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UEFA and UNHCR PartnershipThe Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the organization that governs football or soccer throughout the entirety of Europe. UEFA is made of multiple football associations spread across Europe and acts as a representative democracy for these associations. Among the many functions of the UEFA is the promotion of football as a tool to bring forth unity, protection of European football values and maintenance of excellent governance in European football. However, the UEFA has participated in other types of work beyond professional football. UEFA has also partnered with the United Nations High Council of Refugees (UNHCR). The UEFA and UNHCR partnership will benefit refugees forcibly displaced by war and conflict.

The UEFA Foundation for Children

Before the UEFA and UNHCR partnership began, UEFA had long worked to help child refugees with its Foundation for Children. The purpose of this organization is to improve the living conditions of child refugees. UEFA achieves this by supporting several socio-economic and sports projects. The UEFA Foundation for Children notes the negative impacts that war and conflict have on child refugees. It aims to play a part in addressing this.

By participating in sport, children learn essential life skills and values such as “respect, team spirit, diligence, courtesy and personal commitment.” These skills help prepare them for their futures, socially and professionally. Sports also allow a form of healing from the traumas that child refugees might have developed from the crises they live through. UEFA Foundation for Children has run several sports projects across the world. Among them is the Child Safeguarding Certification Programme for Sport-for-Good Practitioners in Europe. The purpose of the project is to train sports practitioners on the fundamental rights of children and how to go about protecting vulnerable populations such as child refugees.

The UEFA and UNHCR Partnership

On May 21, 2021, UEFA and the UNHCR brought their partnership to fruition by signing a “Cooperation Protocol to support refugee access to sport and enhance social inclusion.” The two organizations commit to long-term programs to support refugees and displaced individuals “by harnessing the transformative power of football to assist and uphold their rights and strengthen their integration in their host communities.”

To deliver on these commitments, UEFA member associations on the ground and UNHCR offices throughout Europe will provide support to one another. U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees Filippo Grandi commented on the partnership. He said that wherever his UNHCR travels take him in the world, he sees how football has the ability to unite people. Grandi states further, “Sport provides an opportunity for refugee children and youth to be included — it also has the transformative power to rebuild lives and inspire positive values.” Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA president, asserts that football fosters social inclusion and helps refugees better integrate into society.

The UEFA and UNHCR partnership has just started. As a result, the impact of the collaboration between the two is yet to be seen. However, both UEFA and the UNHCR devote a significant amount of effort to the well-being of refugees, which makes for a perfect team.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Bosnian War ended in 1995 with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, yet its impact reverberates throughout the country today. The Bosnian War was a three-year conflict between ethnic groups comprising of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs and Croats. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), roughly 80% of Bosniaks died during the war. As a result of the war, homelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina became rampant, leaving thousands without shelter. As of 2018, more than 90,000 refugees of the Bosnian War remain internally displaced, many of whom currently live in collective centers across the country. Homelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina became a harsh reminder of the trauma endured more than two decades ago. It also serves as a reminder of the enduring challenges of post-war reconstruction.

Homelessness Statistics in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Data regarding the extent of homelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina is elusive. There has only been one census completed since the conclusion of the war, limiting the government’s ability to support the homeless. Refugees and internally displaced persons are eligible for housing assistance under the Dayton Peace Accords. However, government monitoring makes the accessibility of these resources difficult.

A study by Hilfswerk Austria International, one of the few studies about the need for social housing in Bosnia, revealed data about the thousands of families who are not eligible for aid under the Dayton Accords. As of 2010, 395 families were living in collective centers. Meanwhile, another 553 families were living in temporary housing such as barracks. Roughly 359 families lived in improvised shelters and 219 families lived on the street without shelter.  Since 2010, social programs have emerged to support the homeless in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Regional Housing Programme

Under the Dayton Accords, the government pledged to close down collective centers by 2020 to find more permanent housing solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons. In the last decade, the Regional Housing Programme has worked to do just that. By 2018, the program had already changed the lives of about 14,000 people. The program has six specific sub-projects with particular goals.

  • BiH1: Securing more than €2 million worth of grant funding, this project provided building materials to 20 families and “reconstruction assistance to 150 families.” The project reached completion in 2018.
  • BiH2: Securing more than €10 million worth of grant funding, this project reconstructed 30 family houses for Croatian refugees with an additional 750 family houses for others. The initiative finished in 2019.
  • BiH3: With an estimated cost of more than €17 million, this project constructed 552 flats for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The initiative reached completion in 2019.
  • BiH4: Securing more than €2 million, this project reconstructed 435 houses for returning refugees. It also constructed 90 houses to support community integration of IDPs. The project finalized in 2019.
  • BiH5: With an estimated cost of more than €10 million, this project reconstructed 550 family houses. The project finished in late 2020.
  • BiH6: With an estimated cost of more than €18 million, 235 family houses were reconstructed and 380 flats were developed for returning refugees and IDPs. The project reached completion in late 2020.

Project Success

In July 2018, Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, head of the EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, visited the newly constructed apartment buildings. “The Regional Housing Programme contributes to the building of peace and coexistence in the region,” Lars-Gunnar Wigemark stated. The ambassador also explained the EU’s plans to continue work on similar projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the housing market. Since the Bosnian War, the Regional Housing Programme has made significant progress in addressing homelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Another Refugee Crisis

While Bosnia-Herzegovina continues to address its poverty following the Bosnian War, a new refugee crisis threatens the country’s progress. Since 2018, an estimated 60,000 migrants arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina. About 8,000 migrants are currently in Bosnia due to immigration restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of January 2021, 6,000 of the refugees are in housing centers. Now, Around 2,000 homeless people are trying to survive the severe winter in the country.

In December 2020, the situation became increasingly worse, as a fire destroyed a migrant camp called Lipa in the northwestern part of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The other major camp in Bihac, just 15 miles north of the Lipa camp, closed in the fall of 2020. Despite the dangerous conditions at the destroyed Lipa camp and requests from the European Union, the mayor of Bihac still refuses to reopen the Bihac camp.

The European Union was specifically concerned with the freezing Bosnian temperatures as migrants who previously resided at Lipa now lacked shelter. In response, the Bosnian military set up 20 heated tents to accommodate hundreds of these migrants. Additionally, NGOs have also been working to support those displaced. Fresh Response, a volunteer-driven humanitarian organization has been aiding refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2019. The organization provides information, referrals for medical support and resources such as sleeping bags, jackets and blankets to those in need.

Moving Forward

Homelessness in Bosnia and Herzegovina is largely a tale of two converging refugee crises. Social programs and NGOs are working hard to provide for those displaced and have made major progress in helping the country’s homeless population. In the future, a collaboration between the European Union, advocacy groups and different Bosnian cantons will be able to increase safety, security and shelter for homeless people, hopefully ending the crisis for refugees.

Brittany Granquist
Photo: Flickr

Separatists in Cameroon
Cameroon is located in Central Africa, bordered by Nigeria. The southwest and northwest regions of Cameroon are Anglophone, while the rest of the country is Francophone. This split in language has been a source of conflict for separatists in Cameroon. Politically, the ruling party within the country is the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement. The party holds 152 of the 180 seats in the National Assembly. In Congress, CPDM rules more than 81% of the Senate. Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, is serving his seventh term since 1982.

Poverty in Cameroon

The poverty rate in Cameroon increased by 12% between 2007 and 2014. A total of 8.1 million people lived in poverty in 2014, with about 56% residing within the country’s northern regions. The Central African Economic and Monetary Community reports Cameroon as having the largest economy within the area that is experiencing an economic crisis. In April 2017, the World Bank’s Country Economic Memorandum stated that Cameroon would become an “upper-middle-income” country by 2035.

Who Are the Separatists?

Separatists in Cameroon are a group in the north Anglophone regions. They aggressively seek independence against Cameroon’s security forces. Starting in September 2017, this fight has progressively displaced more than 500,000 people and killed nearly 400 civilians and more than 200 military and police officers. In March 2019, the U.N. Refugee Agency claimed that 32,602 Cameroonian refugees reside in Nigeria. Of these refugees, 51% are children and 53% are women.

Separatists in Cameroon have kidnapped and killed children at school. In November 2019, the U.N. Children’s Fund found that 855,000 students were not going to school in English-speaking regions. About 90% of primary schools and 77% of secondary schools run by the state were dysfunctional or shut down.

Open to Communication

Currently, the separatist movement has left about 800,000 people homeless and 3 million lives uprooted. COVID-19 increased those numbers, and separatists in Cameroon have recently been fighting for mutual peace through this pandemic. Even though President Biya disapproves of separatists, as he considers them terrorists, a small pro-talks group led by intelligence chief Maxime Eko Eko and Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute has tried to communicate with separatist leaders.

In April 2020, a man named Sisiku Julius AyukTabe, a separatist who is serving a life sentence for terrorism, agreed to talk with Cameroon’s government to explore ways to end the conflict. The meeting occurred his prison cell and accomplished an agreement of understanding. The terms of the agreement are to keep security forces within separatist barracks, to release all prisoners and to always have a third party mediating future discussions between separatists and the Cameroonian government.

The separatist group in Cameroon formed during World War I and started taking greater action against the Cameroonian government in 2017. With the rate of poverty in Cameroon increasing due to COVID-19, the separatists and the government have tried to find common ground in their conflict. With advocates on both sides coming together to communicate with each other, there is greater hope for a peaceful future for both parties.

Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Statelessness in Thailand
Thailand has one of the world’s largest populations of stateless people with nearly 500,000 registered in 2020. NGOs and human rights activists believe the true number is much higher at up to 2 million. Statelessness refers to those lacking recognition of citizenship by any country. Without having a nationality, people lack access to basic necessities such as healthcare, education and social security. Here is some information about statelessness in Thailand.

Why Are People Stateless?

The cultural heterogeneity and rugged border regions of Thailand have long allowed indigenous cultures to live outside of the modern nation-state framework. Some stateless groups in Thailand’s border regions actively avoided becoming part of the Thai nation-state. They remained separate to maintain their own unique cultural customs. Discriminatory practices toward ethnic minorities by the ethnic Thais have also played a role in statelessness in Thailand.

Ethnic groups such as the Hmong, Akha, Karen and others are traditionally semi-nomadic and live throughout different Southeast Asian nations. They do not identify with one specific nation. In modern times, borders have become more solidified. The relative autonomy of indigenous cultures has largely existed within international borders. For indigenous children born within the Thai borders, their citizenship ties to their parents. These parents often lack documentation to prove that they were technically born in Thailand, which renders children stateless.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Other stateless people in Thailand are refugees from Burmese states just across the border. These refugees have endured decades of armed conflict against the central government. More than 100,000 Karen, Karenni, Shan and other groups arrived in the 1980s and 1990s to refugee camps along the Thai border. They have largely remained in these camps due to instability at home and the Thai government’s unwillingness to grant citizenship. These refugees also lack Burmese citizenship in many cases. With increased political and social instability following the recent 2021 military coup, this protracted refugee crisis will likely persist.

There are also stateless people that others know as the Moken or ‘Sea Gypsies’ in the south of Thailand, along with asylum seekers originating from dozens of countries in the Bangkok metropolitan area. Thai authorities struggle to formulate clear strategies on how to process citizenship requests for the many existing situations. Some can lay claim to ancestry within the modern Thai borders that stretch back hundreds of years. Others are more recent arrivals in need of human rights assistance.

Risk Factors of Statelessness in Thailand

There are innumerable challenges for stateless people in Thailand. Without having Thai citizenship, stateless people cannot travel freely across international borders. As a result, they fear detention and arrest while traveling within Thailand. There are also barriers to accessing legitimate jobs. This puts some at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking in trying to access decent livelihoods.

For young people, the lack of a decent education is a major concern. The Thai government has made an effort to educate all children within its borders, but stateless students are not able to access scholarships for higher education. Lack of access to decent health care and legal representation are other barriers facing stateless people.

Solutions

Since 2016, Thailand has joined one of the central goals of the UNHCR to end statelessness worldwide by 2024 in its #IBelong campaign. The country has taken great efforts to reconfigure citizenship laws to allow tens of thousands to access Thai citizenship in recent years. Leading up to joining the #IBelong campaign, Thailand had loosened citizenship restrictions in 2008 with its amendment of the Thai Nationality Law. Although implementation has been slow, the processing of citizenship claims have ramped up with the help of UNHCR.

There have been highly publicized events uncovering the plight of stateless people, which include the Thai Cave Rescue in 2018, in which several of the rescued soccer team members and their coach were stateless at the time. The Thai government streamlined its citizenship procedures shortly after the rescue operation. The players and their coach had previously not been able to travel freely to play in games outside of their local area.

Increased Awareness

While the sheer number of stateless people in Thailand may make the 2024 deadline to end statelessness difficult to reach, there is more general awareness of the issue. That offers some hope in granting citizenship to large numbers in this population. Much of the recent stateless population is due to conflict in Myanmar, and others should commend Thailand for allowing refugees to remain in relative safety within its borders.

Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Serbia
As the Hungarian migrant crisis rages on, migrants and refugees living in Serbia face dangerous conditions in the Serbian winter. Currently, 100 people a day are attempting to get to Hungary from bordering countries such as Serbia and Romania. Many migrants, fleeing wars from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, come in masses to the border to Hungary. There, the country is now erecting a massive fence along its Serbian border.

Between January and July 2020, official records state that 90,000 refugees moved into Serbia and another 103,000 moved into Hungary. The European Union estimates that many more are still undocumented. Hungarian border police are calling this movement a new “migrant surge.”

Hungary’s Borders to Migrants

Hungary has been building its 13-foot high razor-wire fence since the migrant crisis of 2015 when more than a million migrants arrived in Central Europe. According to The New York Times, some see the fence as “a very physical manifestation of the quandary of the migration crisis and the lack of cooperation among European Union nations as they struggle to deal with it.” Hungary has defined this issue as a “state of migrant emergency,” since approximately 400,000 migrants crossed its borders in 2015, a flux of numbers that have since slowed to a trickle.

Migrants often experience horror in the form of police brutality, with those in Hungary having to move back into Serbia. A 14-year old boy told BBC about how police beat him up near the Hungarian border, poured cold water on him and forced him to walk barefoot back into Serbia. Of these accusations, the Hungarian authorities responded to BBC, saying, “Hungarian police and soldiers are defending the Schengen border of the EU for the sixth consecutive year, legally and without violence, against illegal migrants arriving on the Balkan route.”

Refugees living in Serbia, awaiting an opportunity to move into Hungary, are living in dangerous conditions. Without access to food, water or heat, many of them find limited shelter in abandoned factories. In the small Serbian town of Subotica, 10 km from the Hungarian border, an estimated 500 men currently reside in unheated tents.

Father Varga

Among the gloom, a glimmer of hope exists for the migrants of Subotica. That hope comes in the form of Protestant pastor Tibor Varga, whom the migrants endearingly refer to as ‘Father Varga.’ Varga has been working with an Eastern European charity for four years. Through his work, he has helped refugees in Serbia gain access to necessary amenities. Daily, Varga brings bread, eggs and toiletries to the migrants. For years, Varga had been the only one assisting those in Subotica. The authorities there supplied only water during the heatwave of July and August in 2020.

During the cold Serbian winter, Varga also brings heating. He builds stoves for the migrants to keep warm out of old barrels in his garden. Varga makes more than three a day. He reinforces the base and walls of the barrel with roof tiles, which a mixture of sand and clay keeps in place. He also manually scrapes off the poisonous red paint from the barrels. Varga then loads each stove, approximately 66 pounds each, into his van. He then drives and delivers them to the migrant camps.

Love and Care

Varga explained that the Hungarian border fence is a cause for concern for refugees in Serbia. However, he said that “looking at the other fences around the world, you can say that these people are very determined to get through it. They have already been confronted with major problems in their lives.” Varga looks at his volunteer work as his Christian mission, saying “these people are desperately in need of help. I hope we can just alleviate this situation with love and care.”

Nina Eddinger
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

9 Facts About IDPs in Colombia
For more than 50 years, Colombia grappled with a civil war that left more than 220,000 dead and millions displaced. The protracted issue of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) continues in the country despite the 2016 Peace Accord between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in rural Colombia. Here are nine facts about IDPs in Colombia.

9 Facts About IDPs in Colombia

  1. In 2019, there were approximately eight million IDPs in Colombia. This does not include the additional 1.7 million Venezuelan refugees in the country.
  2. There are still citizens being displaced since the peace agreement in 2016. As of 2019, the number of people of concern in Colombia has increased by 13%.
  3. The government lacks control of many rural regions of Colombia. Although FARC largely demobilized in 2016, there are other armed groups still controlling large swaths of the country that are perpetuating the IDP crisis. These groups are funded by the lucrative cocaine trade, which continues to thrive in unstable regions.
  4. Environmental impacts also play a role in the IDP situation. Colombia has the fourth-highest rate of deforestation in the world, a majority of which occurs in areas of origin for IDPs. Criminal elements and the government share responsibility for environmental degradation.
  5. Human rights activists are at risk. Since the 2016 Peace Accord, more than 400 human rights activists and environmental defenders have been killed in Colombia, many of which were from indigenous communities. These advocates are crucial in establishing crop substitution programs and helping resettle and empower IDPs.
  6. For IDPs living in urban areas, UNHCR and national NGOs have implemented the legalization of informal settlements. This has helped provide better access to government services, energy and the sewage system, along with lessening the stigma of not having ownership titles for housing. This UNHCR project has been ongoing since 2015 and has benefitted more than 24,000 IDPs.
  7. The Opción Legal NGO assists IDPs with reintegration into rural communities through legal means. Reintegration was included in the 2016 peace agreement but it is still in need of better implementation. With the help of funding from UNHCR, Opción Legal operates programs encouraging and strengthening political participation for IDPs. This NGO has assisted IDP populations in regions like Atlántico and Bolívar.
  8.  The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is supporting the implementation of the peace agreement. The agency is seeking out durable solutions to conflict, such as education and job training. The programs have benefitted more than 10,000 Colombians directly and 235,000 indirectly.
  9. USAID is working to build institutional trust in regions with high levels of IDPs. Vulnerable populations in addition to IDPs, such as women, community leaders, migrants and ethnic minorities, are all considered crucial populations for funding and empowerment. USAID also has a strategy to build capacity for youth leaders, which is viewed as a possible long-term solution for peace and self-reliance.

Looking Forward

The 2016 Peace Accord was a big step in working to improve livelihoods for millions of IDPs in Colombia. Although many challenges remain in implementation, the legal frameworks are in place for the country to continue toward its ultimate goals of peace and stability.

– Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

Higher Education opportunitiesWorldwide, 3.7 million refugee children are not in school. This is more than half of the 7.1 million school-age refugees. The higher the level of education, the less likely it is that a refugee attends school. Data from a 2019 UNHCR report shows that only 3% of refugees are enrolled in some form of higher education. Evidence suggests that education leads to less reliance on humanitarian aid. Online learning may present a possible solution. The benefits of higher education opportunities for refugees range from increased economic prosperity to higher levels of confidence, creativity and leadership.

