Inflammation and stories on immigration

Kids in Need of DefenseWhen she was 15 years old and nine months pregnant, Karla fled an abusive home in Honduras and sought shelter in the United States. After being referred to the Houston, Texas office of Kids in Need of Defense, Karla received pro bono legal assistance and was granted asylum. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) helps migrant children like Karla find a new life in safety. Karla’s story is not the norm though. Many migrant children are either turned away at the border or kept for weeks in facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border. Non-governmental organizations like KIND help by providing children with pro bono legal representation in immigration court, allowing children like Karla to find a safe home. KIND also works within countries of origin, fighting to alleviate the sources of suffering that cause children like Karla to migrate in the first place.

The Immigration Crisis

Conversations about immigration in the United States often focus on statistics and stereotypes rather than the actual people making the journey or the organizations working to help them. Organizations like KIND fight to make the discussions surrounding immigration about aid, safety and policy-oriented solutions rather than focusing on stopping immigration altogether.

Today, immigration is front and center in political debates. The Biden administration is working to right the wrongs of the previous presidential administrations. As detailed in a recent New York Times article, emergency facilities set up by the Biden administration have led to modest improvements in conditions for migrant children.

As Maria M. Odom, the senior vice president for legal programs at Kids in Need of Defense, clarifies, “These facilities were designed and ramped up with the goal of achieving prompt reunification with parents, sponsors and legal guardians.” But, a shortage of case managers for placing migrant children with family members and other sponsors leads to some children spending weeks, even months, in emergency facilities.

Reasons for Migration

While people migrate for a variety of reasons, migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border are primarily fleeing political and social instability, violence, crime, injustice and poverty. According to KIND, in countries like Honduras and Guatemala, more than half the population lives below the poverty line. In the western part of Guatemala, about a third of the population experiences extreme poverty. “Civil war, internal conflicts and natural disasters” have also weakened institutional structures in these nations. These dire circumstances prompt citizens to leave in search of better living conditions.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

Founded in 2008, Kids in Need of Defense is a U.S.-based NGO that provides legal aid and counsel to unaccompanied and separated migrant children once they are in the U.S. Through its offices in Mexico and its programs in Central America, KIND works with legal partners to address the root causes of migration. Overall, KIND works to “protect children during migration and connect repatriated children with essential services.”

Kids in Need of Defense also works with “partners in Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland and the United Kingdom.” Its European initiatives provide unaccompanied children in Europe with free legal support. In fact, in 2020, KIND launched KIND Mexico and opened its first offices outside of the U.S. This was prompted by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration.

KIND’s 2020 Impact

  • Provided services to 1,411 detained children
  • Worked with migrant children in 78 countries across the world
  • Assisted 194 children at the U.S.-Mexico border
  • Achieved a 95% success rate in legal cases

KIND works directly with policymakers to protect the rights of migrant children by advocating for durable policy solutions to child migration. Every decision it makes is grounded in the best interests of the child in order to ensure that no child is ever forced to migrate due to poverty or violence.

– Thomas McCall
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

children in migration
In February 2021, the European Union announced the new E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme in collaboration with UNICEF and the U.N. Refugee Agency. This initiative aims to ensure protective services for migrant children. The year 2020 marked the highest migrant population ever recorded with 280.6 million people. Nearly 15% of this population are children under 19. Extra care is necessary to ensure this vulnerable group can receive proper protection.

Creating the Programme

Children in migration are often at risk of gender violence, physical harm and exploitation as they travel to their destination. This is due to the lack of resources, government protection and spending long periods in immigration detention facilities. The E.U. created its Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme to address these risks of abuse in order to better protect minors in these situations. These protections are especially crucial because of the rising number of unaccompanied children in migration.

The plans include training for government officials who work with migrating children, increasing awareness of gendered violence and alternative care plans for migrant children to replace traditional immigration detention. Efforts will go towards provided education for officials to recognize child abuse and learn proper intervention techniques for the child’s safety. The program will focus on the countries El Salvador, Mexico, South Africa and Zambia.

The program expects to use approximately €7.5 million in funding and already received €7 million from the European Union by its launch date. Hopes are high that the program will protect many children within its 30-month duration; in Mexico alone in 2019, an estimated 52,000 children had to migrate.

The Risk of Gender Violence for Children in Migration

Children in migration are incredibly vulnerable to gender violence. This consists most commonly of sexual violence and exploitation. Perpetrators can easily take advantage of children without families, safe housing options or defenses. Migrating children are often subject to rape, sexual assault or even human trafficking while traveling to their final destination.

Small case studies from around the world report high rates of migrant children experiencing gender-based and sexual violence. However, the exact rates are difficult to find because so many cases go unreported. Since most children in migration do not have legal protection or support, they do not report assaults in their destination country. Girls are more likely to face gender violence, but migrant boys also report high rates of sexual violence. While migrant boys and girls face different challenges, both need special protection.

Research found officials under-trained to properly care for abused children’s needs once they reach safety. Increasing psychosocial training to assist children with sexual abuse or trauma could better prepare officials in locating resources to aid the child’s mental or physical needs.

Options for Alternatives to Migrant Children in Detention

UNICEF has already been educating partners on alternatives to putting migrating children in immigration detention, especially when they do not have accompaniment. Some children in detention have even reported sexual abuse and neglect by center workers. They need special protection even in an environment catered towards caring for migrating children.

Instead, UNICEF’s recommendations include new foster care programs or homestays with families that are trained and willing to house unaccompanied minors or children whose parents have been detained in immigration detention. Additionally, referral networks must appraise migrants of their rights and point children in migration towards protective environments.

Hope for Migrating Children

While the E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme is focusing on only four countries in the world, the findings from this project can be instrumental in pioneering solutions for government officials and social workers across the world working to support children in migration. With increased intervention and assistance, children in migration can safely seek refuge without fear of abuse.

– June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela Temporary Protection StatusDue to the dangerous conditions in Venezuela, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) helped pass the S.50: H.R. 161: Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021. This act aims to protect eligible Venezuelan citizens residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return to their home country. In addition to other criteria, Venezuelan citizens applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) must demonstrate they have been continuous residents of the U.S. since March 8, 2021, and have been continuously present in the U.S. since March 9, the effective date of the TPS. Considering these prerequisites, USCIS estimates around 323,000 citizens are applicable for TPS.

The Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act allows beneficiaries to remain in the United States for an extended period of 18 months or until September 9, 2022, when the act is no longer active. They are also authorized to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) during this period as long as they follow the requirements of their TPS. An EAD allows non-citizens to work in the U.S. for a certain period of time. Beneficiaries can also apply for authorized travel outside of the U.S. but retain the same immigrant status after returning. It is important to note that TPS does not lead or result in permanent resident status. Whatever past status a beneficiary had remains intact after the act ends.

Current Conditions in Venezuela

This bill is highly necessary when considering the harsh conditions in Venezuela. Poverty in Venezuela increased from 48.4% in 2014 to 96% in 2019. In addition, 80% are currently living in extreme poverty. At least 2.3 million Venezuelans are facing food insecurity. From an economic perspective, in this same timespan, Venezuela’s economy declined by 66%. This has made Venezuela the country with the highest inflation rate in the world. Healthcare has diminished greatly as well, with pharmacies experiencing shortages of approximately 85% of necessary medicine. Also, about 70% of surveyed hospitals lack access to clean water. In terms of violence, Venezuela is among the world’s most violent countries with nearly 7,000 extrajudicial killings between January 2018 and May 2019. In addition, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory NGO calculated 46 murders for every 100,000 people during 2020.

Benefits of the TPS

TPS was created under the Immigration Act of 1990 and is currently serving 470,000 people from 10 different countries dealing with severely unsafe conditions. Under the current Biden-Harris administration and the newly written U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, citizens currently benefiting from TPS can access a path to citizenship that wasn’t available before. This act has not yet passed but has gathered attention and would be highly beneficial for both the U.S. economy and immigrants from countries facing violence and civic unrest. After all, current TPS holders have a labor force participation rate of over 80% and are expected to contribute $164 billion to the national gross domestic product over the next 10 years.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, in accordance with the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021, “It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises.”

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr

Irregular Migration: Causes and Looking Forward
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there were more than 100 million irregular migrants around the world in 2018. One of the aspects of irregular migration that people most widely recognize and talk about is which factors drive people to leave their homes in the first place. In recent years, the ongoing civil wars in Libya and Syria, as well as violent conflict in Central America linked to drug cartels, have often made the headlines in this regard, and many likely think of such factors as the primary drivers pushing people to migrate outside of the normal legal and bureaucratic channels. While many of these people have to leave their homes due to armed conflict, many more find themselves moving due to a lack of economic opportunity or due to environmental factors. Such factors are ones that the international community can and should be addressing through humanitarian aid.

What to Know

Without greater attention to these root causes, millions will likely have to leave their homes in search of physical and economic security, leading to greater irregular migration waves that countries have challenges handling. This can also fuel exploitation and benefit criminal networks taking advantage of people forced to migrate irregularly or who have experienced displacement. Many persons who experience displacement due to non-conflict factors will also fall into the category of internally displaced people or IDPs. IDPs do not have the same legal status as refugees, and, as a result, often have fewer institutionalized resources and services addressing their needs and the challenges they face.

As of 2018, only 40 countries had involvement with the Expert Group on Refugee and IDP Statistics, or EGRIS. EGRIS works on international research into methods for tracking refugee statistics and possible recommendations to address the number of IDPs. While this exposes the need for serious reform around internally displaced people and how to address their plight, it also means that until countries adopt a more accessible and universal legal approach, fighting the root causes that lead to displacement must be a priority.

IDPs and Disaster Prevention

While ending conflicts driving displacement is a high-profile issue, more IDPs would benefit if a greater focus were to go toward disaster relief. According to data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center’s 2019 Global Report on Internal Displacement, the number of people that disasters displaced increased each year from 2008-2018.

While disaster prevention is at times difficult and the effects of environmental challenges may only undergo reversal or mitigation on a large time scale, countries can deal with the fallout from disasters through humanitarian aid and relief efforts concentrated on rebuilding communities and compensating for losses. However, such efforts must give equal thought to establishing long-term physical and environmental security in the areas dealing with the fallout from disasters. Without long-term investment focused on growth and rejuvenation, areas that are past sites of disasters will continue to be the point of origin for IDPs. A greater focus on disaster relief also allows NGOs and nonprofits more room for involvement since disaster relief is an area where many consider these groups legitimate actors and encourage their participation.

Solutions

In 2016, USAID launched a five-year plan and a call to action to help irregular migrants in East Asia and the Pacific. The first year, $12 million went to strengthening collaboration across the borders of “source, transit and destination countries.” USAID is working to reduce human trafficking, which irregular migrants often fall victim to due to the lack of resources to protect them. Similar to EGRIS, USAID is collecting data to help discover even more effective ways to help irregular migrants. In its first year working in Cambodia, direct assistance went to 250 victims of human trafficking. Furthermore, in the vein of disaster relief, 5,400 deportees from Thailand received emergency assistance from USAID; 140 of those deportees were also victims of human trafficking.

By reframing the narrative around irregular migration and displacement to better reflect the root causes that contribute to the issue, the nonprofit and aid sectors can create better policies that will not only treat the symptoms of migration and displacement but ultimately reduce the push factors that lead to irregular migration in the first place.

– Matthew Cantwell McCormick
Photo: Flickr

healthcare worker emigrationThe emigration of skilled healthcare workers from developing countries to higher-income nations has significantly impacted the healthcare systems of the countries these workers leave behind. The quantity and quality of healthcare services have declined as a result of healthcare worker shortages. While there is still incredible room for growth, recent governmental strategies have incentivized healthcare workers to work in their home countries.

Why Is Healthcare Worker Emigration a Problem?

When healthcare workers emigrate, they leave hospitals in developing countries without enough skilled workers. Lower-income countries are likely to carry a greater amount of the global disease burden while having an extremely low healthcare staff to patient ratio. For example, sub-Saharan Africa only has 3% of all healthcare workers worldwide, while it carries 25% of the global disease burden. In many African countries with severe healthcare worker emigration, like Lesotho and Uganda, hospitals become overcrowded. Furthermore, hospitals cannot provide proper treatment for everyone due to the lack of skilled workers.

This directly affects the quality of care patients receive in countries with high healthcare worker emigration. Newborn, child and maternal health outcomes are worse when there are worker shortages. When fewer workers are available, fewer people receive healthcare services and the quality of care worsens for populations in need.

Why Do Healthcare Workers Emigrate?

The emigration of doctors, nurses, and other skilled healthcare workers from developing countries occurs for a number of reasons. The opportunity for higher wages elsewhere is often the most important factor in the decision to emigrate. Additionally, healthcare workers may migrate to higher-income nations to find political stability and achieve a better quality of life. The rate of highly skilled worker emigration, which has been on the rise since it was declared a major public health issue in the 1940s, has left fragile healthcare systems with a diminished workforce.

Moreover, the United States and the United Kingdom, two of the countries receiving the greatest numbers of healthcare worker immigrants, actively recruit healthcare workers from developing countries. These recruitment programs aim to combat the U.S. and U.K.’s own shortages of healthcare workers. Whether or not these programs factor into workers’ migration, both the U.S. and the U.K. are among the top five countries to which 90% of migrating physicians relocate.

Mitigating Healthcare Worker Emigration

The World Health Organization suggests that offering financial incentives, training and team-based opportunities can contribute to job satisfaction. This may motivate healthcare workers to remain in the healthcare system of their home country. Some developing countries have implemented these strategies to incentivize healthcare professionals to remain in their home countries.

For example, Malawi faced an extreme shortage of healthcare workers in the early 2000s. Following policy implementation addressing healthcare worker emigration, the nation has seen a decrease in the emigration rate. Malawi’s government launched the Emergency Human Resources Program (EHRP) in 2004. This program promoted worker retention through a 52% salary increase, additional training and the recruitment of volunteer nursing tutors and doctors. 

In only five years after the EHRP began, the proportion of healthcare workers to patients grew by 66% while emigration declined. Malawi expanded upon this program in 2011 with the Health Sector Strategic Plan. Following this plan, the number of nurses in Malawi grew from 4,500 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2015. Though the nation still faces some worker shortages, it hopes to continue to address this with further policy changes.

Trinidad is another a country that has mitigated the challenges faced by the emigration of healthcare workers. Trinidadian doctors who train in another country now get government scholarships to pay for their training. However, these scholarships rest on the condition that they return home to practice medicine for at least five years. Such a financial incentive creates a stronger foundation for healthcare professionals to practice in their home country.

A Turn Toward Collaboration

A recent study determined that the collaboration of nurses, doctors and midwives significantly decreased mortality for mothers and children in low-income countries. As developing countries work toward generating strategies to manage the emigration of healthcare workers, a team-based approach can improve the quality of healthcare. When there are shortages of certain kinds of health professionals in remote areas, family health teams composed of workers in varying health disciplines can collaborate to provide care. 

Improving working conditions and providing both financial and non-financial incentives to healthcare professionals in developing countries not only benefits workers and the patients, but the nation’s healthcare infrastructure as a whole. An increase in the number of skilled healthcare workers in developing countries gives people there the opportunity for a better life.

– Ilana Issula
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Poverty in Spain
The late 90’s and early 2000s saw an influx of Latin Americans immigrating to Spain. The reasons for this immigration are varied and the phenomenon is undeniable. From 1990 to 2005, the population of immigrants in Spain increased from 58,000 people to 569,000 people. The most popular reasons for this wave of immigration include global, economic crises and dangerous dictatorships. Notably, these waves of migration had significant impacts on Spanish culture. Latin American poverty in Spain came about due to a multitude of factors, including economic collapse and political instability. Understanding the effects of immigration can help to better understand the overall effect of migration on global poverty.

Top 3 Reasons Latin Americans Emigrated

  1. Economic Crashes. The crashing of the Latin American economy played a major role in the immigration of Latin Americans to Spain. Countries hit especially hard include Argentina, Brazil and Peru. There were plans to promote the security of the economy at the macroeconomic level, including being more open to trade and interaction with other countries. Also, these plans involved having pro-market policies. There was a belief that these policies would lead to the growth of Latin American economies, though the opposite was the case. As a result of these policies, there was a growth in hyperinflation in the late 80’s, leading to a general crisis across the entire region. Though the economy recovered in the early 90’s, the latter half of the decade proved to be destructive when there was an abrupt decrease in internal, capital flows to the region. These issues continued into the early 2000s. These economic crises corresponded with levels of mass emigration to other countries, most notably Spain and the U.S.
  2. Political Instability. There were several dictatorships in the 20th century that contributed to the economic devastation and the lower quality of life in Latin American countries. This, in turn, also contributed to Latin American poverty. Numerous dictatorships affected this balance. Countries such as Ecuador, Guatemala, Chile, Honduras, Uruguay, and many others felt these effects. Dictators completely altered the way of living in the region. Though there were many writers and artists discussing the effects of the dictatorships (which are still felt in these countries today), the effects ultimately proved too much for some citizens. Shortly after the end of these dictatorships, many people immigrated to other countries. Statistically, the most populous countries for migration were the U.S. and Spain.
  3. Terrible Quality of Life. The decline in Latin Americans’ quality of life was due to a combination of political instability and economic devastation. According to Venezuelan immigrant Rosa (name changed for privacy reasons), her move to Spain from Venezuela was a result of a combination of the two issues. Migrants chose to pursue better economic and political opportunities elsewhere.

Top 3 Things to Know About Latin American Poverty in Spain

  1. Primary Groups of Immigration. Three main groups of immigrants live in Spain — Argentinians, Ecuadorians and Colombians. These groups were the most impacted by the financial crises and dictatorships in the Latin American region. Researchers noticed that these countries felt the most impact by these issues and had the highest levels of emigration. All Latin American immigrants were legally welcomed into Spain through the passage of various forms of legislation intended to help boost the Spanish economy.
  2. Assimilation into Spanish life. Immigrant assimilation into Spanish life has taken on different forms for these migrants. For example, Rosa first migrated to Spain three years ago because of the dictatorship of Nicólas Maduro. Because of the dictatorship, she could not find or hold a steady job and sought better political and economic opportunities in Spain. She described her assimilation as “easier” because she is half-Spanish. One area of immediate struggle for Rosa is the ability to communicate with Spaniards. There are different vocabulary words to represent the same idea and Sandra had to learn the appropriate words to communicate with others. Further, it is culturally appropriate for people to rest in the middle of the day — which was not typical for Rosa.

    Though Rosa was able to transition relatively smoothly, other immigrants fare differently. Ecuadorian immigrants in particular typically reside in one district of the city of Seville. According to previous census records, these immigrants live in urban neighborhoods and make the least amount of money, through low-level jobs. Immigrants have also been shown to contribute the most towards higher crime rates in Spain. Psychologists attribute this to difficulties with assimilation due to the poorer neighborhoods, schools and jobs.

  3. Women & Children. Women and children are disproportionately affected by immigration effects. In particular, children attend worse schools and are more likely to commit crimes. For example, the rates of crime for Ecuadorian immigrants in Spain has continued to increase throughout the years. This, in turn, contributes to the overall levels of Latin American poverty in Spain. Because these immigrants have been living in mostly urban neighborhoods and have been working the lowest-level jobs, they are viewed as more likely to commit crimes such as robbery and petty larceny.

Ending Latin American Poverty in Spain

Latin American immigration is a cultural phenomenon, studied and investigated throughout the entire 21st century. Argentines, Colombians and Brazilians were the primary groups that experienced the highest levels of immigration and the highest effects of immigration. Understanding the dynamics between immigrants and native citizens can inform better responses to Latin American poverty in Spain.

Alondra Belford
Photo: Flickr

Immigration Reform in BrazilAccording to Brazilian law, immigrants are guaranteed the same basic rights as citizens regardless of their status. However, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many shortcomings of Brazil’s legal system. Many immigrants were forced into insecure situations that have put their well-being at risk. The exacerbated vulnerability of many immigrants caused by COVID-19 has spurred a new social movement, Regularização Já (Regularization Now). The movement pushes for immigration reform in Brazil in the midst of the pandemic.

Immigrants in Brazil: A Particularly Vulnerable Population

As the virus continues to spread in Brazil, immigrants constitute one of the most at-risk groups. In their policy brief covering COVID-19 as it relates to migrants, the U.N. mentions three interlocking crises that contribute to the particularly precarious position of migrants:

  1. A health crisis: Many migrants have limited or nonexistent access to health services due to legal, cultural or language barriers.
  2. A socioeconomic crisis: Migrants working in the informal sector do not have access to social protection measures such as unemployment or stimulus checks.
  3. A protection crisis: As countries close their borders to contain the spread of COVID-19, many migrants remain in dangerous situations with little agency to move somewhere safer. Furthermore, asylum-seekers and refugees may have to return to unsafe situations in their countries of origin.

Immigrants in Brazil are particularly vulnerable due to the worsening health crisis within the country. As of July 24, 2020, Brazil was the second hardest-hit country in the world in terms of COVID-19 with a staggering 2.3 million confirmed cases and more than 85,000 deaths. Another factor that leaves immigrants to Brazil in a precarious position is the age demographic of the immigrant population. In contrast to other countries experiencing high numbers of coronavirus cases, Brazil’s immigrant population has a greater proportion of elderly people. In general, 9.3% of Brazil’s population are 65-years-old or older. 21.4% of the country’s immigrant population is in the same age range. The demographics of the immigrant population, combined with the country’s public health crisis, exacerbate immigrant vulnerabilities throughout Brazil.

COVID-19 and Immigration

Like many countries, Brazil has enacted ordinances to restrict movement across borders to contain COVID-19. There are exemptions in place for immigrants related to Brazilian citizens, those with authorization to reside in Brazil for a fixed or indefinite term and those who hold a National Migration Registry Card. However, in March the government paused the issuance of National Migration Registry Cards as well as the processing of asylum applications for the duration of the public health crisis.

The Brazilian federal government made monthly relief checks available to unemployed people and workers in the informal sector. However, banks have unlawfully requested immigrants to provide supporting documents such as proof of residence to collect them. Additionally, many immigrants without legal status do not have bank accounts where the checks could be deposited. As a result, many immigrants in Brazil exist in a limbo-like state without access to federal aid and without the freedom to leave the country to safer, more financially viable situations.

The Movement Towards Regularization

Several countries granted migrants temporary residence status and access to healthcare for the duration of the pandemic. These protections would likely disappear after the public health emergency ends. However, civil society groups and activists in Brazil claim that this is not enough. They feel their country must move beyond temporary fixes for an ongoing problem. Instead, many are pushing for a bill that would grant regularization to all immigrants in Brazil, effectively bringing full immigration reform to Brazil.

This bill would give all immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, residency for up to two years. It would also provide the possibility of renewal for an indefinite amount of time. Federal agencies have stopped processing most immigration requests as a result of COVID-19. The regularization bill would immediately grant residency to those whose immigration cases are pending or on hold. This bill is particularly important to immigrants struggling amidst the pandemic. The residency would enable broader access to healthcare and social benefits, such as the monthly relief checks from the federal government.

Activism Moving Forward

Activists for the regularization bill face an administration that has demonstrated disregard for migrants’ rights, especially during the pandemic. In spite of this, Brazil has proven that it can implement more progressive immigration policies. Responding to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, Brazil leads the way in protecting thousands of displaced people by granting them refugee status.

The COVID-19 pandemic moved activists to push for this same level of care to be given to immigrants already within the country. Should the regularization bill pass, current immigrants would benefit from improved access to public resources. The bill would also set the scene for the ongoing support of future immigrant populations and immigration reform in Brazil.

– Alanna Jaffee
Photo: USAID

Hunger in Norway
The nation of Norway utilizes comprehensive social service programs in order to provide medical care, education and pension to its citizens. These policies have assisted in maintaining a low rate of poverty and hunger in Norway. In the previous decade, Norway has experienced an increase in labor and refugee immigration. Though only 3% of the nation’s citizens suffer from food insecurity, immigrants often face hardships in gaining adequate nutrition.

Immigrant Hunger

Asylum seekers are defined as individuals who are forced to immigrate to another country and await refugee status. In Norway, such individuals often represent the countries of Syria, Turkey and Eritrea. The nation experienced a steady increase in refugee applicants beginning in 2006, peaking at 30,470 applicants in 2015 and declining in the following years. In 2017, Norway granted each asylum seeker 250 euros per month while they awaited approval. However, a typical adult in Norway spends 250 euros each month on food alone, and food-related costs account for only 11% of an average family’s total spending.

Language barriers, low income, unfamiliar cuisine customs and religious standards also contribute to immigrant hunger in Norway. For instance, a study conducted in 2014 discovered that immigrant women shopping for food in Norway largely purchased what appeared “familiar or safe” due to lack of knowledge about meal preparation and ingredients that would affect religious customs. Along with acquiring monetary means to purchase food, lack of nutritional savvy poses a barrier to sustaining a healthy diet.

School lunches also pose a threat to immigrant food security. While equal access to free public education is a norm, school lunches must either be purchased or provided. A study analyzing the influences of ethnicity, financial constraints and food consumption revealed that immigrant families must often make small sacrifices to supply the standard packed lunch of bread and meat. Thus, the inability to provide packed lunches contributes to hunger in Norway among school-aged children.

Immigrant Statistics

  • A 2018 study found that individuals with an immigrant background were three times more likely to experience economic difficulties and inadequate housing.
  • The same study revealed that individuals with an immigrant background were twice as likely to possess insufficient income, further exacerbating immigrant hunger in Norway.
  • In 2019, a study focusing on asylum seekers found that 93% were food insecure and 78% were food insecure with hunger.
  • Of families with children in the same study, 20% encountered child hunger.

Welfare Policies

Generous social policies and relatively equal wage distribution are trademarks of Norway’s welfare model. Such policies, however, are contingent upon a qualified labor market and a high rate of employment in order to generate the economic stability required to fund the country’s programs.

When considering immigrants, this model presents negatives and positives. Negatively, integration into the labor market has proved difficult among immigrant populations due to differences in qualifications, educational backgrounds, professional experiences and instances of discrimination. Positively, educational systems and equal wage distribution provide foundations for crafting a prosperous life.

An article published in the New Political Science journal in 2018 revealed that strict immigration policies of right-wing populist groups (exemplified in Norway by the Progress Party) have contributed to the groups’ recent successes across Europe. Debates between the coalition government of the Progress and Conservative Parties and the Labor Party reveal a wide range of stances. Opinions vary, from tightening the immigration policy to celebrating the increased economic productivity and diversity.

These debates concerning how to address the new realities of immigration have the potential to affect the Norwegian welfare model. Specifically, these beliefs could impact the educational system frameworks, training for employment and qualifications for government assistance.

Norwegian Humanitarian Initiatives

Domestically, a humanitarian foundation called Caritas provides career services, housing accommodations and healthcare counseling to immigrant families in Resource Centers across five major Norwegian cities.

In 2019, the Norwegian government developed an action plan titled “Food, People and the Environment” to promote global food security through sustainable food development in accordance with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. This action plan is an integrated governmental approach that addresses malnutrition and inefficient agricultural practices as a part of Norwegian foreign and development policies.

Additionally, Norway has worked with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to utilize its knowledge of aquaculture to promote responsible fishing practices among developing countries. This partnership also works to combat deforestation, provide emergency relief and establish prosperous legislative frameworks.

 

As a leader in foreign assistance and domestic development, Norway exhibits strategies for promoting food security. Though there is a relatively low rate of hunger in Norway, it remains necessary to resolve immigrant food insecurity, and this nation has taken steps to do so.

Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in NorwayNorway, a European nation known for its beautiful national parks, winter sports and northern lights, is ranked eighth by USA Today on the list of Top 25 Richest Countries in the World. The average life expectancy for a Norwegian at birth is 82.5 years, over a decade more than the global average. Norway is also one of the countries with the lowest child mortality rate. Impressively, Norway also has a very low poverty rate (at 0.5% as of 2017). However, contrary to the conventional image of Norway being a very affluent country, many Norwegians still live in poverty. Here are five facts about poverty in Norway.

5 Facts About Poverty in Norway

  1. Due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, the unemployment rate in Norway is 15.7% as of June 2020. The unemployment rate in Norway is at its highest since WWII. Pre-COVID-19, however, the unemployment rate in Norway had been already decreasing since 2016, from 4.68% (the nation’s highest unemployment rate since 2005) to 3.97% in a matter of 3 years. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration has a website for unemployed Norwegians to use in order to seek unemployment benefits.
  2. As of 2016, 36% of children born to immigrants live in poverty in Norway, compared to 5% of children with parents native to Norway.  This economic discrepancy is due to Norwegian immigrants often having large families but only one source of income. Many immigrants also have skills that were considered valuable in their home countries but inapplicable in the Norwegian job market. Another factor to consider is how common it is for Norwegian children in poverty to lack access to proper education, perpetuating issues related to poverty as they become adults and for families of their own.
  3. As of 2017, around 60% of children in Oslo, Norway’s capital city with the most residents, live in poverty. Researcher Ingar Brattbakk from the Labour Research Institute at Oslo University College led a study that concluded that “nowhere else in Norway is near that figure.” However, it seems to be a universal issue that cities with high populations are more likely to have more poor people than those with lower populations. Raymond Johansen, current Governing Mayor of Oslo and a member of the Norwegian Labor Party, had stated in 2018 that more funds will go toward area-based initiatives, such as crisis packages for people in increasingly affected districts.
  4. The age range with the highest risk of being in poverty in Norway is 18-34 years of age. Many people in this age group are more affected by poverty because they are graduating from universities with debt, have large families and/or cannot find suitable employment within the Norwegian job market. There is also a sharp increase in poverty rates for elderly Norwegians (from 70 to 90 years of age) because they are past the typical working age. Other determinants of poverty include education level, family size, employment and marital status.
  5. Poverty is low in Norway due to the nation’s emphasis on collectivism and efficiency with job placement. The nation places major significance on cultural identity, values and practices, all of which add to their homogenous society that allows for many native Norwegian people to prosper socioeconomically. The country also has a rather small population (5.4 million as of 2020) even though Norway has a large amount of landmass. Norway also significantly contributes to petroleum export, which improves its economy greatly. Sustained tourism also positively adds to the nation’s wealth. Norway has a lesser rate of migration compared to other nations such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The nation has a stable democratic system of government with highly effective and trustworthy politicians who are extremely proactive in handling the welfare system. Reasons such as these have contributed to recent miscellaneous surveys citing Norway as “the best country to live in.” While this may be true for some, this ranking does not take into account the voices of those who live in poverty.

Although Norway has a very small poverty rate, the nation still experiences poverty: more specifically, poverty in Norway’s immigrant communities. One way Norway can address poverty is by helping ease the transition of immigrants. Potential methods include more school funding, free or low-cost language lessons and an expansion of the job market. An example of a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Norway’s poor is Care International’s Norwegian chapter, a global group whose volunteers participate in humanitarian aid and poverty-fighting projects. Being such an affluent and progressive country, with some more money, time and energy, Norway can be on the track to lowering its poverty rate to zero.

Kia Wallace
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