Posts

Health and Human Rights of RefugeesOne of the most important factors in beating the coronavirus is ensuring that everybody has access to public health. According to The New Humanitarian, this has pushed numerous governments to double down on their efforts to protect the health and human rights of refugees, migrant workers and asylum seekers who may have not been able to afford access to these services pre-COVID.

In March as the worldwide outbreaks quadrupled and human rights organizations around the world urged governments the dangers the coronavirus would impose on refugees and asylum seekers. The World Health Organization, the UNHCR and several other organizations put out a joint press release that pressured governments to release migrants and undocumented individuals from immigration detention centers as well as include them in public health relief efforts. Here are three countries that have prioritized protecting the health and human rights of refugees during COVID-19. They show that these policies could be sustained even beyond the crisis.

Countries Protecting the Health and Human Rights of Refugees During COVID-19

  1. Italy: Italy has one of the highest infection rates with 238,159 confirmed cases and 34,514 deaths. Italy’s fields have also attracted migrant workers from Eastern Europe. On May 13, the Italian government passed an amnesty law allowing around 200,000 migrant workers and undocumented refugees to apply for healthcare and 6-month legal residency permits. The downside of this new step is that the bill only applies to agricultural workers, leaving out many of the workers in the informal sector who perform labor in construction or food services.
  2. Portugal: Migrants and asylum seekers in Portugal with applications that are still in process are now being granted early access to public services that include welfare, rental contracts, bank accounts and national health service. Claudia Veloso, the spokesperson for Portugal’s chapter of the Ministry of International Affairs, told Reuters that “people should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not been processed yet.”
  3. Brazil: Brazil has the highest rate of outbreaks second to the United States, and President Jair Bolsonaro has continuously dismissed the severity of the virus and failed to respond effectively to outbreaks. So, it has fallen to local community organizations, donors and local authorities to enforce these regulations and double down on the effort to get everybody treated. The Paraisópolis community group started running a quarantine center in partnership with health workers, NGOs and medical centers. The center has around 240 volunteers monitoring the health of at least 50 families at a time. It acquired sanitation supplies and personal protection equipment through crowdfunding. The group is providing food and medical aid to undocumented migrants.

Amnesty International stated that in order to fix the refugee crisis “the world urgently needs a new, global plan based on genuine international cooperation and a meaningful and fair sharing of responsibilities.” Policy experts are hopeful that these new policies will help governments to consider new possibilities for a more humane approach to helping displaced migrants and asylum seekers in the future. The health and human rights of refugees need to be protected.

Isabel Corp
Photo: Flickr

Portugal Refugees
Far from the refugee camps of Eastern Europe, Portugal is rarely associated with the term “refugee.” Its location presented an obstacle for refugees fleeing countries such as Syria. But the Portuguese prime minister is determined to change the idea that Portugal is not a country welcoming refugees. With the help of the European Union, Portugal is increasing refugee quotas and welcoming unprecedented numbers. These 10 facts about Portugal refugees show the newfound commitment of the Portuguese to refugees.

  1. The European Union unveiled a new plan to relocate refugees from Italy and Greece to Portugal. This made Portugal third on the list of countries for the number of refugees it will welcome under the plan.
  2. In 2015, Portugal received 872 requests for asylum. Of these requests, 19 were from Syria, five were from Iraq, and four were from Afghanistan.
  3. Portugal is undeniably prepared to handle the increase in refugees as it was ranked second, behind Sweden, for its accomplishments for assimilating refugees into society.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) introduced a five-day course for medical professionals to educate them on refugee health. Portugal has sent representatives to the course in order to become prepared for the increase of refugees to which it has committed. The course will cover how to assist refugees in finding healthcare, why it is economically important to focus on the health of migrants and applicable strategies that focus on refugee populations.
  5. World Refugee Day ushered in opportunities all over the world for refugees. Starbucks announced its plan to hire 2,500 refugees all over the world, including in Portugal.
  6. Prime minister António Costa increased the number of refugees from 4,000 to 10,000 in an apparent effort to boost the economy. This has led to refugee relocation across Portugal in an attempt to increase job growth.
  7. Pão a Pão, a restaurant in Lisbon, gave refugees around the city a new start. The majority of its employees are refugees, cooking bread from their place of origin.
  8. Although Portugal became a rising star in terms of their commitment to refugees, some have criticized the move as simply a way to boost the population. The economic crisis sent many Portuguese citizens abroad in search of employment.
  9. Portugal is a widely Catholic country that listens intently to the words of the Pope, and thus takes his lead on various social issues. His recent interest in the refugee crisis contributed to Portugal’s willingness to accept more migrants.
  10. Portugal continually struggled to attract refugees as the location is distant from where they begin their journey. Many refugees aim for Central Europe because of the perceived wealth, with Portugal never appearing on their radar.

The experience of Portugal refugees shows that this Western European country could soon be center stage in terms of migrant numbers. Portugal is ramping up preparations to accept thousands of more immigrants and sees the refugee crisis as an opportunity to grow its population and economy. These facts about Portugal refugees prove that Portugal is a country refugees should be seeking.

Sophie Casimes

Photo: Google


In 2001, Portugal passed Law 20/3000, which eliminated criminal charges for possession and usage of all illicit drugs. The decriminalization of drugs in Portugal does not mean that drugs are legal; rather, it means that drug usage and possession no longer automatically result in criminal actions.

An important component of Portugal’s drug policy is the distinction between recreational and addicted drug users. Those who are using a drug recreationally are fined, while those identified as drug addicts are offered enrollment in a government-funded treatment program. Another vital distinction in the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal is that drug dealers are still subject to criminal charges. The distinction between drug dealers and personal users is determined by supply at the time of apprehension. Those with less than a 10-day supply of drugs are subject to a fine and treatment program but not jail time.

The decriminalization of drugs in Portugal arose primarily as a response to the country’s heroin epidemic in the 1990s. At the time, nearly 1 percent of the country’s population was addicted to heroin, one of the worst drug epidemics globally. In the 15 years since decriminalization, the results have been generally positive. Drug-related HIV infections have been reduced by 95 percent, and Portugal’s drug-induced mortality rate is five times lower than the European Union average.

Fifteen years after its introduction, the success of decriminalization of drugs in Portugal is a great and somewhat unexpected accomplishment. Drug usage has not increased, though the rates of illicit drug use have mostly remained unchanged in the last 15 years. Furthermore, the number of individuals enrolled in voluntary drug treatment programs has increased by 60 percent. Treatments are developed with a holistic understanding of addiction, with options such as access to mobile methadone clinics and non-12-step treatment programs.

The logic behind the decision for the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal was that jailing drug users did not lead to a reduction in drug use and further removed individuals from society, exacerbating issues like isolation and poverty that lead to drug usage and addiction. Drug addiction is a challenge faced in many countries across the globe, and it frequently affects those in poverty or drives individuals into poverty. The decriminalization of drugs in Portugal has shifted the treatment of drug addiction from a criminal issue to a health issue, focusing on social determinants and mental health. This alternative approach to the War on Drugs has proved successful for Portugal so far and could serve as a model for other countries to follow.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr


Historically, Portugal has had disadvantages when it comes to education. Now in the middle of an economic crisis, the government is trying to find solutions, find jobs for graduates and figure out how to improve education overall.

However, schools are facing budget cuts due to the country’s debt. Teachers, curriculum and funding are all being chopped as the country scrambles to dig itself out of its financial crisis. With cuts like these, the country is facing the fact that 63 percent of adults have not even finished high school.

Even while experiencing an economic downfall, Portugal has recently seen a decrease in dropout rates. In 2005 there was a dropout rate of 39 percent, but in 2011, that number dropped to 21 percent. This decrease in dropouts could be contributed to the government’s many cuts to school programs and the fear and extreme competitiveness students will face finding the few jobs that are available upon graduation.

Overall the country is facing a 14 percent unemployment rate, while among youth there is an unemployment rate of 35 percent.

Although these numbers are discouraging, with a flood in the Asian market in tech products, Portugal hopes to follow the trend of producing high tech products and investing in renewable energy sources, such as wind energy, which will hopefully stimulate the economy and help provide jobs to both the less educated adults and to the educated youth.

In the past year, Portugal has seen some improvements in its economy and education system. The budget deficit fell from 11.2 percent of GDP in 2010 to 3.5 percent in 2015 while unemployment fell from 12.4 percent in 2015 to 11.3 percent in 2016.

In 2016, Portugal’s school of architecture was regarded as one of the most famous, prestigious architecture schools in the world. In addition, the country has tried to increase student enrollment with the specific curriculum in social sciences, engineering and a cheap education. In fact, the country is known as a great place to study abroad because of its cheap tuition and cultural background.

Teaching students around the world Portuguese language and culture and showing students the various natural wonders have helped attract students to Portugal to learn and enhance their knowledge.

The vast history, language, culture and improving economy have contributed to the mending of education in Portugal.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

Portugal
According to U.S. News, Portugal is ranked number 19 in the world for quality of life. Quality of life encompasses factors such as economic stability, education, healthcare and income equality. Considering that quality of life is so high, it might come as a surprise that there is still a serious issue with hunger in Portugal. The country is part of the European Union and has been designated as a high-income country by the World Bank with a GDP per capita of $27,885. More than 60 percent of the population is living in urban spaces.

With life expectancies at 79 years old, 100 percent of the population have drinking water, more than 99 percent have access to sanitation facilities, and more than a 95 percent literacy rate, hunger and other issues typically stemming from poverty may not seem to be as pressing as they might in other countries.

Portugal’s unemployment rate was estimated to be around 10 percent in 2016. This number reflects improvement from 2012, where nearly 19 percent of the population was living in poverty. Poverty and hunger in Portugal are inextricably intertwined. Unfortunately, the shame of the impoverished Portuguese is so strong that they often feel as if they are unable to escape their current state, which affects their self-esteem.

According to Misericordia president Manuel Lemos, there are some people who live beyond their means or some who will not seek out help because of the shame associated with hardship in the country. Despite promising statistics, there is still work to do to end hunger in Portugal.

Shannon Elder

Global Health Security AgendaA new tool for assessing progress toward the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) goals has now been piloted in five countries, the CDC reports. International health organizations in Georgia, Peru, Portugal, Uganda and the UK have all submitted evaluations of the assessment.

The Global Health Security Agenda was launched in 2014 as a way to bring focus to the need for a global health strategy that would respond quickly and effectively to potential epidemics — a need that was highlighted later that year by an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

“GHSA is about strengthening health systems for every country,” said U.S. Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins. “That means GHSA will help to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to infectious diseases like Ebola.”

The assessment is designed to measure baselines and strategies for potential improvement in regards to 11 action packages developed by GHSA countries in 2014.

Following the “Prevent-Detect-Respond” framework, these action packages include, among others, preventing microbial resistance, strengthening biosecurity, delivering immunizations, facilitating surveillance and reporting, fostering global communication and coordinating emergency response deployment and operations.

Each pilot country was scored on their capacity to take these actions based on indicators such as having biosecurity training programs, proper communication practices, national vaccine coverage, trained epidemiologists and resources to implement emergency responses. The teams then evaluated the assessment itself to determine if it was constructive and scalable.

Evaluators in Portugal, which is considered to have a strong health security strategy, noted several important improvements the assessment needs to undergo before it is launched on a broader scale.

They say that current indicators do not reflect global objectives as closely as they could. They recommended pulling indicators from existing global health initiatives (such as the Global Vaccine Action Plan) in order to maintain a focus.

Evaluators also noted that their team was given a limited amount of time to complete their assessment. This prevented them from conducting random samples from various regions across the country, in order to verify the information they received from the central health ministry. They also noted a lack of efficiency in the process stemming from the fact that the country being evaluated was not given the assessment ahead of time. The evaluators therefore suggest giving assessment missions a three-month lead time in order to properly prepare.

Overall, the teams think the tool is a promising step in assessing progress toward the Global Health Security Agenda. With further development, they are confident it can be launched in all partner countries.

Ron Minard

Sources: Borgen Project, CDC, Huffington Post
Picture: Google Images

charity in portugalIn Obidos, Portugal, an annual event brings the community together through the celebration of history, good times and charity.

Over the course of the past week, I have had the pleasure of exploring the beautiful country of Portugal. From the vast beaches to the incredible countryside to the upbeat city of Lisbon, there is so much to do and experience. As my family and I ventured through the country, we came across one particular event that seemed to be getting a lot of attention.

In the old countryside town of Obidos stands a beautiful medieval castle that has been restored and maintained over the years. As you enter the castle, as in many medieval-themed towns and cities throughout Europe, there are plenty of people dressed up for the occasion as well as vendors and artisans selling their handmade foods and goods.

Although this may seem like many other festivals and markets around the world, this one was unique because of the charitable aspect that tied into it. As you enter the market, you pay a small fee depending on the experience you wish to have, which can include things like walking around the castle, seeing parades, watching reenactments of battles and having an authentic medieval meal. Most things are very reasonably priced and the people are very friendly; many of them get into the spirit and dress up as well!

When my family and I were dining, we spoke to some of the vendors and realized that the majority of the people working at the festival were volunteers. Each food stand, for example, had a particular charity in Portugal that they were raising money for, and all the proceeds would go towards that charity of their choosing. Although not all of the vendors were volunteers, many of them were.

Thus, the fun and entertaining experience was not only for good times and a lesson in the country’s history, but was also for helping out a good cause! It was wonderful to see how people came together and used an event such as this to do some good for the community. The festival ends on August 2; however, it is an annual event that lasts for a few weeks, from July through early August.

To learn more about this event and the different charities that it benefits, visit their website.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: Obidos Mercado Medieval
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in Portugal
Poverty in Portugal? By any account, Portugal is a developed nation. With 10.61 million citizens, Portugal produces $220 billion in products and services, and the country’s GNI per capita is slightly over $24 thousand. All of Portugal’s citizens have access to clean water, and life expectancy is 80 years old, just below the average for high-income countries.

According to the United Nations Development Program, Portugal ranks 41 for human development and is considered to have very high development. By economic and social indicators, Portugal is well above the world average for human development.

Despite Portugal’s high human development, many of its citizens live in, or are in danger of, living in poverty. In 2012, roughly a quarter of Portugal’s population were “at risk” of poverty or social exclusion, according to Eurostat data. Individuals are often at risk of falling into poverty because social programs and spending have been cut.

In 2011, for example, the Portuguese government cut public sector wages, increased taxes and slashed spending on social welfare programs that provided social security benefits. The austerity measures were adopted as part of a larger goal to reduce the deficit below 5.9 percent. Although successful in reducing the deficit, the austerity measures severely harmed the status of Portuguese workers and those in need of public support.

Spending for education and family support programs decreased, and child poverty subsequently increased. According to UNICEF data, over 15 percent of children under the age of 17 years old lived in households earning less than the national median. That means a substantial share of the nation’s youth lived in unfavorable conditions because of aggressive policies.

Moving forward, for the poorest to receive the attention and services they need, Portuguese officials must prioritize their interests when addressing spending debacles. Addressing the greater issue of inefficient government spending and programs necessitates a prudent approach to policy decisions. The Portuguese can continue their growth of high human development and maintain healthy levels of government spending concurrently. However, policy officials need to be creative and show deference to the poor.

– Joseph McAdams

Sources: The World Bank, UNDP, Eurostat, BBC, The Washington Post
Photo: 9jabook