Inclusive Education

One of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is inclusive educational access for all. This includes more access to higher education for refugees. The UNHCR’s Refugee Education 2030 strategy aims to achieve educational parity on all levels and raise the enrolment of refugees in higher education to 15%. A hybrid model of online and in-person instruction is becoming more popular. Increased interest and investment in online learning and degree certification could potentially provide new opportunities in higher education for refugees.

Providing Opportunities

Launched in March 2019, a hybrid learning initiative in Turkey has proven successful, serving more than 28,000 Syrian refugee students. The UNDP Turkey’s Syria Crisis Response and Resilience Programme started the initiative in order to offer easily accessible Turkish language lessons to Syrian refugees for them to better integrate into Turkish society. The initiative is funded by the European Union and implemented in cooperation with the Turkish Ministry of Education. The online language program is flexible, personalized and offers in-person meetings with an instructor. This is in addition to an array of online courses. Since the content is online, students can continue with their courses even if their living situation changes. Furthermore, a continuous reliable internet connection is not necessarily needed.

The University at Albany offers online medical courses in Arabic to Syrian refugees. The program launched in 2016 with 320 students enrolled. The courses give refugees who already have some form of higher education the chance to continue taking courses in their respective fields. The program also includes English language classes. It is part of a catalog of many other similar initiatives on the website MOOCs4inclusion. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free digital education classes. MOOCS are accessible anywhere there is an internet connection.

Barriers to Learning

Western universities develop and teach the majority of online courses and degree programs used in refugee camps. However, the majority of refugees do not end up in a Western country, they stay in the refugee camp or return home. In order for online education to be truly successful, courses must take the particular circumstances of refugees into account. Researchers at the University of Geneva, Paul O’Keeffe and Abdeljalil Akkari, started a basic medical training course in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. The goal of the online course was to focus on relevant health issues in the area of Kakuma. The refugees helped inform the course content. Culturally relevant courses and an understanding of life in a refugee camp are important to implement successful online education geared toward refugees. Another barrier often encountered is that reliable internet is usually a necessity for online learning, yet a rare resource in most refugee camps.

Solutions

Education for Humanity, a program of Arizona State University (ASU), uses technological innovations to break down some of the common barriers of online higher education opportunities for refugees. The program includes education on how to be a successful digital learner and the option of “earned admissions” for refugees without the required documents or qualifications for enrollment. In order to break down the internet barrier, Education for Humanity uses technology that does not require reliable access to the internet.

SolarSPELL is a solar-powered digital library that acts as an offline WiFi hotspot. Students access the course content by connecting their phone, tablet or laptop to the SolarSPELL’s offline WiFi signal. A whole 95% of the content is available offline and is available for download so students can still study without being connected to SolarSPELL. In 2019, Education for Humanity used SolarSPELL to offer an agribusiness course in the Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda.

Easier access to education for refugees is an important goal. Recent innovations such as SolarSPELL aim to break down barriers so that refugees can access higher education opportunities to ensure a promising future.

Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Migrants in ItalyIllegal immigration to Italy had been dropping significantly in recent years. The numbers went down from 181,000 in 2016 to 11,500 in 2019. However, in 2020, the number of migrants who landed in Italy by boat had risen by roughly 148%. This increase in numbers reignited negative attitudes toward immigration, which in the past had led to large-scale protests that called for stricter and more intensive migrant laws. In 2014, a mere 3% of people from a 999-person survey were bothered by migrants in Italy, however, by 2017, that number rose to 35% of those interviewed. The additional strain of COVID-19 increased the negative views already present, despite government insistence that migrants were but a smaller portion of the problem.

Immigration Policy in Italy

During the late 2010s, it was found that many in the Italian government were in favor of pushing for more emphasis on a migration-focused dialogue among the EU member states. The Italian government hoped that by communicating more with the countries of origin, it would be able to support migrants in a more humane manner that would give more control over the number of people on Italian land. The EU accepted several suggestions put forth by the non-paper called the Migration Contact. Some of these recommendations include urging greater investments in border control and security while also reaching out to readmission and resettlement programs to improve upon local asylum systems. This would give migrants better opportunities to return home should they be unable to stay or attain citizenship in Italy.

Slow Yet Steady Progress

Although the anti-immigration policies were strict, late 2020 and early 2021 have seen a slow but steady change to improve the laws that cracked down on those seeking asylum and any who tried to help them. The new legislation is currently taking steps to make it easier for migrants to become citizens and withdrawing orders given to coastal guards to harass those attempting to come ashore. One such action would be the reintroduction of special protection permits. This would be given to those who have relations with established Italian citizens, those with serious health issues (mental and physical) and people who do not meet asylum requirements but are escaping inhumane treatment in their homelands.

Current Migrant Policies

The political view toward immigration and migrants was originally negative, however, many in the government did not want to withdraw the extended helping hand from those who needed it. Italy’s current migrant laws have designated funds for integration policies, funding for language courses as well as intercultural activities, housing and educational purposes. The newer policies also want to focus on the risks involved when migrants come to Italy. This includes personal preferences such as refusing regular fingerprint collection, which used to lead to an immediate rejection of any requests for asylum.

Organizations Helping Migrants and Refugees in Italy

Organizations within Italy are working to provide the support that the government has not yet granted to refugees. Groups such as Choose Love, Donne di Benin City and Baobab Experience work within Rome and Palermo to ensure that migrants receive accommodation, food and clothing. The organizations also offer legal assistance so that individuals have better chances of gaining citizenship.

Choose Love has reached more than one million people through more than 120 projects in Italy and 14 other countries. These organizations help to fulfill the essential needs of migrants in Italy who are unable to return to their homelands and have no other means of support.

Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Eritrean Refugees Flee Tigray Conflict in Ethiopia
The conflict surrounding the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, bordering on the south of Eritrea, has forced more than 42,000 refugees to flee west to eastern Sudan since the conflict started in November 2020. The fighting between Ethiopian soldiers and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has resulted in tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees in refugee camps. It erupted violence along Ethiopia’s northern border with targeted killings, abductions, lootings and sexual violence.

Difficulties Due to Conflict

It is still difficult to tell precisely how destructive the conflict in northern Ethiopia is since there are so many access restrictions in place. The conflict gets further complicated with the involvement of the FANO militia group and Eritrean Defence Forces. Even now, as humanitarian workers return to what were sites of violence in the weeks prior, they are finding tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees in dire straits and desperate need of aid. The last and only aid they received was food from the WFP in December 2019.

The camp structures managed to weather most of the violence, and while the TPLF spared some refugees from direct contact with the war, many experienced harassment and threats and underwent forcible recruitment. Roughly 5,000 Eritrean refugees have gone to the town of Shire, Ethiopia, and are living with no shelter, food or water.

Refugees in Sudan

This issue serves as a reminder that violence feeds the cycle of poverty in struggling countries, and conflicts like this hit the vulnerable populations hardest. This includes not only the impoverished but also the displaced. Driven away from an already precarious living situation by the violence, the Eritrean refugees that are fleeing to the impoverished nation of Sudan are malnourished and injured, and have almost none of the means to meet their daily needs.

In addition to poverty, the worst floods have ravaged Sudan in over 100 years, devastating the agricultural sector and leaving many people homeless. The threat of malaria hangs over people’s heads as they struggle to salvage their livelihoods, all while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on. This leaves Sudan ill-equipped to receive and support the refugee population flooding over the eastern border.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Founded on the tenants of the Geneva Convention of 1949, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) focuses on humanitarian aid and protection for those enduring violent conflicts. Working with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society and the Red Crescent Movement, ICRC has concentrated its efforts on the Tigray refugees.

