10 Myths about RefugeesRefugees have long been a much-debated topic in the United States and Europe. As the internet and media technology grows, so does the potential for the rapid spread of false information. It is imperative to separate fear-driven inaccuracies from tangible facts in order to dissolve inaccurate myths about refugees. Here are 10 myths about refugees.

10 Myths About Refugees

  1. Refugees pose a health risk to U.S. citizens. Refugees’ medical problems usually arise from a lack of access to appropriate medical care in their home country. Other refugees may also contract illnesses while running from persecution. Either way, preventative measures are readily available. Medical treatment in first-asylum camps and in refugee processing centers are two examples of these measures.
  2. The U.S. does not take sufficient preventative measures to make sure terrorists posing as refugees do not enter the country. The refugee screening process is one of the most rigorous screenings for people entering the U.S. The entire process takes approximately 18 to 24 months and involves collaboration with a number of security agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. The U.S. considers fewer than 1 percent of incoming refugees for residency in the country.
  3. Smartphones are not a necessity for refugees. Social connectivity across the internet platform is a vital part of job networking, maintaining finances and staying up-to-date with the news. Although refugees should have access to smartphones, less than 50 percent of them have access due to the inflated price rates for smartphone plans and maintenance.
  4. Refugees and migrants are the same. Refugees and migrants are distinctly different groups of people. Refugees are people who must leave their homes and flee for safety because of life-threatening internal conflict happening within their homeland. Migrants are people who voluntarily leave their homeland in order to search for better job opportunities and living arrangements.
  5. Refugees take away jobs from local communities. Unemployment exists independently from refugees seeking asylum in other countries. In fact, migrants and refugees have helped increase the workforce in the U.S. by 47 percent over the past 10 years. This is because they tend to take jobs that most people are not willing to do, thus filling in gaps in the job market.
  6. Most refugees seeking asylum are young men. Approximately 75 percent of incoming Syrian refugees are women and children, according to UNHCR. Additionally, more than half of the refugee population entering Europe to seek aid are women and children.
  7. Refugees are all Muslims. Although Muslims do fall into the mix of refugees that are fleeing war and persecution, not all refugees are Muslims. Only 24,768 refugees who arrived between January 2016 and August 2016 were Muslim, according to the U.S. Office of Admissions Refugee Processing Center. More than 30,000 refugees were either Christian or of another religious faith.
  8. All refugees that come to the U.S. lead financially comfortable lives. This varies substantially based on their origins and other important factors. For example, Russian and Iranian refugees may come to the U.S with better education and income than the U.S. average. On the other hand, fewer than 60 percent of Liberian and Somali refugees that arrived were literate in their native language.
  9. Refugees are exempt from paying taxes. Refugees have an obligation to pay employment, property, sales and other types of taxes just as every U.S. citizen. However, they cannot vote.
  10. History is repeating itself and the inevitable is bound to happen, no matter what people try to do to prevent mass persecutions. Refugee crises like these stir up fears that a travesty could occur in the near future. People should use education about history should as a motivator to take preventative measures to ensure that such an attack on human rights may never happen again. Displacement could be a sign of dictatorships forming, but through international unity and intervention, preventing such formations is possible.

The inaccuracy of these 10 myths about refugees can be harmful to their integration into new countries like the U.S. With further understanding and knowledge, however, their refugees’ transition into a new life should be much easier.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: Flickr

Complex Problems with Asylum in the U.S.

It is no secret that the U.S. immigration system is broken. With thousands of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is detaining them at the border. CBP has effectively jailed immigrant children in detention camps. There are somewhat secretive limits on asylum applications. In order to fix a system, it is necessary to first understand its complexities. The U.S. immigration structure as a whole is a huge and complex system that cannot be simplified into one article. This article will discuss the asylum process and specific areas that have begun to undermine asylum in the U.S.

What is the asylum process?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website defines asylum applicants as people who are “seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” The process begins after an immigrant enters the U.S. either under a different status or as an asylum applicant. An immigrant seeking asylum is required to file a form with USCIS  within one year of entering the country. They must provide extensive evidence that the applicant has a credible fear of returning to his or her home country.

As per regulation, applicants for asylum in the U.S. are able to make a claim at the U.S. border crossing or while they are in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes custody with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In fact, there is no way to request asylum in advance. Olga Byrne, Director of Immigration for the non-profit International Rescue Committee, confirmed that “There’s no way to ask for a visa or any type of authorization in advance for the purpose of seeking asylum. You just have to show up.”

After arriving at the border and going through an initial asylum interview. The interviewer then determines whether the applicant’s fear is credible. If the interviewer determines that there is a credible fear, then the applicant is released and given a court date to plead their case before an immigration judge in addition to filing the USCIS form. If it is found not credible, DHS begins deportation proceedings, though the applicant does have the option of requesting that his or her case be heard by an immigration judge.

