Posts

Homelessness in Libya
Libya is home to historical Greek ruins, the Sahara desert and valuable oil reserves. However, it also currently suffers from a state of instability. The country has experienced division due to a civil war between Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s militias in the east. Militant groups who gained power amid the lack of government control, including al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia, have exacerbated this conflict. This fractured leadership has left civilians suffering from a struggling economy and the continual violence plaguing the region. Libyans must flee their homes to avoid imminent danger, often with nowhere to go. As a result, homelessness in Libya is a growing problem that requires attention and resources.

The Growing Homelessness Problem

War often leaves people displaced or lacking basic necessities, and the Libyan war is no exception. The threat of shellings and uncontrolled violence has left around 120,000 people homeless in and around Tripoli, the nation’s capital. Many have no choice but to sleep on the streets, under trees or with whatever materials are available. Others find makeshift shelters such as public gardens, tents or converted buildings to offer slightly more protection. Old hotels, abandoned factories and schoolhouses become temporary homes for those who have nowhere else to turn.

With so many severely in need of shelter and resources, Libya turned to the Government of National Accord (GNA) for help. In response, the GNA dedicated about $85.7 million to help displaced civilians. However, homelessness in Libya persists and calls for further solutions.

The Plight of Refugees

As violence escalates, some Libyans search for better lives in different countries. Many have tried to escape to Europe, Niger or anywhere that offers more peace and stability. Unfortunately, due to Libya’s proximity to Europe, even refugees fleeing other countries must first travel through Libya. This pathway to Europe is so heavily trafficked that some estimate there are over “645,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Libya.” Only a percentage of people successfully make this journey, leaving many stranded and homeless.

Detention facilities under the GNA are holding refugees who are unable to leave the country. According to the U.N., detention centers have been holding about 3,200 people as of February, 2020. The centers pose new problems. They are overcrowded, unsanitary and lacking ventilation and lighting. They also severely lack the resources necessary to feed those experiencing detainment there. One GNA employee told The New Humanitarian that each day the center allots residents only “one piece of bread” and a “plain pasta dish for every six people.”

Organizations such as Refugees International urge the E.U. to put pressure on Libya to improve conditions. For example, it asks that the GNA discontinues the detention of refugees in closed facilities and instead employs the use of open facilities. When detention centers are open facilities, they are subject to international standards and must grant access to NGOs wanting to help.

As homelessness in Libya increases due to war, organizations are working to ensure that people seeking refuge no longer have to endure inhuman conditions in detention centers.

NGOs Answering the Call

In addition to Refugees International, NGOs such as the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are working to address the current crisis in Libya. The UNHCR recognizes the needs of refugees and displaced people. In order to improve the lives of this demographic, the UNHCR provides a number of services:

  1. The UNHCR funds public services such as hospitals and schools. This improves the quality of life and creates an opportunity for growth in the community.
  2. It provides displaced people with shelter, money and resources to ensure that they receive some aid.
  3. The UNHCR fights to end detention centers, advocating instead for more humane alternatives like programs for child care and family tracing.
  4. It works to resettle and reunite families. The goal of resettling is to create a sustainable, safe and healthy life for families displaced due to war.

Looking Forward

For the first time in years, there is some hopeful news out of Libya. In June 2020, the GNA pushed Haftar out of the west and out of Tripoli. This may be an opportunity for international intervention and support in the form of increased security or economic aid. Libya may finally be able to imagine an end to its turmoil and look toward rebuilding. This should also grant hope for a solution to homelessness in Libya. Economic improvement and rebuilding could allow citizens to return to their homes and their lives so that they too can try to rebuild.

– Abigail Gray
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Response to the Rohingya CrisisIn Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims are the target of an ethnic cleansing campaign. Raging on since August 2017, the military-led offensive has caused the displacement of almost a million people, the destruction of at least 392 Rohingya villages and the internment of some 125,000 Rohingya in detention camps. While international authorities have placed pressure on the government to stop its atrocities, a recent update from the U.N.’s special rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, makes it clear that the situation is still dire. The U.S.’ response to the Rohingya crisis has been considerable, but there is still a lot more that needs to be done to ensure the safety of this vulnerable population.

A Coordinated Response in Bangladesh

Many Rohingya (745,000) have fled to the neighboring country of Bangladesh since the violence began. The Bangladesh government has cooperated with international bodies to ensure the reception and integration of these many refugees, but several challenges remain. For one, about 84 percent of the refugee population resides in a camp in the city of Cox’s Bazar; its location on the Bay of Bengal renders the area subject to monsoons and cyclones, which, combined with congested living conditions, increase the likelihood of death and disease. Additionally, many displaced women face sexual violence in both Myanmar and the refugee sites, and 12 percent of refugees experience acute malnutrition, creating an urgent need for adequate medical services.

In response to the Rohingya crisis, the United States has provided $450 million in aid to host communities in Bangladesh. The United States recently earmarked $105 million for the U.N.’s 2019 Joint Response Plan (JRP). This aid is important, as the JRP works to:

  • Register and document all refugees, so as to provide them with the legal standing to engage in economic activity and receive further state services in Bangladesh.
  • Improve disaster preparedness among refugee holding sites, which also entails creating an improved population density distribution.
  • Create crucial health programs, such as food vouchers and mental health services. These programs have been particularly successful—the level of acute malnutrition, while still high, is seven points lower than it was in 2018 and women’s access to reproductive health services is on the rise.

Further Steps Needed

In contributing to the U.N.’s JRP, the United States mitigates the negative effects of the Rohingya crisis. However, the political conditions in Myanmar that caused so many to flee remain, largely because the government continues to carry out atrocities against the Rohingya people. The leader of the country’s military, General Min Aung Hlaing, has directly authorized the ethnic cleansing campaigns. According to Refugees International, this has essentially allowed Myanmar soldiers to impose a reign of terror on Rohingya villages. The group has documented “consistent accounts of Myanmar soldiers surrounding villages, burning homes to the ground, stabbing, shooting, and raping the inhabitants, leaving the survivors to flee for their lives.”

Myanmar continues to block humanitarian relief organizations from entering the country, which is a roadblock preventing a thorough response to the Rohingya crisis. Moreover, the government continues to deny the existence of military campaigns, which allows perpetrators to avoid punishment.

The U.S. has worked to place pressure on the Myanmar government so as to create accountability checks and dissuade other leaders from taking similar adverse actions against the Rohingya. For example, on July 16, 2019, the Trump administration placed sanctions on a number of military officials, including General Min Aung Hlaing. Countries and organizations can do more to halt the violence, though. Both the special rapporteur and Refugees International have called upon the U.S. and other members of the U.N. Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or to set up an independent tribunal, which could try those responsible for the Rohingya crisis. While the ICC prosecutor has already taken preliminary investigative steps, a U.N. Security Council referral or tribunal establishment would put even greater political pressure on Myanmar.

Moving Forward

While the Rohingya crisis was years in the making, its impact has been especially acute in the past two years. The U.S.’ response to the Rohingya crisis has included successful collaboration with the U.N., and raised hopes of bringing the perpetrators to justice. In so doing, it will save countless lives and move the Rohingya community in Myanmar one step closer to protection.

– James Delegal
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Organizations Helping Climate Refugees
In 2017, nearly 18 million people were displaced due to natural disasters. This was roughly 7 million more than there were people displaced by violence or conflict. This number is also expected to grow to 143 million people by 2050 if actions are not taken against climate change.

All of these people represent climate refugees. They represent a growing phenomenon that lacks a formal definition.

There are several nongovernmental organizations that are working to help these people. In the text below, top organizations helping climate refugees are presented.

Climate Refugees

Climate Refugees is an organization that aims to raise awareness about climate refugees through field reports and social media. With the information that they have gathered, Climate Refugees meets with governments and the United Nations to prioritize policies that protect climate refugees.

In 2017, they released their first field report on the connection between climate change and displacement in the Lake Chad Basin.

The Environmental Justice Foundation

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) is one of the many organizations helping climate refugees. It works to help create a more sustainable world through film and photography. The EJF started in 2000 and is based in eight countries around the world.

The EJF also provides activist training that helps the organization research and document human rights abuses. The EJF directs it work towards climate refugees in several ways and one of the most prominent is through video.

It released one video titled “Falling Through the Cracks,” that explains what climate refugees are, why they matter and how to help solve the growing problem of climate refugees.

The EJF also released an exhibition on climate refugees and their stories. Both of these projects aim to humanize the effects of climate change.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Founded in 1950, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works to protect and advocate for refugees around the world. The UNHCR works in 128 countries around the world and has helped 50 million refugees find a new life since its creation.

The UNHCR started its work with climate change and disaster displacement in the 1990s but expanded its scope in 2000s due to the growing need of working with climate refugees.

The organization’s work is broken down into four categories: operational practices, legal development, policy coherence and research.

Since 1999 the UNHCR was involved in 43 disasters that led to the displacement of people. The range of what UNHCR provided depended on the country and disaster.

International Organization for Migration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is an intergovernmental organization that works to ensure a process of migration that recognizes human rights around the world.

Since 1998, IOM worked on nearly 1,000 projects responding to migration due to environmental disasters. In 2015, the IOM founded the Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division (MECC), that specifically focuses on the connection between climate change and displacement.

MECC works in several countries around the world including Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. In all of these countries, MECC is working on research that tracks climate-related migration.

This research will help the IOM support policy development, in order to directly address the needs of climate refugees.

Refugees International

Refugees International (RI) is an independent organization that works to advocate for refugees through reports and analyzes. The organization analyses work done by other nongovernmental organizations and governments.

It works in 14 countries and climate displacement is one of the two issues that RI dedicates itself to. One of the main efforts that RI does to help climate refugees is conducting fieldwork every year. The data that is collected from this work is then used to lobby policymakers and aid agencies that help climate refugees.

While the climate refugee still lack a formal definition and while their number is expected to expand in the next 40 years, there are still several organizations helping climate refugees and ensuring that their voices and needs are heard.

Among others, the most important organizations that tackle this issue are Climate Refugees, the Environmental Justice Foundation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration and Refugees International.

– Drew Garbe
Photo: Flickr

10 Refugee NonprofitsWe are living in a tense political time, especially pertaining to immigration and international conflict. Therefore, the work of refugee nonprofits is more important than ever. Not only do they help people who have been torn from their homes to find housing and work but they also assist them with getting acclimated to new countries. Here are 10 refugee nonprofits that are providing a light for those individuals who are displaced and struggling.

10 Refugee Nonprofits Giving Hope

  1. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) – This organization responds to humanitarian crises all over the world by providing money transfers, access to schooling and healthcare and even safe spaces for women. In 2017, IRC helped almost 23 million people attain primary healthcare and created 16,179 business—more than half of which are female-owned.
  2. Refugees International – Founded in 1979 as a movement to protect Indochine refugees, Refugees International has since expanded to become a leading advocacy group, working to pressure global officials to focus on assisting refugees.
  3. HIAS – This Jewish nonprofit covers advocacy as well, but also focuses on providing refugees with legal assistance as needed. They are committed to helping refugees of all faiths from all countries. Additionally, HIAS helps relocate those who have been displaced to the U.S.
  4. American Refugee Committee (ARC) – Another one of the 10 refugee nonprofits is ARC which provides a wide variety of services to refugees in need. Since 1979, ARC has supplied emergency response teams to assist with man-made and natural disasters on the Thai-Cambodian border. It also provides education, healthcare and water sanitation to refugee communities.
  5. REFUNITE – This group uses technology to reconnect separated refugee families. REFUNITE created a database that displaced peoples can use to try and find their lost loved ones. Thanks to their efforts, their website now has over 1 million profiles, making it much easier to reunite separated relatives.
  6. World Relief – Though it covers many other sectors beyond refugee issues, World Relief plays an important role in helping the displaced. This group gets in on the ground floor and meets refugees at the airport to help them find housing, learn English and even get jobs.
  7. Mercy Corps – Specifically doing work with the Syrian crisis, Mercy Corps has provided food and other resources to families who are displaced. Mercy Corps has also provided safe spaces for children and communities that need to start over in a new country such as the work in the U.S. Mercy Corps, which is currently helping 1.8 million people who have been affected by the Syrian crisis.
  8. Save The Children – As can be inferred from the name, Save the Children focuses on children in need. The group is active in 120 countries responding to disasters like refugee crises and advocating for the children affected. They also provide basic care such as shelters and food for children separated from their families.
  9. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) – LIRS meets in person with refugee families and provides them with legal and social services such as education, housing and language training. To date, they have helped more than 500,00 immigrants and refugees.
  10. Doctors Without Borders – Focusing mainly on medical assistance and healthcare, Doctors Without Borders works by responding to humanitarian crises in impoverished countries across the world. Displaced refugees often have no access to professional healthcare, and Doctors Without Borders fills that void.

With 68.5 million people displaced in the world today, groups like these 10 refugee nonprofits are giving hope to those who have experienced more than their share of despair. These organizations and the many more who work to alleviate poverty and suffering around the world are more important than ever.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Non-Profit Human Rights Organizations
Human rights are universal moral values that should protect individuals and allow them to live free and safe lives. Certain human rights include the right to life, freedom from torture, right to education, etc. These rights, however, are not always protected by regulations and laws, which can lead to ethical concerns. Non-profit human rights organizations focus on getting individuals the rights they deserve. Here are 10 non-profit human rights organizations.

10 Non-Profit Human Rights Organization

  1. Human Rights Watch
    The Human Rights Watch was created in 1987 in order to shine a light on the human rights violations that were happening in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The non-partisan, non-governmental organization has gained recognition from citizen movements and other humanitarian causes. It now has 400 staff members working around the globe. Human Rights Watch investigates abuse and effectively spreads this information, increasing public awareness and working with government officials and corporations to make a change.
  2. Human Rights First: Based in America, Human Rights First puts pressure on those in power, whether government or private companies, to combat social injustice. Like the Borgen Project, Human Rights First creates campaigns that not only inform the public on issues but also encourage them to email and call Congress in favor or against certain legislative laws. Examples of their campaigns include ending modern-day slavery, stopping Trump’s Refugee Ban, and closing Guantameno Bay.
  3. Human Rights Foundation: Unlike other non-profit organizations, the Human Rights Foundation focuses on closed societies. Closed societies are authoritative regimes and dictatorships that restrict individual freedom and expression. Established in 2005, the Human Rights Foundation promotes freedom and democracy by supporting activists and exposing political and social corruption in totalitarian governments.
  4. Ella Baker Center for Human Rights: Ella Baker was an activist and a leading figure during the Civil Rights Movement. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights works with people of color to attack racial injustice in the U.S, specifically the prison system. People of color are disproportionately targeted by the police, so it isn’t surprising that they make up more than ½ of prisoners in correctional facilities. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights breaks the cycle of incarceration by organizing campaigns around the country to protest in support of their freedom. Their recent victories include closing five out of the eight youth prisons in California, creating Books Not Bars, starting community safety plans and more.
  5. Refugees International: Refugee International was created in 1979 to protect Indochinese refugees. Since then, this independently funded, non-profit human rights organization has provided hands-on assistance to displaced refugee families. Advocates travel to areas in need to assess the situation and compile crucial resources for refugees.
  6. FINCA International: By giving small loans to the poor, entire communities can grow. FINCA International addresses poverty through microfinancing and social enterprise. There are 20 community-based microfinance banks placed across low-income neighborhoods throughout the world. These services help build small businesses that, in turn, improve economic development and sustainability.
  7. Mending Kids: Mending Kids is a life-saving, non-profit human rights organization that sends surgical teams to over 60 countries to mend children in need of surgical procedures. The surgical staff trains local doctors in developing countries to effectively provide more complex surgical procedures. For children who are facing serious, life-threatening problems, host-families are set up around the U.S. to care for them while they undergo medical procedures
  8. War Child: War Child is comprised of three major offices in the U.K, Holland and Canada. The organization protects children who have been and who are still being affected by armed conflict. War Child’s approach includes improving access to education, helping children understand their legal rights through training and programs and offering support to children who endured mental trauma during acts of armed conflict. In fact, many of the staff have also been survivors of armed conflict.
  9. Habitat for Humanity: Families around the world are struggling to find affordable, decent housing. Habitat for Humanity works in the U.S. and 70 other countries helping low-income families apply for homeownership. In the case of natural disasters, Habitat for Humanity works with local communities to supply resources for those whose homes were damaged.
  10. Polaris: Polaris is named after the North Star, which was used during slavery as a guide to freedom. Today, Polaris serves as an assistance hotline to victims and survivors of human trafficking. As one of many non-profit human rights organizations focused on human trafficking victims, Polaris builds public data sets to better understand human trafficking. With this information, Polaris designs strategies to target the system and engages law officials to enforce plans that will stop trafficking both nationwide and internationally.

This list is only a fraction of the organizations in the world trying to make a difference. There are many groups fighting for important causes like ending world hunger and poverty, providing clean drinking water and providing medical aid. If you are looking to donate or volunteer, one of these top 10 non-profit human rights organizations would definitely be a good place to start.

– Lilly Hershey-Webb
Photo: Flickr

refugees_international.jpg
Fleeing political, racial and religious persecution, more than 15 million people worldwide have left their homes and sought safety across international borders. They are refugees; often as unwelcome in their host countries as they were in their own.

For many, it is out of the frying pan and into the fire.
International law forbids the deportation of peoples with refugee status. Still, deeply rooted ethnic and national divides can make neighboring countries reluctant to accept them.
It is estimated that half of refugees today settle in major cities. Hundreds of thousands of Somali citizens, for example, have gone not to internationally established camps, but to Nairobi, Kenya. These urban refugees, with neither shelter, funds nor connections, find themselves in situations nearly as desperate as the ones they left.
Hindered by language and social stigma, they are limited to the poorest paying jobs. Their ambiguous political standing, meanwhile, affords them none of the safeguards given to citizens of their new homes. The British organization, Hidden Lives, quotes one man, “I don’t have legal documentation. I don’t have a job. I don’t leave my house.”
Access to health care, though needed by many, is often restricted.
So why not just head for a refugee camp? Conditions there are no better. Camps are notoriously overcrowded and vulnerable to the spread of communicable disease. Violence and sexual assault goes largely unchecked. For basic needs such as food and water, refugees are reliant on international aid. Refugees also must rely on international aid for health care, education and development. Who do they rely on for security forces? International aid. International aid, unfortunately, must come in waves.
Consequently, any group that raises awareness or funds to sustain displaced peoples, in and out of country, becomes integral to their survival. None is more widely known, perhaps, than Refugees International (RI).
RI focuses on advocacy and policy reform. In addition to meeting with world leaders, it organizes 15 yearly field missions to determine the living conditions of refugees and internally displaced people across South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. These missions are essential to the organization: because of the information gathered, it is an influential authority. RI is consulted on not only the need for aid, but also the amount required and its distribution.
It was RI that alerted the United Nations to the lack of post-rape kits available in the Central African Republic earlier this year. It was RI that encouraged the United States to support the Nansen initiative, which protects displaced victims of climate-related disasters. The U.S. set aside more than $150 million for the deployment of peacekeepers to the CAR at the request of the organization. In response to their report of violence against women in Syria, the United Kingdom provided more than $14 million dollars in funding.
The U.N. Refugee Agency calls 10.8 million people ‘refugees of concern.’ Almost three times as many live as IDPs. While they wait for resettlement, or war and persecution to end, they have to entrust their lives to the international community at large. But the nations most capable of giving aid are often the furthest removed. It is left to Refugees International, and organizations like it, to bridge the gap.
– Olivia Kostreva

Sources: UNHCR, Health Poverty Action, Refugees International, Hidden Lives
Photo: The Global Herald