SOS Méditerranée Saving the Distressed at Sea
Thousands of migration attempts across the Mediterranean take place every year. By mid-November of 2017, over 150,000 people reached Europe by sea. During this time, almost 3,000 were found dead or declared missing. NGOs accounted for 40 percent of all lives saved in the Mediterranean during the first half of 2017.

SOS Méditerranée is a European maritime and humanitarian organization responsible for the rescue of lives in the Mediterranean. The organization was created in response to the deaths in the Mediterranean and the failure of the European Union to prevent them. Its mission focuses on three key points: to save lives, to protect and assist and to testify. It was founded by private citizens in May of 2015 and works as a European association with teams in Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland. Together the countries work as a European network,  jointly financing and operating the rescue ship Aquarius.

Since February of 2016, Aquarius has operated in international waters between Italy and Libya. Since then, the rescue ship has welcomed more than 27,000 refugees aboard. Once aboard, Aquarius provides emergency medical treatment through its partnership with Doctors Without Borders. This supports the organization’s second key mission, to protect and assist. It provides both medical and psychological care to those on board and then works to connect them to supporting institutions in Europe.

In early March of 2018, the Aquarius welcomed aboard 72 survivors from a merchant ship after two tragic operations in the Central Mediterranean. The Aquarius was the only search and rescue vessel present in the area. It was mobilized to search for a boat in distress in international waters east from Tripoli by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome. Its rescue operations involved a complex search of 120 nautical miles over the course of 24 hours. Those rescued were from 12 different countries, mainly in West Africa, but also from Sudan and South Sudan. Once aboard, the survivors were able to receive the medical treatment they desperately needed.

SOS Méditerranée wants to give those rescued a voice, to testify, and show the actual faces of migration in the hope of bringing awareness about refugees in the Mediterranean and remembering those who were unsuccessful in their journeys. Evidence from the Mediterranean Migration Research Programme (MMRP) has examined the dynamics of migration to Europe from 2015 and 2016, as well its difficulties. Its key findings challenge assumptions about the dynamics of migration, including that migration is primarily driven by the need to access jobs and welfare support.

Instead, the MMRP found that the vast majority of people migrate across the Mediterranean by boat because of the belief that their lives are in danger or in hopes of a better future. During its study in 2015 and 2016, nearly 1.4 million people crossed the Mediterranean to Europe. However, due to the absence of legal routes to reach the E.U., migrants resort to dangerous crossings with smugglers. There is an urgent need to greatly expand safe and legal routes for the protection of these migrants.

Thanks to organizations like SOS Méditerranée, there have been thousands of lives saved in the Mediterranean. However, joint efforts must be made in order to prevent any further lives from being lost.

– Ashley Quigley

Photo: Flickr

Education in Latvia

Improvements in education in Latvia are of the utmost importance, because children are the most impoverished group of Latvians. As of 2012, 23.4 percent of children under the age 17 were living below the poverty line, whereas only 18.8 percent of adults up to 64 years of age and 17.7 percent of Latvians 65 and older were below the poverty threshold.

With so many children living in poverty, receiving an education is the first step towards improving their situation. From 2008 to 2012, there was a decline from 26.3 percent to 23.4 percent of children living in poverty, perhaps due to primary and secondary education being free and mandatory for all native Latvians.

However, there would be a much greater decrease if discrimination was not as prominent within education in Latvia. Children of minorities are denied access to health and education facilities.

Romani and Russian speakers experience language barriers, as Latvian schools do not teach in these languages. Children of these ethnicities are falling into poverty, or remaining in poverty, which greatly affects the country’s overall economy. Russian speakers alone represent a third of Latvia‘s population, greatly influencing the country’s poverty rate.

Fortunately, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance has addressed the issue and promises that the Latvian educational system will provide equal access to education and jobs. They demanded that schools alter their curriculum to provide instruction in minority languages and cultures.

Even further, there is a presence of a separate but equal society in which Roma children must attend different classes than their peers, which reinforces the belief that they are not capable of sharing language and education with Latvian students. The Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission is also fighting to end this separation and merge all ethnicities into the same class.

Seeing how Latvia’s population has experienced an increase in its poverty rate, from 19 percent in 2010 to 22.5 percent in 2014, it is vital that the country makes improvements. Providing equal access to both basic and higher education is an important step forward, one that European officials acknowledge. Once Latvia ends racism, education will allow all children to climb out of poverty.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Generalplan Ost

The unforgettable tragedy of the Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany during World War II resulted in the deaths of more than 12 million people in Europe, but Hitler and his party had greater ambitions for an even larger genocide called Generalplan Ost.

10 Generalplan Ost Facts

  1. Generalplan Ost means “masterplan of the east” and was the Nazi plan for the resettlement of Eastern Europe with German citizens after their victory in World War II, which they presumed was imminent in 1941 when they developed the plan.
  2. The territories they were prepared to take over and occupy were Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and parts of Russia and Ukraine. The Nazis believed people from these territories were racially inferior and required extermination in order to make room for the Aryan Germans.
  3. To exterminate the unwanted people in Eastern Europe, Generalplan Ost called for mass starvation or moving those they wanted to get rid of farther east. Nazi policy in relation to the Generalplan Ost stated: “many tens of millions of people in this territory will become superfluous and will have to die or migrate to Siberia.”
  4. Heinrich Himmler was in charge of coordinating Generalplan Ost, as he had been appointed Reich Commissar for the Strengthening of German Ethnic Stock, which allowed him to decide the fates of people in Eastern Europe. Himmler had Oberfuhrer SS Professor Meyer-Hetling from the Berlin University prepare the plan.
  5. The plan called for the extermination or deportation of 31 million people in Eastern Europe, where about 45 million people were residing at the time. Professor Meyer-Hetling’s plan called for the immediate removal of 80-85 percent of Poland’s population and 50 percent of the Czech Republic’s population, as well as the later deportation of 85 percent of Lithuania’s population, 75 percent of Belarus’ population, 65 percent of western Ukraine’s population and 50 percent of Latvia and Estonia’s populations.
  6. How people were to be “removed” according to Generalplan Ost was based on a racial hierarchy crafted by the Nazis. Those of Slavic origin were “undesirable” and were to be moved into Siberia. The Jews were to be “totally removed,” meaning killed. The rest of the people in Eastern Europe were to be enslaved, “Germanized” or killed.
  7. Special German einzatsgruppen (“task forces”) led operations to kill Eastern Europeans from the end of 1941 to the end of 1942. They killed over 300,000 civilians in Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states alone.
  8. Hitler argued that he wanted to acquire Eastern Europe for the resettlement of Germans to the territory in order to give Germans “Lebensraum” (living space). The term was coined by the German geographer Friedrich Ratzel in 1901; he believed a country needed enough resources and territory to be self-sufficient and to protect itself from external enemies.
  9. Hitler was not the first to insinuate racist views towards the Jews, Slavs, and other people of eastern Europe. Multiple early 20th century scholars argued that the resources of the eastern European states were wasted on the “racially inferior” Slavs and Jews.
  10. Part of Hitler’s inspiration for Generalplan Ost and Lebensraum came from the United States’ westward expansion. Hitler believed Germany’s “manifest destiny” lay in the east.

Thankfully, Generalplan Ost never came fully to fruition. It is hard to imagine that there could have been an even greater genocide than what occurred in the Holocaust. Sadly, genocides continue to occur in the world today. Foreign states must act to stop genocides and prevent them from happening, for if foreign states had not intervened in World War II, Generalplan Ost and the Nazi regime could have succeeded.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Help the People of EstoniaEstonia is a crucial ally for the United States in the modern age. On March 29, 2004, Estonia joined NATO as a means to strengthen their position in the world and form stronger international relations with the West. Since then, the United States, as well as many other key NATO members, have maintained a strong presence in Estonia to guarantee the nation’s security.

To help the people of Estonia, it is important to consider how to improve the state of their home lives. There are a lot of charitable groups that donate to help displaced children and young mothers.

Caritas Estonia is a valuable organization in Estonia which dedicates itself to improving the lives of vulnerable Estonian women. Their approach to helping the people of Estonia is to provide the support necessary to empower underage mothers and pregnant teenagers to participate and advance in the Estonian workforce.

Another organization working to strengthen Estonian families is SOS Children’s Villages (SOS CV). The organization started in 1992, shortly after Estonia gained its independence from Russia. SOS CV offers a valuable service to the most vulnerable 20 percent of Estonia’s population: it’s children. SOS CV provides homes for children whose parents can no longer afford to house them.

How can you help the people of Estonia? Browse the websites of these organizations to learn more about the work they do. You can donate your time and money to a worthy cause helping to strengthen the Estonian workforce and care for children in Estonia.

You can also email Congress via The Borgen Project’s website. The Borgen Project is an American organization whose purpose is to lobby U.S. Congress to implement policy changes to help reduce poverty around the globe.

These are just a few ways how you can help the people of Estonia.

Tim Sherwood

Photo: Flickr

Education in Andorra

Positioned between the Spanish territory and France, Andorra occupies a small territory of 180 square miles. Considered to be one of the smallest countries in the world, its current population is approximately 77,000 people.

Regardless of its size, Andorra positions as the 191st largest export economy around the globe, making the European country a privileged one, in terms of its relation with countries around the world as well as the European Union. Thus, Andorra uses the Euro as its national currency and carries a special relationship with the U.N.

In 1982, the Andorran education system was implemented. This system helped built a strong school system that is now recognized as one of the best in the world, due to its language variety and free schooling up until high school.

As a country that borders France and Spain, its citizens speak mainly Catalan – a dialect of Spanish – as well as Spanish and French. Thus, education in Andorra is divided within those three languages. French speaking, Spanish and Catalan schools are the three schooling options for students to choose from. It is well known that 50 percent of students study in French-focused schools, whilst the other half is divided between the Catalan and Spanish schools.

Added to the fact that education has three different options in regards to language, education in Andorra is also divided between public, private and state-funded private schools – which can be described as a middle option that lies between public and private education. This schooling system is similar to the one in Spain, due to the proximity of the countries and the overall similarities between them. With the same schooling system as Spain, Andorra‘s public school system is completely funded by the state, yet the teachers are paid by Spain and France.

A downside to the education in Andorra is the fact that there is only one university in the whole country, the University of Andorra. Thus, most students attend college in either France or Spain after they graduate high school, mostly depending on the language and school they previously chose to attend.

Overall, the school system and education in Andorra is one of the most surprising in the world. Such a small country is able to divide its school system into up to three languages as well as three different economy-based schools and high schools, giving opportunities to all citizens to be able to study and afford a quality education whilst doing so.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Pixabay

58. Poverty in Former USSR States

The countries that once made up the USSR are complex and differ in nearly every way. During the most of the 20th century, however, they were ruled over by one central government. Since the peaceful fall of the regime, the Soviet Union has splintered into the different countries we know today, connected via the Commonwealth of Independent States. Although poverty in former USSR states has generally decreased when comparing the rates of today to the past, this does not mean that the road to alleviating poverty in former USSR states was easy.

For many of the former “-stan” countries, for example, the fall had a rather negative effect on those economies. Turkmenistan became a dictatorship whose elections were not deemed fair and democratic. As a result, the country became very corrupt. Uzbekistan was not ruled by a dictatorship, but corruption inside the country is very high, making foreign aid difficult to administer. Furthermore, due to a highly controversial massacre of protesters in the country in 2005, it is the only country to have cut ties with the Western world. Tajikistan suffered a civil war right after the collapse. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, is different. The country has grown its economy since its independence due to its robust energy industry. Except for Turkmenistan (no data) and Kazakhstan (2.7 percent), every single one of the countries has a poverty rate of about 20 percent or higher.

For the countries located between the Black and the Caspian Seas, the state of poverty does not look much better. Armenia has a poverty rate of over 30 percent due to political instability, while Georgia experienced a civil war that created a few frozen conflict zones (South Ossetia and Abkhasia). Azerbaijan was spared any wars and has plentiful oil fields from which to grow its economy. Alas, corruption is very high in this country as well.

The countries in Europe, however, have done relatively well. Estonia is rated as the least poor of the countries (despite a 20 percent poverty rate) due to embracing the free market system and capitalizing on electronics. Latvia has also grown its GDP. Although it is poor, it proved itself immensely resistant to the 2009 recession and recovered very quickly while putting itself onto a path to join the EU. Moldova, however, has been suffering for two decades because of political instability, leading to the self-proclaimed state of Transnistria forming within the country. Now though, it is on its way towards EU membership, with a poverty rate of about 10 percent.

Ukraine has actually had a fairly peaceful transition into post-Soviet politics, making the 2000s a prosperous period for Ukraine. Although recent events in the country make it sound like a dangerous place, the poverty rate is in fact at only 6.4 percent. Finally, Belarus, arguably the worst country to live in after the collapse of the USSR. The country has been led by a dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, since its independence. The country has been graded as having the worst human rights of all the countries summarized in this article, making foreign aid questionable. Still, the poverty rate is supposedly at only 5.1 percent.

Overall, such a quick summary of each country cannot completely summarize the state of poverty in former USSR states. Every country is independent, making their political outcomes as varied as any group of countries in the world. What we can learn from this information is that whatever past a country might have had does not predict how it will perform in the future in regards to poverty. Those states that have succeeded in transitioning and becoming more wealthy have set a good example. Now it is up to the oppressive and poor countries to learn from this and grow.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

Montenegro Poverty Rate
Montenegro is a small Balkan country that declared independence from Serbia in 2006. Since that time, the poverty rate in Montenegro has varied rather significantly, rising as high as 11.3 percent (2006, 2012) and falling as low as 4.9 percent (2008). The most recent data available, from 2013, lists the Montenegro poverty rate at 8.6 percent.

Prior to Montenegro’s independence, the country of Serbia and Montenegro was attempting accession into the European Union. Now an independent country, Montenegro is in its own process of accession into the EU. If and when Montenegro becomes an EU member, the Montenegro poverty rate has the potential for a fairly dramatic change, due to differences in how poverty is calculated.

Montenegro currently uses an absolute poverty rate. The poverty line as reported in 2013 was €186.54 per month. This line was calculated using basic costs of life needs, consisting of food costs and non-food needs. In contrast, the EU uses a relative poverty rate calculation. The poverty line in EU member states is calculated as 60 percent of the median income.

Attempting to calculate the relative poverty rate in Montenegro to demonstrate the difference is not easy. Monstat, Montenegro’s statistical office, currently provides average income rather than median income, so determining the relative poverty rate based on median income is not immediately possible. Using markers such as the given average income and income inequality index to estimate median income suggest the poverty line would rise using a relative calculation. Using EU member poverty rates as a guideline would also seem to suggest the potential for a higher poverty rate in a relative system.

Montenegro’s foreign minister Srđan Darmanović stated earlier this year that Montenegrin accession into the EU could happen as early as 2022. Even with the relative volatility of the Montenegro poverty rate over the last decade, a sudden rise around the point of accession need not be an immediate concern if understood as a change in the calculation system.

Erik Beck

Photo: Pixabay

Causes of Poverty in Luxembourg

Luxembourg boasts one of the highest standards of living globally, with the world’s highest per capita income of $46,591 per person. However, with one in five citizens living under the threat of poverty and social exclusion, even one of the world’s richest countries cannot escape poverty.

In Luxembourg, most people live comfortably. Since 2009, the employment rate has increased by more than 16 percent but the current unemployment rate is only 5.9 percent – well below the European average of 10.4 percent. Generous social benefits and laws condemning discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and disabled people further improve the overall quality of life in Luxembourg.

Despite these promising conditions, poverty is still an issue in Luxembourg. In 2013, the threshold for the risk of poverty amounted to approximately €1,665. During that year, about 15.9 percent of people living in the country found themselves in that category – of this group, 23.9 percent were children.

An article written by Gornick and Jantti identified Luxembourg as a high income country with disproportionately high child poverty. In the study, they found that children in Luxembourg were 20 percent more likely to be poor than the overall population.

One of the main causes of poverty in Luxembourg is having lived in poverty before. The risk of remaining poor or becoming poor for those who have previously lived in poverty is about 70 percent. On the other hand, those who have had no prior experience with poverty only face a four percent risk of entering poverty. Consequently, 60 percent of the level of state dependence is made up of those who have previously experienced poverty.

The Luxembourg Chamber of Employees identified another one of the causes of poverty in Luxembourg. They analyzed the relationship between the risk of poverty and cost of housing and found that nearly one third of tenants faced the risk of poverty. In other European countries, such as France and Germany, this risk is much lower.

One way that the Luxembourg government attempts to fight poverty and social exclusion is through the minimum guaranteed income (MGI). The MGI is given to people or households who fall below a certain threshold and its main goal is to provide sufficient means of existence and opportunities for social and professional inclusion.

Efforts such as the MGI are critical steps to improving poverty in Luxembourg. While many live comfortably and the country is prosperous in several ways, still more must be done to assist those in poverty and to lower the unnaturally high proportion of children in poverty.

Lauren Mcbride

Photo: Flickr

Monaco poverty rate

Home to millionaires, a renowned casino and a prestigious Formula One Grand Prix, Monaco claims another headlining reality: the Monaco poverty rate is zero.

In order for any country to have a zero percent poverty rate, there must be zero percent of the population living under the international poverty line of U.S. $1.25 a day. So, why is the Monaco poverty rate zero? This feat is not accomplished easily; it is a combination of ideal conditions that have propelled Monaco to achieve its flawless poverty rate.

The Principality of Monaco is situated in the west of Europe along the French Riviera and bordered by France and the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco is aptly named a principality because its monarch takes the title of prince or princess. The current Prince of Monaco is Prince Albert III, who continues the Grimaldi family reign of more than 700 years.

This country is known for its beautiful surroundings and coastline, which helps draw a wealthy population, but its size plays an important role in the economy as well. Monaco is the second-smallest country in the world, after the Vatican City. It is a tiny two-square kilometers in size and the most densely-populated country in the world.

The number of residents this country can support is limited and its picturesque landscape draws people from around the world. Monaco is home to 30,645 residents. Only 16 percent of the residents are Monegasque (natives of Monaco), the majority is French and the rest come from nearby countries and outside. While Monaco’s size tightens the population, its economic strength adds additional incentives for residents.

Monaco’s current economy was strengthened by the historic decisions of Prince Charles III, known as the founder of Monte Carlo. Charles III ensured Monaco’s economic strength by taking advantage of gambling laws to build the Socièté des Bains de Mer, a company of a few hotels, a theater and a casino in 1863. The Monte Carlo casino became the most famous of these assets.

When gambling was banned elsewhere, the casino became a vacation of choice for the worlds wealthy, drawing in thousands of tourists. Charles the III also forged an agreement with France to install the first railroad across the principality as infrastructure to support the growing tourism market. Charles III attracted additional foreign investments when he established a zero income tax.

Why is the Monaco poverty rate zero? Tax incentives, location and the international popularity of Monte Carlo secured Monaco’s popularity with the wealthy and ignited the country’s tourism industry. Today, one-third of Monaco’s population makes more than $1 million to the point that Monaco’s GNI per capita is $186,080, the highest in the world.

Interestingly much of the working class in Monaco does not actually live there. Daily, more than 30,000 French and 5,800 Italian nationals travel to Monaco to work. This lends to the enormity of the private sector industries, which account for 86 percent of the labor force in Monaco. Monaco has developed into a destination for research centers, and 22 percent of the labor force works in scientific and technical activities, including administration and support services. The tourism industry accounts for 11 percent of the country’s economy, and the gaming industry 4 percent. The prince also guarantees all of the residents life-long employment, so there is nearly zero unemployment.

Monaco has the ideal combination of geographic, economic and residential dynamics to allow and support a zero percent poverty rate. The size of the country limits the amount of habitable space the country can offer and the landscape and world-renowned events like the Grand Prix give rise to millionaire inhabitants. The fiscal qualifications for residents in Monaco are set by the real estate prices while tax incentives provide a desirable buffer. Monaco builds its wealth on the investment of the worlds wealthy and maintains it through value-added tax revenues from established businesses. These factors have propelled Monaco’s reputation as the land of the millionaires and give insight into the Monaco poverty rate being zero.

Eliza Gresh

Photo: Pixabay

Slovakia Poverty Rate

Slovakia is a country that tends to get overlooked when considering global poverty. While media entities and NGOs focus on African and Asian nations, eastern European countries like Slovakia do not normally make headlines.

The story behind the Slovakia poverty rate, however, is worth discussing. With the 2015 figures coming in at 12.3 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook, this number should be scrutinized.

Since its separation from the Czech Republic in 1993, Slovakia has had an odd growth experience. In the last 13 years, for example, Slovakia’s poverty rate has cycled between 13.3 percent and 10.6 percent, according to the World Bank. The CIA World Factbook’s 2015 figure of 12.3 percent shows a slow decrease following the 2011 peak of 13.2 percent, which was the second of two peaks over the last 13 years.

To be clear, the fact that the Slovakia poverty rate is decreasing is a good thing. The country’s low-cost labor force has made it an attractive hub for foreign investment in central Europe in recent years. According to OECD, Slovakia’s GDP growth rate is projected to be 4.1 percent, which is a respectable number for any country and outpaces many economic powers like the United States.

The question that remains, though, is whether or not this advancement, and particularly the decrease in the Slovakia poverty rate, is sustainable. The upward trend in the Slovakia poverty rate from 10.6 percent in 2006 to 13.2 percent in 2011 could be an anomaly due to the 2008 financial crisis. With an economy highly based on labor that focuses itself on volatile industries such as energy, Slovakia must diversify its economy if it wishes to continue its recent economic growth.

It will be interesting to see how Slovakia develops as the country pulls itself out of poverty, unemployment and the like. Whether or not this recent growth is truly sustainable remains to be seen, but there are high hopes for the young country.

John Mirandette