What are the immediate problems?

The first and most immediate issue is the lack of legal counsel. The government does not provide counsel to immigrants going through the asylum process. Navigating the U.S. legal system can be difficult for anyone, let alone an asylum seeker that may or may not have full command of the English language. Having an attorney makes a significant difference. A 2016 study by Syracuse University found that having representation increases an applicant’s chances of approval for an asylum case by 40 percent.

In the same study, researchers found that 90 percent of claims for asylum in the U.S. without representation are ultimately denied. This is partly because the burden of proof is entirely on the applicant to show to the courts and USCIS that he or she is eligible under the regulations. This can be a difficult prospect for someone who does may struggle with the language or lacks have access to documents containing regulations and applicable evidence while detained.

The second issue is immense pressure to deny cases. Former immigration judge Jeffry S. Chase confirms that immigration judges are assigned quotas for cases each year. Every day, each judge sees a dashboard of their statistics with a green/yellow/red layout to show them whether they are getting through the appropriate amount of cases each day. Though the quotas are meant to help keep cases moving forward, in reality, they push judges to deny cases since denials go faster. Pushing through cases means that applicants and attorneys do not have time to build the record of evidence and ultimately build their case.

What can people do to help?

There are multiple organizations that provide pro bono representation to asylees. The Immigration Justice Campaign is an organization devoted to providing due process for non-U.S. citizens. Another organization is the American Association of Immigration Lawyers’ pro bono project, which provides pro bono immigration counsel to vulnerable populations such as asylum seekers.

For long-term solutions, it is important that people continually contact their representatives about issues in immigration. One can support immigration reform, such as getting rid of judge quotas or providing those seeking asylum in the U.S. with free legal counsel. Government employees generally are not allowed to disclose any information about their work nor are they allowed to speak publically about what goes on behind the scenes at USCIS, DHS, or similar governmental organizations, but that does not mean that they do not care. There are people in government who want to help, but they need citizens to speak up and speak out against unfair immigration policies.

The immigration system as a whole has problems, but they are not irreversible. The asylum process is currently complicated and difficult, but it does not have to be that way. With the right amount of political activism from U.S. citizens and cooperation, change is possible.

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

Importance of Primary EducationOf all the resources that may cause enrichment of a nation, none are as valuable as the cognitive attainments of its population. The issue of access to primary education remains a critical one for many nations, particularly those in the developing world. Access to primary education and the impediments to its universalization may determine a nation’s trajectory for many years. Below are 10 facts about the importance of primary education.

10 Facts About the Importance of Primary Education

  1. Primary Education Consequences: Major life-long consequences accrue from access to primary education. The cumulative nature of the learning process, whether in literacy or numeracy, requires the early internalization of basic abstractions. Without this process at a young age, children fall behind in the trajectory of cognitive development and fail to reach their potential. Moreover, primary educational access facilitates the identification of, and assistance to, both gifted and struggling young minds.
  2. Nations’ Development: A nation’s development relies considerably on the access of its population to educational institutions. Access to primary education, regardless of class or caste or income, levels the social playing field. Gender equality, another significant marker of national development, improves alongside the universalization of access to educational institutions, including primary schools.
  3. Refugee Children: According to the United Nations, roughly 39 percent of refugee children across the globe do not receive a primary school education. This enrollment statistic contrasts sharply with that of non-refugee children, with 92 percent receiving primary school education. From 2017 to 2018, the number of unenrolled primary-school-age refugee children rose to a total of four million.
  4. Teachers: UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics calculates that ensuring primary education access for all requires roughly 24.4 million more primary school teachers. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers a scarcity of primary school teachers in more than 70 percent of its constituent nation-states. South Asia falls directly behind Sub-Saharan Africa in its primary school teacher scarcity crisis, requiring approximately four million more teachers by 2030 to attain the goal of universal primary education.
  5. Disabled Children: A UNESCO study of 37 countries determined that children with disabilities face a greater likelihood than their non-disabled peers of total exclusion from primary school and are more likely to experience fewer years enrolled in school and suffer major literacy deficits. These disadvantages are more likely to afflict disabled girls, thus sharpening gender asymmetries. Of the studied countries, Cambodia exhibited the most dramatic gap between disabled students and their peers, with 57 percent of the former unenrolled compared to 7 percent of the latter.
  6. Gender Parity Improvements: Data suggests improvements in gender parity in access to primary education. Sub-Saharan Africa features a 2 percent gap between the genders in non-delayed access to primary education, with 29 percent of girls unenrolled compared to 27 percent of boys. However, of children two or more years above the standard enrollment age, girls remain at a disadvantage compared to boys, attesting to the persistent influence of gender expectations on access to primary education.
  7. Violence and Exploitation: Children deprived of access to primary education risk a greater likelihood of suffering violence and exploitation. Where educational deprivation results from conflict or natural catastrophe, the danger of child trafficking intensifies. Conflict and natural disasters impeded educational access for approximately 39 million girls in 2015. As girls face a greater likelihood of impeded educational access than boys in conflict-ridden or disaster-affected regions, girls likewise face an increased risk of child trafficking out of proportion with their population percentage.
  8. Education Cannot Wait (ECW): On December 11, 2019, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced a $64 million educational funding initiative in the conflict-ridden countries of Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria. Though targeting affected youth of all backgrounds, this project places particular focus on girls, disabled children and refugees. This initiative will facilitate teacher training and student enrollment in vulnerable regions. Ultimately, this project anticipates the mobilization of governments, NGOs and civilians for the growth and maintenance of secure and effective educational sectors.
  9. The LEGO Foundation: The LEGO Foundation announced a grant of $100 million on December 10, 2019, for an early learning solutions initiative targeting crisis-affected groups in Ethiopia and Uganda. Play-oriented learning programs will improve the skill sets of both primary-school-aged and pre-school children. These play-oriented learning strategies assist children in surmounting trauma that may otherwise impede their scholastic potential. Roughly 800,000 children will benefit from this project.
  10. The Global Partnership for Education: December 10, 2019, witnessed the grant of $100 million by The Global Partnership for Education for educational initiatives across Asia and Africa. Burkina Faso, for instance, plans investment of its four-year GPE grant of $21 million toward improving primary school enrollment and developing pedagogical infrastructure. The investment of $21 million in Somalia’s Somaliland region seeks to rectify gender imparity in access to primary education.

Access to primary education provides the foundation upon which the talents of a nation’s youth may grow. Moreover, there exists a strong relationship between primary education and the promotion of such values as gender equality and social mobility. Although an indispensable institution in the contemporary age, crises both man-made and natural threaten primary education across continents. Fortunately, initiatives involving NGOs and governments promise to overcome these impediments, the importance of primary education weighs more as a right rather than a mere privilege.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Germany
The latest stats by the Federal Association of Homelessness Help (BAGW) show that there were 678,000 homeless people in Germany in 2018. This figure marked an increase of more than 4 percent between 2017 and 2018. The majority of these people sleep in emergency quarters, while 41,000 sleep on the streets.

Causes of Homelessness

In Germany, there are several factors that contribute to homelessness. One is the decreased number of social housing units. Social housing units have reduced by 60 percent since 1990 as the government continues to sell its stock of housing units to private investors. Additionally, there has been a decrease in affordable housing, particularly in large cities and urban centers. Studies show that housing costs in Germany are among the highest in Europe. This affects those with incomes below the poverty threshold, as well as young people (ages 18-24). Munich is reported to have the highest prices for both renting and buying houses in Germany. Berlin, which is said to be at the center of housing shortages in Germany, could account for about 20 percent of the country’s homeless.

Finally, the increase in immigrants has greatly contributed to the rise of homelessness in Germany. The immigrants are from other European Union countries, particularly Eastern European, and are also refugees and asylum seekers. It is estimated that 440,000 of the homeless are migrants. The number of homeless people with migrant backgrounds rose by 5.9 percent compared to a 1.2 percent increase for those without a migrant background.

Housing Rights in Germany

In large cities and urban centers, such as Berlin and Munich, the homeless set up makeshift tent camps in parks and other open spaces. During the winter, in an attempt to avoid the adverse winter conditions, they relocate to U-Bahn (underground railway) stations. Law requires German municipalities to provide basic emergency accommodation to those at risk of homelessness. Various municipalities and NGOs are providing temporary and emergency housing services.

In addition, the Social Code in Germany stipulates that the risk of losing a home entitles the owner to some form of assistance. Covered by the municipalities, this could be a loan or allowance for rental debts. Of the 16 German states, only four of them have the right to housing enshrined in their state constitutions including Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg and Bremen. However, regulation throughout the country still establishes the right.

Current Efforts

In 2018, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to spend €6.85 billion on solutions to homelessness. She announced that the federal government would aim to build 1.5 million new housing units and 100,000 new social housing units by 2021. There are also more immediate relief efforts that individuals and German cities provided. For example, the city of Berlin is offering a warm hall in Kreuzberg as an alternative to the U-Bahn stations the homeless would stay in during the winter. Entrepreneur Matthias Müller is doing his part to help the homeless in Germany by introducing a shower caravan in Berlin. Matthias transformed a bus into the shower caravan, which is a unit with a sink, shower and toilet so that homeless women can maintain personal hygiene. The caravan is also accessible to people with disabilities.

Solutions

BAGW estimates that Germany needs 200,000 new affordable housing units each year to manage homelessness. The federal government, various municipalities and NGOs could also work together to emulate Finland’s Housing First approach. In this method, the goal is not to have temporary or emergency accommodation, but instead, permanent housing and needs-based support. This way, instead of just managing homelessness, Germany could end it completely.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

refugee crisisThe question regarding what should be done about the refugee crisis is currently one of the most heated debates in Congress. But, where does each Democratic Candidate stand on the refugee crisis? Here are the Democratic candidates on immigration.

Joe Biden

Former U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden, is primarily focused on addressing the Southern border crisis by admitting more refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly from Central America. When referring to refugees and immigrants Biden stated, “We could afford to take in a heartbeat another two million. The idea that a country of 330 million cannot afford people who are in desperate need and who are justifiably weak and fleeing depression is absolutely bizarre.”

Cory Booker

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey similarly plans to expand pathways for refugees and asylum-seekers as well as to address the root causes of migration and the refugee crisis. Not only does Booker hope to increase the cap on refugees but also staffing at the border to assist with interviews and to improve in-country refugee processing. Additionally, Booker plans to investigate the root causes of migration through the lens of corruption, violence, poverty and climate change by creating a role in the State Department. He is committed to spending foreign aid in order to address the root causes of the refugee crisis.

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana hopes to return the refugee admissions target to 110,000 or potentially more. Buttigieg believes letting in more refugees will “help grow our tax base and plug labor gaps as Americans age.” Buttigieg also wants to help other countries resettle refugees and integrate them into society so that resettlement will be mutually beneficial. Ultimately, Buttigieg hopes to change the discussion around immigrants and refugees. He stated on Twitter, “Immigrants and refugees are not a problem that we need to handle; they are an asset to our nation and an essential part of the fabric of this country—our policies must reflect that.”

Amy Klobuchar

The two primary plans Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has for addressing the refugee crisis are reinstating the 110,000 refugees cap while simultaneously increasing spending on foreign aid. In order to process this number of refugees, Klobuchar would reopen the International U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices. Klobuchar would also accept more Muslim refugees into the country because she adamantly opposes the “Muslim Ban.” Klobuchar believes that a strengthened vetting process for visitors and refugees would eliminate any need for this ban. Additionally, Klobuchar plans to increase foreign aid and the State Department’s budget to address the current crisis and deter future crises by promoting global stability.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has a platform of immigration reform that is “grounded in civil and human rights.” He plans to achieve these values by changing the treatment of individuals at the border, such as ending family separation, the detention of children at the border and the detention of asylum seekers while their applications are being processed. Sanders plans to end the United States’ for-profit detention centers entirely. Additionally, Sanders wants to support refugees globally by providing foreign aid to other host countries to create an international community committed to resettling refugees and ending the refugee crisis it created.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has the most progressive target for resettlement. If elected, Warren aims to resettle 125,000 refugees in the U.S. in her first year in office and then at least 175,000 by the end of her first presidential term. She hopes to address the refugee crisis by providing foreign aid in Central America in order to stabilize this region. Warren plans to implement a system that would make it easier for asylum seekers to get a day in court. She has also stated she will reduce immigration detention for all immigrants crossing the border.

Andrew Yang

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is most concerned with the crisis occurring in Venezuela. Yang wants to both support the Venezuelan people through humanitarian aid and through distributing foreign aid to the countries that are admitting massive numbers of Venezuelan refugees. Although Venezuela is Yang’s primary concern, he also plans to work with the entire international community in order to address the global refugee crisis. Yang believes that the U.S. should disengage in military efforts abroad attempting to promote peacekeeping because these efforts are causing more destabilization than peace.

There is a lot to consider when choosing who to vote for in the 2020 Presidential Election. However, the refugee crisis has certainly been a priority. There are currently 25.9 million refugees and 41.3 million internally displaced people throughout the world. The need for a president that understands the importance of diplomacy and foreign aid spending when it comes to addressing the refugee crisis is, therefore, imperative.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

Albert Einstein's Life as a Refugee
Lauded for his array of riveting breakthroughs and accomplishments in physics, Albert Einstein became emblematic of brilliance in the modern world. His general Theory of Relativity continues to aid modern astronomy and has paved the way for new theories involving black holes and the physical origin of the universe. However, Einstein’s legacy does not solely comprise of his scientific achievements. Albert Einstein’s life as a refugee was arduous and many regard him as a humanitarian for his efforts to help the underprivileged.

Albert Einstein’s Origins

Albert Einstein was born in Germany in 1879 but renounced his German citizenship 17 years later due to his fondness for Swiss education. He began his work in physics in Switzerland but returned to Germany to work as a professor at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1914. A few short years later in 1921, Einstein won the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the photoelectric effect. However, antisemitic harassment in Germany rose in the early months of 1932, and Einstein resigned from his professorship at the Prussian Academy for Sciences and relocated to Belgium.

How Albert Einstein Became a Refugee

In December 1932, Einstein and his wife visited the United States where he had secured a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933 and unleashed a wave of antisemitism across the nation. The new government curbed the liberties of the Jewish people and they became prone to vicious attacks. Because of his fame as an accomplished Jewish physicist and the Third Reich accusing him of treason, Einstein became a target, especially when he traveled to Europe briefly in 1933. The Nazis burned his books and desecrated his property in Berlin. While he was initially unfazed, Einstein began to fear for his life and moved to the U.S. in the fall of 1933 and never visited Europe again.

After settling in Princeton, Einstein and his wife, Elsa, helped other refugees fleeing Nazi Germany apply for visas and advocated for their stay in the United States. Albert Einstein’s life as a refugee finally ended when he received citizenship in 1940, but his legacy lives on to this day.

Albert Einstein as a Humanitarian

Albert Einstein is one of the most prominent scientists to have ever walked the earth, but his accomplishments do not stop there. In 1933, the International Relief Association emerged at Einstein’s behest. A group of American academics, artists and politicians, including John Dewey and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, came together to aid German Jews who were suffering at the hands of Adolf Hitler’s oppressive regime. Furthermore, Einstein was a staunch opponent of segregation, discrimination and the violation of human rights. He encouraged scientists to develop technology to help people, not destroy them. Following the atrocities of World War II, Einstein signed a document now known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto that calls for nuclear disarmament and arms reduction in the world. Albert Einstein’s life as a refugee compelled him to predict that “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Albert Einstein’s scientific successes and humanitarian efforts will echo throughout the world for generations to come.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Palestinian Refugee Camps
The first Arab-Israeli War in 1948 resulted in the mass, forced displacement of approximately 750,000 people throughout the Middle East, including in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. Today, over 5 million Palestinian refugees live in the region, where socio-economic issues, health conditions, food security, education and living conditions are all deteriorating, plunging refugees deeper into poverty. This article will discuss poverty in Palestinian refugee camps and what some are doing to alleviate the situation.

The Gaza Strip

There are 1.4 million Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, and according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the poverty rate increased to 53 percent by the end of 2017, from 38.8 percent in 2011. The poverty line in Palestine is at $4.60 per day to cover the minimum needs of a household, basic health care and education. Nonetheless, 656,000 people live in absolute poverty in Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza with less than $3.60 per day, which only suffices to cover food, clothing and shelter. This drastic increase in the poverty rate is due to several factors including the volatile nature of the economy due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli blockade on land, air and sea since 2007, and the United States’ $300 million budget cut towards the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2018.

Indeed, the drastic economic conditions not only increase food insecurity in Gaza due to the lack of economic access to food but also caused the average unemployment rate to rise above 50 percent in 2018, reaching one of the highest in the world. Moreover, the United States’ decision to cut $300 million from the UNRWA’s annual budget directly impacted education and schools in refugee camps. There is a shortage of staff in Gaza schools as the UNRWA and the Ministry of Education runs over two-thirds of them on double shifts, generating overcrowded schools and so impeding students’ learning and the level of education. The continuing blockade on Gaza affects health care as medical supplies are scarce and deficient, including medication for cancer and immunological diseases. All these factors have led to the impoverishment of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, leaving an estimated 80 percent dependent on international assistance.

Syria

There are 552,000 registered Palestinian refugees in Syria, however, since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, approximately 120,000 PRS have fled to neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan where they have an irregular status. The poverty rate among PRS is approximately 89 percent, including 9 percent living in extreme poverty in Palestinian refugee camps.

The UNRWA stepped up its activities in the nine official camps in Syria, as well as issued a Syria regional crisis emergency appeal in 2018 stating that 95 percent of Palestine refugees in Syria was in “critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance,” and improving PRS’ living conditions.

Lebanon

The legal restrictions that the Lebanese government imposed upon refugees combined with the country not being a signatory of the U.N. Refugee Convention (recognizing the legal obligations and basic rights of refugees), jeopardizes economic, political and social aspects of the lives of Palestinian refugees. Indeed, two-thirds (160,000 people) of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are either poor or extremely poor, which is the highest percentage of people living in poverty in Palestinian refugee camps.

Palestinian refugees face strong discriminatory labor laws; only 2 percent have an official work permit, 75 percent earn below the national minimum wage of $200 per month and 95 percent have no health insurance. Moreover, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon do not receive full citizenship and so suffer from limited access to public services, including public schools and Lebanon’s public health system. The UNRWA provides schools and medical facilities in the country’s 12 refugee camps, however, these suffer from understaffing and limited funds, and so do not suffice to secure decent education and health care for all Palestinian refugees. Besides, the Syrian conflict caused 30,000 Palestinian refugees to move to Lebanon, adding a new dimension to the existing issue. This reinforces the declining housing conditions in the overcrowded refugee camps which lack basic infrastructures and experience continuous electrical outages.

Jordan

Jordan hosts the largest amount of Palestinian refugees in the region with over 2 million registered people. Jordan is the only host country that grants full citizenship to Palestinian refugees, integrating them more into society. However, the 158,000 Palestinian refugees coming from the Gaza strip did not receive citizenship, limiting their rights in the country and making them more prone to poverty. In addition, 17,000 Palestinian refugees left Syria and entered Jordan during the Syrian conflict, of which 30 percent were highly vulnerable, according to the UNRWA. These refugees’ irregular or uncertain legal status in Jordan as Palestinian Refugees from Syria (PRS) exposes them to an insecure environment including difficulties to access government services. UNRWA is in dire need of funding and financial assistance in order to protect the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees living in Jordan.

Conclusion

UNRWA provides cash assistance to over 400,000 Palestinian refugees in one of the largest cash programs in the world, and it has deeply affected poverty levels among Palestinian refugees. Indeed, cash assistance decreased the number of Palestinian refugees living in absolute poverty (under $2 per day) from 90 percent to 74 percent in 2017. However, the lack of financial aid and assistance limits the UNRWA’s activities in refugee camps, and the ongoing state of conflict in the region prevents significant improvements from occurring.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Safe and Voluntary Refugee Repatriation
Despite the constant divisive debates about whether to welcome refugees, they have protection under international law by the 1951 refugee convention, a multilateral United Nations treaty. It defines who people can consider refugees and outlines their basic rights, including access to fair and efficient asylum procedures. Despite the ever-present debates about acceptance, very little of it has actually been to talk about what happens when countries refuse asylum seekers including the problem of ensuring safe and voluntary refugee repatriation rather than returning them to dangerous situations in their home countries.

Refugees in the US

A country must ensure that refugees live in safety and dignity while it is processing their claims, and safety and dignity are also integral to voluntary repatriation. In 2020, the United States will only accept 18,000 refugees. This will be the lowest number of refugees that the U.S. resettled in a single year since 1980 when Congress created the nation’s refugee resettlement program. In light of such low acceptance rates, a national debate around safe and voluntary repatriation is crucial so that those a country turns away will have safe alternatives. Without debate, there is no clear answer to where those refugees should go, if not the United States.

Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

People often confuse the matter even more because they use the terms “migrants,” “refugees” and “asylum seekers” interchangeably, despite very different legal meanings and obligations. Amnesty International defines an asylum seeker as an individual who is seeking international protection whose claim a host country has not yet determined. In short, a country will not recognize every asylum seeker as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker. “Migrant” is a broad term that describes anyone who moves to another country for at least one year, for any reason.

“Repatriation” is when a person returns to their country of origin, whether it is because conditions have improved and they want to go home or because their host country has refused their request for asylum. According to the U.N. Refugee Repatriation Agency, safe and voluntary refugee repatriation requires not only the commitment of the international community to safely bring displaced people home but also the cooperation of the country of origin, which has to do the difficult work of reintegration and ensuring stability and safety.

So who will be the 18,000 refugees the U.S. allows in 2020? In 2019, refugees coming to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo far outnumbered those from other countries. D.R. Congo accounted for nearly 13,000 refugees, followed by Burma (Myanmar) with about 4,900, then Ukraine (4,500), Eritrea (1,800) and Afghanistan (1,200).

Repatriation

As of November 13, 2019, a total of 1,439 individuals repatriated. ReliefWeb, an online news source for humanitarian information on global crisis and disasters, reported that approximately 14,700 refugees chose to return to their country spontaneously and by their own means. However, home countries and the international community are working together to help with safe and voluntary refugee repatriation.

The United Nations, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Angolan government collaborated on organizing convoys for voluntary repatriation. Wellington Carneiro, UNHCR’s interim representative in Angola, stated that voluntary repatriation faced challenges like poor road conditions in the rainy season and the need to find suitable vehicles as a result. However, Carneiro assured that the operation, which he expected to finish by mid-December 2019, would fully guarantee the returning Angolans’ safety and dignity. While the international community’s collaborative work was a big part of the success of these trips, the Angolan government played the most important role. Paolo Balladelli, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Angola, highlighted this when he said that “the Angolan authorities have shown their solidarity by welcoming people, including children, who were at risk of life due to serious ethnic conflicts. The conclusion of this chapter demonstrates to Africa and the world that Angola is a good example of good international practices.”

Julia Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Integration
When refugees flee their countries of origin in search of safety, they often end up living below the poverty line in each of the countries that they settle in. These refugees lack the financial resources for a stable livelihood with or without their families. However, there are also some refugees who seem to flawlessly integrate into the host society and become an accepted member of society. There seems to be a key factor that is causing the difference in whether a refugee can integrate successfully into the host society or not. This article will explore the link between poverty and integration.

The Link Between Poverty and Integration

Dr. Dogus Simsek, a professor who teaches sociology at University College London, has researched the matter within the context of the Syrian refugees in Turkey post-2011. She looked into the Turkish policies regarding migration and developed an argument through her sociological analysis of the literature. She looked into the concepts of market citizenship, refugee economics and the concept of methodological individualism while conducting fieldwork with around 120 Syrian refugees all throughout 2016. Upon concluding her hypothesis, she argued that poverty and integration interlink because the refugees who lack financial resources often lack the stability in their lives that they need to begin the integration process into the host society. When The Borgen Project interviewed her about what made her believe that there was a link between poverty and integration, she replied saying that the laws, rules and policies on migration were in favor of those who were investing in Turkey. The Syrian refugees themselves also backed this up when they talked about their daily life.

Integration and Market Citizenship

In everyday life, the public uses the word integration every day without settling on its definition. To fix that, Alistair Ager and Alison Strang operationalized the definition of integration and have attempted to conceptualize a framework with four domains: markers and means, social connection, facilitators and foundation. Markers and means include the key measurements of employment, housing, education and health. The social connection includes social bridges, social bonds and social links. Facilitators include language, cultural knowledge, safety and stability whereas the domain of foundation includes rights and citizenship. Ager and Strang argue that this conceptualization of integration can be the foundation of how people should define integration.

Simsek also tries to contextualize the concepts of market citizenship, refugee economics and methodological individualism while reaching her hypothesis. She defines the concept of market citizenship as an instance where access to rights and citizenship depends on the economic resources and access to the labor market, given the neoliberal globalized world, such as the case in the Burmese refugees in Michigan.

Market citizenship hindered their integration process economically, socially and linguistically. Countries start to view refugees as a possible case of investment in the economy. Additionally, refugee economics refers to when the government conducts a separate resource allocation system for the refugees that is fundamentally different from the generic model that countries use for the host society. This perpetuates the notion that refugees lead to complex economic lives. Lastly, it is important to not take the concept of methodological nationalism with a grain of salt because the concept itself argues that when one attempts to analyze the cases of refugees, the primary unit of analysis is the nation-state rather than the lives and experiences of the refugees themselves, which already establishes a power inequality between the two.

Class-Based Integration

The main argument remains that poverty and integration greatly interlink. Simsek attempts to develop the notion of class-based integration in the case of Syrian refugees in Turkey, which she has defined as when the availability of economic resources allows the refugee to relax on the domain of means and markers and the chance to start expanding on the other domains of the integration framework mentioned above. This argument also highlights that each refugee has its integration process and that people should not see them as a single unit of analysis. The concept of class-based integration also encapsulates that the allocation of rights, “especially the labor market and citizenship rights, is easier for refugees who can invest in the receiving country compared to those without.”

Simsek said that the NGOs in Turkey are aware of such policies that favor those who can invest in the country and that they try to run their organizations in line with the policies. The events or activities that they organize usually allows refugees to become aware of these policies. Simsek also said that some NGOs might not be aware of the situation if they only attempt to assist the refugees in poverty and integration is a far road for them, unlike the more well-off refugees for whom integration can be like a slide in a playground. When The Borgen Project asked Simsek if she believes that the world can apply the concept of class-based integration to refugees and migrants across the globe, she answered saying that it is a possibility since the world is globalized in a neoliberal context which leads to nation-states viewing refugees as an investment.

Overall, the idea of class-based integration acts as a missing link or bridge between poverty and integration and allows for more scholars, NGOs and governments to obtain a clearer image of what is going with the Syrian refugee crisis. Furthermore, one can possibly extrapolate this notion to other refugee waves around the world given that the policies of the country also view refugees as an investment into their societies within a neoliberal context.

Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

 

Child Labor in Turkey
Child labor in Turkey continues as both an international and domestic issue for the country. Despite Turkish and international community efforts to establish policies and initiatives to prevent child labor and protect the interests of children, child labor persists. The below facts highlight the details of the type of labor children typically perform as well as the efforts the government of Turkey has made to end child labor.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Turkey

  1. Work in Hazelnut Fields: Hazelnut production in Turkey is the largest sector of agricultural production, making up approximately 20 percent of Turkey’s agricultural exports. For this reason, many migrant agricultural workers travel along the eastern and western regions of Turkey looking for work during the hazelnut harvesting season. The children of these workers travel with their families and also contribute to the harvest of hazelnuts in Turkey. In 2017, nearly 800,000 children worked in the hazelnut fields. Most children work 11 hour days, seven days a week in the fields.
  2. The Second National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking: The Second National Action Plan on Combating Human Trafficking is an existing program in Turkey. This program identifies and protects both the victims of child trafficking as well as those children who are at high-risk for trafficking, such as the children of migrant agricultural workers. The high-risk children this program identified are the recipients of additional security precautions that the shelters took in. Victims of human trafficking frequently become migrant agricultural workers.
  3. Children of Syrian Refugees are High-Risk: As the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey continues to grow, so does the number of Syrian families working as migrant agricultural workers. Due to their status within the country of Turkey, many of these laborers work longer hours than those of the Turkish migrant workers and receive lower wages, with children oftentimes earning half of an adult’s wage. The children of the Syrian refugees are at an even higher risk of becoming permanently part of the sector of migrant labor due to lower access to education, discrimination and financial barriers.
  4. Efforts of the Turkish Government to Eradicate Child Labor: The Turkish government has made efforts to combat the high levels of child labor with a variety of government-funded programs. The Conditional Education and Health Care Assistance Program “aims to reduce poverty through cash transfers,” which takes the form of free milk and books given to primary school children. In 2017, approximately 190,000 children benefited from this program. By providing food and educational support, the Turkish government aims to create a learning environment for children where their families feel that they can afford the time for their children to be in school instead of working to earn extra money.
  5. Child labor in Turkey Increased in 2018: Despite the sweeping measures that the Turkish government has taken to prevent and eventually put an end to child labor in Turkey, the number of child laborers saw a marked increase in 2018. The Turkish government made a commitment to the International Labor Organization (ILO) that it would put an end to child labor by 2015, but that has not been the case thus far.
  6. Education Rates of Child Laborers: Due to the long hours that child laborers in Turkey work, they are unable to consistently attend schools in the areas where they work on hazelnut farms. The children also move around too frequently with their families to establish a lasting record at any one school, contributing to these children’s decreased likelihood of school attendance. In addition, the vocational schools that exist in areas that have heavy industry provide an education to children that promotes their continued work in the industrial sphere.
  7. Minimum Age for Child Labor: Turkey has existing laws in place that are to protect children from child labor. There is a minimum age requirement of 15 for agricultural work and a minimum age of 18 for hazardous work. A prohibition of forced labor and child trafficking also currently exists in Turkey. Despite the efforts of the government of Turkey, holes continue to exist in the legal framework that aims to protect children from hazardous child labor.
  8. Effective Enforcement of Existing Child Labor Laws: Though the Turkish government has age limits in place for child labor, as well as a list of light work that the Regulation on the Principles and Procedures Governing the Employment of Children and Young Workers permits, high levels of child labor in Turkey persist. Part of this gap in the legislation and actual protection of child laborers is due in part to the low numbers of inspectors and the classification of agricultural work as light labor. The Regulation on Principles has indicated that the country must legally consider picking fruit and vegetables as light work, therefore placing very few restrictions on migratory agriculture. Despite this, the gaps that exist in the legal framework “may hinder adequate enforcement of [Turkey’s] child labor laws.”
  9. National Program to Combat Child Labor in Turkey: The government of Turkey has made an effort to maintain compliance with international child labor laws. The National Program to Combat Child Labor began in 2017 and is to run until 2023. This program focuses on maintaining surveillance of the labor sectors of migratory agriculture, street work and work performed in small to medium industries to ensure that none of Turkey’s existing child labor laws are in violation.
  10. The Global March Against Child Labour: There are multiple NGOs in the international sphere that are fighting to end child labor worldwide. The Global March Against Child Labour is one such organization with a mission is to “mobilise worldwide efforts to protect and promote the rights of all children, especially the right to receive a free and meaningful education and the right to be free from economic exploitation.” Global March operates through the advocacy of issues to policymakers, raising awareness of child labor around the world and building partnerships with existing organizations such as the International Labour Organization. The Global March has seen success in many of its areas of focus. In 2018, Global March organized the Meet of Parliamentarians Without Borders for Children’s Rights in Brussels, Belgium. At the conclusion of the parliament, in which MPs from Sri Lanka, Benin, Togo, Paraguay, Uganda, Ghana, the Netherlands and Costa Rica attended, all MPs committed to working within their respective parliaments to end child labor in their countries.

Turkey still requires progress to put an end to dangerous and damaging child labor, but the steps that it has made in its own programs, as well as international programs, shows hope for a future for child labor in Turkey. That future includes stronger protection of a child’s right to receive an education and lead a stable life out of the fields.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr