Refugees in the UKWith multiple crises currently affecting the world, more and more people find themselves needing assistance. According to the U.N., 6.1 million people have been forced to flee from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, with a further 1.5 million people fleeing from Afghanistan since the Taliban take over in 2021. Additionally, climate-related disasters cause people to flee to safer areas. In 2019 alone, 25 million people sought refuge in other countries as a result of weather events, such as fires, floods and droughts.

Refugees fleeing from extreme weather events will become more common as the climate crisis intensifies, according to the U.N.  Charities that seek to offer assistance to refugees are essential. The following are charities that are helping refugees in the U.K.

Refugee Action 

Refugee Action, founded in 1981, is a charity that provides refugees in the U.K. with the basic support that they need to survive. For instance, in 2019-2020 alone, 3,000 refugees were given accommodation and access to financial support. This support ensures that refugees in the U.K. have a stable foundation that they can build on. 

Ahmed’s story best exemplifies the work of Refugee Action. After fleeing Egypt in fear for his life, Ahmed was greeted with nothing but a place on the streets. He was homeless, with no hope of securing stable accommodations, due to the Home Office withholding access to identification. Fortunately, Refugee Action was able to intervene and help Ahmed secure long-term accommodation and provide him with official identification, so he could gain stable employment.

Refugee Council 

Refugee Council was founded in 1951, after the creation of the U.N. refugee convention. It is an organization that not only seeks to support refugees in the U.K. but also campaigns for a fairer and more just asylum system.

Each year, this organization provides several forms of assistance for 13,000 refugees in the U.K. This includes offering to support them while they integrate into their new society, along with supplying aid to children who have arrived without parents. Since the majority of refugees are fleeing from dangerous situations, it is likely that they have experienced some form of trauma. Because of this, Refugee Council offers mental health support to every refugee that they come into contact with. 

Additionally, this organization works to highlight and change the inequities in the U.K.’s asylum system. For example, 25% of asylum seekers wait four to six weeks for official documents. These documents enable them to gain official employment or accommodation.

Without these documents, refugees either cannot work or are forced to work in dangerous, low-paid and unregulated jobs. Furthermore, refugees in the U.K. are only permitted to stay in government accommodation for 28 days, so many refugees are forced into homelessness, while they wait for their documents. Refugee Council campaigns to bring an end to this policy, as it causes countless vulnerable refugees to become homeless.

Other campaigning work by this organization includes a successful effort to improve the protections offered to women who are fleeing abusive situations. Before Refugee Council’s campaign, adequate protections were not in place, and female refugees were still left vulnerable to the same kind of abuse that they had fled from.

Young Roots 

Young Roots, founded by Rachel Yarrow, Roz Evans and Kathy Brook in 2004, is a charity that works directly with refugees in the U.K. to improve their life chances. This organization employs refugees at all levels to ensure that the charity is driven by people with personal experience of the plight of refugees in the U.K. 

Focusing their efforts in Croydon and Brent, Young Roots provided casework services and advice hubs for 873 people in 2019 alone. These services provide refugees with legal support and offer therapy for those who need it. 

In addition, Young Roots seeks to increase the confidence of young refugees in the U.K. by offering different classes, such as dance and drama. 

Raena, who arrived in the U.K. in 2018, has benefited greatly from these classes. Upon arriving in the U.K., Raena was very shy and was also apprehensive about becoming a part of her new community. Fortunately, Young Roots reached out to her, and she began attending the young women’s group, where she could mix with other young, female refugees. Over time, her confidence grew, so she was now able to volunteer for the organization, offering interview classes for fellow young refugees. This improved Raena’s life chances, as holding the classes imparted her with valuable experience for taking part in interviews to get a job of her own. 

What’s Next?

While these three organizations are doing fantastic and much-needed work, there is still more to be done. Refugees in the U.K. are an incredibly vulnerable group, and they are only going to become increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

– Tom Eccles
Photo: Flickr

The Russian War in Ukraine
According to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Russian war in Ukraine has prompted a surge in food and energy costs, pushing approximately 71 million people into poverty worldwide. The global food crisis is among the farthest-reaching consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine, contributing to widespread starvation and poverty across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The outbreak of war in Ukraine has also caused a worldwide energy crisis. According to the World Economic Forum, global household energy costs have nearly doubled due to the rise in fuel prices.

It took within three months of the Russian invasion for 71 million people to fall into poverty, surpassing the economic impact felt during the peak of the pandemic. As of April 2023, the Russian war in Ukraine has catapulted millions into poverty worldwide, driving the global extreme poverty rate to 9.2%.

The Cause

Before the war, Russia was the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and crude oil, and Russia and Ukraine together accounted for a substantial portion of global wheat, corn and sunflower exports. Many know Ukraine as the “breadbasket of Europe” as it is among the world’s top three grain exporting countries.

Blocked ports have jeopardized low-income countries that rely on Russian and Ukrainian exports. Some of the affected countries include Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Haiti and Armenia.

Households in low-income countries allocate a significant proportion of their income (approximately 42%, according to AP News) to food expenses. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, food costs can account for up to 70% of household spending. The skyrocketing prices of wheat, sugar and cooking oil due to sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries have caused an additional financial strain on these families.

The Russian military has destroyed Ukrainian grain storage facilities, and many Ukrainian farmers have joined the army or left their land. Russian attacks on the energy grid have shut down nitrogen fertilizer plants. Transportation costs have soared, and shipping costs have doubled. Also, due to banking limitations and insurance expenses, Russia has stopped selling fertilizers, and this continues to affect farmers around the world.

Historically, Russia has been a major exporter of natural gas to Europe, but the international sanctions targeting the Russian energy sector have led to supply limitations which have boosted prices. Moscow has limited its exports, further driving up costs elsewhere. Vulnerable households tend to rely more on purchasing energy-intensive goods and services. The rise in energy prices has made households more vulnerable to energy poverty, which is especially dangerous in winter.

The Effect

While the rise in the cost of groceries and gas can be frustrating in wealthy nations such as the U.S. and the U.K., the impact of rising food and energy prices and disrupted supplies can be life-threatening in developing nations. The rate of price increase varies across regions, ranging from 60% in the U.S. to 1900% in Sudan, with the Middle East and North Africa taking the most hit. As both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat, the war poses a serious threat to countries that heavily rely on grain from both countries for their staple foods. Some of the affected countries include Lebanon, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Other countries, including Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and the Kyrgyz Republic, do not have adequate resources to deal with the hunger crisis due to their debt burdens.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the price of fossil fuels sharply increased. According to the World Economic Forum, between February and September 2022, the cost of coal rose by 176%, crude oil and petroleum products increased by 51% and natural gas prices rose by 94%. This has increased global household expenditure by between 2.7% and 4.8%. Countries like Rwanda have been significantly affected, with household energy costs increasing up to three times the global average.

Russia’s military operations in Ukraine have had a major impact, causing Ukraine’s exports to go down from their average before the war of 5 million to 7 million metric tons of grains and oilseeds per month to an average of 3.5 million metric tons from March to November. Russia has blocked 7 of 13 ports that Ukraine uses, severely limiting shipping potential.

A Possible Solution

UNDP suggests that targeted cash transfers are more equitable than blanket energy subsidies, which may only provide short-term relief and reward the wealthier population. Cash transfers primarily assist the poorest 40% of the population whereas energy subsidies mainly benefit affluent individuals, with more than 50% of the benefits favoring the wealthiest 20% of the population. Additionally, a two-year debt moratorium could assist all developing countries, regardless of their GDP per capita.

What’s Next?  

The Russian war in Ukraine has catapulted millions into poverty worldwide, highlighting the urgent need for global cooperation to alleviate the horrors of war. The measures proposed by the UNDP have the potential to bring stability and improve the living conditions of millions affected by the war-induced food and energy crisis.

– Skye Connors
Photo: Flickr