Cameroonian RefugeesBetween November 2022 and January 2023, hundreds of asylum seekers arrived on the shores of Antigua, a small island and alluring holiday destination in the West Indies. The refugees had traveled from Cameroon expecting to arrive in the United States. With poverty in Antigua affecting a fifth of the population, the arrival of more than 900 migrants in the country was unexpected. Three months later, the fate of the remaining 637 Cameroonian refugees in Antigua is still undetermined.

The Flight from Cameroon

Several thousand miles away from Antigua, across the Atlantic, a bloody six-year civil war is happening in Cameroon. At the end of last year, 900 Anglophone Cameroonians bought flight tickets from Nigeria to Antigua to escape the conflict. Many have paid human traffickers as much as $6,000 in return for safe passage to the United States and assistance with their visa applications. Instead, the traffickers abandoned refugees in Antigua.

The debacle followed an attempt by the government of Antigua and Bermuda to establish an air route between Central Africa and the twin island nation. After four charter planes and 900 unexpected refugees in Antigua, the government decided to suspend all incoming charter flights from Central Africa and announced its intention to repatriate those who had already come. It has since reversed its repatriation plan citing humanitarian reasons.

The Economic Situation in Antigua

The people of Antigua are more accustomed to welcoming tourists rather than asylum claimants. It is unclear how the presence of hundreds of Cameroonian refugees in Antigua, most of whose funds have been spent on charter flights, affects the communities with limited resources.

The overall rate of poverty in Antigua and Barbuda is high but it is 5% lower than the regional average of 23%. The rate is even higher among the young: 24% of children aged 0–17 and 25% of adolescents aged 10–19. Severe poverty is projected to increase in the Eastern Caribbean nation amid the continued fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Irma, which devastated the nation in 2017. According to figures gathered by UNICEF, the rate of severe poverty in Antigua’s overall population is due to rise sixfold up to 24%. For children, the projected figure is even higher at 29%.

Refugee Reception in Antigua

Local reports say that residents have shown hospitality to the Cameroonians despite the high poverty rate in the country. Governor General Sir Rodney Williams has stated that the government will look after the African refugees in Antigua. He said that Antigua was “committed to protecting all residents from exploitation and harsh treatment” and that “no foreign national, except for criminals, should fear deportation.”

Antigua’s Information Minister has promised a skills audit to “determine the benefits” of permitting the refugees in Antigua to stay. Melford Nicholas announced that “as the economy continues to expand, we’re going to need additional skills.” He also said that Antigua would provide the asylum seekers with accommodation and “find a way to give them legal status here.” He also expressed the hope that Antiguans would “embrace and have an open heart” to the Cameroonians. The government played down speculation of plans to offer passports to the arrivals after opposition parties voiced alarm. The United Nations (U.N.) is also planning an analysis of the situation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to determine the number of refugees in Antigua who wish to remain permanently.

What is Next?

With poverty as a serious and increasing problem in the Caribbean island, no one could have expected the arrival of 900 Cameroonian refugees in Antigua. While many of the refugees move on, some could end up settling in the country. It is expected that once the government’s skills audit is complete, the remaining Cameroonians will be free to contribute their skills to Antigua and improve its economy.

– Samuel Chambers
Photo: Pixabay

Child Poverty in Lebanon
Conflict has impacted Lebanon over the past few decades, including civil war, revolution and occupation. As a result, many children in Lebanon grow up and live in harsh conditions. Here are five things to know about child poverty in Lebanon.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Lebanon

  1. Poverty by the Numbers: There is severe inequality in Lebanon as 5-10% of the population receives more than half of the total national income. Around 25-30% of Lebanese people live in poverty. Refugees and other populations face an even higher rate of poverty. For all of these groups, families with children are more likely to live in poverty. Current estimates say 1.4 million children in Lebanon are living in poverty. This affects their ability to receive an education, adequate nutrition and water and future standard of living and employment.
  2. Education: An estimated 10% of children in Lebanon do not attend school. The schools that do exist are low quality in both education and the physical state of the buildings. The poor education in Lebanon causes less young people to acquire jobs in technical or competitive fields. Armed and violent conflicts in Lebanon have also damaged school buildings. Furthermore, children’s access to education is hindered by the 1925 Nationality Law, in which only children with Lebanese fathers receive citizenship. If a child’s only parent is their mother or the father is not Lebanese, public schools will not admit them until all other Lebanese children are enrolled.
  3. Child Labor: Lebanon has lower rates of child labor than many of the surrounding countries, but still 7% of children work. Many of these children work to support their families, though their salaries are often low. Boys often work in factories or agriculture which have inhumane and very harsh working conditions. Lebanon has signed on to the ILO’s Convention on Child Labor, but this has not decreased child labor.
  4. Refugee Children: Lebanon has a very high number of refugees living inside its borders because of its geographical location. These refugees come from Iraq, Syrian, Palestine and more. The majority of refugees live in extreme poverty. Refugee children often work in poor conditions to make money. Many also suffer from mental health problems due to their trauma. In refugee camps, children face many dangers, including domestic violence, drug use and minimal health care and basic hygiene. Lebanon has not ratified the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and does little to protect these people living inside the country. The country also lacks the resources to address children’s mental health problems, but NGOs are working to provide more medical help inside the refugee camps.
  5. Reducing Child Poverty: The Government of Lebanon launched the National Poverty Targeting Program in 2011. The World Bank provided technical and financial assistance to this program to provide a safety net for families living in extreme poverty. Families are chosen based on level of food security, labor force status and other variables. This program currently helps 43,000 households, although more than 150,000 families are in extreme poverty and more than 350,000 qualify are in poverty. The families benefiting from the program receive a “Hayat Card,” which gives them access to free health care and educational services, and the poorest receive a debit card for food.

Children in Lebanon are still heavily affected by poverty, whether it is through health care, education or labor. Refugee children and girls are particularly vulnerable as they lack basic rights under law. Although strides have been made in recent years to eradicate poverty, the government and other organizations must prioritize addressing child poverty in Lebanon.

Claire Brady
Photo: Flickr

Progress for Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in Albania Located in the Balkan peninsula and nestled between the Adriatic Sea and Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece is the small country of Albania. Following World War II, the nation was a communist state until its transition to democracy succeeding the 1992 presidential election. The transition from a communist state to a democratic republic disrupted economic growth and the ways of life for many Albanian people. The country’s long-standing policy of isolationism contributed to Albania’s slow development, enduring poverty and lack of economic and political stability.

The Albanian Refugee Crisis

In the late 1990s, Albania became host to hundreds of thousands of people seeking asylum from violence and political unrest in the neighboring country of Kosovo. The rapid influx of refugees resulted in many Albanian regions becoming overcrowded and under-resourced. The country, already struggling to support its own people, barely coped with the increasingly dire refugee situation. During this time, Albania was recognized as one of the poorest countries in Europe. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line was estimated to be between 30% and 50%. Crime rates were high and social unrest pervaded.

Albania applied for membership in the European Union in 2009 and joined NATO later that same year. In response, the European Union invested $11 million dollars in emergency aid for Albanians, refugees from Kosovo and surrounding countries. Organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Children’s Fund further worked to improve conditions for all people affected by the crisis.

The effects of political upheavals and the refugee crisis impacted many aspects of life for Albanians. Specifically affected were Albania’s healthcare system and the state of maternal and child health in Albania.

Healthcare in Albania

Historically, Albanians have had limited access to healthcare and health services. Prior to World War II, Albania had few foreign-trained physicians and a small number of hospitals and health clinics based predominantly in urban regions. When the country shifted to a communist state, the Soviet model of health was adapted. Health institutions and hospitals were erected but the quality of medical care was poor.

Investments in the health sector decreased in the 1970s. Recurring political upheavals throughout the 1990s and early 2000s resulted in the destruction of numerous healthcare facilities and the loss of valuable medical equipment. Immunization programs halted and the quality of basic sanitation services decreased drastically in rural and urban areas of Albania.

Maternal and Child Health in Albania

As a result of inadequate health services, health outcomes are poor in Albania. Mortality rates for communicable, infectious diseases are high. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the region. Albania has also faced ongoing outbreaks of cholera, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

Health outcomes for women and children in Albania are similarly poor. Albania’s maternal and infant mortality rates are high. Analysis of mortality trends in Albania between 1989 and 1993 revealed that the infant mortality rate decreased from 9.8% in 1970 to 2.8% in 1990. Infant mortality rates subsequently began to rise steadily following the 1992 transition to democracy.

In rural areas, infant mortality rates are twice as high as those in urban regions of the country. Maternal mortality rates in Albania are four times as high as those in other parts of Europe as a result of poor prenatal care and abortion-related complications. Family planning practices are uncommon, as well as forms of birth control alternative to abortion.

Addressing the Issue

However, Albania has shown significant progress in improving its healthcare system as well as the state of maternal and child health outcomes. Albania’s government has shown initiative in restructuring the existing healthcare system to focus on addressing the leading causes of death and disease. The country has also adopted a progressive approach to improving the standards for the protection of women and children’s right to healthcare.

Albania has focused on increasing the accessibility and quality of neonatal and pediatric primary health care in an effort to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates. The nation has implemented additional staffing within women’s and children’s counseling centers and health centers. Albania’s government has partnered with the Ministry of Health to create innovative national health policies that address the needs of the healthcare system, health professionals and Albania’s population. Additional funding and resources have also been allocated to the nation’s health sector.

Further action taken by the Albanian government to improve the state of maternal and child health in Albania includes:

  • Albania signed and ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty outlining the cultural and health rights of children.
  • Albania has begun decentralizing the healthcare system and is ensuring that each village has access to updated and equipped health centers.
  • Albania’s government has adopted a new system of family planning that has improved women’s access to necessary reproductive services.
  • Albania implemented the National Action Plan for Children that increases access to essential health care for mothers and children, works to prevent malnutrition and weight-related disorders, stems the spread of preventable infectious diseases and reduces infection rates of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Moving Forward Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

The current COVID-19 pandemic further puts pressure on Albania’s government and budget to continue ongoing efforts to improve the nation’s healthcare system. International partners as well as Albania’s government continue to work to improve the country’s healthcare system and advocate for the promotion of the rights of women and children. In doing so, the health outcomes of Albanian women and children will progress and the quality of life for all of Albania’s population will better in the years to come.

– Alana Castle
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

Refugee Sanitation Facility Act
The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act was scheduled to be seen by the House of Representatives the week of May 20, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. During this period, the bill moved through the House but still has to pass the Senate. Reintroduced after December 2018 revisions by sponsor Grace Meng (D-NY-6), the bill aims to “provide women and girls safe access to sanitation facilities in refugee camps.”

Moving the Bill Forward

In April, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for the bill to be seen by the rest of the House for a vote. Co-sponsored by 42 representatives, the bill is an international affairs policy that would call the Department of State to ensure safe and sanitary conditions for refugees being held by the US government, with special focus on the conditions where women, children and vulnerable populations are present. It is intended to be an addition to the preexisting Section 501 of the Foreign Relations Act, U.S. code 2601 that states “the provision of safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with a special emphasis on women and girls, and vulnerable populations.”

A Rising Crisis

According to the American Immigration Council, the number of people forcibly displaced around the world grew from 42.7 million to 68.5 million between 2007 and 2017. Under United States law, a refugee is “A person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution’ due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.” This definition has been a part of US law since as early as the 1951 United Nations Convention. Since January 2017, the admission of refugees into the U.S. has dramatically declined. The Trump administration lowered the refugee admissions ceiling from 110,000 (set under the Obama administration) to 50,000.

As of July 2018, there were over 733,000 pending immigration cases and the average wait time for an immigration hearing was 721 days. The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires all individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry to be detained until said hearing. Jarring images of these detention centers have been shared online, with depictions of children sleeping in cages and on the ground with no blankets. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act can help in providing more dignified conditions for refugees.

Though there are some organized efforts to provide sanitation to refugee camps, none of them are mandated by law. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act of 2019 would reflect in U.S. law the priority of treating all on its lands with human dignity.

– Ava Gambero

Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Kutupalong Bulukhail
Myanmar is a nation of deep ethnic divide. In speeches, prominent military, civilian and religious leaders refer to it was “The Western Gate” — depicting Burmese society as a rhetorical last-line-of-defense, holding back “hordes” of Muslims from “invading” Buddhist Myanmar and Thailand. This “at war” mentality has fermented for generations, culminating in a climate of prejudice where any action is justified.

Background of the Current Crisis

The current crisis began when violence escalated in late 2016. Burmese security forces used hostilities against the ARSA — a Rohingya ethnic militia — as a pretext for military action in a counterinsurgency campaign.

Atrocities followed.

Over 350 villages were burned to the ground between August and November 2017 alone. And, since 2017, 688,000 Rohingya fled into Bangladesh, taking refuge in Bangladesh with the hundreds of thousands who had already fled in the years prior.

Kutupalong Bulukhail — known as the “mega camp” — is the largest of the refugee camps built in the hills of Cox’s Bazar, one of Bangladesh’s poorest districts. It serves as the home to 600,000 people. Swaths of forest needed to be cleared in order to make room for the bamboo and tarp shelters of refugees. While the camp is a source of safety, it was hastily constructed during the crisis and lacks modern infrastructure which means that facilities are far from perfect.

Containing the Spread of Disease

With masses of people living in close quarters without modern infrastructure, infection can easily spread. Focusing on preventing infectious diseases, is often more effective than treatment.

One high priority disease is Diphtheria, a potentially lethal bacterial infection that affects the airways and the heart. Children are in particular danger of contracting the disease. Since Oct. 2017 the WHO has vaccinated 898,000 children, living in and near the refugee camps as part of a targeted prevention program. By inoculating those with the weakest immune systems viruses it can be kept from spreading to adults.

To keep ahead of future problems, 153 independent health facilities serving the refugees have banded together in an electronic Early Warning and Response System created by the WHO. Everyday medical professionals verify and investigate alerts, helping to deliver fast treatment.

Addressing Hunger

Hunger is another concern. Living as stateless, often internally displaced, people many Rohingya have already endured a life of poverty. Their situation is worsened when they are forced to leave everything they cannot carry as they flee to Bangladesh.

Years of poverty and forced migration result in malnutrition. Children are especially vulnerable: 38 percent have stunted growth and 12 percent are severely malnourished.

Once they arrive, organizations like Action Against Hunger (AAH) work to feed refugees. Assisted by Rohingya volunteers, AAH operates community kitchens in the camps which serve 11,000 meals every day. Throughout 2017 the kitchens and other programs have helped 422,963 people.

Providing Access to Safe Water

Water has proven to be a more challenging problem than food or medicine. Providing drinking water and ensuring that it is drinkable is no small feat. AAH, UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders have all made efforts to improve water conditions by digging wells and constructing long-term latrines. AAH alone installed more than 230 drinking water access points in 2017.

Now as monsoon season is here, living conditions in Kutupalong Bulukhail are worse than ever. The heavy rains frequently destabilize the newly deforested terrain of the camp and the threat landslide become apparent. Fortunately, those in the most dangerous zones have been relocated to safer areas by the UNHCR.

The seasonal hardships make Myanmar’s offer of “safe and dignified” repatriation more enticing. However, the U.N. and dozens of aid organizations warn that it is likely a false promise. Refugees that return home would only put them in further danger. Kutupalong Balukhail will likely be their home for some time to come.

One refugee recalls a conversation with her brother:

“I have a brother back in Myanmar. They are still afraid to sleep at night… After coming here, through the blessings of Allah and the Bangladesh government, we can sleep at night.”

– John Glade
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts on Forced Migration
Forced migration is ever-present in society due to various coercive factors. From cases in the United States to Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the practice can be seen on almost every continent. The International Organization for Migration defines forced migration as the “movement of people caused by threats to their livelihoods.” This article will discuss 10 facts on forced migration that are the most critical in the world right now.

10 Facts on Forced Migration

  1. Columbia University gives categories to displaced persons: conflict-induced and disaster-induced. Those who are displaced by conflict are those who fled their homes due to violence — this circumstance accounts for about 12 million people. Disaster-induced displaced persons are those who undergo and escape natural disaster or human-made disasters such as floods, earthquakes, monsoons, deforestation or industrial accidents; this type of situation displaced about 19 million people in 2017.

  2. The most common distinctions between displaced persons are refugees, asylum seekers and Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs).  As defined by the UNHCR, refugees are people who live outside of their home country due to the fear of persecution. Gaining refugee status is a legal process in which a person must be determined a refugee by international, national or local law. This process can be carried out by a country or by the UNHCR, and this process differs everywhere. Asylum seekers are those who have crossed borders to flee violence, but whose refugee status is undetermined.  In contrast, IDPs are those who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict or disaster but have yet to cross an international border.

  3. Approximately 68.5 million people — mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan — have been forcibly displaced from their homes, which is the highest level of displacement in history. In 2017 alone, there were 30.6 million people displaced from their homes, approximately 11.8 million due to violent conflict or war, and 18.8 million due to natural disasters.

  4. Forced migration impacts the most vulnerable of people. According to the UNHCR, 52 percent of refugees were under the age of 18, and there were approximately 174,000 unaccompanied or separated children. Children may experience obstacles to education as forced migrants, and experience many social and cultural challenges in a place away from their home country. Unaccompanied children experience different challenges as they often lack the same protections and support as children with adult care, and many may suffer or be taken advantage of in a new environment.

  5. Sixty-eight percent of refugees came from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia in 2017. In fact, 6.3 million refugees came from Syria, 2.6 million from Afghanistan, and 2.4 million from South Sudan. Out of the 25.4 million refugees reported in the world, these three countries, in particular, make up more than half of the refugee population. These refugees come from conflict and war-torn regions where choosing to stay could mean risking their lives.

  6. One reason for the current peak refugee crisis is that only about 103,000 refugees were resettled in 2017. Resettlement is the relocation and integration of people (forced migrants in this case) into another country. The UNHCR lists resettlement as one of the three durable solutions to the refugee crisis as it is a long-term solution for those who cannot go back to their home country. Approximately 44,400 people are being displaced a day, and unfortunately, this resettlement number does not make up the difference. Resettlement numbers are so low because many developed countries are not resettling as many people as they usually do. This decrease could be due to the highly dependent nature of resettlement on political climates as well as the current administrations in charge.

  7. The countries hosting the most refugees are Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Uganda and Turkey. Relative to the national population, Lebanon hosted the most refugees of these countries with 1 out of 6 inhabitants being refugees. Jordan is next with 1 out of 14, followed by 1 out 23 in Turkey. Eighty-five percent of refugees in the world are going to other developing countries, and large amounts of displaced peoples can have severe effects on the global economy. There may be serious problems for national economies that lack enough jobs for displaced peoples who seek work, pressure can be put on already fragile infrastructure.

  8. Refugees can benefit economies. In fact, many refugees in the United States pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. In places that aided refugees in finding work, most were employed within 6 years of their settlement.

  9. Forcible displacement is an issue receiving more attention in the media and one that people are becoming increasingly passionate about. The UNHCR is dedicated to helping those who are displaced in 128 countries, including those in Syria. The UNCHR not only aids refugees that live in Syria but also Syrian Internally Displaced Peoples. The UNHCR provides economic and legal assistance, as well as shelters, health services and violence protection.

  10. Many local cities around the globe have resettlement agencies that aid refugees and other displaced peoples through their resettlement process. Many cities across the United States have an Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), a non-profit responsible for resettling refugees into their communities. The ECDC’s work also involves community integration and education initiatives which shows their commitment to ensuring a happy and healthy future for their clients.

Work to Do

These 10 facts on forced migration help to show that there does not exist a simple solution to combat the forced migration crisis. Vulnerable people are still being forced from their homes and their livelihoods, and there is plenty of work that needs to be done. This work, however, has a dedicated workforce of people working hard for those who need it the most.

– Isabella Niemeyer

Photo: Flickr

Refugee CrisisOn June 20, the world stood in solidarity with migrants and asylum seekers in observation of World Refugee Day, a time to consider the refugee crisis.

The occasion came at a pivotal time in the U.S, as public outcries about border practices separating families reached a high. This refugee crisis stems from the Trump administration’s use of separation as a deterrent for crossing the border in combination with the administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy, which requires immediate arrest for those crossing illegally. More than 2,300 kids have been separated from their families.

Nine facts about refugees

  1. More people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict than at any other time since World War II. The world is facing the biggest refugee crisis to date.  At the end of 2017, 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution on grounds of race, religion, political opinion and violence or conflict.
  1. Half of the refugees are under the age of 18. In some countries, including the U.S., migrant kids are even forced to represent themselves in a court of law.
  1. Under international law, refugees are not allowed to be forced back to their home countries. This law places an obligation for the state to not return a refugee to “the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
  1. Developing countries host 86 percent of the world’s refugees. The most popular host countries are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran and Ethiopia.
  1. More than half of the world’s refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. Approximately one in five displaced persons come from Syria, where conflict has created an intense refugee crisis.
  1. Saudi Arabia does not register migrants as international refugees. This may not seem like a big deal, but the policy forces migrants to go through the Saudi visa process, during which the government can deny visas and deport individuals. If the individuals were registered as refugees, it would be illegal for the Saudi government to deport them under international law.
  1. Australia’s military blocks refugees before they reach its shores. The practice is coined as Operation Sovereign Borders. Military officials patrol waters to intercept migrants and send them to India or Indonesia. If migrant boats make it to Australia, its passengers are not allowed to stay on the mainland while their asylum cases are processed. Instead, they are sent to processing centers on the island of Naura. Human Rights Watch has begun to shut down such facilities.

  1. In one French town, it is illegal to feed refugees. The northern regions of France used to be home to a refugee settlement called the Jungle, which served as a temporary camp for thousands of migrants seeking asylum across the English Channel in the U.K. In 2016, however, authorities closed the site due to health and terrorism concerns. To ensure the camp remain dismantled, the city’s mayor enacted decrees banning organizations from giving food to any migrants.
  1. Germany has welcomed asylum-seekers in a way to revitalize run-down towns. The German law guarantees the right to asylum for all persons who flee political persecution.  Additionally, any unaccompanied migrant under the age of 18 is provided with a legal guardian to act on his or her behalf and to help navigate the asylum process.

With numbers of refugees rising, the world is faced with a great task of amending practices and treating all persons with respect. Many point to dealing with the root issue of migration rather than adjusting policy and procedure. This view is misinformed, however, as intervention in the home country is often very difficult, controversial and unsuccessful. Instead, we ought to come together as cohabitants of the planet to bring about positive change surrounding this global refugee crisis.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr

help refugeesJune 20 marked the 18th anniversary of world refugee day. There are currently 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. Of those millions, 25.4 million people are classified as refugees.

World Refugee Day holds a long history of support for those in need. This day is celebrated in order to give all an opportunity to help refugees and to create a public awareness for millions of lives that are in need of saving.

Since the beginning of World Refugee Day in 2000, the refugee crisis has increased greatly. Growing from 12 million in 2000 to more than 20 million in 2018, refugees can be found seeking shelter in many countries.

The United Nations

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has taken steps to fight the refugee crisis. The UNHCR provides assistance and support to refugees all over the world. Present in 128 countries and 478 locations around the world, the UNHCR is helping those wherever they can.

For example, in Ukraine, the UNHCR is working with the Ukrainian government to help strengthen the asylum system and gives medical, material and social assistance to those refugees and internally displaced people. In Ukraine, there are currently 1,800,000 people who are internally displaced and 3,253 refugees from other countries.

Along with working with the government and giving assistance to those in need, the UNHCR in Ukraine provided 843 homes with winter cash assistance in 2018.

Another recent effort presented by the UNHCR was their assistance in Montenegro. On April 3 the UNHCR paired with the Red Cross and opened the first Community Centre for persons seeking international protection.


The UNHCR doesn’t only just provide physical materials and goods; they also are committed to bringing education to refugees all over the world.

By the end of 2016, the UNHCR had encouraged 64 out of 81 countries to put policies in place to support the inclusion of refugee children in the respective countries education system. After this push, more than 984,000 refugee children were enrolled in primary education.

Of that 984,000 refugee children, 250,000 were not attending school at the time.

How to Help

While the UNHCR is continually working to better the lives of refugees all over the world, there is still plenty of work that can be done on the individual level for refugees. Here are five ways that anyone can get involved no matter where they may be.

  1. Volunteer a skill: Having a specific skill or talent can be used for good to help refugees. Whether knowing how to budget extremely well or how to create a website, there are refugees in local communities who would appreciate learning a new talent or skill to help them with their future endeavors.
  2. Spread awareness: Hold fundraisers, raffles, yard sales or meetings to spread the word about the refugee crisis. There are some that may know there is a problem, but don’t know much more than that. By putting on events and spreading the word, education about this crisis will increase awareness.
  3. Call the House Representatives and the Senate: Calling local state representatives is a quick and easy way to let one’s voice be heard. Placing a call to a member of the House or Senate will let them know that this is an issue that you care about and want to address.
  4. Support business and organizations run by refugees: Moving to a new country and facing the economic challenges of that country can be one of the hardest things for refugees. Supporting their family can be difficult for refugees in a new country. Make an effort to buy from refugees to help them get started in a new place.
  5. Donate: Donating can be one of the easiest ways to help refugees in need. Donations can be for organizations that go out into the field and provide physical goods or they can be for organizations, like The Borgen Project, that push elected officials to support and pass laws to help those in need.

While the refugee crisis continues to grow, it is important to know that anyone can take part in getting laws passed to protect refugees or can offer kindness to those who are adjusting to drastic life changes.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

Education for Syrian Refugees in TurkeyTurkey is home to 833,039 Syrian school-aged children displaced by civil conflict. Since 2016, the Turkish government has worked to expand education for Syrian refugees in Turkey by integrating refugee children into the public school system. The initiative has some demonstrable success: there was a 25 percent increase in Turkish public school enrollment by refugee children in the 2017 school year.

Of the school-aged Syrian refugees living in Turkey, 612,603 were enrolled in either Turkish public school or temporary education centers as of October 2017. The Turkish government plans to close temporary education centers by the end of 2018. Approximately 300,000 refugee children attending these centers will be transferred to public schools and will transition to a Turkish-language curriculum. Another 360,000 refugee students who are not currently enrolled will also be sent to public school.

The Current Situation

For the first time since the policy was announced, more refugee school-aged children are enrolled in the Turkish public school system, at 59 percent, than in temporary education centers, 41 percent. The Turkish government plans to close all temporary education centers by the end of the year.

Temporary education centers teach an accredited curriculum in Arabic. For the past seven years, these facilities have provided education for Syrian refugees in Turkey in their mother tongue. However, these centers have been criticized for fostering cultural and linguistic separation between refugees and natives.

What Must Still Be Done

To accommodate the influx of students, the Turkish government is building 150 new schools with donated funds. However, this new construction will not adequately incorporate matriculating refugees from temporary education centers and additional funding is still needed.

Currently, the Ministry of National Education is adjusting to the increased number of students attending public school by sending some Syrian children to imam-hatip schools. Imam-hatip schools teach religious texts alongside other curriculum.

Critics of the new policy worry that Syrian students will drop out of school rather than attend Turkish-language public schools. Cultural tensions between Turkish and Syrian students, aggravated by resource shortages in public schools, could create hostile learning environments for Syrian children.

Working Toward Education for Syrian Refugees in Turkey

To mitigate the risk, the Ministry of National Education has declared that kindergarten and primary school are compulsory for all Syrian children. The government plans to enroll refugee children in intensive Turkish language courses to help students adjust to a Turkish curriculum. Also, refugee children will be offered additional classes on Arabic language and culture to help Syrian students stay connected to their heritage.

Additionally, to encourage older refugee children to stay in school, an E.U. program offers subsidies to Syrian schoolchildren. Subsidies are awarded to students who attend 80 percent of their classes and payments differ based on age and gender. Female high school students are entitled to the largest subsidies.

The Ministry of National Education’s public education initiative shows a real commitment to creating inclusive education for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Despite cultural and language barriers, more Syrian refugee children than ever before are enrolled in schools in Turkey.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr