the promotion of women’s rights in conflict settings. The NAP works on the back of previous legislation that aimed to increase women’s participation in higher education. For example, women represented 59.9% of university graduates from 2015 to 2018. The same period saw a 4% increase in women in human resources and a 2% increase in female professors.

To support women’s employment, authorities introduced legislation to improve family life through maternity and parental benefits.  For example, the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy (MDFYSP) supports projects such as lengthening daycare operations, creating alternative education programs and providing children with meals. By supporting scholarships and child care, parents have more time to dedicate to their professional careers.

Hope for the Future

In conclusion, COVID-19 drastically affected Croatia in many ways. In particular, women suffered heavy damage from the health crisis. But, the international community and the Croatian authorities stepped in to design programs and resources for the eradication of poverty. Which, if the data is any indication, has promising results for the future of poverty in Croatia.

– Cristina Alverez
Photo: Flickr

TusseThe 19-year-old singer Tusse recently represented the country of Sweden at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. Tusse first rose to fame after advancing to the semi-finals of Sweden’s Got Talent and later winning Swedish Idol in 2019. With the song “Voices,” Tusse took 14th place at Eurovision. As a Congolese refugee, Tusse uses his platform to educate and empower young people facing similar challenges as he has.

Tusse’s Journey

Tusse, whose real name is Tousin Michael Chiza, was born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 2002. At 5 years old, Tusse and his family fled to a Ugandan refugee camp due to the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He left with his aunt, siblings and cousins. The escape effort separated Tusse from his parents. The family spent three years in the refugee camp until Sweden granted them asylum. The family then settled in Kullsbjörken, Sweden, in 2015 when Tusse was 13 years old. Tusse says that retaining his Congolese culture, filled with music and dancing, is what drove him to become a performer and singer, ultimately leading him to the Eurovision stage.

Civil War-Torn Country

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second-largest African country and has faced conflict for decades. The country experienced its second civil war from 1997 to 2003, only a year after the end of the First Congo War. Sometimes called the “African World War” due to the involvement of several neighboring countries, the war claimed close to six million lives directly through the effects of fighting or indirectly through malnutrition, financial despair or disease. Economic and political reasons surrounding the nation’s vast mineral wealth fueled the war.

Despite a peace deal at the war’s conclusion, violent conflict continued in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This conflict was due to poor governance, weak institutions and rising corruption. Armed conflict rose among dozens of rebel groups, consequently affecting and disrupting civilians’ lives. More than 2.1 million people were newly displaced in 2017 and 2018, nationally. In Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the highest number of internally displaced people at more than five million.

Overall, the conflict has subjected Congolese residents to significant human rights violations, extreme poverty and widespread rape and sexual assault. Efforts from the African Union and the United Nations to help implement sustainable development and defuse tensions have struggled to see success. As a result, most civilians are forced to flee and seek asylum elsewhere.

Sweden’s Relationship with Refugees

Sweden has one of the most generous refugee policies in Europe. Sweden has actively welcomed refugees seeking asylum in the country. However, there has been some domestic pushback to this hospitable policy, particularly in 2015, following the migration crisis when Sweden received more than 160,000 refugees, the most per capita in the European Union. This tension was heightened when many other European countries were unwilling to accept the influx of refugees. As a result, the Swedish government passed a temporary measure limiting refugee rights to the bare minimum of what the country had previously agreed to under international conventions. Despite this, Sweden continues to receive significantly more refugees than the rest of Europe.

Tusse’s Advocacy

Tusse uses his platform and story to empower other young refugees and educate his fans on refugees’ challenges. He works with UNICEF and recently performed at Sweden’s UNICEF Gala. UNICEF utilizes partners on the ground to deliver assistance to displaced families and support children’s needs and rights. Among other projects, the organization provides and distributes hygiene kits, clean water, vaccinations for children and treatments for malnutrition.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) supported Tusse and two other Eurovision performers with refugee backgrounds prior to the competition. Manizha, a singer representing Russia, fled Tajikistan in 1994, and Ahmad Jodeh, a Dutch ballet dancer, is a Syrian refugee.

Tusse uses his music to share and voice his experiences as a refugee. At Eurovision, he sang “Voices,” which is about “fellowship, freedom and the importance of all voices being heard.” By gracing the Eurovision stage, Tusse brought awareness to the struggles of his home country, the challenges of adjusting to life as a refugee abroad and the resilience of young refugees.

– Simran Pasricha
Photo: UNHCR

COVID-19 Vaccinations in SerbiaSerbia, a country located in Europe, has seen success when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine statistics, approvals and productions. The Serbian government is providing incentives to encourage citizens to get vaccinated with the aim of increasing vaccination rates. The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia indicates a positive upturn in Serbia’s fight against the virus.

Vaccine Statistics in Serbia

Serbia’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign has been successful so far as more than 38% of Serbians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 5, 2021. So far, the government has administered more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia. According to the latest COVID-19 statistics from Reuters, Serbia is experiencing roughly 114 new daily infections, equating to 11 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people tested. During the last officially reported week, Serbia reached a daily average of more than 10,000 administered COVID-19 vaccinations.

Pfizer Vaccine Approval for Children

Serbia’s medical agency now allows children between the ages of 12 and 15 to receive the Pfizer vaccine. The Medicines and Medical Devices Agency of Serbia approved this after carefully considering the research of many clinical trials conducted in other nations. Serbian government health official, Mirsad Djerlek, says children with underlying health conditions are a priority as they are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

Vaccine Incentives

Serbia’s initial intention was to have half of the population vaccinated by the end of June 2021. Data indicates that Serbia did not reach this goal, but nevertheless, Serbia is still reaching a significant number of people with its vaccination campaign.

To encourage citizens to get vaccinated, President Aleksandar Vucic promised that citizens who got vaccinated before the end of May 2021 would receive a cash incentive of $30. Vucic’s expectation was to have three million people vaccinated by the end of May 2021. Serbia has made vaccination sites more accessible with locations in shopping malls. To further boost vaccination rates, Serbia announced that it would also be offering vouchers to those who get vaccinated.

Partnering with Russia

Serbia has partnered with Russia to ramp up Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine manufacturing. In June 2021, Serbia’s Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera “Torlak” in Belgrade began production. President Vucic and Russian President Vladimir Putin came to this agreement while acknowledging the importance of collaborative efforts in fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccine Successes

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia, the country has seen success so far. Serbia is getting close to vaccinating half of its population. More categories of the population are now eligible for the Pfizer vaccine and Serbians are receiving incentives to encourage vaccinations. Serbia is also giving a helping hand to other countries by providing vaccine donations to several countries. In May 2021, Serbia donated 100,000 vaccines to the Czech Republic, among other donations. As a production site for Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, Serbia is certainly playing a significant role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Human Trafficking in Ukraine
Human trafficking in Ukraine is a serious and overwhelming issue that has affected the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Ukraine is one of the most prominent countries in Europe for human trafficking with over 260,000 Ukrainian trafficking victims over the last 30 years. Despite this disheartening number, Ukraine’s government and some organizations are fighting human trafficking in Ukraine.

The History of Trafficking in Ukraine

When Ukraine became a separate nation in 1991, the slave and human trafficking trade skyrocketed. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has worsened the issue as it has caused displacement for millions of individuals. These individuals are far more susceptible to ending up in the trafficking trade because of the vulnerable state they are in due to the turmoil between the two countries, according to the Library of Congress Law. Traffickers often target the Roma community of Ukraine, a nomadic Indo-Aryan group of people, because they lack access to state social assistance programs. Low-skilled laborers, as well as children in state-run orphanages, are targets for traffickers as well. This is because they are poor and powerless in the eyes of the country.

Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking in Ukraine

Ukraine is taking huge strides in its governmental policies to combat human trafficking. The International Organization for Migration Ukraine Counter-Trafficking Program aims to support efforts to combat trafficking in Ukraine. It also provides access for victims to receive “assistance and justice.” The IOM program identified and was able to help around 600 victims of human trafficking from January to June 2019, with about 16,000 victims having received assistance throughout 19 years of the program’s existence. Without the help of the IOM, efforts towards tracking down victims and traffickers would not be as prominent.

Governmental Progress in Fighting Human Trafficking in Ukraine

Ukraine’s government has made huge strides in law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking in the country. This includes increasing the number of investigated offenses and apprehensions from previous years. The government has increased financial assistance to victims of human trafficking. It has also been providing shelter through government housing, psychological assistance and medical care. The Ministry for Social Policy has continually made attempts at anti-trafficking efforts by creating Child Protection Day and World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

Looking Ahead

The issue of human trafficking in Ukraine is on an upswing. This is because there is more governmental recognition of the way it is impacting Ukrainian citizens. With the efforts of organizations like IOM, there are more forces garnering action towards fighting human trafficking in Ukraine.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Rural Europe
In Spain, 10% of the population occupies 70% of the land. Meanwhile, the rest of the population lives in only 1,500 large and middle-sized cities. Similar to other European countries, Spain has undergone dramatic demographic changes in the last decade. Of towns with fewer than 1,000 residents, 90% have seen people move away, leading to grocery stores and other essential businesses having to shut down. The benefits of resettling refugees in rural Europe are on display in Pareja.

A school in Pareja, Spain might have had to close if not for the refugee families with young children who recently moved to the area. Towns With A Future Association is an NGO connecting refugees and small towns. The nonprofit helped one Venezuelan family relocate from Madrid to Pareja, a town with 400 inhabitants. Moving to a small town allowed the family to make connections with locals more easily, find suitable jobs and go off government support sooner. Pareja has had great success in welcoming refugees and the town has a desire for new life and increased prosperity. Every town is different and challenges exist for both refugees and receiving communities.

Demographic Changes

The demographics of the European Union (E.U.) are changing. A European Commission study from 2020, “The Impact of Demographic Change,” took a look at these changes and how they could affect European society. Europe has an increasingly older population due to high life expectancies and low birth rates as rural and remote regions are losing people and urban regions are gaining people. The report addressed COVID-19 recovery plans by explaining that “this is an opportunity for Europe to build a fairer and more resilient society.”

A more inclusive labor market must include increased employment for women, a better relationship between family life and work, support for disabled people, opportunities for people with little education and efforts to prevent all forms of discrimination. The working-age population of Europe will shrink in the next decade and the increase or decrease in opportunities for refugees and other underrepresented groups will have a direct effect on the speed and severity at which the population shrinks. Prosperity for refugees in rural Europe is possible if there is an adequate investment and care for receiving communities in rural regions.

New Integration Efforts

Resettling refugees in small and medium-sized towns across rural Europe has become a more frequent practice in recent years. The practice is in part due to dispersal policies, which ask small and mid-sized cities to integrate refugees to prevent overcrowding in large metropolitan areas. Furthermore, there is an increased desire from small towns to simply help out and be of service.

A research report by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Europe, titled “Building Welcome From The Ground Up,” explored the expanding role of rural municipalities in welcoming refugees and migrants. The research argued that if E.U.-wide immigration policies chose to include rural regions of Europe, integration efforts in both urban and rural areas would have the potential to be longer-lasting and more sustainable.

Opportunities in Rural Areas

Smaller towns are often more personal, meaning that people may be able to more easily navigate essential services and meet locals naturally in day-to-day life. Newcomers also tend to learn the language more quickly and receive a more personalized and tailored welcome than large cities. Rural development is an important opportunity because it benefits refugees in rural Europe and the receiving community.

Liam Patuzzi, a policy analyst at MPI Europe and an author of the study, spoke with The Borgen Project about the development opportunities that national funding provides. Patuzzi told The Borgen Project about the research by explaining “we heard about this alliance of small municipalities in southern Italy that tried to use the resources and funding that come with resettlement to create community enterprises” that employ “resettled refugees.” The alliance “would help revive certain local trades and skills such as viticulture.” In the case of the small municipalities in Italy, funding from the national government helped towns create jobs for migrants and refugees that also brought back local industries.

Aside from national government funding for resettling refugees, small towns also benefit from the increased population. Businesses and institutions that rely on regular attendance, such as doctor’s offices, grocery stores and schools, are able to keep doors open. The larger and more diverse population also leads to new learning experiences. A local school in Martelange, Belgium added additional French and Math classes to the school roster when more students began attending school. The town also added a new medical center because of higher demand. Meanwhile, in Sant’Arcangelo, teachers learned how to teach Italian as a foreign language for the first time. Opportunities are abundant when newcomers enter rural communities and challenges are equally present.

Arising Challenges

Rural areas may not have very specialized services, especially for refugees and migrants with complex challenges, trauma or disabilities. Limited employment opportunities are also common, usually for both newcomers and long-time residents. Life for refugees in rural Europe can be cheaper and more spacious than life in a large city at times. However, that is not the case for refugees in some towns, and especially for those without a job.

The homogeneity of rural regions can be isolating. Although social interaction with locals may happen more frequently, it does not necessarily lead to meaningful connections. For young people, it can be particularly hard to form deep friendships in rural areas of mostly older residents while there is less access to public transportation. The established elements can make the other challenges more extreme because there is not an easy way to find jobs or social connections in a nearby city. In the MPI study, transportation was one of the most challenging barriers for refugees in rural Europe to overcome.

Hope for Rural Resettlement

Despite the difficulties, there is hope that small municipalities will have a positive impact on integration with the right government policies, funding and local initiatives. Patuzzi and a team of fellow researchers in the study emphasize the importance of adequate preparation and support in order to bring prosperity to receiving communities and refugees in rural Europe. The changing demographics of many older residents, young newcomers and depopulation in rural areas will require addressing in the near future to ensure a decent standard of living for all.

– Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Regional Approaches to Immigration
Regional approaches to immigration highlight the potentially divisive topic as a building block for a better future. Across the world, nations respond to immigration influxes differently. However, history and modern immigration both show that immigration’s greatest impact is on lifting families out of poverty.

Immigration Controversy

Immigration is the movement of people from their home country to another country of which they are not native. Politically, immigration remains controversial throughout the United States. Many U.S. citizens believe that migrant families promote unwanted competition for resources and increase violence. However, what these beliefs fail to acknowledge are the reasons that individuals may leave their home countries. For many, the need to seek refuge dominates the need to leave their country of origin. For others, the desire for employment and education, an improved standard of living and a better life overall weigh into migrant decision to move.

Despite the controversy surrounding immigrant families, experts predict that the number of immigrants will continue to increase over time. While the U.S. has exerted effort into preventing widespread immigration, other countries have embraced their foreign neighbors.

Regional Considerations for Immigration

Per Lumen Learning, Japan once had strict laws concerning immigration. However, issues such as a high birth rate and an aging population forced the country to reevaluate its policies.

In Europe, immigrants helped to rebuild and repopulate after World War II. Meanwhile, in 2010, there were 47.3 million immigrants living throughout Europe, which has experienced great economic growth since WWII.

In Contrast: Spain’s Response to Immigration

Since April 2020, Spain’s Canary Islands have received approximately 23,000 migrants from Africa. Families in Spain are welcoming immigrants and working with nonprofit organizations to offer foster care. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 are eligible for governmental foster care, and those younger than 6 are eligible for adoption (when confirmation determines that they do not have any documentation or family members in the European Union). This gives migrants an opportunity to begin a new life in Spain, and the Spanish government has experienced improved tourism and economic conditions.

Lessons to Learn from Regional Approaches to Immigration

In countries that have embraced immigration, the population understands that foreign does not equate to threatening. They have also understood, or at least recognized, the need and desire for migrants and their families. This understanding has proved to be a building opportunity rather than a competition. As regional approaches to immigration continue to differ in understanding, they will continue to differ in benefits.

– Bailey Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Mesut Özil’s Charity WorkMesut Özil is one of the world’s wealthiest soccer players. In addition, Mesut Özil’s charity work has related strongly to his athletic efforts. He previously played for Arenal London and recently joined the Turkish club Fenerbahce Istanbul. Arsenal London declared a 12.5% pay cut for its players and manager Mikel Arteta due to the pandemic. However, Özil rejected this cut. As a result, he created discrepancies between him and the club and Özil no longer underwent selection for games. While Özil received some criticism from online communities, many fans continued to support him because he donates significantly to charities.

Özil Recognizes His Privileged Position

Mesut Özil was born in Germany as the fourth child of Turkish immigrants. Özil’s family struggled financially throughout his entire childhood and his mother had to take on several different cleaning jobs to make ends meet. As a result, Özil recognized his incredibly privileged position as a successful soccer player. He is extremely compassionate toward impoverished communities. Thus, Özil has been giving back to those who desperately need aid.

Supporting Impoverished Communities

Özil’s salary at Arsenal London was an estimated $25 million a year in 2013. Thus, the 12.5% cut would have decreased his salary by about $3.2 million a year. Additionally, the club and its billionaire owner Stan Kroenke would gain his loss. Furthermore, Özil and other players were doubtful that their pay cuts would actually aid staff members. Özil stated that he was even willing to give up more of his salary if the club could prove it was necessary. In the end, he decided to increase his charity work instead.

Mesut Özil’s Charity Work

Özil’s refusal to accept the pay cut placed him in the center of media attention in 2020. However, many have known him for his incredibly generous nature for a long time. For example, Özil donated his prize money of $329,000 after winning the World Cup in 2014. He donated to the BigShoe project and financed vital surgeries for 23 children in Brazil. Additionally, Özil and his wife donated to 16 refugee camps in Turkey and Syria after their wedding. Their contribution provided food to about 100,000 people. Furthermore, the couple funded important surgeries for about 1,000 children around the world.

The Way Özil Spent the Money he Refused to Give Up

Özil donated money to support people in need all across the globe after rejecting Arsenal’s pay cut. Homeless shelters and schools in North London received nutritious food in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, he increased his financial contributions to the BigShoe project to provide children with much-needed surgeries. He also donated $111,542 to the Turkish Red Crescent in May 2020. The money went toward feeding families in Turkey and Syria during Ramadan. Mesut Özil’s charity work also introduced a new range of footwear and donated all of the money that the footwear earned. It granted children in Italy access to digital education materials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fans and the media continue to criticize Özil’s refusal of the pay cut. Many consider the money he donated to impoverished communities to be more important than giving it back to Arsenal. However, Özil’s charity work has had an undeniable positive impact on many people’s lives.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in GermanyGermany is a leading figure in the battle against mental illness in Europe. The country has established ways to determine and treat mental illness in citizens and has prioritized the mental well-being of all Germans since the 1990s. Mental health in Germany provides a blueprint for other countries to follow.

Mental Health in Germany

Germany has similar rates of mental illness to other developed nations, with around 31% of Germans diagnosed with at least one mental illness. Like most other developed nations, depression and anxiety rank the highest among adults but formed at a young age.

Surveys conducted by German health insurance company, DAK, revealed that 24% of 800,000 tested children had some sort of psychological anomaly although less than 2% of those tested between the ages of 10 and 17 were diagnosed with depression.

What Makes Germany Different?

What makes Germany different from the rest of Europe in its fight against mental illness is its level of commitment to finding and treating the mentally ill. Those who suffer from some form of mental illness in Germany have a vast support system provided to them by their government.

Diagnosed German citizens have access to financial support and extensive healthcare services. Germany runs programs to ease the transition from a mental health hospital back to everyday life. It also has programs that provide the mentally ill with jobs. With roughly 270 mental health hospitals and sufficient healthcare workers to assist patients, Germany makes sure that the mentally ill are taken care of.

Perhaps the most effective strategy Germany has employed is its campaign to remove the stigma of mental illness in German society. While one-third of adults suffer from some sort of mental illness during the course of their lives, many do not seek the proper help because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.

Germany has dedicated extensive amounts of resources to create outreach campaigns that promote actively visiting psychologists and testing for mental illness. The country also works to reinforce the idea that seeking assistance for one’s mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of as a large portion of people suffer from them.

Recognizing that mental illness is just as common as physical illness is the first step toward curbing the epidemic. By encouraging citizens to assess their mental health and by providing the necessary support and opportunities for the mentally ill, Germany successfully manages mental health in the country.

A Mental Health Role Model

Germany has taken great strides to ensure that those with mental illnesses are treated as well as any other citizen in the country and has worked hard to create normalcy for testing and treating mental illness.

In order to battle the mental illness epidemic, countries with lacking mental healthcare systems should look to adopt Germany’s stance on battling mental illness, providing not only psychiatric help to those who need it but also giving financial and occupational support to those at risk.

Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr