Moldova is Helping Ukrainian RefugeesA former republic of the Soviet Union, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with a poverty rate of 26.8% as of 2020. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova faced economic hardship, widespread corruption and political instability, but made progress between 2006 and 2015 toward national poverty reduction.

However, since early 2020, Moldova has experienced a series of intense economic shocks beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic that led to an estimated loss of nearly 8% of jobs across the nation, disproportionately affecting young workers. In 2020, Moldova also experienced one of the worst droughts in recent decades, which reduced agricultural production by 34%. In late 2021, the European gas crisis adversely affected the nation for several months, which increased gas prices by 400%, until Moldova’s government signed a new contract with a Russian-controlled gas company. By February 2022, Moldova was beginning to recover from these shocks, but the sudden outbreak of war when Russian forces invaded Ukraine threatened Moldova’s immediate economic recovery and future trajectory.

How Moldova is Helping Ukrainian Refugees

Despite the nation’s challenges, Moldova’s government and citizens have made remarkable efforts to help Ukrainian refugees. Since the start of the war, more than 460,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion have traveled through Moldova, with nearly 100,000 refugees choosing to remain in the nation. The Moldovan government immediately set up facilities for refugees, offering medical and psychological assistance at the war’s onset. Officials also extended the right to live and work in Moldova to Ukrainian refugees, along with access to health care services and education. Notably, 95% of the refugees are staying with Moldovan families.

Humanitarian Organizations Supporting Moldova’s Efforts

UNHCR, the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, has assisted the Moldovan government through a series of measures, expanding its staff by nearly 100 members in the nation since the crisis began. The agency is helping Ukrainian refugees and supporting the work of local authorities in Moldova by offering access to information, health and legal services, child protection services, initiatives to prevent human trafficking and gender-based violence as well as offering transportation to European Union countries. A core component of the UNHCR’s response effort is a cash assistance program that allows Ukrainian refugees to receive around 2,200 Moldovan Lei (equivalent to $120) each month. The process is facilitated through enrollment centers and mobile teams that help refugees enroll, and the program has already helped more than 50,000 refugees in Moldova receive cash.

The World Bank has also implemented initiatives to help Moldova build economic resilience and mitigate the impacts of the war in Ukraine. In June 2022, the World Bank allocated $159.24 million to Moldova as part of an Emergency Response, Resilience and Competitiveness Development Policy Operation (DPO). Moldova’s government remains committed to its social and economic developmental reform agenda, and this relief funding will allow the government to support the country’s immediate needs while also providing momentum for long-term recovery efforts.

– Oliver De Jonghe
Photo: Flickr

Bike Campaign to Help Ukrainian RefugeesThousands of Ukrainians fleeing Ukraine enter the city of Lviv daily, about 40 miles from the Polish border. With 200,000 additional residents due to the influx of Ukrainian refugees, the city of Lviv faces logistical challenges as buses and trains become overcrowded. Bikes4Ukraine is a new bike campaign to help Ukrainian refugees move around the city of Lviv.

The War

Russia attacked and invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. By June 15, 2022, around 5 million Ukrainians had fled to neighboring countries while others faced internal displacement. According to Al Jazeera, by March 2022, more than 10 million Ukrainians faced displacement and hundreds of civilians had lost their lives. The invasion, led by President Vladimir Putin, marks the “biggest war on a European state since World War II.” The invasion of Ukraine has had a global impact —  amid “recovery from the COVID-19 recession,” the world now grapples with further economic downturn. However, in the grips of another world crisis, the international community is stepping up to assist Ukrainians in need.

Helping Those in Need

Due to overcrowding in Lviv as a result of the influx of Ukrainian refugees, individuals are finding it difficult to access public transportation to move around the city. Lviv, now with 200,000 more residents, faces challenges as more people now need living spaces and require transportation to move around the city.

A new bike campaign to help Ukrainian refugees, called Bikes4Ukraine, looks to address these logistical issues. According to Fast Company, Bikes4Ukraine began in May 2022 with the help of Copenhagen-based cycling infrastructure guru Mikael Colville-Andersen, founder of the urban bike consultancy Copenhagenize. In May 2022, Orest Oleskiv, head of the Transport Office in Lviv, reached out to Colville-Andersen to find out how to bring in surplus bikes from Denmark.

Colville-Andersen quickly established the Bikes4Ukraine campaign in response to the need for transportation in Lviv. Bikes4Ukraine will donate bicycles to Lviv from Copenhagen, Denmark, a city famous for having “more bikes than people,” Fast Company reports. Lviv is also addressing logistical issues by adding “more than 12 miles of new bike lanes with protective barriers” to make it easier for those on bikes to get around.

The short-term goal of the bike campaign to help Ukrainian refugees is to get 2,000 bikes in healthy condition for people to ride without complications. Colville-Andersen hopes to see the campaign “grow to 100,000 bikes or even a million,” Fast Company reports.

The Solution

Considering that the war has displaced around 10 million people, bikes are necessary to ease the pressure on existing public transport systems. During the Russia-Ukraine crisis, bikes hold multiple benefits in light of high fuel costs and road infrastructure damage. Bikes can stand as advantageous transport options because they do not require fuel and can travel off-road.

Similar campaigns also look to collect bikes for Ukrainian refugees by involving not just Denmark but also other countries with bike surpluses, like Ireland and Canada. However, Bikes4Ukraine is the first large-scale initiative to also send bike donations to Ukraine itself.

Through the efforts of the international community, Ukrainian refugees can look to a brighter tomorrow.

– Alexis King
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NGOs in Turkey
Turkey has the largest refugee population in the world, hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and about 320,000 refugees from other countries. With mass amounts of people migrating to Turkey, there are several complications that must be accounted for, one being the issue of accessible education for those entering the country. Listed below are three NGOs in Turkey that have been helping refugees and local students access educational resources.

Darussafaka Society

Five young male scholars founded the Darussafaka Society in 1863 with the aim of providing quality education and resources to those in need. The Darussafaka Society provides scholarships and academic opportunities to children in need of financial aid or children who have lost a parent. Each year, 120 students receive opportunities from the Darussafaka Society. Its aim is to present equality of opportunity in education to its students, even though its students do not come from financially stable households. Darussafaka alumni have found successful careers in both the public and private sectors in Turkey. Many others have taken the opportunity to study and work abroad. As the Darussafaka Society boasts more than 155 years of experience, it is currently working to provide online learning options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including international programs, through a virtual format.

Turkish Educational Foundation

The Turkish Educational Foundation (TEF) is one of the oldest educational philanthropic NGOs in Turkey, as it has been in service for about 51 years. Unique to the other NGOs, TEF is based in Berkeley, CA, allowing it to have more international connections and resources than foundations solely based in Turkey. TEF’s primary objective is to provide accessible education to those in need regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Each year, TEF supports 1,000 Turkish students with their programs. It offers several unique programs for international volunteers including a Youth Group which works to fundraise and communicate their message, and an English Learning Program where students can learn from English-speaking volunteers from around the world. TEF is currently working with its Youth Group to maintain the program’s success throughout the COVID-19 pandemic via virtual fundraisers and events.

The Imece Initiative

The Imece Initiative, one of the most prominent NGOs in Turkey, has been working since 2014 to provide education services specifically to Syrian refugees in Turkey. One of the Imece Initiative’s primary beliefs is that education should not undergo distribution based on a child’s ethnic background, but that education should be accessible to everyone. “We wanted to create a community free of political and religious considerations,” stated founder Ali Güray Yalvaçlı. “To give the opportunity for anyone, regardless of their background, to contribute with their skills and time to help those in need.” One of its most notable projects is The Solar Age Project, which supports women refugees in Turkey by teaching them life skills that help them in finding employment once they undergo establishment in the country.

With organizations like these, it is easy to see that there are lots of opportunities for both refugee and native students in Turkey to receive the best education possible. Though it can be easy to lose oneself in the negative effects of poverty in the world, organizations like the ones introduced above provide hope for a better future of education for all.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Relocate Afghan Refugees
The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal has left hundreds of thousands of Afghans either displaced or seeking refuge. The United Nations has estimated that
 up to 500,000 Afghans will flee Afghanistan by the end of 2021. As a result, as the Taliban’s power continues to grow, countries across the globe have opened their doors to help relocate Afghan refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one global organization that is taking a lead in this relocation work. The IRC helps relocate Afghan refugees in Mexico, Uganda and Pakistan.

About the International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933, the IRC responds to catastrophes and humanitarian crises across the globe. Since its inception, the IRC assists those who have had to relocate by providing them with lifesaving care and long-term stability. To date, the IRC operates in over 40 counties and 22 U.S. cities offering a range of support to people who have been uprooted and are struggling.

How the IRC Helps Relocate Afghan Refugees

For the past 30 years, the IRC has worked to provide aid to Afghanistan and continues to amid the ongoing crisis. On August 31, 2021, the IRC announced that the Mexican government will welcome 175 refugees arriving in Mexico City. Throughout its history and to date, Mexico has been a safe haven for those seeking refuge. Upon their arrival, the IRC provides urgent medical care, welcome kits, COVID-19 PPE and Psychological First Aid (PFA) to those who need it. The IRC has also announced plans to provide refugees in Mexico with cash cards to communicate with families still in Afghanistan.

Uganda is a second country that works with the IRC. Since 1998, Uganda and the IRC have supported over 1.5 million refugees and are currently working with the United States and United Kingdom embassies to provide asylum for Afghan refugees. Similar to Mexico’s approach, upon arriving in Uganda, refugees receive housing, medical assistance, COVID-19 PPE, sanitary products and temporary immigration cards. IRC staff onsite in Uganda have also provided refugees with a 24/7 medical clinic along with individual and group psychosocial services.

The IRC has also been working with Pakistan since 1980 and the partnership has helped more than 3 million Afghan refugees relocate. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has depleted much of Pakistan’s resources and ravaged its economy, Pakistani officials have assured temporary asylum for new refugees coming from Afghanistan. The IRC helps Afghan relocate refugees arriving in Pakistan by supporting them through cash assistance, health care, job training and “child-friendly spaces” where children can play and attend school in a safe environment. 

Types of Support the IRC Receives

  • Donations. The IRC website offers multiple avenues for people to donate. The Rescue Gifts page includes hundreds of gifts ranging from baby kits and survival kits to a year of school for two girls. People can also make a one-time or monthly donation that will go towards providing refugees with medical care and other emergency assistance. The IRC spends 87% of all donations on programming.
  • Volunteers. Volunteers help coordinate community outreach in various areas by hosting donation drives or working internships to get hands-on experience with refugee resettlement. They also help refugees adjust when they make it to the U.S. by hosting refugees in their homes with IRC’s partner Airbnb.
  • Community Support. Individuals can call their representatives and mobilize community members to contact their representatives. In addition, you can work alongside the IRC’s Policy and Advocacy team in the fight for policies and legislation. Text RESCUE to 40649 to start taking action

A Promising Future

The road ahead will be tough for Afghanistan and for the Afghan refugees. Nevertheless, the IRC’s support will change the course of the refugee crisis one donation at a time. 

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

How These 3 NGOs Are Helping Eritrean Refugees
The ongoing conflict in the Tigray province of Ethiopia has wreaked devastation. In November 2020, after months of political turmoil, the Ethiopian government launched a military offensive against Tigray regional forces. As a result, an estimated 353,000 people are in the worst classification for food security and thousands more have died. U.N.-backed data also show that 1.7 million are near maximum risk of food insecurity. Because of the crisis, several NGOs are taking on the fight in helping Eritrean Refugees. Here is how three NGOs are helping Eritrean refugees.

The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE)

John Stauffer founded The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE) in 2010, which is an organization that provides aid to Eritrean refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and around the globe. TATDE works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by providing refugees in the U.S. and globally with adequate housing and resettlement support. This includes a new apartment checklist and a picture dictionary that translates Tigrinya, a prominent language that Eritrean people speak, to English.

In collaboration with other NGOs, TATDE assists in fielding emergency calls from Eritrean refugees on the run, defecting Eritrean individuals officials and those facing deportation. Some noteworthy work includes a scholarship program designed to provide nursing and other medical training to refugees living in camps.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides clean water, education, medical aid and shelter to those who have had to flee or have experienced displacement. Operating in more than 30 countries and with about 15,000 humanitarians, NRC aims to rebuild futures and save lives. Working with Eritrea’s Ministry of Education, NRC helps provide Eritrean refugees with educational and economic programs. The main goals include:

  • Offering training in hairdressing, electrical installation, masonry, plumbing and irrigation skills and fishery.
  • Providing business starter kits to recent graduates of business management, thus incentivizing them to start their own businesses.
  • Ensuring that teachers receive hands-on training and classrooms have the proper tools and supplies.
  • Maintaining and supporting the training curriculum helping Eritrean refugees.

To date, about 6.6 million people have benefited from the WASH program in Eritrea. The WASH program focuses on providing sanitary water to displaced people in refugee camps and shelters. The program helps use safe water for drinking, cooking, personal hygiene, solid waste management and public restrooms.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

In the first six months of 2020, UNHCR responded to the crisis by providing food and sanitary assistance to refugee camps on a monthly basis. Due to the current conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, the work helping Eritrean refugees significantly slowed down. Access to the refugee camps remained suspended from July 13, 2020 to August 4, 2021, after violent clashes in the region prevented staff from reaching the refugee camps. UNHCR plans to allow for 200 refugees to receive regular cash assistance and 400 to receive protection assistance.

Progress is slow and while the Eritrean refugees still face hardships, efforts by NGOs like the UNHCR, The Norwegian Refugee Council and The American Team for Displaced Eritreans continue to show the good in humanity.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

afghan refugeesThe recent resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan has sparked fear in Afghan citizens, resulting in large numbers of Afghans fleeing Afghanistan to seek refuge in other countries. Some countries have welcomed Afghan refugees with open arms, but others simply do not have the capacity to host large groups of refugees. As many countries around the world scurry to help Afghan refugees find shelter, Airbnb has stepped up to help. “The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. We feel a responsibility to step up,” says Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky.

Airbnb to the Rescue

On August 24, 2021, Airbnb announced the offering of “free temporary housing” for roughly 20,000 Afghan refugees across the globe. Two days after, on August 26, the company added that any ordinary individual, not just the company’s “hosts,” can offer temporary housing through its services. This may potentially open up substantially more temporary housing options. For Afghan refugees, this offer of temporary shelter could bring some stability amid a crisis. For world governments, temporary housing could be key to avoiding a repeat of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Airbnb’s plan comes through its Open Homes platform, a tool created by the company in 2017 after former President Trump’s administration implemented a travel ban on several predominantly Muslim nations, including war-torn and heavily displaced Syria. At the time, countries such as Germany were grappling with a surge of refugees from Syria. Airbnb’s plan in 2017 looked to “provide short-term housing over the next five years for 100,000 people in need.” The company is building on that promise through the Open Homes platform.

How the Open Homes Platform Works

The purpose of Open Homes is to “Give people a place to call home in times of crisis.” Open Homes serves as a middle ground for refugees from Afghanistan and other conflicted nations to create a plan for more permanent housing. Airbnb’s platform works as a tool for hosts to open their homes to screened and approved guests including refugees. According to the company’s website, hosts receive a guide on the process of listing their home as a temporary residence.

The process is similar to Airbnb’s staple rental service. However, Airbnb’s announcement on August 26 made it clear that more than established hosts can use the platform to help. The platform relies on donations to cover the costs of temporary housing. Donations can be made by anyone willing to help cover the costs of refugee stays. For Afghan refugees, the platform is established and tested and may serve as an important tool in navigating the crisis.

The Importance of Temporary Housing

By definition, a refugee is an individual that cannot return to their home country due to reasons that jeopardize their safety and well-being. As the Afghan refugee crisis begins, there is precedent that can serve as guidance for how the U.S. can address this humanitarian issue. From past refugee crises, humanitarian groups find that shelter is one of the most important aspects of addressing the issue. Without a place to call home, refugees are denied the basic rights to adequate shelter and safety.

Temporary housing provides safety while refugees find more stable living situations. An influx of refugees with no place to go places greater strain on governmental agencies. This also potentially means more taxpayer money would go toward temporary housing subsidies and the governmental mediation of desperate refugees. Private options such as Open Homes can supplement the burden that the government and taxpayers struggle to fill.

According to the nonprofit Refugees Welcome!, asylum seekers lack “access to housing, food stamps or other benefits afforded to documented immigrants or citizens.” For people forcibly displaced by conflict such as current Afghan refugees, programs such as Open Homes provide a solution to the lack of safe and proper shelter for influxes of refugees. Open Homes may be the only viable option for families forced out of a nation.

To help address the Afghan refugee crisis, Airbnb’s Open Homes platform provides a commendable solution. Even an ordinary individual can get involved in this initiative, providing hope to vulnerable people with no place to call home.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

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

Tusse’s Journey

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

Civil War-Torn Country

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

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

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

Sweden’s Relationship with Refugees

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

Tusse’s Advocacy

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

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

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

– Simran Pasricha
Photo: UNHCR

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Lebanon is currently experiencing an economic crisis that, according to the World Bank, is one of the most severe economic crises worldwide since the 19th century. The impact of the crisis is widespread. More than 70% of Lebanon’s population currently lacks access to basic necessities such as food. Not even the wealthy are insulated from the impact of the current crisis, as previously affluent families are being pushed into poverty. Syrian refugees in Lebanon are particularly vulnerable to the crisis.

The Status of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Approximately 1.7 million refugees are believed to be living in Lebanon as of 2020, with 1.5 million originating from Syria. Of these Syrian refugees, more than 80% are not legal residents, placing them in a precarious position. Syrians who have legal status either entered the country before 2015 or have a sponsor in the country. These Syrians must also pay a $200 fee every year. Lebanon practices non-refoulement of refugees, which should protect the right of Syrian refugees to live in Lebanon. However, the Lebanese government implemented policies that streamlined the process for Syrians to leave Lebanon in 2020 and expressed interest in having Syrian refugees return to their country of origin.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon often struggle to access services such as educational opportunities despite having the legal right to attend public schools. Because they typically live in temporary or informal housing, it can be difficult for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to locate Syrian refugees in order to help them. Factors such as language barriers can also present a challenge to Syrian refugees. Approximately 90% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live on less than half of the Lebanese minimum wage.

Syrian Refugees in the Lebanese Economic Crisis

Due to political instability, debt, banking problems and economic stagnation, Lebanon entered its current crisis in October 2019. Prior to October 2019, approximately 55% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon lived in poverty, demonstrating that the Syrian refugee community needed support even prior to the crisis. Today, approximately 90% of Syrian refugees live in extreme poverty, showing a significant increase in poverty levels during the economic crisis.

As poverty levels among Syrian refugees in Lebanon increased, the value of Lebanon’s currency, the Lebanese pound, decreased. Between 2019 and 2021, Lebanese food prices increased by 402%. Consequently, Syrian refugees who generally struggled to afford basic necessities prior to the start of the crisis now have even less purchasing power. Syrian refugees in Lebanon are accumulating debt because they lack the funds to buy everyday necessities. Even for Syrian refugees who can afford everyday necessities, accessing products, such as medication, is proving difficult as pharmacies face shortages.

Not all refugees are equally impacted by the crisis. Syrian refugee households headed by women experience disproportionately high rates of food insecurity. Children in these households are particularly vulnerable to the crisis. Unfortunately, Lebanese child labor rates nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020. Additionally, the rate of child labor is higher in Syrian refugee households headed by women than in households run by men.

The economic crisis is also contributing to anti-refugee sentiments. Prior to the start of the crisis, Lebanese politicians used the pending economic crisis to justify anti-refugee rhetoric. As economic conditions deteriorate for the entire country, native Lebanese people blame Syrian refugees for taking their opportunities away.

Providing Aid for Refugees

Several organizations provide support for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are longstanding aid providers for refugees living in Lebanon. UNHCR Lebanon has prioritized humanitarian assistance to Syrians through cash cards, vouchers and ATM cards in order for them to secure basic necessities at local markets. These purchases, in turn, stimulate the local economy. In 2018, the UNHCR provided cash support of $175 per month to nearly 33,000 Syrian households. Similarly, the WFP provides food assistance to Syrian refugees and struggling Lebanese by providing e-cards credited with $27 at the start of each month so that individuals can buy food from local stores.

As poverty increases in the country, the need for aid to the general population is increasing. With cities such as Tripoli facing poverty rates as high as 85% among their residents, the Lebanese government is focusing on providing widespread relief for the population. The Lebanese parliament recently approved measures to support more than half a million families in Lebanon, fortunately including Syrian refugees.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

Pandemic Refugees in the United States
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected refugees, causing a migration crisis and hindering equality among poor people. Millions of people have experienced displacement from their homes since the outbreak began. This massive displacement created a concentration of immigrants in urban areas seeking asylum. The term for these individuals is “pandemic refugees.” Pandemic refugees in the United States are individuals the virus severely affected who desire a place to seek asylum and better-quality health services. However, the virus spread rapidly across borders, making it harder for refugees to find places that are genuinely safe.

Actions from the IOM

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is the United Nations’ migration agency, has worked hard to provide shelter to those the COVID-19 pandemic displaced. The organization also partnered with the World Food Program (WFP) to fight for people currently facing food and sanitary crises. Poverty deprives people of access to health facilities, allowing them to potentially avoid the virus. Additionally, the lack of new jobs and the government imposing quarantines have led people to seek help from organizations or even become pandemic refugees forced to cross borders looking for a better living standard.

Reaching the United States

Devastated economies have caused millions of individuals to flee to the United States, potentially traveling long distances in their journeys. Dozens of people pile up on the border between Mexico and the United States. These refugees pack minimum necessities and hit the road, attempting to cross the border and start a new life as unauthorized U.S. citizens. The Biden administration has encountered a significant number of refugees seeking prosperity and asylum in the aftermath of the pandemic. The U.S. Border Patrol has stated that refugees try to cross the borders daily. These numbers are quickly growing to overwhelming amounts.

Opportunity and Despair

While pandemic refugees in the United States seek a better life, they also encounter difficulties when searching for jobs. Compared to documented citizens, opportunities for undocumented citizens are different. Governments frequently attempt to send them back to their home country. Because of this, vulnerable groups like refugees are paying the highest price during the COVID-19 pandemic. Complications from the pandemic have created despair for individuals who flee their land and families. The closure of borders and restrictions on movement limit individuals’ access to food, housing and overall security. There are few cases of success and opportunities for refugees who fled their home countries seeking better opportunities. Security is also a significant problem for refugees since they are vulnerable groups and can spread the virus.

US COVID-19 Response

The United States has responded to the pandemic with a relief package of $11 billion for a global response. The U.S. government has worked hard to stop extreme poverty levels during the pandemic, and increase vaccination numbers and sustainable development. The country has also implemented unemployment benefits to give extra money to qualified unemployed individuals. Nevertheless, the U.S. must extend more of these protections to pandemic refugees. If it does, pandemic refugees in the United States will obtain the assistance and security they deserve to protect themselves and their families.

– Ainara Ruano Cervantes
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela TPS ActVenezuela is currently experiencing “the second-largest migration crisis” in the world. More than five million people have fled the country in the past five years. Many Venezuelans look to the United States as a potential place of refuge to escape the extreme poverty in Venezuela. To help accommodate the refugees, Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL-9) introduced H.R. 161: Venezuela TPS Act of 2021 in the House of Representatives. The bill will grant Venezuelan refugees temporary protected status (TPS) and other authorizations.

H.R. 161: Venezuela TPS Act of 2021

Introduced on January 4, 2021, the Venezuela TPS Act of 2021 is a bill that would make Venezuelan citizens eligible for temporary protected status, allowing refugees to stay, work and travel in the United States for 18 months from the date of legal enactment if the bill becomes law.

Many Venezuelan refugees had to completely abandon their old lives and seek out a better one without a plan in mind. With 96% of Venezuelans living in poverty, it is clear that there are very few opportunities left in Venezuela. As a result, Venezuelans need support and opportunities to succeed in a country that is not their own. On March 4, 2021, the House referred the bill to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship for further review.

Accepting Refugees Benefits the US

The U.S. is currently experiencing labor shortages in low-skilled jobs in the wake of COVID-19. According to research from The Conference Board, 85% of companies in blue-collar industries are struggling with recruitment. These jobs range from factory work to service jobs with commercial fast food employers.

Venezuelan refugees are eager to work and earn money to provide for their families in essentially any role. Many U.S. citizens are not interested in such jobs and hold degrees that make them more suitable for the white-collar industry. However, most Venezuelan nationals would be more than willing to fulfill these roles. This allows the refugees to earn an income while also helping the U.S. reduce its labor shortages. In this way, the Venezuelan TPS Act will aid the U.S. economy while providing a path out of poverty for Venezuelans.

Federal Register TPS Notice

On March 9, 2021, the Federal Register posted a notice that Venezuela would be granted TPS for 18 months through September 9, 2022, just five days after Congress moved the bill to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. President Biden granted this allowance as part of his campaign promises. This allowance makes 323,000 Venezuelan people eligible to receive the same entitlements expressed in the Venezuela TPS Act of 2021. The bill still remains alive in the House, however.

Columbia is a good example of an open-door refugee policy. Colombia has been a leader in the refugee crisis, granting TPS to Venezuelan refugees for up to 10 years. This has helped nearly two million Venezuelans in the process. It is important to realize that most Venezuelan refugees are not looking to permanently settle in a new country and would rather return to Venezuela once the country is no longer under the dictatorship of President Nicolás Maduro. In a survey conducted by GBAO, 79% of Venezuelan refugees said they would be likely to return to Venezuela if the president was replaced by “an opponent of the Maduro regime” and the economy improved.

Extended TPS for Venezuelans

An improved home country is likely going to take longer than 18 months given the scale of the crisis in Venezuela. As a result, the U.S. should grant Venezuela TPS for longer than 18 months. Making this change falls on the members of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship as the Subcommittee is responsible for deliberating and suggesting changes to the Venezuela TPS Act. Increasing the span of Venezuela’s TPS would grant more long-term stability to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees while providing the U.S. with its labor needs.

The Venezuelan TPS Act of 2021 ensures a better future for Venezuelan refugees. Amending the bill to match Colombia’s provision of 10 years of TPS for Venezuelan refugees will provide long-term protection and support as refugees await the end of the crisis in Venezuela in order to return home.

Jeremy Long
Photo: Flickr