The United States Can Help Refugees
The world has seen an incessant cycle of violent conflict, famine and environmental catastrophes in recent years. These events have caused an increase in refugees and displaced people to a number that human history has not seen before. To date, a record 70 million people worldwide are displaced. A significant question is how the United States can help refugees.

The United States has not only the resources but an obligation to remedy this ever-growing humanitarian crisis. Through humanitarian assistance, the United States has the ability to curb global instability for national security purposes. It is important to first understand how the United States can help refugees before looking at how to improve the current system.

U.S. refugee policy has historically set the standard for the rest of the world. However, modern policy has not evolved to meet the growing crisis at hand. It is crucial to continue the search for an adequate policy to end the push factors causing the refugee crisis and improve the quality of life for displaced people. The United States can accomplish this goal in two ways: by expanding upon existing humanitarian assistance and restructuring the United States’ current humanitarian system.

How the United States Helps Refugees and Displaced People

The United States has implemented a number of programs to improve the lives of refugees around the world. One such program is the Julia Taft fund. This program supports projects aimed at assisting refugees or refugee returnees to become self-sufficient in ways that are beneficial to their host communities. The fund provides financial assistance to local NGOs, community-based and faith-based organizations that seek to ameliorate the lives of refugees by improving economic conditions in their host communities.

With the support of the Julia Taft fund, the U.S. embassy in Chad helped open a salon in collaboration with a local NGO. The salon opened in April 2019, aims to reduce sexual violence against refugee women in urban areas. The 12 women selected for the project participated in an apprenticeship at a local salon and now have the skill set necessary to run their own business. This example demonstrates that the United States can use the fund to increase the self-sufficiency of displaced people while bringing value to the economy of the local host communities.

The implementation of programs, such as the Julia Taft Fund, demonstrates how the United States can help refugees. This fund provides refugees with the tools to be self-sufficient while also benefitting local economies. In order to continue and expand programs such as this, the U.S. must increase funding and the efficiency of its humanitarian aid delivery system. The United States sets the standard for humanitarian assistance to refugees. The United States must modernize this system for the benefit of global stability and national security.

How the United States Can Better Help Refugees and Displaced People

Increasing the capabilities of the United States humanitarian aid delivery system is crucial to managing the growing number of refugee crises. It is important to ask how the United States can help refugees and what the U.S. can do better to address this issue. The U.S. needs to empower its humanitarian organizations with increased funding and a sound organizational structure in order to address the changing needs of displaced people around the world.

In order to achieve a more efficient and influential U.S. humanitarian system, it is important to maintain and gradually increase funding to the State Department and USAID. The Trump administration is proposing cuts to both of these state entities. The proposed cuts would reduce funding by nearly one-third, from $8.7 billion to $6.3 billion. This potential decrease in funding would cripple the United States’ ability to effectively address the causes and mitigate the effects of refugee crises.

A well funded and autonomous USAID would be better equipped to implement humanitarian response programming for displaced people and their host communities. The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration would simultaneously remain an independent entity focusing on policy and diplomatic responses to refugee crises. This structure would act to create a cohesive diplomatic and humanitarian response to the growing number of crises that impact people around the world.

– Peter Trousdale
Photo: Flickr

Food security for refugeesAround the world, a record number of people have become forcibly displaced due to violence, natural disasters or a variety of other reasons. According to the U.N. Human Rights Council, 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced, and 25.9 million of those are considered refugees. At the same time, millions of people lacked food security around the world. The Peace Corps defines food security as “when families are able to afford and obtain enough nutritious food.” In 2018, more than 700 million people faced severe food insecurity.

Food security and refugee issues are deeply intertwined, as refugees are particularly vulnerable to becoming food-insecure. Worldwide, millions of refugees face food insecurity. Thankfully, many organizations are using their resources to create innovative solutions to provide healthy food to refugees who are not able to afford or access it. Here are three organizations that are improving food security for refugees:

African Women Rising

The Palabek refugee camp in northern Uganda hosts more than 38,000 refugees who have fled the brutal civil war in South Sudan. Humanitarian organizations have been struggling to find a long-term solution to food insecurity in the camp. While the Ugandan government allocates plots of land for refugees to farm on, these plots of land are usually too small for traditional farming techniques to work. However, the NGO African Women Rising (AWR) thinks it has found an innovative solution to malnutrition among refugees. In 2017, AWR introduced the camp to 30 by 30-meter plots of land known as “permagardens”.

AWR’s permagardens are specially cultivated in a way that allows them to maximize the number of crops, trees and plants that can be grown in them. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year to teach someone permagarden farming techniques. The total cost of developing, training and supporting a permagarden is just $85. The gardens primarily grow various fruits and vegetables, which provide vital micronutrients and vitamins that are not present in their monthly World Food Programme portions. Many other organizations are already starting to replicate the microgarden approach in refugee settings, including the U.N., the Danish Refugee Council and USAID.

Sunrise-USA

Sunrise-USA was founded in 2011 by a group of Syrian-American professionals and claims to be one of the world’s leading humanitarian aid organizations focused on victims of war inside Syria and in refugee camps in neighboring countries. In addition, to providing food security for refugees, Sunrise-USA provides refugees with healthcare, orphan sponsoring services, education, water and sanitation. The organization also helps Syrian refugees, who are mostly Muslim, observe Islamic religious traditions such as Ramadan, Udhiya and Zakat.

Within Syria, Sunrise-USA works to deliver badly needed food baskets to besieged cities. These baskets typically contain chicken, eggs, dates, oils, margarine, tuna cans, sugar and powdered milk, and only cost $45 to produce. While the city of Aleppo was under siege, the organization delivered over 5,000 food baskets, as well as two containers of jackets, sweaters and mattresses. Sunrise-USA’s “Feed Them” campaign has delivered food aid to 30,000 families in need and has provided milk and baby formula to 20,000 vulnerable families with children.

Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger)

Action Contre La Faim (ACF) is a French organization that works in more than 45 countries to treat and prevent malnutrition. For more than 40 years, it has provided various forms of food aid where it is needed most. Its 7,500-member staff currently assists 21 million people worldwide. The organization has responded to various humanitarian crises that have generated large numbers of refugees, including the civil wars that have taken place in South Sudan and Syria, as well as the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

In Bangladesh, ACF works to increase food security for refugees who have escaped into the country from Myanmar. Every day, the organization provides 83,000 hot meals and 551,497 liters of water to Rohingya refugees. The organization has also conducted malnutrition screenings for 100,000 Rohingya children and has diagnosed over 11,000 malnourished children. These malnourished children were then referred to ACF’s emergency nutrition programs for treatment through mobile clinics.

As the global refugee crisis continues to intensify, more and more organizations will need to come together to provide both short-term and long-term solutions to food security for refugees. These organizations have shown they are more than willing to rise to this task and have each made a measurable impact on the wellbeing of refugees around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Organized Crime in the Northern Triangle
Two previously published articles on The Borgen Project’s website have mentioned the issues of violence, poverty and corruption in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA). This article’s focus is on the organized crime in the northern triangle that engenders the violence and corruption, which includes street gangs, drug cartels and paramilitary organizations. Daily life in the NTCA is rife with immediate danger from many different sources.

5 Facts About Organized Crime in the Northern Triangle

  1. Gangs’ Influence: Gangs are a part of daily life, particularly for urban residents in the cities of the Northern Triangle. Gangs control swaths of city territory and young children must learn the boundaries from an early age—or risk being harassed, kidnapped, or even killed. In the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, gang violence is so common that the residents have adapted to it. Fortunately, there are local organizations (along with the help of foreign humanitarian aid) that are working to provide children with safe places where they can play without having to worry about crossing gang borders.
  2. Hard National Borders Exaberates Gang Activity: During the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the Northern Triangle became a focus of U.S. Policy—not for aid, but as a theater of operations in the War on Drugs. This led to a tightening of both the U.S. and Mexico’s southern border. Lack of adequate protection in Mexico and the U.S. put Northern Triangle migrants at risk of violence from paramilitaries and cartels, and detention and deportation from local authorities. Detention comes with its own set of health and safety risks, and deportation is tantamount to a death sentence for many migrants that were fleeing violence in the first place.
  3. Majority of Refugees Fleeing the Northern Triangle are Women and Children: Although there are several factors contributing to the surge of refugees coming from the NTCA, the two main ones are systemic poverty and the threat of gang violence. Many citizens of Northern Triangle countries live on less than $1.90 per day, making them extremely vulnerable to extortion from gangs which pose the threat of sexual violence and even death. In some cases, poverty leads to desperation for young men, prompting them to voluntarily join gangs for day-to-day security.
  4. Violence and Organized Crime in the Northern Triangle: In the last two decades of the 20th century, both Guatemala and El Salvador experienced violent civil wars that resulted in a major shakeup of the entire states’ power structures. Honduras itself was not involved in a civil conflict but the southern regions of the country were used as staging areas for the Nicaraguan contras during their rebellion against the Sandinista government in the 1980s. The end of the military conflicts instead led to a surge in criminal violence, with large numbers of armed and unemployed men forming their own paramilitary organizations, or finding work with street gangs and drug cartels.
  5. U.S. Deportations are a Direct Contributor to the Problem: While gang violence (both domestic and foreign) has been a consideration for the U.S. government for some decades now, methods differ on how to address it. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) usually deport any immigrant that commits a crime on U.S. soil, even if the deportee was not a member of a gang before deportation. This means they have limited recourse upon return to their home countries for reintegration, and tracking deportees after their return is difficult without information sharing. The lack of shared information is something that entities such as USAID and the State Department are hoping to address, via NGOs and independent commissions.

Organized crime in the Northern Triangle is one of the biggest obstacles to promoting stability and welfare in the region, exacerbated by many political and economic factors—the largest being the influence of international gangs. Corruption also enables many of the organized crime entities to operate with impunity, which in turn forces immigrants northward to flee threats of violence, extortion and forced recruitment. However, other articles have touched upon growing international visibility of the corruption—and efforts to fight it—in the Northern Triangle, and the spotlight on corruption has revealed the full extent of these gangs’ power and influence over the region.

In addition, U.S. Congress has introduced legislation targeted at addressing the root causes of migration from the NTCA which includes the threat of gang violence and organized crime. One such bill, the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act already passed in the House of Representatives in July 2019. Click here to encourage your Senators to support this bill when it is introduced in the Senate.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Helping Syrian Refugees After Arriving
The Syrian refugee crisis has been ongoing for more than eight years since the civil war that started in 2011. More than 5 million people have fled Syria, while many more were displaced within Syria itself. Externally, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have the highest proportion of Syrian refugees in the world. Since refugees often try to live in urban areas for better employment opportunities, they frequently struggle with financial resources and end up living below the poverty line. In response, domestic and international organizations are helping Syrian refugees after arriving in each of these three countries.

Lebanon

As of June 30, 2016, Lebanon had the most Syrian refugees relative to its population, which was about 173 refugees per 1,000 people, or a total of 1,035,700. Lebanon also hosts a high number of refugees compared to its GDP, equating to 20 refugees per $1 million in GDP. While Lebanon hosts a large number of refugees, it is struggling to provide for them. There are around a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 70 percent of whom live below the poverty line. These refugees often have little to no financial resources, which leads them to live in crowded homes with other families in more than 2,100 communities.

One organization helping Syrian refugees in the country is the Lebanese Association for Development and Communication (LADC), which emerged to help both Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Its projects range from community-based projects to aid projects with both local and more than 500 international volunteers helping to establish more than 6,500 beneficiaries. One of its projects was the Paradise Wall, a community art project to smooth the integration process between 120 Syrian and Lebanese children by asking them to work together creatively to produce a wall full of designs.

Turkey

Turkey hosts the largest number of registered Syrian refugees – currently at 3.3 million. Authorities claim that there are more than 3 million Syrian refugees, but that they have not registered. This is because they see Turkey as a transit country or fear deportation. The fear of deportation comes from the fact that Turkey offers temporary protection status to Syrians instead of internationally-recognized refugee status. This increases the likelihood of Turkey deporting the refugees while avoiding the risk of receiving international renouncement for doing so. Most refugees attempt to settle in urban areas in these countries, as opposed to refugee camps where only 8 percent of registered Syrian refugees live.

In Turkey, the UNCHR, EU and WHO have come together to fund the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), which is a multi-regional organization that does a wide variety of work to help Syrian refugees after arriving in Turkey. It has many projects ranging from legal counseling to psycho-social support for children through playful activities. One of its projects titled Women and Girls’ Safe Space emerged to offer training sessions on women’s reproductive health.

Jordan

Jordan is proportionally the second-largest host of the Syrian refugees, sheltering about 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants as of 2016. Fifty-one percent of these refugees are children and 4 percent are elderly, meaning that 55 percent are dependents who rely on the remaining 45 percent of adult, working-age Syrian refugees. Consequently, more than 80 percent of them live under the poverty line.

To deal with this, the Jordanian government has initialized formal processes to help them escape poverty. In 2017 alone, the country issued 46,000 work permits so that Syrian refugees work. Recently, in collaboration with UNHCR, the International Labor Organization (ILO) established an employment center, The Zaatari Office of Employment, in the biggest camp for Syrian refugees. By August 2017, around 800 refugees benefited from this center by registering official work permits in place of one-month leave permits.

While the Syrian refugee crisis is still ongoing, it is important to note that many are helping Syrian refugees to settle and integrate into their host societies. Many countries from all over the world are starting to resettle the refugees within their borders to lift off the burden of poverty and overcrowding in certain areas. People often recognize Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey for their willingness to take in large numbers of Syrian refugees, but this must not erase the work a variety of organizations are doing to help refugees after arriving in their new homes.

Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Notre-Dame RepairsThe cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is a cultural, religious, and architectural icon that has stood at the center of Paris for nearly a millennium. For many, this cathedral is a sacred place of refuge, an escape from the world or a childhood memory. On April 15, a fire nearly destroyed the cathedral, severely damaging the spire and roof of the building. In the aftermath of this tragedy, news headlines focused on the noteworthy flurry of donations from billionaires and small donors pledged to Notre-Dame repairs.

After reaching nearly $1 billion just days after the fire, several articles marveled at how easy it was to raise these funds when investing the same amount of money and public support for other pressing issues seems so difficult. In a few op-ed pieces, authors even expressed the sadness and disappointment of how vigorous the funding was to repair a church whose religion preaches helping the poor and oppressed. This begs the question of what else could $1 billion be used for? Here are five different ways the funds for the Notre-Dame repairs could have been used.

What $1 Billion in Aid Could Do Around the World

    1. International Aid: In 2017, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spent more than $1 billion on agricultural aid worldwide, which includes investment in capital for agricultural and technological development. USAID spent a similar amount on maternal and child health worldwide to treat cases of illness and provide medical technology to assist in childbirth.
    2. World Hunger: Through local partnerships and government leadership, the Feed the Future Inititiaive spent roughly $3.3 billion in agricultural and rural loans between 2011 and 2017 to mobilize farmers and families in developing countries. The average spending per year for this program amounts to about half of what was donated to the Notre-Dame repairs ($0.5 billion), yet the progress made through this initiative has added an estimated value of nearly $42 billion in economic output.
    3. The Refugee Crisis: The Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested $783 million to aid the South Sudan crisis where there are an estimated 2.4 million refugees. It raised $783 million in just 24 hours after the Notre-Dame fire. The funds UNHCR has requested for the crises in the countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan comes to around $879 million. That money would aid more than a million refugees collectively in the three countries.
    4. Homelessness: In Beijing, China, homelessness is an increasing problem. The Fengtai Shelter, located in Beijing, serves almost 3,000 people annually and receives just $1.2 million each year in aid from the government. With $1 billion, nearly 800 similar homeless shelters could receive $1.2 million in aid.
    5. Climate Change Relief: Alaskan residents have witnessed dramatic changes where whole villages have been sliding into rivers. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said relocating one such village, Newtok, would require anywhere between $80 to $130 million. Given this analysis, $1 billion could be used to relocate roughly ten such villages in Alaska, impacting thousands of people who are being displaced by increasing water levels.

Here are just five different ways that $1 billion could be used towards important problems in the world. These examples go to show the magnitude of what can be done with $1 billion to help the poor and oppressed. Although it is hearting to see so many people rally together to help with the Notre-Dame repairs, it would be an amazing leap to see that kid of dedication put towards humanitarian aid efforts.

Luke Kwong

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NGO Innovation AwardEach year the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) host more than 500 representatives of nongovernmental organizations around the world in their Annual Consultations in Geneva. These delegates debate refugee issues affecting both international and regional audiences as well as discuss new advocacy issues.

These annual consultations discuss data analytics as a pathway to better welfare systems; the implementation of the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees; the maintenance of moral, legal and safe aid to refugees; and UNHCR’s transition to an increasingly decentralized, local system.

Starting in 2018, the UNHCR has presented annual NGO innovation awards to celebrate NGOs they believe embody innovative practices required to truly integrate refugees into their new societies.

Honoring Partnerships and Connectivity in NGOs

Through the NGO Innovation Award, the UNHCR showcases exceptional NGOs with new kinds of solutions in refugee aid in order to inspire further innovation in the field. Recipient NGOs fall into two categories: inclusive partnerships and connectivity.

UNHCR describes previous winners of the partnership category as having people-centered, community-based, non-traditional and creative partnerships. Focusing on inclusion and diversity, these organizations drive solution-based, positive interventions in their environments.

In the category of connectivity, UNHCR looks for organizations that demonstrate creative and novel solutions to connectivity challenges of displaced people (e.g. literacy or access to finance).

The Winners Are Archetypes of Innovative NGOs

One of the 2018 winners was SINA Loketa (SINAL), a team of six Africans from different countries helping young refugees and marginalized youths become self-sustainable and self-actualized members of their (new) communities. Specifically, this NGO aims to help individuals from these two disadvantaged communities to design and launch social enterprises from their refugee camp and host community in Uganda.

Each year, SINA Loketa leads 90 new scholars through a personal and professional transformation based on project-based learning and hands-on experimentation. After being matched with a mentor, these individuals go through training covering team building, trauma healing, one-on-one life coaching, social innovation and entrepreneurship.

SINA Loketa envisions directly creating thousands of jobs by their startups and reducing Ugandan youth unemployment by three percent by 2028.

The second winner of the 2018 NGO Innovation award was Artemisszio, a charitable foundation based in Budapest, Hungary. It strives to build an open, tolerant society based on interculturality. Artemisszio focuses on young people disadvantaged by rural circumstances, incomplete schooling, Roma ethnicity and migration. This organization helps them integrate into the labor market and into society as a whole.

Artemisszio works with central members of these marginalized individual’s communities to create supportive relationships outside of the NGO. For example, the organization hosts classes for health care workers, educators, police and military personnel, about interculturality and stress management. Artemisszio also spearheads a multitude of other innovative outreach programs, including teaching at local primary and secondary schools.

An Archetype for Future NGO Innovation

The first two winners of the NGO Innovation Award, SINA Loketa and Artemisszio, engage disadvantaged members of society as well as society as a whole to create cohesion between them. Their multifaceted approach bridges what initially seems like a fixed divide between these two groups in both Hungarian and Ugandan communities.

UNHCR is calling for innovative solutions to issues that are constantly evolving. Each year they celebrate solutions that introduce refugees as positive influences in their new communities.

The answer to what is the NGO Innovation Award lies in the annual celebration of organizations that fill a need in their communities that had not been duly addressed previously. These two winners can serve as an inspiration for current and future NGOs to better their communities.

– Daria Locher
Photo: Flickr

Jobs for Refugee Women

Lara Shaheen, a Syrian woman in Jordan, has managed to create jobs for refugee women while taking advantage of pre-existing skills. The Syrian Jasmine House in Amman, Jordan allows displaced women to monetize their crafting abilities by giving them the resources to create and sell handmade items, most commonly artisan soaps. According to the Jordanian Ministry of Planning, Jordan hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees who migrated after a civil war broke out in 2012. The conflict between the Syrian government and rebel forces destroyed significant infrastructure and caused the displacement of 13.5 million Syrians.

The Origins of Syrian Jasmine House

Shaheen fled Damascus in 2012, settling in Jordan with the common mindset that the displacement was temporary. But as the war continued, she decided to create a business that would help her break free of the aid dependence many refugees find themselves reliant upon. The initial team comprised of Shaheen and five other Syrian women who left Zaatari camp in 2014 to work on expanding their marketing of hand-sewn goods.

Since that time, the Jasmine House has created jobs for over 40 refugee women and trained thousands of women of all ages in tailoring, embroidery, stained glass, wool knitting, crochet and natural soap making. Females head over 30 percent of Syrian displaced households. As many women have lost husbands or sons due to the war, the need for female financial independence is critical. 

Although Shaheen named the company in honor of her home Damascus, often called “the capital of Jasmine,” her objective is to give Syrian women a way to integrate into Jordanian society so that they can be both productive and dependent on themselves. According to The Jordan Times, she has also trained numerous Palestinian and Jordanian women to create handmade Syrian goods, promoting independence for all vulnerable women in Jordan. 

How Syrian Jasmine House Benefits Others

 Once Shaheen realized the situation in Jordan might not be temporary, she created a for-profit initiative to help women become less dependent on aid agencies. The women first sell their products to Shaheen, making an average of $280-560 a month, according to National Geographic. Shaheen then uses her contacts and social media platforms, such as her Facebook page, to sell the goods to the general public. The income women can make through the Syrian Jasmine House is higher than the average $218 a month UNHCR gives refugee families in Jordan.

The Syrian Jasmine House helps bring in an income which can be difficult since work permits are challenging to obtain in Jordan due to already scarce jobs for Jordanians. In February 2019, Shaheen received her first large international order from the United Kingdom. The Jasmine House also offers workshops through the Airbnb Experiences network for tourists to learn new Syrian skills. A writer for The Medium, Ashlea Halpern, learned the craft of making Aleppo-soap while listening to the story of Maya Albabili who is part of the Syrian Jasmine House.

As conflict dies down in Syria and the country stabilizes, organizations have begun to look at repatriation as an option. UNHCR has labeled repatriation as the only durable solution for Syrians in Jordan, however, they are still not able to safely recommend return. Until it is absolutely safe for Syrians to return to Syria, larger organizations, such as UNICEF, are focusing on providing education and employable skills to people. Smaller organizations emphasize small business building through workshops and microloan services. 

In June 2019, Shaheen opened her second location in Istanbul, Turkey. According to UNHCR, Turkey hosts 3.2 million Syrians and Shaheen is hopeful that she can provide jobs to more refugee women and enable them to become self-dependent. The Syrian Jasmine House denotes the motto “we are producers, not refugees,” and continues to work at breaking the aid-dependent cycle countries post-conflict often find themselves in.


– Carly Campbell
Photo: Flickr

Educational Access for Syrian Refugees

With 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the Middle East in need of education, only half have access to it. Considering that 91 percent of children around the world attend primary school, the disparity between refugees explains the effects of the Syrian refugee crisis. The great benefits of inclusion, transformation and opportunity that education provides are being held off from refugee communities. They struggle with poverty, homelessness and many other issues. Without access to quality education, many fear the children of the Syrian refugee group will become a lost generation. Overall, it is vital to improve educational access for Syrian Refugees.

Education for Syrian Refugees: The Big Picture

The issue of educational access for Syrian refugees is far more than a humanitarian issue. It affects economic, social and security sectors on a global scale. The Syrian crisis has produced the largest current refugee group in terms of population. Likewise, the global system will communicate benefits of a positive future for such a large population.

However, without proper education, refugee children are at a greater risk of several hardships. These include child labor, extremism, and desperate poverty.

Important world figures have expressed that these risks are why the Syrian refugee crisis is of global interest. For example, UN Chief Guterres stated: “that if the world fails to support refugees, the world is only helping those [extremist groups] that use the arguments in order to be able to recruit more people to put at risk our global security. Solidarity with Syrian refugees is…not only an act of generosity, it’s an act of enlightened self-interest.”

Initiatives That Are Helping

Though a lot of refugee children are unable to access quality education, there are several initiatives in place that are providing education for children who are in need. Human rights efforts in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt are all working to provide education accessibility for Syrian refugees. These efforts are resulting in benefits of empowerment and opportunity for a population that is in great need of assistance.

A report provided by the Brussels Conference shows a strong increase in the percentage of enrolled refugee children in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq since 2015. For instance, Turkey presents one of the largest increase. This is very important considering the country is home to the largest refugee population in the world.

Temporary Protection Regulation

One of the initiatives begun by the Turkish government is the Temporary Protection Regulation. It grants free access to education for Syrian refugee children. The Turkish Ministry of National Education has also greatly increased educational access for Syrian refugees by creating and accrediting temporary education centers that are led by Syrian teachers with a curriculum specialized for the Syrian Arabic dialect. Both these initiatives can be seen as to why Turkey has the highest percentage of enrolled refugee children when compared to other countries in the Middle East region.

The Double-Shift System

Another initiative that has had strong effects in increasing education accessibility for Syrian refugees is the double-shift system created by the Jordanian Ministry of Education. This system increases the availability of Jordanian schools by adding classes outside the normal hours of the school. As of 2018, there have been a creation of 206 double-shift schools to educate Syrian refugee children. Because of this, the country was able to decrease the percentage of un-enrolled students to 41 percent. This decrease from the 50 percent average shows the system’s effectiveness in providing education accessibility for Syrian refugees. Furthermore, the Ministry is hopeful the downward trend in the number of un-enrolled students will continue.

Importance of Continuing Efforts

The Syrian refugee crisis has displaced 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Only half of these refugees have access to a proper education. Many fear this lack of education access for Syrian refugees will create a generation of men and women who will never able to become contributors to the global system. Though initiatives in countries such as Turkey and Jordan have shown hope for the crisis, continued work and support are necessary to ensure this crisis will not continue.

– Jordan AbuAljazer
Photo: Flickr

Why Refugees are Fleeing Central AmericaThe northern region of Central America is currently one of the most dangerous places on Earth. So, it’s no surprise that refugees are fleeing Central America. This circumstance has caused high levels of migration as many refugees are fleeing for their lives. In countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, many people experience gang-related violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty. The brutality forcing refugees to leave their homes is constant and not improving.

Moreover, poverty in Central America is widespread. In some regions, half of the population lives below the poverty line. Consequently, the number of asylum-seekers is increasing in neighboring countries, such as Mexico and the U.S. In 2014, there were 2,000 asylum applications in Mexico. In 2017, applications escalated to more than 14,000. As this crisis continues, it is important to understand the reasons why refugees are fleeing Central America.

Gang Culture in Central America

In the 1980s, civil wars weakened countries in Central America, leaving a legacy of violence and fragile governments. Due to these civil wars and mass deportations from the U.S., organized crime groups flourished. These groups grew into the overwhelming gangs present today.

Over the last 15 years, gangs have taken over rural and urban areas within Central America. They target poor, and thus vulnerable, communities by imposing their own authority. They also recruit boys as young as 12 years old and living in poverty as they lack educational or economic opportunities. Because of gang violence, the Northern Triangle is considered one of the deadliest places in the world, outside a war zone. For example, between 2014 and 2017, almost 20,000 Salvadorans were killed due to gang-related violence.

Gang culture has deeply penetrated the social fabric of northern Central America. Their grip on society is so severe that many migrants fear that their deportation will result in death. For example, 82 percent of women reported they would most likely be tortured or killed if they were to return home. Despite decades of authorities trying to eliminate gang activity, these criminal groups remain defiant and seemingly unbreakable.

Extortion and Human Trafficking

Similarly, extortion-related crimes are common in this region. Gangs extort small businesses and local individuals by forcing them to pay protection payments. If these individuals cannot afford these amounts, the gangs will murder them. For example, it is estimated locals in Honduras pay $200 million in extortion fees every year. Extortion fees cost Salvadorans $756 million a year. This results in a significant financial loss for local businesses and endangers many lives.

Moreover, human trafficking is another common reason why refugees are fleeing Central America. Women and young girls are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Often, gangs target and traffick young children for the sex trade. In Guatemala alone, at least 15,000 children are victims of child sex trafficking networks.

Gangs also manipulate children. They subject children to forced labor, making them sell and transport drugs throughout El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Though widespread, authorities prosecute an extremely low number of people accused of human trafficking. In Guatemala between 2009 and 2013, police detained 604 human traffickers. However, only 183 went to trial and only 33 were convicted.

Helping Central America

A huge reason why refugees are fleeing Central America is lack of opportunity. Of course, this is largely due to the rampant crime and violence in the region. While the reality is grim, there is a reason to be optimistic. Many organizations and volunteers help these migrants in any way they can. In particular, Doctors Without Borders has been providing medical relief and mental health care to refugees traveling along migration routes through Mexico since 2013. The organization reported they provided more than 33,000 consultations at mobile health clinics and other facilities. Many patients need mental health care, especially women who are victims of sexual abuse. In fact, 31 percent of women reported being sexually assaulted along their journey.

UNICEF also recognizes the humanitarian crisis happening in Central America. UNICEF has offices in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In these countries, UNICEF is working directly with people to prevent violence and alleviate poverty. They also help reintegrate deported children into their home countries and support children in asylum countries, protecting them from discrimination and xenophobia. UNICEF’s work in Central America is necessary as it is bettering the lives of many vulnerable people.

Often times, the only ways for migrants to escape the persecution and violence plaguing their hometowns is to seek asylum in another country. No matter how bleak these circumstances may be, hope can be found through the compassion and understanding of volunteers around the world. By understanding why refugees are fleeing Central America, people and organizations can begin working to change the conditions in these countries.

Marissa Pekular
Photo: Flickr

5 Organizations Helping to Resettle North Koreans

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has committed numerous human rights violations throughout modern history. Many North Koreans who have managed to escape the country reveal the horrific conditions in which they lived. These conditions include generational incarceration in concentration camps, the public execution of dissidents and mass famine.

As such, many North Koreans have attempted the escape their country through secret escape routes and brokers. To escape, North Koreans must traverse forests, cross the Yalu River and navigate heavily patrolled areas. Unfortunately, many don’t make it. Those who survive must then adapt to and resettle in modern society, a complicated and tedious process.

Resettlement is difficult because North Korea lacks technological, social and economic progress. Additionally, many North Korean refugees face discrimination due to stigma. North Korea is so technologically behind, many North Koreans have never touched a computer. This makes it near impossible to find a job or receive an education when they resettle in new countries, like South Korea.

Luckily, many institutions help North Korean refugees resettle in these new cultures and societies. To do so, they provide North Korean refugees with essential skills to find a job, proper housing, education and more. Here are five organizations helping to resettle North Koreans.

5 Organizations Helping to Resettle North Koreans

  1. Teach North Korean Refugees is a nonprofit organization focused on changing the lives of North Koreans through English education. Learning fluent English can open doors to many job opportunities, especially for this globalized world. In 2013, Casie Lartigue Jr. and Eunkoo Lee founded the organization after they witnessed the obstacles North Korean refugees face. The organization began as a small assembly and before growing into a larger nonprofit. Currently, Teach North Korean Refugees has helped 411 North Korean refugees learn English. The organization boasts 914 tutors. Of these, North Korean refugees may a tutor according to their teaching style. They may then choose one of two courses: “Finding My Way,” which covers English basics, and “Telling My Own Story,” which focuses on writing and public speaking. Volunteers can donate and even apply to tutor on their site.
  2. Crossing Borders is a Christian-based organization that primarily focuses on assisting North Koreans refugees trapped in China. The Chinese government considers North Korean refugees to be unlawful economic migrants and returns them to North Korea upon capture. As a result, many North Korean refugees face persecution and exploitation. Accordingly, Crossing Borders provides counseling, medical assistance, safety, and job training to North Korean refugees. It also offers community building and Christian counseling. While the organization does not require North Korean refugees to be Christian, they provide optional mass services. The organization also takes care of underage North Korean refugees who are without parents. It provides safe housing and education for children until they are either adopted or reunited with family members.
  3. The Mulmangcho Foundation is probably one of the most essential resettlement organizations in South Korea. It offers direct training to North Korean refugees, enabling a smoother resettlement process. The organization has several programs for different needs. For instance, Open School helps North Korean refugees with everyday tasks, such as opening a bank account. The publishing programs provide North Korean refugees with a variety of writing tools. These tools are designed to enable North Korean refugees to publish their own stories and learn public speaking. Currently, six children’s books, based on actual experiences, and two nonfiction books have been published through The Mulmangcho Foundation. Furthermore, the organization helps South Korean prisoners-of-war escape North Korean camps.
  4. The North Korea Refugee Aid is the American-based organization of the aforementioned Mulmangcho Foundation. It provides North Korean refugees with the necessary tools for everyday life, as well as physiological treatment and job training. The programs give North Koreans refugees the chance to study in the United States through scholarships, academic tutors and host families.
  5. HanVoice is a Canadian resettlement organization with seven chapters spread throughout universities. The organization helps resettle refugees, as well as advocates against North Korea and their human rights violations. HanVoice seeks to engage Canadians in speaking against these violations and supporting North Korean refugees. The organization’s program, HanVoice Pioneers Program, offers a six-month training course to North Korean refugees. This program provides public speaking and leadership courses, along with an internship for the Canadian Parliament.

Overall, it is essential to remember that the fight for human rights is not only dependent on politics. The conflict surrounding North Korea is complicated and cannot be solved in one summit. However, ordinary people can help North Koreans by supporting these organizations and raising awareness of the human rights violations happening in North Korea. These 5 organizations helping to resettle North Koreans provide hope and assistance that make it possible for North Koreans to achieve real freedom.

Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Flickr