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International Rescue Committee

At the end of 2018, a year unfortunately marked by natural disasters and violent conflict, the global community is looking for ways to cope with international extreme poverty levels measuring at 10.7 percent and provide help for the 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.

Recent figures published by the U.N. Refugee Agency reveal how almost one person is forcibly displaced from its home every two seconds as a result of the conflict, persecution or natural disaster. This vast number of people struggle to access and achieve basic human rights such as education, health care and employment.

According to many in the humanitarian field, this problem is expected to continue and even increase. Natural disaster-related displacement and impoverishment are expected to increase as a result of increasingly severe natural disasters as a product of climate change.

The International Rescue Committee

Although the situation is grim, there are numerous organizations and institutions fighting to safeguard the rights of impoverished and displaced people throughout the globe. One such group, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), has done so since 1933 when it was founded on the suggestion of a prominent group of American intellectuals that included the German-born physicist Albert Einstein.

The IRC, located in the United States, is a humanitarian nonprofit organization that has a mission to respond to humanitarian crises and support the people that are affected by crisis recover from their losses. Operating through 191 field offices in over 30 countries, the IRC has a broad diversity of projects underway that attempt to effectively address crises.

In 2017 alone, the organization helped nearly 23 million people access primary health care and provided 1.14 million children with schooling and other educational opportunities. In addition to their international efforts, the IRC also works in 27 cities in the U.S. in order to help newly settled refugees adjust to life in the country.

How the International Rescue Committee Works

The International Rescue Committee prioritizes evidenced-based impactful programs, fast and effective rescue and relief efforts and follows what they call better aid strategies. The IRC differentiates itself from other nongovernmental organizations with its commitment to ensuring that each of the aid or relief programs it runs are based upon solid, appropriate evidence or is at least contributing to the creation of new evidence.

Additionally, in terms of speedy response, the group has pledged to organize health care, distribute cash and deliver clean water within 72 hours of a disaster. “Better aid“, as the organization describes it, represents refocusing of aid and relief strategies to make quantifiable improvements in the areas in which the organization works (health, economic well-being, safety, education and power) while also being cost-efficient and effective.

Practically, this means devoting more time and energy to cash transfers that have been proven to effectively help people in need at a quicker pace and at lower costs. This also means adhering to evidence-based practices that make the most impact for a limited amount of resources. Additionally, the IRC is focusing on updating the way the humanitarian community approaches protracted displacement.

Protracted Displacement

Protracted displacement refers to the increased duration of displacement and refugees separation from home. The longer-term of refugees staying in host communities have posed a challenge to the traditional mold of humanitarian assistance and has pitted refugees in a burdensome relationship to their asylum governments.

In the International Rescue Committee’s effort to address protracted displacement, the organization is advocating for the advancement of a new model that connects international institutions, donors, refugee host-governments and nongovernmental organizations in a combined effort to shape longer-term sustainable development that incorporates displaced populations not as liabilities, but as contributors in a new economic partnership.

Interventions by outside bodies in the form of providing access to capital, employment, cash transfers and other strategies can uplift displaced communities and help them recover economically while at the same time benefiting host-governments by creating a new labor force willing to work for their place in the country. With new creative planning, like the one being done at the International Rescue Committee, mutualistic relationship between refugees and their hosts can be formed.

Hope for Tomorrow

In the years to come, it is highly unlikely that the crises of poverty, displacement and conflict will dwindle. With the effects of climate change creeping in upon us, bringing stronger and more frequent natural disasters, conflict and higher numbers of displaced people, there’s much work to be done in addressing the problems that will follow.

In that regard, the forward-thinking work being done by the International Rescue Committee and other similar organizations to rethink humanitarian relief strategy is an uplifting piece of news. Hopefully, it signals the impoverished and displaced people of the world that they are not forgotten.  

– Clarke Hallum

Photo: Flickr

 

Famous RefugeesIn the wake of recent attacks on refugees, many have spoken out against the blanket statements and incorrect generalizations made about those who flee their homelands due to violence or disaster. As a further reminder that refugees are a large and diverse population that is difficult to adequately describe, this list of 15 famous refugees details people you might not know were refugees.

Meet 15 Famous Refugees

  1. Aristotle Onassis
    The famous Greek shipping magnate fled Smyrna during the Greco-Turkish War in 1922 after several of his family members were killed during the Great Fire of Smyrna.
  2. K’Naan
    The author of the hit song “Wavin’ Flag”, which became popular in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, was born in Somalia and resettled in Canada in 1991 after the outbreak of the Somali civil war.
  3. Freddie Mercury
    Freddie Mercury was born in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, which is now Tanzania. He fled with his family in 1964 during the Zanzibar Revolution and resettled in the United Kingdom.
  4. Georg Ludwig and Maria von Trapp
    The Sound of Music was based on the true story of these two famous refugees. The parents of the real-life von Trapp family, Georg and Maria, fled Austria after the Anschluss, or Nazi annexation of Austria. They eventually resettled in the United States, where they moved around before finally settling in Vermont.
  5. Madeleine Albright
    The first female American Secretary of State arrived in the U.S. as a child in 1948. Her family fled the modern-day Czech Republic (which was then Czechoslovakia) after a communist takeover.
  6. Henry Kissinger
    Another famous American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger was born in Furth, Germany and fled Germany with his family in 1938 to escape persecution on the basis of their Jewish faith.
  7. Karl Marx
    As a result of his controversial political views, Karl Marx was exiled from multiple countries over the course of his lifetime. For the last 35 years of his life, he was a stateless person after being expelled from France and subsequently renouncing his Prussian citizenship.
  8. Sigmund Freud
    The famed psychoanalyst was a refugee for the last year of his life. He fled Austria as a Jewish refugee during the Anschluss in 1938, resettled in the United Kingdom, and died there in 1939.
  9. Jesus
    Jesus of Nazareth and his parents could technically be considered refugees on the basis of their having fled Israel and gone to Egypt to escape King Herod.
  10. Enrico Fermi
    The Nobel Prize-winning physicist and contributor to the Manhattan Project was a native of Italy and fled to the United States after the passage of anti-Semitic legislation by the Mussolini regime.
  11. Albert Einstein
    Perhaps one of the most famous physicists in history, Albert Einstein was a German-Jewish refugee who came to the United States in 1938 and became a professor at Princeton University.
  12. Jerry Springer
    While not technically a refugee himself, Jerry Springer was born to German refugees who had resettled in the United Kingdom.
  13. Victor Hugo
    The acclaimed French author was expelled from France multiple times and forced to flee as a result of his political views.
  14. Wyclef Jean
    The popular musician and member of The Fugees was born in Haiti and resettled in New York after fleeing the DuValier regime.
  15. Peter Carl Faberge
    Peter Carl Faberge was a renowned Russian jeweler who personally served the imperial court under Nicholas II and was known for the decorative eggs he created for the Russian imperial family and aristocracy. After the revolution in 1917, he was forced to flee to Switzerland. His surviving pieces have sold for tens of millions of dollars.

Amid all this talk of famous refugees, it is important to reiterate that refugees should not and do not have to possess any special talent or perform any extraordinary feat in order to be treated with basic human dignity. Rather, this list of famous refugees should serve as a reminder that someone’s refugee status does not define them and does not make their contributions to society any less valuable.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

10 famous refugeesThe world has witnessed the severe effects of violence, poverty and injustice throughout the globe, and innocent people continue to suffer the consequences. The United States and several other countries have often offered refuge to those fleeing war and injustice. Below are 10 famous people who are actually refugees who made iconic contributions in various fields.

  1. Gloria Estefan
    Estefan is a singer, writer and actress who fled Cuba for the United States in the 1960s as a result of Castro’s communist revolution.
  2. Albert Einstein
    Einstein was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who escaped Nazi Germany in 1938. Einstein took matters into his own hands, providing visa applications and vouching for other refugees also fleeing Nazi Germany.
  3. Madeleine Albright
    Albright fled Czechoslovakia with her family in 1938, settling in the U.K. before moving to the U.S. She became the first woman appointed to the position of U.S. Secretary of State in 1997.
  4. Alek Wek
    Wek was nine years old when she fled South Sudan for Britain with her family in the wake of a civil war. Wek was discovered by a modeling agent and rose to international fame.
  5. Elie Wiesel
    Writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, Wiesel wrote several books about the horrors of the Holocaust. Elie and his wife, Marion, started the Elie Wiesel Foundation in remembrance of the Holocaust and to combat intolerance and injustices.
  6. Freddie Mercury
    Singer, songwriter and producer, Freddie Mercury is best known as the frontman for the rock band Queen. Born in a British Protectorate of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, now Tanzania, Mercury and his family fled during the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964, settling in the U.K.
  7. Marlene Dietrich
    Dietrich was a German-born actress and singer whose career spanned decades. She applied for U.S. citizenship after being offered an acting contract by members of the Nazi Party. Dietrich was also known for her humanitarian efforts during WWII, housing exiles and advocating for their U.S. citizenship.
  8. Wyclef Jean
    Another of these 10 famous people who are actually refugees is Wyclef Jean, Haitian rapper, musician and actor. Jean immigrated to the U.S. as a child with his family during the Duvalier regime in Haiti.
  9. Andy Garcia
    Garcia and his family fled Cuba after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion when he was five years old. He is best known for his role in The Godfather Part III, receiving a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Vincent Santino Corleone. Garcia celebrates his roots and challenges Latino stereotypes in Hollywood.
  10. Theanvy Kuoch
    Kuoch was a slave of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, before being found by the Red Cross. With her family, she relocated to the United Nations refugee camp and spent two years working as a nurse in various camps before moving to the U.S. In 1982, she founded Khmer Health Advocates with three American nurses to provide health services for survivors of the Cambodian genocide.

These 10 famous people who are actually refugees have paved the way for themselves and others. Refugees are simply people seeking out a better life in a new country; this is a humanitarian issue, and refugees need our help in rebuilding their lives.

– Jennifer Serrato

Photo: Pixabay

Albert_Einstein_refugee
As the author of the theory of special and general relativity, his name stands synonymous with the word “genius.” Changing fundamental ideas about the physical relationship between space, time, and gravitation, Albert Einstein radicalized how humans think about the building blocks of the physical world we live in. His theory of relativity was confirmed in 1919 from further research into solar eclipses. His popularization by the press gained him a quick rise to fame and in 1921, Einstein would receive the Nobel Prize for his related work.

Being himself a German Jew, Einstein cultivated an outspoken political personality and was well known for his pacifist ideals. His work, paired with his political persona triggered negative attention from extreme right-wing groups.

Anti-Semites were determined to publicize his discoveries as “un-German”. The rise of the Nazi party made it more and more difficult for Einstein to work in Germany, so in 1932 when offered a position at Princeton University, he accepted, retaining dual U.S. and Swiss citizenship.

While his theories were still widely taught, he was ultimately accused of treason in 1933 by the Nazi Third Reich; winning the party a partial victory when Einstein’s name could no longer be mentioned in academic circles. Although Einstein was not in Germany at the time, Nazi fanatics still had his property seized and his books were among those burned on the famous May 10, 1933, as a symbol of purging an “un-German” spirit.

He fled to the United States on October 17th of that year, using his fame and financial resources to work vigorously with his wife to obtain U.S. visas for other German Jew refugees. Einstein had haunting mixed feelings about his life in Princeton:

 

“I am privileged by fate to live here in Princeton…In this small university town the chaotic voices of human strife barely penetrate. I am almost ashamed to be living in such peace while all the rest struggle and suffer.”

 

Among many notable others, the legacy of Albert Einstein’s refugee status resulted in the founding of the German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund (DAFI), an organization whose primary objective is to promote self-reliance of refugees through providing professional qualifications for future employment. In addition, DAFI contributes to the development of critical human resources that may be needed in the potential restoration of refugees’ home countries. DAFI also offers a scholarship project; an effective instrument used to attain and maintain self-reliance of refugees when used in the right context. The funds given from the scholarship must be used to aid in the academic studies of eligible refugee recipients.

Thus, Albert Einstein left us not only with mind-blowing new theories in physics, but a key organization telling us that education paves the road out of socioeconomic poverty.

– Kali Faulwetter

Sources: Azer, UNHCR, Jewish Virtual Library, PPU, OFADEC
Photo: Native Pakistan

 

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albert_einstein_smiling_laughing_Refugee_conference_theory_of_Relativity_opt
The current debate surrounding immigration centers largely on their potential detrimental effect on a country (ironically, it is often forgotten that America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, was built on the backs of immigrants.) Anti-immigration lobbyists claim they leech culture, take jobs, bleed welfare, and contribute little in return. Contrary to these arguments, there have notable refugees and immigrants in the past who have contributed a great deal to their adopted country; economically, culturally, and scientifically. One such refugee was Albert Einstein.

Though he worked in Princeton, and spent much of his famous academic career there, for much of his youth and at the start of his illustrious career, Einstein lived in his homeland Germany.  As a Jewish German, Einstein was forced into exile after the rise of the Nazis.

Though he himself was admitted to the United States during a time of great political turmoil, and after he had already established himself, the ‘Einstein’ argument is one that is present in immigration reform discussions today. Many state how America’s current immigration policy is exclusive and backwards, and the media focuses on the cost of immigration rather than the potential benefits. Einstein is one of many non-Americans who have contributed significantly to the country – others include Marlene Dietrich (actress), Mikhail Baryshnikov (ballet dancer) and Claude Lévi-Strauss (anthropologist). Einstein himself was an advocate for immigration, himself working in aid of individuals seeking asylum in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal picked up on Einstein’s story recently in an op-ed by Darrell West, where he stated: “Today, we need to think about a new “Einstein Principle” for our immigration policy. It would make brains, talent and special skills a priority. The point is to attract more individuals with the potential to enhance American innovation and competitiveness, increasing the odds for economic prosperity and rising living standards for all down the road.

At a time of high unemployment, the most pressing need is for more innovators who will start new businesses and create high-paying jobs. We’ve certainly done so successfully in the past.”

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: UNHCR, Brookings
Photo: Flickr