Efforts have gone toward getting the essentials to refugees by using donations for food, cooking items, blankets and soap. ICRC is also intent on ensuring that refugees have a consistent and safe water supply and a medical care center stocked with the appropriate supplies and equipment, particularly to provide specialized care for victims of sexual violence.

While Eritrean refugees are still facing the fallout from the Tigray conflict, organizations like the International Committee of The Red Cross, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society and the Red Crescent Movement are offering support. Areas these refugees have gone to, like Sudan and other parts of Ethiopia, are taking this aid and working to provide a location with food, medical care, clean water and other supplies necessary to assist refugees through this difficult time.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Saving the Venezuelan EconomyA combination of poor leadership and crippling sanctions have created a nation-wide economic crisis in Venezuela. The Center for Strategic and International Studies found that even before U.S. sanctions were placed on Venezuela, the country was already enduring hyperinflation, had seen food imports fall by 71% and more than two million Venezuelans had fled the country. Nevertheless, sanctions only exacerbated the crisis as Torino Economics found U.S. sanctions on Venezuela were associated with an annual loss of $16.9 billion in oil revenue. As a result, the Atlantic Council reports that more than 80% of Venezuelan households are food insecure and 3.7 million individuals are malnourished. Consequently, refugees filed more asylum claims globally in 2018 than any other country has. The number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is expected to reach eight million in 2020, surpassing Syrian migration by more than three million. Reforms in the county are being implemented with the aim of saving the Venezuelan economy.

Saving the Venezuelan Economy

While this economic collapse still ravishes the country, there is certainly hope for the future. Due to both internal and external pressures, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has begun to encourage policies of economic liberalization and privatization that are indicating an economic rebound.

Toward the end of 2019, Argus Media reported the Venezuelan government was beginning to ease economic controls. Specifically, the Maduro government erased most price controls, loosened capital controls, tightened controls on commercial bank loan operations, and most importantly, began to accept informal dollarization. Immediately these policies curbed the levels of hyperinflation that had caused the food crisis across the country. Advisers estimate inflation to be at only 5,500%, a significant improvement compared to the International Monetary Fund forecasts that predicted inflation levels of more than 10 million percent. This is largely in part to the importation of dollars into the Venezuelan economy, pushing out the uselessly-inflated Bolivars. Indeed, a Bloomberg study found Venezuela’s economy is increasingly dollarized, as 54% of all sales in Venezuela by the end of last year were in dollars. Most importantly, food and medicine imports have rebounded, now reaching 15% of the population.

Privatization of the Oil Industry

In addition to the Maduro government relaxing economic controls, the economic rebound in Venezuela has occurred due to increased privatization of the oil industry. Despite being under the control of the military for years, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company has trended toward letting private firms handle operations, aiding in fixing the mismanagement perpetrated by the military’s control of the industry. For the first time in decades, the private sector accounted for more than 25% of GDP in 2019 and likely more by the end of 2020. Consequently, the Panam Post reported that oil production increased by more than 200,000 barrels, a 20% increase following privatization.

Initiatives to Help Venezuelans in Poverty

The South American Initiative, through its medical clinic, provides medical care and medicine to Venezuelans in need, with a special focus on mothers and children. To provide these essential services, it relies on donations that people provide on the GlobalGiving platform.

Fundacion Oportunidad y Futuro addresses hunger and malnutrition with regards to children in Venezuela. It is running in an initiative to provide meals to 800 school-aged children in Venezuela. It also operates through donations via the GlobalGiving platform.

The Future of Venezuela

While there is hope to be found in these reforms, Venezuela has far from recovered. The National Survey of Living Conditions indicates that more Venezuelans are in poverty in 2020 than in 2018, with food security decreasing another 7% over the past two years. The average income of Venezuela remains low at just over 70 U.S. cents a day. These reforms are the foundational steps needed to begin to reverse the economic trend that has relegated millions of Venezuelans to extreme poverty. If the economy is ever to correct itself, liberalization and privatization will be the jumping-off point for an economically thriving Venezuela in the future.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr