Syrian refugees facts
The Syrian refugee facts are startling. In the past few decades, there has been an enormous influx of migrants and refugees into the Mediterranean countries and other Western European countries due to numerous conflicts. Recently, the plight of the Syrian refugees has captured the world’s attention.

The Syrian conflict began in March of 2011, when pro-democracy protests broke out in the streets. These protests were against the regime of the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad.

When supporters of the President and rebel groups began fighting each other, the protest evolved into a full-out civil war. By August of 2015, an estimated 250,000 people had died due to the violence.

 

Top Syrian Refugee Facts:

 

  1. The conflict has displaced nearly 12 million Syrians from their homes and families.
  2. More than 75 percent of Syrian refugees are women and children.
  3. Syrian citizens represented 49 percent of the individuals entering countries via the Mediterranean Sea.
  4. According to the UNHCR, there are already 3,151 dead or missing refugees in 2016 alone.
  5. Most refugees stay in the Middle Eastern region, escaping to countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
  6. Since 2011, the conflict displaces an average of 50 Syrian families every hour.
  7. Three out of four Syrians live in poverty.
  8. As of January 31, 2016, nearly 10,000 refugee children have gone missing in Europe. Human trafficking circles are the likely culprits.
  9. The crisis in Syria has reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children, according to the U.N children’s agency.
  10. In 2015, the European Union granted 292,540 refugees asylum, with Germany, Sweden, and Italy granting the most.

Many Syrian refugees suffer from the low quality of life and lack of resources in refugee camps. However, many countries and international groups around the world have worked hard to ameliorate the living conditions for these individuals.

Organizations such as the Karam Foundation and Project Amal ou Salaam focus on raising funds and providing programs or educational resources for children. Other groups, like Sunrise USA and Islamic Relief USA, work on getting necessities like food, clothing, trauma-care facilities and more.

As of May 31, 2015, the United States had given more than $3 billion in aid to Syria.

The Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2015 (S.756) has passed the Senate and is under consideration in the House. This bill would call on the President to support efforts in Syria and force the Department of State to make Congress aware of various war crime.

Efforts like this have increased awareness and accountability of the Syrian conflict. These actions ensure a quicker end to the violence and a hasty return home for Syrian refugees all over the world.

Ashley Morefield

Photo: Flickr

Education for Syrian RefugeesA new set of academic scholarships is helping to provide post-secondary education for Syrian refugees.

Jusoor is an organization dedicated to addressing the educational needs of those affected by the civil war in Syria. To date, the organization offers over 390 scholarships and has funded 74 students. The majority of scholarships they offer are university partnerships, such as with the University of Cambridge, Oxford, and the London School of Economics.

The organization itself is comprised of Syrian expatriates who believe in the importance of offering opportunities for the youth in their native country. They hope this initiative will help support the country’s development and help it overcome its unique challenges.

According to their website, the volunteers at Jusoor “hope for a nation that embraces democracy, respects human rights and rule of law and encourages free speech and the exchange of ideas.”

Education for refugees is important not just in Syria, but around the world. According to the U.N. Refugee agency, education is a basic human right, defined in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1951 Refugee Convention.

However, of the 10 million refugees under the age of 18, less than half have access to the education they need. Often, education can provide a safe and stable environment where none else is offered, fostering healthy relationships and teaching life-saving information.

Most recently, Jusoor partnered with universities in Canada for their 100 Syrian Women program, which focuses particularly on offering scholarships to Syrian women. This gives them the opportunity to study abroad when they would not have otherwise had it. So far, out of 900 applicants, 26 women have received scholarships, and the organization hopes to go much further than that.

In an interview with The Star, Leen Al Zaibak, co-director and co-founder of Jusoor, said “we feel if we invest in women, it is a huge investment in the community. The 100 women who benefit from this opportunity are going to affect the lives of 10,000 other Syrians.”

In addition to their scholarship programs Jusoor runs three primary and middle schools for Syrian children in Lebanon to provide further education for Syrian refugees.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Student World Online

Olympic-CommitteeSince its inception, the Olympic Games have been about bringing nations together. For the first time, this will include athletes without countries, flags or an Olympic committee: refugees. In October, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced the good news for refugees.

UNHCR estimates that there are over 20 million refugees. From this group, 43 athletes were selected as potential Olympians. This number was reduced to 10 athletes from four countries participating in athletics, swimming and judo.

At the opening ceremony, these athletes will march with the Olympic flag and the Olympic anthem. Coaches and funding are provided by the International Olympic Committee.

Brazil currently hosts two refugee athletes. Yolande Bukasa Mabika and Popole Misenga are judoists from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC’s civil war from 1998-2003 cost Mabika and Misenga many family members and left their home, Bukavu, ruined. Both faced horrible training conditions, including being locked up without food every time they lost a match.

When their coach disappeared during the World Judo Championships in Rio 2013, they used the opportunity to seek asylum. Both were woefully unprepared: Misenga reports stopping people and asking in French where Africans lived. Mabika was only able afford an apartment in a favela after financial assistance from the Olympic committee.

Both are thankful for their martial arts experience. Mabika is grateful for the strength it provided her, and Misenga states that it helps him find peace.

Mabika, Misenga and their eight team members are truly what Bach describes as a “symbol of hope for all the refugees in the world.” Yiech Pur Biel, a refugee from South Sudan now living in a camp in Northern Kenya, said, “I can show my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life. Through education, but also in running, you can change the world.”

The games have also been good news for refugees living in Brazil, helping them feel more connected to their new country of residence. Hanan Khaled Daqqah, a 12-year-old from Syria, said that she felt Brazilian when she carried the torch through her new home.

By putting this team in the spotlight, international attention will hopefully grow more positive towards refugees. Already, the media has spread the story of Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini and two others braving the open ocean to drag a boat filled with refugees to shore after the boat’s motor failed.

All 10 of the refugee athletes share inspirational stories like Mabika, Misenga, Biel and Mardini. After escaping war or poverty, they have managed to balance poor living conditions, work and acclimating to a new country with their intense Olympic training. With all the controversy surrounding refugees, the positive media attention highlighting these brave athletes and their accomplishments is good news for refugees.

Jeanette I. Burke

 

Canadian Refugee System
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugees are “people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk.” Below are 10 facts about the Canadian refugee system.

  1. The Canadian Refugee system has two primary sections: the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program and the In-Canada Asylum Program.
  2. The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program deals with claims for asylum that come from outside of Canada.
  3. The In-Canada Asylum Program works to help people making refugee protection claims from within Canada.
  4. Initial assistance for refugees coming to Canada comes from the federal Canadian government, a private sponsor (such as an organization or wealthy person), or the Province of Quebec.
  5. Income support for refugees is provided for up to one year or until the refugee/refugee’s family becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first.
  6. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) funds language training in English and French for incoming refugees who lack the language skills necessary to function successfully in Canada.
  7. Canada has a long history of accepting refugees, stretching back to 1770 when they allowed Quakers (who were being pushed out of America due to their religious practices) to settle in southern Ontario.
  8. Canada’s Immigration Act of 1976 required the government to establish targets for immigration and consult explicitly with provinces regarding Canadian immigration (including refugee immigration).
  9. In 1986, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees awarded the people of Canada the distinguished Nansen medal for their efforts during the Indochina refugee crisis of 1979-1980, wherein Canada helped settle over sixty thousand refugees.
  10. Currently, as part of the #WelcomeRefugees initiative, Canada has been resettling Syrian refugees across the country. As of June 2016, the government resettled upwards of 28,000 Syrian refugees.

Bayley McComb

Photo: Migration Bureau Corp.

Educate Refugee children
At the May 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global nonprofit organization, entered into a partnership with the Sesame Workshop. They will work to bring quality TV content to help educate refugee children.

Out of the 60 million refugees in the world, approximately half are small children. However, preschool services are incredibly rare in refugee camps, leaving young children idle. Whether it be due to bombings, war or the death of a loved one, refugee children are not given the tools necessary to confront such harsh circumstances.

The Sesame Workshop will use its seasoned experience in child entertainment to promote valuable skills. This workshop will also help refugee children cope with hard times. As with all of their content, this Sesame Street program will also be accessible to adults. The program plans to strengthen the children’s experience by including their parents.

The IRC is a longstanding organization that dedicates itself to global emergency response and aid in areas like health, safety and education. The group formed in 1933 with the help of Albert Einstein. Since then, the Committee has helped over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities. The IRC plans to establish the Sesame Workshop’s content in schools, refugee camps and areas of conflict.

Sesame Street has also created child-friendly content in countries like Israel, Palestine, Kosovo, South Africa and Bangladesh. They also broadcast in other areas plagued by conflict. These international versions of Sesame Street aim to educate children in developing and war-torn countries. They also broadcast in other areas plagued by conflict. These international versions of Sesame Street aim to educate children in developing and war-torn countries.

The refugee program will feature Sesame Street’s regular stars like Elmo, as well as new characters. Zari, a young girl from Afghanistan, is one such new character. As the first Afghan Muppet, Zari works to empower young girls and to promote girls’ access to education in places lacking in opportunities.

A test run of the program was launched in March 2016 at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Pilots for the program have also been scheduled in regions near Syria and possibly East Africa.  Ultimately, the IRC and the Sesame Workshop refugee program hope not only to make an impact on refugee aid but also to spur the creation of similar programs that will further educate refugee children.

– Jenna Salisbury

Photo: Flickr

Refugees Welcome
Refugees Welcome, a non-profit organization founded by Germans Mareike Geiling, Jonas Kakoschke and Golde Ebding, provides an online platform for people to lend a room to an asylum-seeking refugee.

Often called the “Airbnb for refugees,” the organization aims to help refugees integrate into their new communities and create a more welcoming culture, according to The Independent.

Founded in Germany in 2014 in response to the growing refugee crisis, Refugees Welcome has quickly spread to eight other European countries and Canada. It is also supporting groups in more than 20 additional countries to set up the platform there. As of mid-July, Refugees Welcome has already placed 791 refugees in shared flats.

To offer a room to a refugee, individuals must register online through the organization’s website. There they fill out basic information such as how much space they have available and for how long. Similarly, refugees fill out a questionnaire to facilitate the matching process.

Once a match is made, the potential new roommates have the chance to meet up to see if they will be a good fit. Rent and utilities are paid for with micro-donations made to Refugees Welcome or by government programs.

According to The Independent, “Although people have offered the group entire empty houses and flats, Ms. Geiling said that would defeat one of the key aims of the initiative – to integrate.” Geiling further expressed that the program is “about living with people and getting to know them.”

In typical refugee situations, overwhelmed officials frequently place refugees in unorthodox living places such as old schools or shipping containers. In an NPR interview, Kakoschke notes that in these cases, refugees cannot work or learn the local language and often become depressed due to the stagnant nature of their living situation.

The Refugees Welcome website explains that through their program, refugees have an opportunity to learn the local language more quickly than they would in typical accommodations granted to refugees, and they can more easily acclimate themselves to their new country.”

The website adds, “You, on the other hand, will get to know a different culture and help a person in a difficult situation.”

Laura Isaza

Photo: The Independent

 

Ways to Host Refugees America
Increased media coverage of the global refugee crisis has prompted waves of humanitarian support and local activism across the world. Iceland made headlines when 10,000 of its citizens volunteered to house personally refugees coming from Syria, and others have followed suit in finding ways to host refugees, from Berlin to Birmingham.

Wondering about ways to host refugees in your home? Not everyone can personally provide housing, but below are three simple ways to get started in the effort to welcome refugees to America.

 

3 Ways to Host Refugees in America

 

  1. Become aware of local need. It’s easier than ever to become connected to relief and charitable organizations near you. Some of the largest and most wide-reaching of resettlement agencies in the United States are the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services, both of which organize humanitarian aid in over 100 U.S. cities.Spend some time reaching out to charitable organizations in your area to find out what their current needs are, who their clients are, and what types of schools, health or religious organizations work with them.
  2. Consider temporarily housing a refugee. Although refugees admitted to the United States for resettlement are usually quickly connected with local relief agencies, refugees are often vulnerable to unstable housing conditions or even homelessness. Several U.S. and international agencies are searching for individuals and families with extra rooms that they are willing to use to host recently arrived refugees, especially those in crisis or extreme circumstances.Connect with Room for Refugees, which specializes in providing safe temporary housing for refugees living in the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe and Canada. The chance to personally share your home with a refugee can be immensely rewarding, and provide desperately needed help for those adjusting to life in a new place.Looking for ways to host refugees in your home?Search for organizations like the Karam Foundation, a non-profit group providing aid for Syrians, which is currently seeking to help new refugees find housing with Americans of Syrian descent.Many private non-profit organizations are seeking to connect refugees with a variety of services for temporary housing, and your opportunity to help could be as close as your front door.
  3. Consider ways to host refugees by connecting them with neighbors. Becoming a friend and neighbor to refugees struggling to resettle may be the most powerful way to combat hateful rhetoric, both in the U.S. and abroad.Agencies like the International Rescue Committee, among others, place a high priority on helping refugee families find friends, neighbors and support structures within their new communities. When the 2015 cap for U.S. resettlement of refugees was raised to 85,000 from 70,000, it prompted waves of polarization and xenophobia across the country.A Pew Research Center survey even showed that a majority of Americans disapprove of helping to resettle more Syrians within our borders. The International Rescue Committee, along with other agencies, regularly recruit home mentors for refugee families, providing you with the opportunity to welcome your new friends into your home, or you into theirs, as you solidify a new friendship.

    Other aid agencies are in constant need of home tutors, both for students struggling to adjust to life in American public schools, as well as adults returning to school or learning English as a second language.

    While in-kind and monetary donations of food, clothing, furniture and supplies can help a refugee family build a home, the chance to be a family mentor, tutor or friend may do more to help refugees feel like they belong.

The U.S. admits record numbers of refugees, but schools and government agencies still struggle to help refugees feel at home and safe. Helping to find ways to host refugees and opening your home, either literally or otherwise, is a critical opportunity to be part of solving the world’s worst refugee crisis in 70 years. More importantly, it’s a chance to help your neighbors know that they belong.

Eliza Campbell

Photo: U.N. Multimedia

Crisis in FallujahWeeks of combat in Fallujah, initiated by Iraqi military forces in an attempt to eradicate ISIS militants from the city, have left tens of thousands of civilians displaced. The Wall Street Journal reports that upwards of 80,000 men, women and children have been forced to flee their homes, in what has become the largest refugee crisis in Iraq.

The Islamic State invaded Fallujah in 2014 and has been in control of it since. In an interview with NPR, Karl Schembri, a member of the Norwegian Refugee Council working in Fallujah, stated that it has been “a nightmare” for those in the city.

Schembri noted that individuals were living on “animal feed, on expired dates and drinking the river water, which is undrinkable.” He went on to say that ISIS soldiers shot any civilians attempting to escape from the city.

Although Fallujah has officially been liberated by the Iraqi military, civilians cannot return to their homes. Fighting has left buildings destroyed and, according to the Chicago Tribune, “only a third of the city has been cleared of the militants”. Civilians must travel for miles to reach refugee camps, only to find that they are running out of food, water, toilets, shelter and funds.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has been leading the fight against the refugee crisis in Fallujah. The NRC is a humanitarian organization comprised of about 5,000 people focused on providing “food assistance, clean water, shelter, legal aid and education” to refugees across the world.

As more and more refugees flood to the camps the NRC, United Nations and International Organization for Migration have become desperate for additional aid. These organizations can no longer accommodate all the refugees. Often they are forced to disclose that there is no more room in the tent cities.

Iraq’s budget for aid is stretched thin as ISIS has displaced people across the entire country and, according to The Wall Street Journal, “foreign governments have only provided one third of the financial assistance the U.N. has said it needs to cover humanitarian needs in Iraq this year.”

However, the U.N. and other countries recently appealed for $298 million in emergency aid and it has been answered. The U.S. Department of State announced on June 21st that it was donating an additional $20 million to the U.N. for relief in Fallujah. The U.S. challenged other governments to answer the U.N.’s appeal so that the refugee crisis in Fallujah can be properly handled by organizations such as the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Liam Travers

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Fund for Refugee EducationThe United Nations will debut a new humanitarian fund for refugee education, named Education Cannot Wait, at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

The fund’s name conveys the urgency of providing continued education for about 30 million displaced children worldwide—especially since the total number of refugees has reached its highest levels since 1945.

Considering that an average refugee stays about ten years in a foreign country, Education Cannot Wait will offer a five-year curriculum. Although based on a traditional primary school model, it will also adopt experimental methods like online learning in order to reach the greatest number of children.

The initiative offers an extension to the education supports recently promised to Syrian refugee children. In early 2016, the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) under UNICEF launched the No Lost Generation initiative that includes long-term efforts to rehabilitate displaced communities through school education and civic engagement programs.

As a result, 442,000 children across Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt gained access to a formal education.

Education Cannot Wait will also target areas such as Nepal, where 900,000 children lost access to education after the earthquake in 2015, as well as South Sudan and Nigeria, where rates of enrolled students remain low due to frequent internal conflicts.

While the majority of refugees in these states are internally displaced and remain within their mother country, their hardship in finding basic resources and a stable education is equivalent to that of stateless persons.

UNESCO’s policy paper found that more than half of the world’s refugees living outside camps have also often been neglected from data documentation and support.

UN Special Envoy Gordon Brown told reporters that Education Cannot Wait “will be the first to bridge the gap between humanitarian aid and development aid.”

Currently, the UN invests less than two percent of emergency funding to education, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – the new program aims to raise total budget of $3.85 billion.

This first humanitarian fund for refugee education is to be funded by a collaboration between private sector enterprises and over 100 philanthropists.

Haena Chu

Photo: Flickr

Refugee_GreeceMany know the island of Lesbos as a small, quiet vacation island. It embodies the quaint characteristics of Greece, with its freshly caught fish and rural roads through mountain ranges. But what many people do not know is that Lesbos also accepted nearly 60 percent of the migrants that entered Greece last year because of its location at the northern tip of the country.

The small town of around 100 residents became a familiar name for media centers around the world covering the refugee crisis, as most Middle Easterners seeking asylum, shelter and safety arrive in the town on a daily basis.

Already doomed by the government’s economic crisis, the island has been overwhelmed with balancing compassion and aid for refugees while having their tourist-dependent economy wane because of the arrival of the refugees. Along with the refugees, international organizations like the United Nations and other NGOs also began to arrive in an attempt to stabilize the region and help the refugees. One of the most notable of these organizations is Lighthouse Relief.

LightHouse Relief, a Swedish nonprofit organization, works to provide relief to refugees who arrive in the Katsikas and Ritsona camps in mainland Greece, in addition to providing ecological support of Lesvos. Skilled volunteers from around the world give their time to work with the organization on the ground to help people.

The organization was started in September 2015 by a group of volunteers working on the northeastern coast of Lesvos in Skala Sikamineas. There were no other organizations present at that time to help the Greeks who were attempting to aid the incoming refugees, so LightHouse Relief volunteers rented nearby land and prepared to have a long-term presence.

The organization’s main goal is to provide relief to children, women, and the elderly through their various programs and initial help of migrants when they arrive on shore. Since October 2015, LightHouse Relief has been able to provide a reception camp with electrically-heated tents and playgrounds for children.

One of their biggest projects is Lighthouse ECO Relief,which stands for Environmental Clean-Up Operation. So far, 600,000 lifejackets and 10,000 rubber dinghies have been discarded on the shores all around Lesvos, hurting the ecosystem of the area and making it a more dangerous destination for subsequent migrants. This project removes trash, lifejackets and broken boats.

All volunteers have to at least be 21 and committed to staying for a minimum of three weeks. Holidays are no exception, as multiple volunteers were standing on the shore waiting for migrants to arrive on Christmas morning, prepared to give warm clothes and a Christmas Dinner on the beach to help the refugees feel as though they were home as well.

Volunteers must also have some sort of a background in the resources that the organization tries to provide. From nutrition to being a midwife, to language skills, all of their volunteers are prepared to have lasting effects on all of the people they encounter.

Ashley Morefield

Photo: Flickr