Examples of Trade Embargoes
Trade embargoes are government-imposed barriers to international trade. Countries often justify these restrictions using political reasons, such as violations of national security or human rights.

10 Examples of Trade Embargoes

  1. U.S. Sanctions on Nicaragua: On July 5, 2018, the U.S. imposed sanctions on three Nicaraguan government officials, in response to the Nicaraguan government’s treatment of anti-government protesters, which has led to over 200 people being killed during violent demonstrations. Due to the 2012 Global Magnitsky Act, the U.S. can implement sanctions against those who commit human rights violations and corruption. The LA Times reported that under the sanctions, “any assets the three men have in the United States will be frozen, and U.S. citizens are barred from business transactions with them or any companies in which they have 50 percent or more ownership.”
  2. U.S. Sanctions on Russia: In April 2018, the U.S. passed new sanctions against Russia, intending to penalize Russian officials for their alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and their presence in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. According to CNN, assets will be frozen for 17 senior Russian officials.
  3. European Union (EU) Sanctions on Russia: As of July 5, 2018, the EU unanimously agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for at least another six months. According to PBS, the sanctions’ extension was no surprise and were “imposed after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backed pro-Russia separatists fighting the government in eastern Ukraine.”
  4. Canada Sanctions on Venezuela: In September 2017, Canada enforced an asset freeze and dealings ban on Venezuela. Under the Special Economic Measures Act, Canada prohibits citizens and any Canadian residents from providing  “any goods, wherever situated, to a listed [Veneuelan] or to a person acting on behalf of a listed [Veneuelan].” The sanctions are based upon a U.S.-Canada alliance in response to human rights violations in Venezuela. For example, the Venezuelan government arrested thousands of protestors in April 2017, and many civilians were injured or killed during the protests.
  5. U.N. Sanctions on North Korea: In 2006, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) imposed sanctions in response to North Korea’s first nuclear test. The sanction prohibited the supply of heavy weapons and select luxury goods. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the UNSC announced more restrictions—extending to oil and metal imports, agricultural exports, and labor exports in December 2017. However, the U.N. does allow humanitarian aid to enter North Korea.
  6. U.S. Sanctions on China: Most recently, the U.S. and China are in trade wars—each responding with their own tariffs. On April 16, 2018, the U.S. imposed a seven-year ban on exports to ZTE, a Chinese telecom company. The Washington Post explained that ZTE was reprimanded for “illegally exporting U.S. goods to North Korea and Iran.” On June 7, the U.S. ended the ban.
  7. U.S. Embargo on Cuba: In 1962, the U.S. placed a full embargo against Cuba when the Kennedy administration announced the ceasing of all trade. However, in March 2016, President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to “allow commercial flights between the two countries for the first time in more than fifty years.” In September 2017, President Trump proposed the withdrawal of two-thirds of his embassy staff from Havana, Cuba and announced the return of travel restrictions.
  8. EU Sanctions on Sudan: The EU imposed an arms embargo on Sudan in 1994. The embargo was amended in 2011 due to the independence of South Sudan and now applies to both Sudan and South Sudan.
  9. U.N. Sanctions on Iran: In 2006, the U.N. authorized an embargo on supplies for uranium production and ballistic missile development, harming Iran’s economy. In April 2015, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew noted that “Iran’s economy was 15 to 20 percent smaller than it would have been had sanctions not been ratcheted up in 2012.”
  10. U.S. Embargo on Japan: In 1941, the same year the U.S. entered World War II, the U.S. imposed a comprehensive trade embargo against Japan. The U.S. froze “all Japanese assets in America,” which eventually contributed to Japan’s loss of “access to three-fourths of its overseas trade and 88 percent of its imported oil.”

These 10 examples of trade embargoes demonstrate how countries engage with one another to serve their domestic interests and to punish others for violations of human rights.

– Christine Leung
Photo: Flickr

closed its ports

Recently, Italy‘s newly formed government has closed its ports to migrant ships. The new political atmosphere is run by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League party, known for its strong anti-immigration beliefs.

In particular, a rescue ship named Aquarius, which was carrying 629 rescued migrants on board from 26 countries in Africa, was denied entry into an Italian port on June 10. The ship was forced to stay out at sea until another European country, Spain, gave the ship access to its ports the next day.

The new Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also the League’s leader, made the decision to close Italy’s ports. In the past, Salvini has called Sicily “the refugee camp of Europe,” and his actions reflect Italy’s struggle with the high numbers of refugees arriving each week. The Italian government wants Europe as a whole to play a larger role in accepting refugees.

Why Italy Has Closed its Ports

Since 2013, 690,000 immigrants have arrived in Italy. While some may be legal, many are not and 500,000 of them still reside in Italy. Among them are denied asylum seekers and those who have overstayed their visa.

In 2017 alone, 120,000 migrants arrived and the Italian government has estimated that 4.2 billion is the cost of taking them in, roughly $4.9 billion. That figure is divided between caring for asylum seekers, who are generally not allowed to work, as well as paying for sea rescues and providing medical assistance. This is one of many contributing factors as to why Italy has closed its ports.

Italy’s Changing Relationship to Refugees

In 2017, Italy formed a deal with Libya to enforce Libya’s coastguard in order to keep migrant ships from entering Italy. Since the deal, in the first five months of 2018, the number of migrants reaching Italian ports has dropped to 13,808. This is down 84 percent compared to the same period of time in 2017.

Part of Salvini’s campaign was to repatriate at least 500,000 migrants during his five-year term, as Italians have grown increasingly afraid of migrants and associate higher crime rates to the influx of migrants. Italy has closed its ports as a way to combat this sentiment.

International and National Response

As the nation has closed its ports, mayors across the south of Italy have spoken out against this decision and have pledged to open their ports to these rescue boats. However, without the direct support of the Italian coastguard, it is unlikely that much can be done.

This sentiment, however, gives hope to the changing attitudes toward helping these migrants. It demonstrates that opinions are changing and that people are more interested in saving the lives of refugees, rather than keeping them out.

As a response to Italy having closed its ports, European leaders and humanitarian groups have denounced this decision. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees appealed to Italy and Malta, stating that issues such as these should be addressed after the rescue and that the lives of the migrants should have been put first. Furthermore, Spain and France have offered to help take in the migrants.

As a solution, the European Council President Donald Tusk has proposed regional disembarkment platforms outside of the European Union. This would allow a more manageable way to differentiate between economic migrants and migrants in need of protection. As a result, the strain would be taken off countries such as Italy and allow for a more efficient system, which would benefit E.U. countries, the migrants and public sentiment toward this issue.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Romania
Given its turbulent history throughout much of the twentieth century, it is inspiring to see Romania’s economy thrive. Romania experienced economic difficulties as part of the Soviet Union and was especially hard hit by the recent global recession. Despite its recent accomplishments, Romania still has many economic woes including a high poverty rate. With its problems, credit access in Romania is essential if the country wishes to alleviate some of its economic hardships. After its most recent elections, the Social and Liberal Democrat parties formed a coalition government. Many of the coalition’s goals and priorities centered on economic issues, some of which include: the improved absorption of European Union (EU) funds and a focus on securing investments in infrastructure and health care, reforming the pension system, and simplifying tax administration.

Poverty in Romania

Generally speaking, much of Romania’s wealth does not “trickle-down” to all of its citizens, which explains part of the country’s problems with combating poverty. The World Bank cites the following statistics regarding poverty in Romania.

  • Romania has one of the highest poverty rates in the EU.
  • The share of citizens at risk of poverty after social transfers increased from 21.6 percent in 2010 to 25.3 percent in 2016.
  • There was a decrease in the share of the at-risk population in Romania: from 41.5 percent in 2010 to 38.8 percent in 2016.

Economic Reform

Much of Romania’s financial system needed reform before its acceptance into the European Union in 2007. Romania’s financial systems were in ruin after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 so the European Union urged the Romanian government to reshape its financial sector in order to better adjust to the new, open-market economy of the EU. Because of its reshaping and restructuring, the Romanian economy was the second fast-growing in Europe in 2017. The World Bank predicts that the Romanian economy will continue to grow.

New legislation regarding access to credit was passed in Romania in 2016. Elena Iacob, an attorney who has analyzed the legislation, concluded: “It remains to be seen whether the various measures enacted by recent legislation will actually help the consumers to have access to more fair terms and affordable credit to satisfy their needs, or, on the contrary, will ‘help’ to the raise of the cost of the credit and to the demise of the market for residential real estate development, already weakened by the economic and financial crisis.”

Benefits of Credit Access

Credit access in Romania would potentially give Romanians more purchasing power. Romanians could spend their money on things they have always wanted, or they could save that money for the future, in preparation for healthcare expense or for a relative’s education. With more disposable income, Romanians could funnel more money into their economies, strengthening their own local and national economies as well as that of the EU.

Iacob’s analysis is cautiously optimistic about Romania’s economic future. While unsure of the effects of the new legislation, Iacob argues that the legislation does favor the consumer. Hopefully, with greater credit access in Romania, many will be able to better themselves financially, all in an effort to lessen the country’s poverty rates. Given its recent economic advances, credit access in Romania could allow the nation to increase its standing and influence in the EU while becoming a shining example of the successes in the war on extreme poverty.

– Raymond Terry
Photo: Flickr

Revolution of DignityIn November 2013, student protests in Ukraine turned into a full-fledged revolution against government corruption that has since been dubbed the Revolution of Dignity. Now, with a new government in place, the country is attempting to align itself with its European neighbors and become a stable democracy. With multiple roadblocks in the way, such as the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Ukraine will need to rely on its allies in order to achieve its goals.  

How the Revolution of Dignity Began

Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity started out as a series of student protests to pressure the prime minister to sign an association agreement with the European Union. However, as the protests raged on, they became a catalyst for the rest of the country to express its discontent with larger issues with the government like the regime’s power grabs and rampant corruption.  

Despite these issues, protests only became a revolution when violence broke out between the government and protesters on Nov. 29, 2013. After this point, the goal became to overthrow the government and establish a more democratic state, one free of corruption and acting in the people’s best interests. In 2014, the people in overthrowing the government, reinstating the previous constitution and holding new elections in May.

While the revolution was successful, it was not without consequence. The destabilization in the country helped lead to the annexation of the southeastern Crimea region by the Russian Federation. On top of that, while the previous regime was friendly to the Russian government, the new one looked for a more independent governance supported by the E.U. and other western allies. With tough challenges ahead, Ukraine needed to look to allies for help.

What Allies Are Doing to Help

Since the protests initially started to pressure the Ukrainian president to sign an agreement with the E.U., it comes as no surprise that the E.U. is a key ally in helping Ukraine handle its political turmoil. One of the first things the newly elected government did was pass the Ukraine-European Union Associated Agreement and join the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. These moves strengthen the nation’s economic, political and cultural ties with Europe through mutually beneficial relationships.  

While the U.S. is not as geographically close to Ukraine as the E.U., it has a vested interest in keeping the region stable and independent. Currently, over $204 million is planned in foreign aid for Ukraine. Among this, 33 percent is for peace and security, 32 percent goes toward human rights, democracy and governance, 29 percent is for economic development, and six percent goes toward health. With this aid, the U.S. hopes to keep Ukraine free of Russian influence and welcome them into the western world.

Through USAID, foreign aid is being used to help out local communities of Ukrainians.  In 2017, the organization helped 50 communities effectively manage resources and become sustainable without the central government. This not only fights corruption but also helps improve the everyday lives of Ukrainians who face instability in the face of recent changes.   

Continuing Progress in Ukraine

The aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity and the struggle with Russia has left many Ukrainians in a state of upheaval. With an uncertain future and violence a real possibility, it is key that allies help the country through this traumatic point in its history. The humanitarian impact of political uncertainty is often understated in the media, but it is real. While there are larger political reasons for Ukraine’s allies to help it, the aid these allies give to the Ukrainian people has an impact on the ground that can help save many lives.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

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

The Launch of the European Fund for Sustainable DevelopmentThis past September, the European Union launched the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), a tool to support investment in the countries bordering Europe as well as Africa at large. The goal of the EFSD is to create stability through economic development, which may reduce the flow of displaced people across borders.

In many ways, the rationale behind the EFSD is similar to the one underlying the push for humanitarian safe zones by American politicians across the spectrum, from senators Tim Kaine and John McCain to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The goal of both is to shore up economic and aid resources for those who need them most, while stemming the tides of refugees that have sparked political tumult in both Europe and America.

But, while safe zones seem most suited to war-torn countries like Syria, the EFSD can potentially have a much wider reach in terms of where and how it can help.

The EFSD aims to use “public funding as a guarantee to attract public and private investment to create real jobs,” in the words of European Commission President Jean-Paul Juncker. Devex reports that this involves underwriting loans and guarantees by trusted financial institutions to any entity, public or private, that invests in development in Africa or the countries bordering Europe.

Lawmaker Claude Turmes of Luxembourg called the EFSD the “best EU initiate ever.” Its €4.1 billion in spending until 2020 is expected to generate €44 billion in investments. According to the joint website of the European Council and the Council of the European Union, that number could be doubled if member states match EU donations.

That money can have a big impact. The ONE Campaign reports that foreign direct investment in Africa is by far the lowest of any region. Just three cents of every dollar of global foreign direct investment went to the continent in 2016, and most of those funds went to resource-rich countries.

Accordingly, some worry that an EFSD focused more on reducing refugee traffic than investing in development will continue to funnel money to resource-rich countries bordering Europe, like Morocco and Tunisia, while neglecting more remote nations like Mali and Chad, which present riskier investments. ONE recommends that fragile states be made a priority when the EFSD Strategic and Operational Boards meet to set investment windows.

Sustainable development in Africa and other nations bordering Europe is only possible if funding is allocated strategically yet fairly. Energy investment stands to electrify the region, as investors feel secure enough to put their money into projects like wind farms and solar panels. Hopefully, the increased wealth will both build more stable societies and reduce the need for refugee migration.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

Water Supply in CubaAlthough Cuba is known for its water-filled landscapes, like the many rivers and turquoise springs that bubble up from time to time, the country faces issues with the water quality and supply. The water supply in Cuba has been affected due to a recent drought, resulting in a struggle to provide clean, fresh water to its citizens.

Over the past three years, Cuba has been facing one of the worst droughts of the century. This drought is affecting nearly 50 percent of the land in Cuba, and it is caused by a climate pattern known as “El Niño”. The El Niño phenomenon is when trade winds off the Pacific Ocean bring warm weather that quickly heats surface water. This effect has occurred in previous years but has increased drastically over the past three years.

Water reservoirs and dams have been affected, with some dams even falling below 50 percent capacity. Out of the 168 municipalities in Cuba, 141 have been directly affected by the effects of this drought. Havana, Cuba’s capital city, relied on tanker trucks from neighboring areas to help provide water to 120,000 people that were in desperate need in mid-2016.

Not many people consider how this drought is affecting day to day life for Cubans. Many families must purchase filtered water since the water supply in Cuba has decreased due to the drought, and this filtered water is not cheap. The average cost for 5 liters of filtered water is 15 Cuban pesos, which is equivalent to $15. This can be a financial burden on a family who has to ration this water for drinking among all its members, as well as to clean vegetables and fruits to eat.

The high price of water also means that many families can’t provide enough water for their pets or livestock, so animals are dying and getting sick all throughout the country.

The soil itself has become damaged as well, with some reports saying that nearly 75 percent of the soil is drier than desired. This has greatly affected the agricultural production, with many farms producing less than 50 percent of what they usually grow. This now means that not only is there a limit on water, but on food as well.

Cuba and the European Union have been working on a solution to not only solve the current drought problem but also to stop future droughts from becoming this large of an issue. The World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Mivimiento por la Paz have all partnered with the European Union and Cuba to develop these solutions.

Currently, the European Union is providing €600,000 in funding for two projects being developed in Cuba. The first project’s goal is to strengthen the preparedness plans in Cuba as well as the response and early warning systems.

The second project will focus more on a technical solution, by increasing the hydrological networks to increase the water supply in Cuba, as well as increasing its meteorological capacity so they can anticipate these patterns sooner.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

US Is Extending Iran Sanctions ReliefOn September 28, 2017, White House officials announced that the U.S. is extending sanctions relief for Iran implemented by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The nuclear deal was coordinated by the international community and ended crippling economic sanctions against Iran by the United States, European Union and United Nations, in exchange for Iran reducing its nuclear capabilities for 10 years and limiting uranium enrichment for 15 years. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has been upholding its end of the deal.

The relief from key economic sanctions under the JCPOA plays an important role in Iran’s future economic sustainability. The sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program limited the nation’s ability to engage in trade and its access to oil revenue and international financial institutions. This contributed to a recession in 2012 and 2013 that saw Iran’s GDP growth decline by 6.6 percent in 2012. Inflation rose to over 30 percent, resulting in dramatic price hikes in food and basic necessities, and more than a fifth of the country was left unemployed.

Though the Iran deal is still in its infancy, it has already had significant impacts on Iran’s economy. World Bank estimates place Iran GDP growth at 6.4 percent and is projected to grow by over 4 percent from 2017-2019. Projections by the World Bank show significant boosts in oil production and other industries and potential growth in women’s employment.

The Iran deal also has the potential to fuel Iran’s development goals. Sanctions were lifted a month before Iran’s parliamentary elections and were touted as a significant victory of Iran’s moderate leadership. The elections resulted in large gains for development-minded moderates and economic reformers and significant losses for Iranian conservatives.

However, the sanctions relief for Iran remain controversial stateside. Though President Trump has chosen to continue maintaining the Iran deal, he has called the Iran deal “one of the worst deals” in history, and signaled that the U.S. is extending Iran sanctions relief temporarily and may withdraw or renegotiate the deal come October.

Furthermore, President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believe that Iran is not complying with “the spirit” of the deal due to its ballistic missile tests, cyber activities and continued backing of terrorist groups, though no clause in the JCPOA forbids Iran from engaging in these actions. Nonetheless, the White House announced new sanctions outside of the Iran deal on several Iranian individuals and entities connected to malicious Iranian cyber activities.

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in LiberiaOn March 14, 2017, on behalf of the European Union, the launch of a three-year “Land Rights for Liberia” project has brought new hope for the final passing of the Lands Rights Act. This would secure ownership of land to the community, as well as increase human rights in Liberia.

The Land Rights Act (LRA) is currently under review and debate in the National Legislature. However, the European Union, through the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and Welthungerhilfe (WHH), is pressing for the adoption of the Act before it goes on recess by August 30.

According to the World Bank, 1.6 million hectares of Liberian land (the equivalent of 2 million football fields) has been sold or leased to commercial investors. These investors are interested in the land mostly for palm oil plantations, mines and timber concessions.

Consequently, this leaves more than two-thirds of Liberia’s land under customary tenure, with little or no consultation with those directly affected. Hundreds of thousands of people in Liberia have died through civil wars and violence caused by land disputes.


Human Rights in Liberia & Land Rights


Although the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has supported the act, the government has continued to grant concession of the land to various investors. Ali Kaba, of the Sustainable Development Institute, stated, “Land grabs in Liberia have effectively turned citizens into refugees in their own country…We cannot continue on in a state where people’s homes and farms can be sold out from under them without their knowledge or consent, and where those who resist face violence.”

Despite the disputes of the past, the launch of the “Land Rights for Liberia” project promotes newfound momentum in order to get the act passed and secure further human rights in Liberia, especially for those living in rural communities.

The act would legally recognize those rights of the community to Liberia’s “customary land,” and the people would be able to reclaim the land they have lived and worked on for generations.

The passing of the Land Rights Act would also improve human rights in Liberia. It would reduce discrimination against women and other vulnerable groups who were unable to own land.

As Amina Bello, the Project Manager of CAFOD said, “The passage of Liberia’s land rights Act will increase women’s decision making power and improve family livelihoods…such women empowerment will further contribute to the eradication of poverty.”

With the passage of the Land Rights Act, farmers will be able to focus on sustainable food as well as nutrition security. As a result, food production will increase and can better support the growing Liberian population.

The”Land Rights for Liberia” project has placed added pressure on the passage of the Land Rights Act, which is necessary in order to secure various improvements for human rights in Liberia. It will rightfully return the land to the people.

Kendra Richardson

Photo: Flickr

Elpida home for refugees
While the 2015 refugee crisis somewhat faded from the international media’s view, the flow of refugees and the vulnerability of their human rights remains a meaningful concern among the international community.

From the start of the year to July 2017, more than 100,000 asylum seekers arrived in Europe by sea and upward of 2,000 additional individuals did not survive the attempted crossing. Since the beginning of the crisis, asylum seekers who managed to reach Europe arrived to inadequate and sometimes even dangerous conditions.

At first, in 2015, this seemed to be a symptom of inadequate legislation. However, the fact that these inhumane conditions have persisted points to insufficient humanitarian funding and the deliberate neglect of refugees.

Emina Cerimovic, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, stated that “the mental impact of years of conflict, exacerbated by harsh conditions” and “the uncertainty of inhumane policies, may not be as visible as physical wounds, but is no less life-threatening.” This warning came at a crucial time, as Hungary continues to house asylum seekers in shipping containers despite protests from the United Nations, European Union and the greater international community. As time has gone on, conditions in refugee camps remained stagnant and residents became increasingly less independent. They are forced to rely on the entity running their center for more of their basic needs.

NPR reporter Soraya Nelson, who visited a camp on the Hungary-Serbia border, describes it as a detention camp with only one accessible exit, which enters Serbia, a country that also struggles to uphold just migration policies. According to Nelson, all other gates are heavily guarded. The idea is that “people will get so fed up, they might just decide to leave.”

The containers that make up the camp, while more sturdy than the tents provided in many E.U. refugee centers, are undeniably cramped and allow for little ventilation. Their structure provides no clear separation of families and also house unaccompanied minors, one of the most controversial groups within the asylum-seeking population.

Despite this failure, the Elpida Home for Refugees, located near the industrial Center of Thessaloniki, Greece, provides a model for the future. Elpida, which means “hope” in Greek, managed to bridge the gap between inhumane refugee policies and the humane treatment of refugees. The center was founded by American philanthropist Ahmed Khan in partnership with the Radcliffe Foundation and the Greek Ministry of the Interior as an experiment in refugee assistance.

The Ministry donated an abandoned textile factory to the cause when presented with the concept for Elpida: to provide refugees the independence and services they need to continue their lives. The 6,000 square-meter space was converted into 140 residential units, each for six people or less, with shared bathrooms and a communal kitchen, allowing residents to enjoy private space, prepare meals and participate in the community.

The Elpida Home for Refugees is based on the idea that refugees need assistance from the bottom-up instead of from the top-down as is provided elsewhere. Top-down assistance means asylum seekers receive a small designated space in an overcrowded, often outdoor facility, with limited access to proper nutrition, hygiene and medical care. In these scenarios, typical of most refugee camps, residents are entirely reliant on the government or NGO who operates the camp.

Alternatively, the bottom-up care provided by the Elpida Home for Refugees allows its residents to utilize the tools made available by the organization, such as access to medical care, education, and their own personal rooms, to reclaim their lives and become independent.

The cooperation between the Greek government and the Radcliffe foundation can easily be replicated by other countries and organizations and then even more asylum seekers may find Elpida’s “hope” when they are most vulnerable.

Alena Zafonte