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Venezuelan refugees in PeruFor the last decade, Venezuela has seen a severe and damaging economic recession. As of 2018, inflation hit 130,060 percent. There are severe shortages of food and medicine and an increase in crime that has made life in Venezuela a battle for survival. Considering these factors, including President Nicolás Maduro not leaving power anytime soon, many Venezuelans have decided to pack their bags and leave their beloved homeland. In the past four years, approximately 10 percent of the population fled the country. Thankfully, shelters have opened to provide aid for Venezuelan refugees in Peru.

At first, many governments were willing to cooperate, but as more Venezuelans left, many countries established specific immigration requirements, such as having a valid passport. Even though this sounded fair for many, it closed the door to many of these refugees, as the cost of processing one visa is around 7,200 bolívars ($115); that is four times the local minimum wage.

Peru is one of the few nations that kept an open border policy for many years. However, that changed when President Martin Viscarra established that as of June 15, Venezuelans would need a passport and visa to enter Peru. That day, 5,849 people arrived at the border Peruvian border, and while some arrived just in time, others were left behind. These grim situations may make it seem that all hope is lost, but there are still many Peruvians who receive these migrants with open arms. These three shelters have given shelter and hope to Venezuelan refugees in Peru.

Casa Don Bosco

This Lima home directed by Salesian Missionaries takes part in integration projects that help newly arrived Venezuelans adapt to an entirely different culture. While it used to be an old vocational training facility, it now accommodates the needs of the refugees, by providing necessary guidance on finding housing and educating them on their fundamental workers’ rights. Casa Don Bosco also has ties with The Food Bank of Peru, allowing them to feed all the migrants that knock on their doors.

A Power Couple and Their Shelter

In June 2018, Raquel Vásquez and Ernesto Reyes, a married couple, bought an old house in the middle of the Comas district. Their mission was to provide refuge to any Venezuelan refugees that arrived in Lima. Once installed, Venezuelans are allowed to stay for up to one month for free, giving them time to find a job and better housing. Vásquez and Reyes said that opening the shelter was a necessity, especially after seeing all the refugees sleeping on the streets, penniless after spending all their money just to get to Lima. The shelter operates thanks to the couple’s own money and local donations.

Rene Cobeña’s Shelter and Business

The owner of this shelter is textile businessman Rene Cobeña, who bought an old hotel and transformed it into a safe haven. The house not only offers Venezuelans breakfast, lunch and dinner but also operates as a small business, employing the same refugees. Using his money and some donations, Cobeña buys ingredients to make arepas and donuts that the refugees sell. He has also sold some of his textile machines to fund better ingredients and transportation. Thanks to these efforts, the refugees were able to start building their savings, helping themselves and their families, and eventually leave the shelter to begin anew.

These shelters are not on alone in their efforts; despite the lack of legal assistance, the owners and many other Peruvians are giving what they can to help. Venezuelans are escaping one of the most brutal dictatorships of the last century, and all they need is a helping hand through this difficult time as Venezuelan refugees in Peru.

– Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Wikimedia

Civil War in LibyaOn Feb. 15, 2011, the first civil war in Libya, also known as the Libyan Revolution, began. The Libyan Revolution was fought between Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and opposing rebel forces who wanted to overthrow Gaddafi’s oppressive government. The war lasted over eight months until Gaddafi was captured and assassinated in October of that same year.

Post-Civil War

A year after the war ended, two major political groups emerged into power, the General National Congress and the House of Representatives, also known as the Tobruk government. The HoR allies with General Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army whose leadership resembles that of Gaddafi’s.

As rival governments, the GNC and the HoR both seek control over Libyan territory and oil. Consequently, the Libyan Political Agreement was proposed to resolve the conflict, mandating the division of power between both governments. Under these terms, The Presidency Council was created. The PC presides the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and is currently led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Despite the agreement, more violence and instability ensued in Libya. Nevertheless, major actors like Haftar continue to violate terms mandated by the agreement. In particular, Haftar rejects the LPA and continues to oppose the GNC. In 2014, Haftar launched Operation Dignity, a campaign against Islamist militias. However, Libya Dawn, a pro-Islamist coalition, opposes this campaign and also seeks control over Libyan territory.

This breakout of violence spawned a second civil war in Libya.

The Current State of Libya

Today, the battle between rival factions is still ongoing and further exacerbated by the presence of terrorist groups, including ISIS. These groups have gained footholds in Libyan territories and seek control, training and recruiting members on Libyan grounds.

Moreover, the GNA mobilizes local militias to fight Haftar’s more organized and disciplined army. At the end of 2018, casualties in Libya reached 7,695 deaths with as many as 20,000 injured.

Having lost control over most of eastern Libya, Haftar has expanded the LNA westward. In April, the LNA advanced into the capital of Tripoli. Haftar has also launched several airstrikes into the city. Since the invasion of Tripoli, the U.N. Health Agency reported that 443 people have been killed and 2,110 have been wounded.

Humanitarian Concerns

The civil war in Libya has become an international issue, prompting the displacement of thousands of Libyans and causing a humanitarian crisis on the European border. About 90 percent of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe come from Libya. In 2018, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that more than 1,111 migrants from Libya died or went missing while crossing the Mediterranean.

The European Union provides resources and training to Libyan coast guards to intercept migrant boats entering Europe. The coast guard sends refugees who are entering Europe back to Libyan detention centers, where they suffer inhumane conditions including torture, kidnap, rape and trafficking. Libyan detention centers hold nearly 6,000 migrants and asylum seekers. However, these migrants consist not only of Libyans, as Libya is a transit point for other migrants from Africa.

Aside from fleeing groups, nearly 1.3 million people in Libya are in need of humanitarian assistance. Thousands are living in unsafe conditions, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. Within Libya alone, civil war has internally displaced 200,000 people as of October 2018.

Influence of Foreign Powers

The civil war in Libya is also highly diplomatic. All actors rely on external powers to support their efforts by providing funding and weapons. The civil war is sometimes seen as a proxy war between foreign powers because of their influence on internal actors.

The civil war in Libya impacts foreign powers, causing national security and economic concerns. Between ISIS’ increasing foothold in Libyan territory and thousands of refugees seeking asylum in Europe, the United States and the U.N. are concerned about national security. Additionally, many international oil companies rely on Libya’s oil production, and the conflict may disrupt oil prices.

The U.S. and the U.N. officially endorse the GNA, while Gulf states, such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, endorse the LNA. In April, the U.S. and the U.N. appealed for a truce between the LNA and GNA in Libya. However, Haftar refused.

Nonprofit Organizations

Amid the violence and instability pervading Libya, several nonprofit organizations are working to mitigate the crisis. These organizations have committed to providing civilians aid and protection amid the civil war in Libya.

Among the organizations helping Libyan civilians is the International Rescue Committee. The IRC works on the ground, providing urgent care and protection to Libyans in conflict-ridden areas. Additionally, the IRC has multiple health centers and shelters across Libya that provide medical care and supplies.

The UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, is another organization helping civilians amid the conflict. The UNHCR aims to protect Libyan refugees by providing life-saving assistance, such as medical care and access to water and sanitation facilities, in 12 different disembarkation points in western Libya. The UNHCR works to resettle refugees and reunite families and advocates for alternatives to refugee detention centers, including care arrangements for children and family tracing. While conflict plagues Libya, the people of Libya can seek some hope and comfort in the efforts of nonprofits on the ground.

Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Heritage

Documentaries About MigrationDocumentaries are often a great resource for gaining insight on a particular topic. In recent years, various journalists, filmmakers and documentarians have played a key role in telling the stories of those suffering from socio-political unrest occurring around the world. These stories include key humanitarian issues, such as migration resulting from crises. Not only do these crises displace millions of lives, but they also create an imbalance, leading to migrants who must endure poor living conditions. As such, documentaries about migration are extremely popular. They portray global migration crises from the perspective of those most affected. Here are the top five documentaries about migration.

Top 5 Documentaries About Migration

  1. 4.1 Miles (2016)
    A story about a Hellenic coast guard captain on a small Greek island who suddenly becomes in charge of saving thousands of refugees from drowning during the European migration crisis gives the viewers hope for humanity. The film was a winner of the David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award at the 2016 IDA Documentary Awards and was an Academy Award® Short Subject nominee.
  2. Human Flow (2017)
    Human Flow takes the viewer across the globe through 23 countries. It highlights urgent stories of victims of the various refugee crisis and shows the plight of those looking for a safe space to live in. For Ai Weiwei, “the purpose of (the documentary) is to show it to people of influence, people who are in a position to help and who have a responsibility to help.”
  3. Stranger in Paradise (2016)
    Stranger in Paradise is a mixture of fiction and documentary that depicts an actor in a classroom of a detention center telling refugees about what Europeans think of them. It reflects on the powerful relation between the Europeans and refugees in a candid manner and highlights the emotion most people feel while they have to go through the turmoil of displacement.
  4. City of Ghosts (2017)
    This film is a story of brave citizen journalists who face the realities of life undercover, in exile and on the run to stand against the violence that is taking place in the city of Raqqa in Syria. This film has used the camera as a powerful weapon to show the circumstances that have shaped the lives of people in Syria and has highlighted the turmoil in Syria in a great way.
  5. The Good Postman (2016)
    This film follows Ivan, the local postman in a quiet Bulgarian community on the Turkish border, as he decides to run for mayor. He then campaigns to bring the aging village to life by welcoming refugees. Some in the community support Ivan, while others resist his campaign. The film highlights the importance of a global discussion, depicting the plight of refugees and how they are perceived around the globe.

These five documentaries about migration enable viewers to understand migrants by portraying the conflicts driving migration through a personal lens. By diving into the lives of those impacted, these films tell a larger story about humanity as a whole.

Isha Akshita Mahajan
Photo: Flickr

Impact Investing in RefugeesImpact investing, otherwise known as socially responsible investing, refers to investment aiming to create a positive social or environmental impact while also generating a financial return. Some subsets of impact investing intend to control the power of private investments. Here, these investors are only addressing the concerns of particular groups.

For example, “gender lens investing” encourages investment in companies that are led by women. Additionally, it promotes investment in companies that create products or services seeking to improve women’s’ lives and wellbeing.

However, an unprecedented rise in the number of refugees and displaced people globally is creating the need for a new type of impact investment, specifically addressing their needs. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, a record 70.8 million people around the world are either internally displaced, have become refugees, or are seeking asylum due to natural disasters or violent civil conflicts. Here are 3 organizations that are leading the charge in the new field of impact investing in refugees.

3 Leading Organizations Focused on Impact Investing in Refugees

  1. Refugee Investment Network
    The Refugee Investment Network (RIN) is one of the leading organizations in the emerging field of impact investing in refugees. At the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference in San Diego in October of 2018, RIN was launched. RIN serves as an information hub connecting investors to projects that benefit refugees. To help investors address this group of individuals, RIN has created the Refugee Lens, which guides investors on how to most effectively seek out and invest in organizations benefitting refugees. One of RIN’s goals is to challenge the misconception that refugees are an economic burden. Instead, RIN promotes the idea that impact investing in refugees can stimulate economic growth, and presents evidence of this in a report, titled “Paradigm Shift.” The report points out that entrepreneurs comprise 13 percent of the refugee population in the U.S. This means that refugees have a higher percentage of entrepreneurs than both the non-immigrant refugee population and the native-born population in the U.S.
  2. Epimonia
    Epimonia is a fashion company that promotes awareness of refugee issues in the U.S. The company was founded by Mohamed Malim, a Somali-American entrepreneur and former refugee who fled Somalia’s civil war. Initially, he had relocated to Kenya, but then again to the U.S. Among other products, Epimonia sells bracelets made from life vests that were once worn by refugees, known as “embracelets.” The Greek island of Lesbos provides these life vests since they have a high population of refugees. Additionally, Epimonia works with the nonprofit organization Refugees4Refugees to acquire these life vests, which then become embracelets. Refugee workers in the Netherlands make the bracelets, which then sell throughout the U.S. Malim has sold almost 1,500 embraclets, and has visited 20 college campuses to spread awareness of refugee issues. Epimonia invests 50 percent of its profits into initiatives that benefit refugee communities in the U.S. The organization has given $1,500 to the Dream Refugee Mentorship Program. They provide current and former refugees with professional mentorship and scholarship aid. Additionally, it provides them with a network of connections to help them succeed in the workforce after college.
  3. Kiva Refugee Investment Fund
    In 2017, the microfinance company Kiva launched the Kiva Refugee Investment Fund (KRIF) to help extend financial services to refugees and provide loans to those looking to start businesses. Unlike other nonprofits that operate on the basis of donations, KRIF utilizes crowdfunding to channel money into loans. These are then given to refugees, which are later paid back. This means that individuals who contribute to loans not only get to aid in refugee entrepreneurs launching their businesses but also get to share in the successes that those businesses create. KRIF challenges the idea that refugees are too risky to invest in, and has supporting data. According to its website, KRIF currently has a rate of repayment on its loans of 95.5, percent. Additionally, they have effectively crowdfunded $12.5 million in loans to 15,873 refugee borrowers. In total, KRIF aims to reach 200,000 borrowers.

Multiple organizations are beginning the way for investment in refugees. Impact investing in refugees has proven to be far less risky than naysayers have claimed. In fact, it is incredibly effective at both generating a financial return to investors and uplifting refugee communities around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Syrian Refugees in GermanyWhat began as a peaceful political uprising in 2011 has become one of the most devastating on-going civil wars of the 21st century. The war has contributed to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, leaving Syrian refugees in Germany hopeful for improved living conditions. The Syrian Civil War has not only devastated the country and its people but also neighboring nations, creating a regional disruption.

Syria’s fall is a global failure, and the consequences the war has brought with it have been difficult for other countries to manage. The Syrian Civil War forced countries to establish new policies to address the influx of Syrian refugees. Syrians have been escaping the bombings and repression since the outbreak of the war in 2011. However, in 2015, Europe was under more pressure when over one million refugees arrived through dangerous sea travel. Some Member States have closed their borders, and others have implemented new welcoming policies.

Current Living Conditions

Angela Merkel’s Germany welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees with its open door policy. German crowds awaited the arrival of Syrian refugees in Munich from Austria in 2015. However, today this enthusiasm contends with the rise of populism and right wing parties, affecting the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany. Amidst refugee settlement, anti-immigration views have become more and more popular among Germans. This forces the government to desperately establish effective integration policies to reduce tensions.

The living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany are very difficult. They are hospitalized as needed after arriving from extremely life-threatening conditions. Later, the refugees receive camp assignments. Due to the large number of refugee arrivals, Germany had to build emergency camps. These camps lack quality infrastructure and necessary equipment. Some refugees are assigned to shelters such as Tempelhof, where they sleep in a small bed among hundreds of others in one hall.

Due to integration laws that assign family members to different cities, some refugees must endure family separation. Moreover, Germany suspended the family reunification policy between 2016 and 2018 for refugees awaiting their status approval. According to the German government, Germany embassies received 44,736 family reunification applications in 2018, but only granted 1,500 applications.

Paperwork Holds Up the Process

Unfortunately, the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany become even more difficult once paper work begins. It could take up to eighteen months to be recognized as an asylum seeker. In most cities, refugees cannot join integration programs if they are not asylum seekers. According to the German law, asylum is a given right to anyone fleeing political persecution. However, the process of being granted refugee status based on the Asylum Act and the Residence Act can be lengthy.

These acts entitle refugees to integration programs, language classes and employment. This is not the reality for refugees who wait years of the approval of their status. Systematic hurdles can stop refugees from learning German, continuing their education or pursuing a job. Therefore, many refugees lose hope and enter black market jobs or seek distressing pathways.

A Brighter Future

Nonetheless, German policies, under the guidance of Merkel, continue to strive for effective integration. Overall refugee unemployment dropped sharply from 50.5 percent to 40.5 percent in mid-2018, based on the Institute for Employment Research. The study also concludes half of the refugee population will be employed by 2020. This is an optimistic advance considering the language barrier in addition to the fact that 80 percent of refugees who arrived in 2015 did not acquire a university degree. This is achievable because the settlement of refugees is improving along with the overall living conditions of Syrian refugees in Germany.

Eventually, refugees will be able to leave crowded shelters and move into apartments with their families. By improving  integration efforts and paperwork processes, Syrian refugees in Germany can gain asylum status and attain their legal rights.

Njoud Mashouka
Photo: Flickr

Angelina Jolie
Unlike her character as a bad girl in Tomb Raider or as a vengeful Maleficent, Angelina Jolie has a soft spot when it involves philanthropy work. The American actress has a long record of helping communities globally. Although a mother of six, Jolie pauses her mom duties to find time to visit developing countries, improve the lives of refugees, get involved with charitable work, create foundations and fund schools in other countries. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and is serving as the co-chair of the Educational Partnership for Children of Conflict.

Angelina Jolie, Goodwill Ambassador

Jolie uses her role as a Goodwill Ambassador to advocate for those who are no longer safe in their home countries. Most recently, Jolie has traveled to Peru and Colombia to visit Venezuelan refugees. During her trip to Peru, she spent two days in Lima at the border where massive groups of refugees enter daily. She spoke with a few refugees to hear stories of what their lives were like before migrating in hopes of a better life and freedom.

Crisis in Venezuela

Nearly 1.3 million Venezuelans are living in Columbia, and Jolie made it her mission to visit a few of them during her trip there. Jolie met with Colombian President Ivan Duque to express concern over the 20,000 Venezuelan children who are at risk of being without basic citizenship. They discussed how children can become nationalized and the importance of international support.

In a statement given at the press conference at the Integrated Assistance Centre, Jolie expresses how serious the influx of refugees affects not only the refugees themselves, but the countries they settle in.“The countries receiving them, like Colombia, are trying to manage an unmanageable situation with insufficient resources,” Jolie said. “This is a life and death situation for millions of Venezuelans. But UNHCR has received only a fraction of the funds it needs, to do even the bare minimum to help them survive.”

Rhoyinga Refugees

In February 2019, Jolie visited Bangladesh for three days to provide help for over 700,000 Rhoyinga refugees who have settled in the country. Jolie expressed concern over the challenges Bangladesh may face as a host country to a great number of refugees. Jolie was especially focused on making sure the refugees were comfortable and content after being forced to leave their home country, Myanmar. “I am here to see what more can be done to ensure Rohingya children can gain an education with recognized qualifications that they need to retain a clear vision for their futures, and, when conditions allow, rebuild their communities in Myanmar,” Jolie said. While there, she also created a new appeal of almost $1 billion dollars to support the rise of refugees.

Angelina Jolie’s fight to improve the lives of refugees dates back to 2002, a year after receiving the role as Goodwill Ambassador for UNHC for Refugees. Her consistent commitment to those who are displaced by force shows she is someone who genuinely cares for the lives of those who are struggling. Angelina Jolie is a prime example of someone using your voice and resources to help those who are in need.

– Jessica Curney

Photo: UNHCR

 

 

stopping the slave trade in LibyaThe rise in immigration and an increase in criminal activity are going hand in hand in Libya. Since immigrants are an especially vulnerable population with so many seeking asylum or other needs, criminals are more likely to target them. CNN released a report on the slave trade that is still occurring in Libya today. This report showed many people what is happening. With the influx of immigrants, it is important to see what efforts are being made in stopping the slave trade in Libya.

Libya has officially become a lawless state. The government has little to no control over what goes on, and criminals are taking advantage of this. Due to the large influx of vulnerable immigrants, the slave trade has now risen to an all-time high. Slavery has been outlawed in other countries; however, criminals don’t follow the rules. Dozen of people are still being auctioned off, some only being sold for $400. Immigrants often live in poverty and don’t what to do improve their conditions. Slave traders pick up on this vulnerability and use it to their advantage. Libya is the main transit point for immigrants that are trying to make it to Europe.

Stopping the Slave Trade in Libya

While looking at Libya and the events that are occurring there, a question arises: What efforts are being made in stopping the slave trade in Libya? The U.N. and the U.S. have been putting pressure on the government to investigate more into the crimes being committed. They urged Libya to take urgent action in these matters and to make it come to an end. So far, Libya went from not having the resources or support to track down these traffickers, to accusing and sanctioning six men. Since 150,000 immigrants cross into Libya each year, the U.N. involvement has been a huge milestone for Libya and those being sold into slavery.

Additionally, a new transit system has been put in place to make sure that immigrants are able to travel more safely. The more immigrants are provided safer ways to travel, the lesser the likelihood of being sold into slavery. At this new transit facility, run by the UNHCR, immigrants are not only being provided with safe shelter but also food, medical care and psychosocial support. UNHCR is bringing new hope for immigrants that are looking for a better life. It is a necessary facility that will bring international protection to those that are most vulnerable.

Many news outlets and people from different communities are now raising awareness on this topic. The more people to find out about what is being done in Libya, the more solutions can be found up and more actions can be taken. CNN is the original news outlet to exposed the slave trade that is happening in Libya. Afterward, more people started to take action and contribute to the conversation. By someone speaking out, it causes a ripple effect for organizations to come together and make a plan to help those being sold.

Canada is Providing a Refuge

Canada has taken action in making sure that those who were once former slaves are able to rebuild their lives. Providing the necessary housing and support can help those that fell victim to slavery to regain their life. More than 150 people who had immigrated to Canada were victims of the slavery that occurred in Libya. Canada will also be resettling another 600 people that are at risk of being sold into slavery. With the number continuously rising, Canada is doing it’s best to keep up with those that are seeking asylum and providing options for settlement.

Although the fight for stopping the slave trade in Libya is still raging on, new support systems are being brought in and making it so immigrants can feel safe. Governments, like in Canada, are now taking action, as well as organizations uniting together. The slave trade in Libya is still continuing today, but the situation in improving. By raising awareness about important topics such as this, it can act as a catalyst for other people to step in as well.

Hopefully, the immigrants and other vulnerable populations that are currently living through this tragedy can find some consolation in the fact that the world finally sees what is happening. The United Nations, the Libyan government and other organizations have dedicated their time to working towards one goal: stopping the slave trade in Libya. The measures that have been put forth thus far have already helped many people, and the next step in this journey is making sure that the rest people and immigrants of Libya are safe from slavery.

Emme Chadwick
Photo: Flickr

Women RefugeesGlobally, various disasters and conflicts displace approximately 68.5 million people—half of whom are women—and force them to turn to refugee camps in order to fight for survival. But these women refugees are not on their own.

A global campaign, “Girls’ Education and Empowerment,” is headed by a nonprofit organization known as Girl Rising. Girl Rising sheds light on refugee crises which affect women and girls the most. Since 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that a multitude of factors, such as persecution, violence, conflict, natural disasters and human rights violations displace refugees. Of the millions of refugees, more than 50 percent are under the age of 18.

Girl Rising: Examples of Progress

Upon the launch of the global campaign in the year 2012, Girl Rising’s goal was to change how people value and invest in girls and girls’ potential. To complete this goal, the organization created a media-driven campaign and grassroots programming with on-the-ground partners in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For 2019, the organization wants to expand its on-the-ground partners to include Kenya and Guatemala. To date, results for Girl Rising’s efforts include girls re-enrolling in school, parents deciding against early marriage, girls learning their rights and teachers creating gender-equal classrooms.

Release of “Brave Girl Rising: A Refugee Story”

As a way of bringing awareness to challenges faced by refugee women and girls, Girl Rising produced and launched a film titled “Brave Girl Rising: A Refugee Story.” Released on International Women’s Day in 2019, the 20-minute film told the story of a 17-year-old girl, Nasro, in Dadaab refugee camp, one of the world’s largest refugee camps. In order to capture the true, raw reality of life in these camps, Girl Rising wrote and made the film in collaboration with other refugees.

One of the founders of the Time’s Up movement and powerful women’s advocate, Tessa Thompson, is the voice of the film. Poet, Warsan Shire, was in charge of writing the screenplay. To promote the film, the social change agency, Amplifier, had the street artist, Ashley Lukashevsky, create art. The film also received support from the projects founding partner, Citi.

In collaboration with Girl Rising, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had a hand in the creation of this film. The IRC is an organization that works to respond to humanitarian crises. The committee helps to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing and power to people who have been greatly affected by conflict and disaster. They engage with girls, their parents, caregivers and community leaders to combat harmful gender norms and practices.

Many people and organizations have come together to bring awareness to refugee crises and women refugees in creative ways. The continued advocacy and fight to end these crises has to be consistent and passionate to make a change.  

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Google

As conflicts in Libya move towards the capital, Tripoli, humanitarian organizations are working to help refugees in Tripoli. Thousands of residents in Tripoli are deserting their homes as the impending fighting poses safety concerns.

Since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, factions in Libya have battled for control of the country. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by commander Khalifa Haftar is on the march to take territory from the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. Now the LNA is moving closer to Tripoli, at times as close as seven miles south of the city.

The international community, such as the United Nations (U.N.), the U.S. government, and the European Union (EU) are concerned about Tripoli. In fact, these organizations are appealing for a ceasefire to avoid a bloody battle for the Libyan capital. The U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, told reporters “We have a very dangerous situation and it is clear that we absolutely need to stop it.” U.N. workers have been meeting with faction members in an attempt to bring together a peace process that eventually results in elections.

Increasing Refugees in Tripoli

Meanwhile, refugees in Tripoli, many of whom were in detention centers, are moving away from the capital to safe zones. The U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has already relocated more than 150 refugees.

In general, Libya is a major transit point for refugees from Africa trying to relocate to Europe. As a result of the conflicts in Tripoli, migration to Europe is increasing, as displacement is also increasing. In total, the U.N. reports 6,000 displaced peoples from Tripoli.

Humanitarian Efforts Addressing Food Stability

The U.N. is increasing the humanitarian response to help refugees in Tripoli. So far, 58 families have been evacuated. Additionally, the U.N. has established 12 shelters across Tripoli. They are working with the municipalities to find spaces for additional facilities. They anticipate that as the frontline shifts, some shelters will end up inside the conflict zone.

Together, the U.N. and the World Food Program (WFP), has collected enough food supplies to sustain 80,000 people for two weeks. That being said, as part of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), the WFP and other humanitarian partners are planning to distribute two-week dry rations to 100 displaced households.

Humanitarian Efforts Addressing Health

The U.N. has medical supplies stockpiled in four sites to provide treatment for up to 210,000 people. Six EMT teams are working across Libya to assist various hospitals. So far 15 civilian casualties have been recorded and verified by the U.N. A branch of the U.N., the U.N.’s Water Sanitation and Hygiene team (WASH) have hygiene kits stocked for up to 24,000 people.

Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) is providing field hospitals, ambulances, and medical supplies. Dr. Sayed Jaffar Hussain, the WHO representative in Libya, implored the global humanitarian community to help, saying, “We fear that prolonged conflict will lead to more casualties, drain the area’s limited supplies and further damage health infrastructure… We call on the international community to ensure adequate funding to support the current crisis.”

U.N.’s WASH is also working on the logistics of treating, storing and transporting water to different areas of Tripoli. Addressing these goals include utilizing collapsible water tanks, water trucks and purifying tablets. They are also working to negotiate with armed groups for the protection of water shipments, advocating that water should not be used as a weapon.

Humanitarian Efforts Addressing Safety

UNICEF is monitoring detention centers and providing child protection services. Additionally, the U.N.’s Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing safe spaces and psycho-social support to help prevent gender-based violence and provide treatment for victims.

In unison, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is working with the U.N. to find places for displaced people. In addition, the IOM and the U.N. are helping some families set up private accommodations or relocate to family members.

The safety and well being of refugees in Tripoli are progressing, as the conflict rages closer to the Lybian capital. However, as the international humanitarian community recognizes Libya’s need for aid, they are working to prepare a multi-faceted response to help those in need.

– Peter S. Mayer
Photo: Flickr

radicalization in refugeesRefugees are a part of society in every country. Global interconnectivity has provided refugees more opportunities to escape the persecution they have experienced in their home countries. However, that same interconnectivity doesn’t always extend to the small communities where the refugees end up living. Isolation and poverty can sometimes lead to desperation and radicalization in refugees.

Social Cohesion

Social cohesion, as defined in BMC Medicine, “is the ability of a given society to be inclusive of all cultural and social groups, so that they work cooperatively.” A willingness to cooperate with one another has many benefits, including the promotion of healthier and more just communities with lower violent crime rates. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done. In a world that is so politically, culturally and historically diverse, these differences can sometimes seem to build barriers.

Indeed, many factors exist that can undermine social cohesion, including both social and economic isolation as well as discrimination. Marginalized members of society, specifically refugees and immigrants, are most commonly impacted. These populations often arrive in their host countries not able to speak the language and with limited support systems.  Social isolation frequently leads to economic isolation, meaning that refugees and immigrants are at a higher risk of falling into poverty.

Moreover, discrimination often faced by marginalized communities can further undermine social cohesion and is commonly linked with poorer health and unemployment. The negative impacts not only hurt these members but prevent them from contributing to the economy, affecting the community as a whole. Overall, communities that prioritize social inclusion and cultural understanding breed healthier societies and citizens.

Radicalization in Refugees

According to the 2017 IEP’s Global Terrorism Index, terrorism cost the world an estimated $84 billion in 2016. In addition, 77 countries reported at least one death as a result of terrorism, and 106 countries reportedly suffered at least one terrorist attack. Overall, Europe and other developed countries have seen a spike in levels of violence. With an ever-evolving terrorism landscape, more home-grown terrorists are perpetrating attacks using new methods. The nature of this ever-evolving threat means that terrorism persists as a major global issue. For this reason, the identification of isolation and discrimination as risk factors for violent radicalization is especially important in preventing violence.

Youth populations are most vulnerable to succumbing to violent ideologies since adolescence is an extremely formative period for identity. Living in poor social conditions can weaken links with socially inclusive networks, making way for new spheres of influence. Ideologically driven groups associated with violent radicalization often monopolize on this opportunity to offer an alienated member of society the chance to belong. For this reason, terrorist groups often target younger populations for new recruits, as they are the most vulnerable.

Thus far, most counterterrorism efforts have put an emphasis on the criminal justice system. This means focusing almost exclusively on those who are already planning on committing a crime and not on prevention. Not only may this partial focus be inhibiting success, but in some cases, it has further encouraged radicalization in refugees by singling out specific religious groups. If behavioral sciences like psychology and sociology are used in public health programs to prevent violence, couldn’t counterterrorism efforts similarly follow this example? 

Preventing Radicalization in Refugees

A new-wave of counterterrorism efforts can offer a new perspective on how to prevent violent threats through better comprehension of human complexity. Focusing on understanding individuals’ demographics, stories and culture in order to better employ protective factors, like social support programs, would be monumental. Furthermore, crafting programs that promote trust and integration is key. By creating safe environments for all demographics and cultures, risk factors for violent radicalization in refugees can be reduced and, hopefully, eradicated.

France is one of the first countries to apply this approach. In 2017 alone, 100,755 people requested asylum in France. For this reason, President Emanuel Macron’s administration has taken steps to aide new refugees and immigrants to integrate into their new host country through a community service program called Volont’r.

The program, launched in January 2019, aims to teach young refugees (between the ages of 16 and 25) about French values, language and culture through immersion. Refugees are given the opportunity to earn a living and to learn French through government-sponsored classes. The program also plans to recruit 1,500 French citizens to help guide 500 refugees to set and meet personal goals and to build networks.

Volont’r is an example of successfully addressing key risk factors for radicalization in refugees by using a public health approach. New refugees are no longer left in isolation because of a language barrier and a lack of social connections. Falling into poverty is prevented by providing tools for employment.

Learning Social Cohesion

Vulnerable populations must be given the opportunity to learn the codes of their new society, promoting integration into an environment where they are heard and understood. In an ever more globally connected world, France believes that building relationships, not walls, is the key to making the world a healthier and safer place. This is an important lesson all countries could benefit from not only for the health and safety of its refugee population but also to reduce the instances of radicalization in refugees.

Natalie Abdou
Photo: Flickr