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Nepal’s Refugee Resettlement Program
Much of the world struggles to assist refugees and other forcibly displaced people. However, Nepal stands out as a rare success story. The nation accepted more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees since the 1990s. Nepal’s refugee resettlement program has proven to be effective. The program has relocated about 113,500 refugees to third countries. Additionally, many of the camps that emerged have shut down because they were no longer necessary. However, it is still challenging to provide refugees with their basic needs.

Origins of the Bhutanese Refugee Crisis

Ethnic Nepalis people whose origins lie in Bhutan primarily partake in Nepal’s refugee resettlement program. The Lhotshampas are Nepali people who reside in the southern portion of Bhutan and maintain a distinct culture.

The Bhutanese government initiated the One Nation, One People policy to promote the dominant Bhutanese culture. Many perceived this policy as an attempt to suppress Nepali culture in Bhutan. Additionally, this policy replaced the Nepali language with Dzongkha as the primary mode of instruction in schools. Furthermore, it forbade Nepalis from wearing their traditional clothing, forcing them to dress like the Bhutanese majority.

Bhutanese officials became wary of the substantial Lhotshampa population in the south after the 1988 census. Additionally, accusations emerged of them being illegal aliens along with instances of violence and discrimination. As a result, large numbers of ethnic Nepalis left Bhutan for refugee camps in Nepal.

Nepal’s Refugee Resettlement Program

The population of Lhotshampa refugees in Nepal has increased to more than 100,000 people. Unfortunately, talks with Bhutan failed to produce any solution. Thus, the government of Nepal developed a plan to resettle the refugees in other countries.

Nepal’s refugee resettlement program started in 2007. In addition, Nepal and eight other countries collaborated with each other. These countries are the United States, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia and the United Kingdom. These nations agreed to accept Lhotshampa refugees, allowing them to lead new lives outside of refugee camps.

Organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the government of Nepal have aided in the program’s success. UNHCR and the Nepalese government underwent efforts to provide documentation for each refugee. Photos and listings of details of each person provided an accurate number of refugees. This made monitoring the program much easier. In addition, IOM oversaw the practical side of the program. This included arranging flights and teaching refugees how to navigate through an airport.

Challenges That Those in the Camps Face

As a result of Nepal’s refugee resettlement program, the number of Lhotshampas in the country has decreased to about 6,000. Furthermore, out of the seven camps that began in the 1990s, only two remain in the Jhapa and Morang districts of eastern Nepal. While this constitutes a success, the Lhotshampas who remain in the camps still face challenges.

Many people feel isolated because they are unable to join their families abroad. Additionally, they suffer a lack of emotional support and income. As a result, many suffer from depression, substance abuse and suicide in these camps. Furthermore, the camp’s dwindling population has led to a shortage of teachers. UNHCR established a suicide prevention program and youth centers to combat these issues.

Nepal’s refugee resettlement program is effective in relocating most of the Lhotshampas refugees since the 1990s. UNHCR, IOM and the government of Nepal have allowed refugees to have the opportunity to lead new lives in other countries. Many challenges remain for those in the camps. However, the government has made significant efforts to address them.

– Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

Sahrawi Refugees living in AlgeriaFor more than 45 years, Sahrawi refugees have left Western Sahara into neighboring countries fleeing conflict and instability. Many Sahrawi refugees have found themselves living in camps in Algeria. In these camps, refugees struggle with food and water insecurity, lack of medicine and healthcare access. This overview of the forgotten crisis of Sahrawi Refugees living in Algeria will provide insight into the ongoing humanitarian struggle.

The Refugee Camps in Algeria

A conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front over Western Sahara’s sovereignty has gone on since Spain withdrew from the area in 1975. In the wake of this conflict, hundreds of thousands of Saharawi people have been displaced and have sought refuge in countries like Algeria. For more than 45 years, the Saharawi people have been living in camps in Algeria’s Tindouf region, which borders Western Sahara. There are five camps housing more than 150,000 Sahrawi refugees near the Algerian town of Tindouf. These refugees live almost entirely on humanitarian aid and assistance. The Algerian government has worked to improve the living conditions of these refugees by providing secondary education, healthcare services, land and infrastructure improvements. The government also works with international organizations like the UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF to continue supporting Sahrawi refugees.

Challenges for the Sahrawi Refugees

The situation of the Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria is referred to as the ‘forgotten crisis’ because there is little media coverage of their situation. According to the World Food Programme, over 88% of the Sahrawi Refugees are either at risk or suffering from food insecurity. Acute malnutrition affects roughly 8% of Sahrawi children aged five or younger and over 50% of Sahrawi women between the ages of 15 and 49 suffer from anemia. The COVID-19 pandemic has added further difficulties to the situation of the Sahrawi refugees. Since March 2020, the Sahrawi are under quarantine, with humanitarian aid continuing to arrive.

The Sahrawi refugee’s dependence on humanitarian aid has left the people lacking ways to be self-sufficient. Sahrawi refugees are at risk of radicalization or social unrest. There are few employment opportunities and frustration develops with the ongoing conflict in Western Sahara and vulnerability to flash floods and sandstorms. The lockdown has also caused many Sahrawi refugees to loose jobs, causing them to rely more heavily on aid.

Bilateral Aid

Despite being known as the “forgotten crisis,” there is still work being done to improve the Sahrawi refugees’ situation. In 2020, the EU provided more than $9 million in humanitarian aid for the Sahrawi refugees, primarily food, water and medicine. World Food Programme rations provide Sahrawi refugees with 2,100 calories a day and $5.4 million has gone toward combating malnutrition of women and children, which has been a persistent problem for refugees. There are plans to extend the water network in the camps to improve the efficiency of delivering water to the refugees. More than $500,000 have been used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by improving hospitals and their capacities to deal with sickness. Efforts have been made to support disabled refugees to ensure they are part of the community.

Swiss contributions to the WFP’s efforts in Algeria have totaled more than $30 million over several decades. The programs have encouraged more than 40,000 children to attend school through a meal program which paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic but will continue afterward. While the Sahrawi camps are under lockdown during the pandemic, humanitarian aid provides necessary food, water and medicine to refugees. The Algerian government has included the Sahrawi refugees in its national response plan to support them throughout the lockdown in the form of sanitary services, medical supplies and a referral system to track the virus.

NGOs Helping the Sahrawi Refugees

Several nonprofits are working to help the Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria. The Danish Refugee Council has been working in Sahrawi refugee camps since 2016, providing over 200,000 people with training in business skills, self-sufficiency, business grants and technical support. Oxfam International has been providing fresh produce, clean water, farming skills and community support for refugees since the start of the crisis in 1975.

The conflict in Western Sahara continues to displace thousands of Sahrawi refugees and leaves them with few options and relying on humanitarian aid to survive. The forgotten crisis of the Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria has gone on since 1975. The Sahrawi refugees face many challenges in their daily lives, but humanitarian aid has allowed the community of refugees to survive. Until the conflict in Western Sahara resolves, there needs to be a greater awareness of the current refugee situation and continued humanitarian support for the thousands of Sahrawi refugees living in Algeria.

– Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

Statelessness in Thailand
Thailand has one of the world’s largest populations of stateless people with nearly 500,000 registered in 2020. NGOs and human rights activists believe the true number is much higher at up to 2 million. Statelessness refers to those lacking recognition of citizenship by any country. Without having a nationality, people lack access to basic necessities such as healthcare, education and social security. Here is some information about statelessness in Thailand.

Why Are People Stateless?

The cultural heterogeneity and rugged border regions of Thailand have long allowed indigenous cultures to live outside of the modern nation-state framework. Some stateless groups in Thailand’s border regions actively avoided becoming part of the Thai nation-state. They remained separate to maintain their own unique cultural customs. Discriminatory practices toward ethnic minorities by the ethnic Thais have also played a role in statelessness in Thailand.

Ethnic groups such as the Hmong, Akha, Karen and others are traditionally semi-nomadic and live throughout different Southeast Asian nations. They do not identify with one specific nation. In modern times, borders have become more solidified. The relative autonomy of indigenous cultures has largely existed within international borders. For indigenous children born within the Thai borders, their citizenship ties to their parents. These parents often lack documentation to prove that they were technically born in Thailand, which renders children stateless.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Other stateless people in Thailand are refugees from Burmese states just across the border. These refugees have endured decades of armed conflict against the central government. More than 100,000 Karen, Karenni, Shan and other groups arrived in the 1980s and 1990s to refugee camps along the Thai border. They have largely remained in these camps due to instability at home and the Thai government’s unwillingness to grant citizenship. These refugees also lack Burmese citizenship in many cases. With increased political and social instability following the recent 2021 military coup, this protracted refugee crisis will likely persist.

There are also stateless people that others know as the Moken or ‘Sea Gypsies’ in the south of Thailand, along with asylum seekers originating from dozens of countries in the Bangkok metropolitan area. Thai authorities struggle to formulate clear strategies on how to process citizenship requests for the many existing situations. Some can lay claim to ancestry within the modern Thai borders that stretch back hundreds of years. Others are more recent arrivals in need of human rights assistance.

Risk Factors of Statelessness in Thailand

There are innumerable challenges for stateless people in Thailand. Without having Thai citizenship, stateless people cannot travel freely across international borders. As a result, they fear detention and arrest while traveling within Thailand. There are also barriers to accessing legitimate jobs. This puts some at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking in trying to access decent livelihoods.

For young people, the lack of a decent education is a major concern. The Thai government has made an effort to educate all children within its borders, but stateless students are not able to access scholarships for higher education. Lack of access to decent health care and legal representation are other barriers facing stateless people.

Solutions

Since 2016, Thailand has joined one of the central goals of the UNHCR to end statelessness worldwide by 2024 in its #IBelong campaign. The country has taken great efforts to reconfigure citizenship laws to allow tens of thousands to access Thai citizenship in recent years. Leading up to joining the #IBelong campaign, Thailand had loosened citizenship restrictions in 2008 with its amendment of the Thai Nationality Law. Although implementation has been slow, the processing of citizenship claims have ramped up with the help of UNHCR.

There have been highly publicized events uncovering the plight of stateless people, which include the Thai Cave Rescue in 2018, in which several of the rescued soccer team members and their coach were stateless at the time. The Thai government streamlined its citizenship procedures shortly after the rescue operation. The players and their coach had previously not been able to travel freely to play in games outside of their local area.

Increased Awareness

While the sheer number of stateless people in Thailand may make the 2024 deadline to end statelessness difficult to reach, there is more general awareness of the issue. That offers some hope in granting citizenship to large numbers in this population. Much of the recent stateless population is due to conflict in Myanmar, and others should commend Thailand for allowing refugees to remain in relative safety within its borders.

Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Lebanon
Human trafficking in Lebanon is rampant and requires reform. Someone once asked Paul, a volunteer for the Catholic Church in Beirut, Lebanon, how he knows that most female prostitutes are trafficking victims? Paul answered that when he attempted to help a trafficking victim contact an NGO, her captors assaulted him.

The Situation

Paul is just one of the many workers on the frontlines fighting against human trafficking in Lebanon. Lebanon’s government is improving its work to stop human trafficking, but Lebanon remains on Tier 2 according to the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report. The Tier 2 standing means that Lebanon has not met the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking.

Human traffickers target certain groups such as Syrian refugees, illegal migrants, domestic workers and women with artiste visas. Employers lure in workers and artistes under the guise of employment and then withhold their wages or passports to control them. Meanwhile, migrants and refugees come into the country with nothing leaving them open to capture. Poverty affects these targeted groups making it easier for employers and traffickers to control them. Lebanon has struggled with human trafficking because of various problems, including its past legislation and misguided judicial system.

Human Trafficking Issues in Need of Reform

  1. Lebanon’s human trafficking network is immense. The International Security Forces (ISF) and General Directorate of General Security (GDS) commented that even traffickers further down the chain of command contact more extensive organized networks. Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and the town of Jounieh are where most human trafficking victims end up. Even though the ISF was able to identify 29 trafficking victims in 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) believes the number of victims is in the thousands.
  2. The country’s laws place a significant strain on the victims because women can work as licensed prostitutes, but Lebanon’s government has not supplied licenses since the 1970s. However, after 1990, the country made secret prostitution, or prostitution without a license, illegal. Foreign women come to Lebanon to work as dancers in nightclubs under an artiste visa. The visa’s terms restrict the women to the hotels they live in and give nightclub owners power over the women allowing them to withhold their wages and passports. Traffickers also exploit these women through physical or sexual abuse.
  3. Ashraf Rifi, who served as minister of justice between 2014 and 2016, and ISF director-general from 2005 to 2013, commented that Lebanon needs to change how it combats human trafficking. Rifi went on to mention how there is corruption at high levels and even corruption within the ISF. In 2018, authorities arrested Johnny Haddad, the head of an ISF department, on charges of corruption involving prostitution networks. The organization’s ethics committee placed him under investigation. If anti-trafficking organizations’ leaders experience compromise, fighting traffickers becomes even more difficult than it was before.
  4. For trafficking victims in Lebanon, the courts frequently show no remorse. After studying 34 different trafficking cases, lawyer Ghida Frangieh concluded a double standard in the judge’s treatment concerning prostitution and begging. Forced begging cases nearly always received the label of being a trafficking case, while in the case of prostitution, the judge would frequently find there was some level of consent. The problem here is that the U.N. Convention on Human Trafficking stated that consent is irrelevant in trafficking cases because traffickers could beat or kill victims if they do not consent.

Even though Lebanon struggles with human trafficking, it is making progress in combatting these human traffickers. Lebanon has focused on improving its identification of trafficking victims and bringing shadowy trafficking networks into the light.

How Lebanon is Fighting Against Human Trafficking

  1. In 2016, Lebanon shut down Chez Maurice, the largest human trafficking network in the country. Chez Maurice held more than 75 Syrian women in a house with blacked-out windows, only allowed to leave to have abortions or receive treatment for venereal disease. The organization lured the Syrian refugees by offering them jobs, such as restaurant work, and then imprisoned them. While there, the captors sexually and psychologically abused the women. After discovering the human trafficking network, authorities took those responsible into custody, and they are currently awaiting trial.
  2. Lebanon’s government has yet to completely satisfy the minimum requirements for human trafficking’s eradication, but it is making significant strides to change that. The government increased investigations into trafficking cases and improved its ability to identify trafficking victims. For example, in 2016, the ISF only investigated 20 human trafficking cases, while in 2018, it investigated 45 cases. This change may show an improvement in identifying trafficking victims. Lebanon’s government has improved its relationships with NGOs such as Legal Agenda or Kafa, leading to more effective cooperation with screening possible victims in government-controlled migrant detention facilities.
  3. The government has done great work investigating potential human trafficking cases, but it still has room for improvement. The GDS reported 124 of 167 cases, which ended with a referral to authorities for investigation, giving back pay to workers and repatriation for migrant workers. The MOJ reported prosecutor referred about 38 cases to judges for further analysis leading to 69 alleged traffickers’ prosecutions involving different types of human trafficking. Since numerous cases have overloaded Lebanon’s judicial system, it took time to resolve these cases, but the system settled them, nonetheless.

Lebanon is steadily improving in its fight against human trafficking. Human trafficking in Lebanon is still happening, but its people continue to work towards eradicating it.

– Solomon Simpson
Photo: Flickr

The Khaled Hosseini Foundation
The Khaled Hosseini Foundation was formed in 2007 after Hosseini traveled Afghanistan with the U.N. Refugee Agency. He noticed the desperate need for intervention in the impoverished villages, as many of these families were barely surviving on $1 a day. After being exposed to these vulnerable populations of women, children and refugees, Hosseini started the foundation to provide these people with the basic resources needed to survive.

The Foundation’s Goals

The Khaled Hosseini Foundation operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works tirelessly to help the people of Afghanistan. Specifically, the foundation focuses on providing the following services:

  • Humanitarian aid and shelter to poverty-stricken families
  • Economic opportunities for women
  • Healthcare and education for children

Supporting Nonprofit Work

In the past few years, an abundance of work has been done through the foundation. A primary method of their work centers around their Omid Grants. Reviewed on an annual basis, The Khaled Hosseini Foundation gives out grants to nonprofits providing humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. The number of grantees continues to grow, but some of the most notable organizations funded by The Khaled Hosseini Foundation include:

  • U.S. Fund for UNICEF: The “Let Us Learn” program targets five impoverished countries, including Afghanistan, and works to educate children in remote areas who face either social or educational exclusion. In Afghanistan, the “Let Us Learn” program helps Afghani girls complete their secondary education through an accelerated program.
  • UNHCR: Afghanistan possesses the largest refugee population in Asia and the second largest in the world. In response, the UNHCR works to provide core relief items and emergency shelter assistance, as well as protect internally displaced people. The Khaled Hosseini Foundation has donated more than $1 million to UNHCR and provided homes to more than 3,200 families through this organization.
  • Afghan Connection: Founded in 2002, Afghan Connection works to bring educational and sports opportunities to children, especially girls, in Afghanistan. Afghan Connection has created 46 new schools that have served more than 75,000 children. The Khaled Hosseini Foundation heavily supports its Community Based Education Program based in the Takhar Province in Afghanistan.

Raising Fundings With Literature

As an author, Hosseini uses the funds raised from the sale of his books to support humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. The proceeds from Hosseini’s latest book “Sea Prayer” are being given to the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, as well as the UNHCR and the U.N. Refugee Agency.

“Sea Prayer” was published in September 2018, which marked the 3 year anniversary of the death of Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian refugee. The content of this novel reflects the cause behind the fundraising initiative; “Sea Prayer,” written in the form of a letter, tells the story of a father and son who are fleeing war-torn Syria in hopes of finding a better life.

On the need to support refugees in Afghanistan, Hosseini stated, “We all have an individual duty to let our friends, our families, our communities, our governments know we support refugees, that we want to see the expansion of safe, legal pathways for those in need of international protection, and when, if they should reach our own doorstep in search of safety and sanctuary that we welcome them. We can show solidarity #WithRefugees in so many different ways. Please take action today.”

Moving Forward

Khaled Hosseini, known for his riveting written works, has been working tirelessly to help vulnerable populations in Afghanistan. The Khaled Hosseini Foundation is the most principal example of this effort, fighting for women, children and refugees. Moving forward, it is essential that efforts by the foundation and other related organizations continue in order to help bring these groups out of poverty.

Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 In Ecuador
Since early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Ecuador has exemplified how important testing is for regulating the number of coronavirus deaths. Ecuador is a small country on the western coast of South America. It is a country that was already struggling with an uncertain economy. Its greatest generator of wealth is crude oil exportation, which underwent severe damage when oil prices drastically fell at the beginning of the pandemic. Ecuador has continued to produce low numbers in terms of virus cases per capita. However, the huge rise in deaths recently is an alarming sign that the test numbers provided are not capturing the whole picture of COVID-19 in Ecuador.

Numbers vs. Reality

Ecuador has reported a total of 130,000 COVID-19 cases since February 2020. Doctor and public health specialist Esteban Ortiz estimates that the actual number is around 2.1 million. This estimate comes in part from the number of deaths being much higher than it should be for the given numbers of cases. Part of the issue is that the country is lacking the infrastructure necessary to handle the pandemic. Since Ecuador was already struggling financially, the government was not able to properly staff and equip hospitals. This meant that it was not able to provide enough outreach and testing locations.

The lack of testing also meant that Ecuador was not able to keep up with the number of deaths occurring. This resulted from its inability to accurately predict what would happen. Between March and mid-April 2020, the Guayas province, where Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil is located, reported around 14,500 deaths. The average number of monthly deaths in this province was 2,000. The health system became overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the rise in deaths coming from an unknown number of cases. The number became so overwhelming that estimates determined that the actual death toll is 15 times higher than the official number of COVID-19 deaths the government reported.

Tracking the Effects of the Virus

One can also track the impact of COVID-19 in Ecuador by looking at unemployment. By June 2020, unemployment reached 13.3%, drastically higher than 3.8% where it was just six months earlier. Statistics also found that around 67% of workers were underemployed during this time. Additionally, extreme poverty in Ecuador nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020. These economic pressures brought great stress upon the country. It was clear that the economy and the people were struggling monetarily. Reopening the country also seemed to be a massive risk, however, due to the unknown number of cases.

Another factor is the large population of refugees in Ecuador. Ecuador has one of the highest South American refugee populations at around 70,000 and close to 385,000 asylum seekers. These people have entitlement to government medical assistance but do not always receive the aid in practice. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR is working to detect COVID-19 in these communities and provide services. UNHCR has also worked to train and equip six other community organizations around Ecuador to work at a more local level. These groups work through phone hotlines and home visits to identify cases and notify the community in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in these at-risk communities.

Ecuador in Recovery

In recent weeks, Ecuador has begun to regain control as the number of deaths has dropped off. The government has received money from private donors and other governments to bolster its medical system by better funding and equipping its hospitals. As Ecuador begins to build back, it is worth noting how a country with an already unstable economy and an ill-equipped medical system can experience devastation in a short period of time by the virus. It seems that the worst is over for COVID-19 in Ecuador, but its story serves as a warning of the possible dangers of pandemics in developing countries.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

Improving Conditions for Refugees in the Central African RepublicRefugees are beginning to return home to the Central African Republic after years of religious internal conflict. Around 600,000 people have been displaced internally and another 600,000 displaced internationally since the start of the conflict. Now, about 2.6 million people that once resided peacefully in the CAR are reliant on humanitarian assistance. The U.N. has been heavily involved in peacekeeping missions and is beginning the process of transferring the Central African Republic refugees back to home soil.

Political Progress in the CAR

The Central African Republic’s politics are one way that citizens will regain their freedom within the country. The U.N. Security Council is interacting with the CAR government to get humanitarian war crimes accounted for and penalized. The war has led to numerous human rights violations and international forums have condemned the actions. Other political progress is being made to elect leaders based on a democratic method. The proposed elections are seen as a method of peacefully negotiating between political differences without force. This holistic method of finding peace incurs that the problem be examined from all angles and solutions will be diverse.

Refugees’ Experience and Local Aid

Since the CAR is land-locked, refugees have scattered in camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Chad, Cameroon and Sudan. The journey for many leaving the territory of the CAR was extreme. Many refugees walked for weeks, hid in forests and were plagued with malnutrition. The resilience of the refugees is coming to fruition in the current transition to peace. Much progress is being made on the ground in the CAR that would create more stability in the government and society.

The problems faced by the displaced are numerous but also change from one area to the next. Much is being done to ease their basic needs, as the area is veiled in violence. The United Nations has adapted to local aid initiatives that provide effective assistance. Additionally, the U.N. has contributed $14.3 million to “help support local aid agencies deliver clean water, education, healthcare, livelihoods support, nutrition, protection and shelter.” Each of these assists makes the return of refugees more possible and more likely.

Humanitarian Aid

One institution committed to helping the Central African Republic refugees is UNICEF. The major ways the organization has contributed to the cause has to do with basic needs being met. For children, the organization is delivering Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food that fights malnutrition and providing immunizations against diseases. Additionally, UNICEF is providing clean water, setting up temporary shelters, training teachers and encouraging education in camps and opening accessible sanitization stations. These major provisions are invaluable and majorly supporting the needs of refugees.

Another high priority for UNICEF is the resettlement of refugees within the country. The Central African Republic refugees, either internally or externally displaced, have begun rebuilding their lives. In 2019, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) propelled a $430 million campaign to assist displaced refugees of the Central African Republic. Although funding and donations have not fulfilled this expensive plan, the campaign has certainly made headway. The coordination of funds is extremely beneficial in restructuring the country and enforcing the progress made in the developing peace agreements.

Major strides in assistance, both political and humanitarian, are making peace possible in the Central African Republic. The basic relief provided by both UNICEF and UNHCR is stabilizing the situation for refugees worldwide. As displaced groups transition back to their homes, currently and in the future, the assistance will be instrumental in securing a steady return.

– Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr 

Turkey’s Foreign Aid
By contributing more than a quarter of the entire world’s humanitarian aid, Turkey became the leading country in providing aid to those in need in 2019. Needless to say, its strength in foreign aid is with humanitarian assistance. With combined efforts of government organizations, nonprofits and private donors, Turkey’s foreign aid comes through giving homes to refugees, aiding during natural disasters and providing relief for struggling countries.

Giving Homes to Refugees

Turkey is currently leading the world in hosting refugees. As of 2020, there are about 4.1 million refugees residing in Turkey. In addition to giving them homes, Turkey also has legislation to keep the foreigners and asylum seekers protected. The Regulation of Temporary Protection (RTP) allows those who are fleeing to Turkey to stay under its protection by making sure they do not have to return to the countries they fled. The Law on Foreigners and International Protection (LFIP) ensures the implementation of the RTP within and around Turkey’s borders.

UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) is working with the government and other organizations, like UNICEF and Global Compact for Refugees, to make sure that the refugees receive proper aid once they are in Turkey’s borders. Living in refugee camps that the country provides, children obtain access to education either in Turkish public schools or temporary education centers. UNHCR encourages social cohesion between the refugees and local community members while monitoring tensions and issues. There are also efforts towards encouraging refugees to begin to rely on themselves and assisting some refugees towards resettlement.

Out of the 4.1 million refugees, about 3.7 million are Syrian. Syria has been in a civil war since 2011 and as a neighboring country, Turkey has been hosting its refugees since 2014.

The rest of the 400,000 refugees are all from different parts of the mostly Middle East but also Africa as well. Around 46% of the 400,000 are from Afghanistan, 39% from Iraq, 11% from Iran and a little less than 2% are from Somalia. The rest of them are other nationalities.

Aiding Countries During Natural Disasters

In addition to taking in refugees, Turkey is very active in its response to natural disasters by sending money or on-site relief. Since the early 2000s, it has conducted emergency foreign aid operations for a number of notable tragedies including:

  • Sending search and rescue teams as well as baby food, food and body bags to the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.
  • Providing $2 million in aid including medical units, first aid items, tents, blankets, clothes, food and body bags to the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
  • Donating $5 million and sending cargo planes with food packages, blankets, sleeping bags and beds to Pakistan for its floods in 2010.
  • Responding the fastest to the typhoons in the Philippines in 2014 by sending a rescue team and around 90 tons of aid including blankets, tents and kitchen equipment.
  • Sending food, clothes and cleaning products including blankets, diapers, sandbags and hygiene supplies to the Balkan floods in 2014.
  • Dispatching a search and rescue team and a medical aid team, and providing 1,000 blankets and 300 parcels of food to the victims of the Nepal earthquake in 2015.
  • Evacuating 1,000 people and sending food and clothes to the 2016 floods in Macedonia.

Helping Struggling Countries

 The last (and possibly the most important) is Turkey’s foreign aid to struggling and underdeveloped countries. Yemen, which is experiencing the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” due to war and famine, has been continuously receiving foreign aid from Turkey. Turkey has two operational offices in Yemen: one in Sana’a and one in Aden. Out of the $7.6 billion that Turkey donated in 2019, almost $5 billion went to Yemen. The offices and funds went toward providing the locals with food and water, preventing diseases like cholera and collecting garbage.

Meanwhile, Turkey provided $2.3 billion to Syrians in Syria during 2019. This aid not only involved helping refugees but also went toward other “diversified humanitarian operations,” according to a conference report of Turkey’s Humanitarian Role. Turkey has worked to relieve the suffering of those still living in Syria near war and siege. For example, in 2016, it was the first to enter Aleppo and assist in the evacuation of its citizens.

In addition, Turkey has been a huge donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has helped those who are struggling in Gaza, Palestine. Turkey has also directly assisted Palestinians by donating $1 billion in 2017 towards community and development projects, specifically building a hospital (in Gaza) and a number of education centers. Recently, a hospital opened that has been assisting those affected by COVID-19. Other notable countries that Turkey has aided in the past and/or continues to aid include Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia and Georgia.

Turkey: A Model and an Inspiration

Turkey’s demonstration of continuous generosity serves as a leading model for other countries to utilize great amounts of foreign aid in assisting the world’s poor. By combining efforts of government and nonprofits, Turkey has shown that its methods are useful and effective, ones that may serve as a template for others who wish to follow in its footsteps.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Human Trafficking in Venezuela
As the political, economic and social unrest continues in Venezuela, an increase in awareness and response to human trafficking is more urgent than ever. Human trafficking is a crime that exploits someone for labor, slavery, servitude or sex. Some of the causes of human trafficking (relentless poverty, high unemployment rates, violence, civil turmoil and a lack of human rates) are motivating 6.5 million Venezuelans to flee their country. About 94% of Venezuelans live in poverty, with an estimated 300% increase in human trafficking between 2014 and 2016. The former Venezuelan President, Maduro, administration prioritized maintaining power and carried out tenuous trafficking eradication attempts, including a lack of investigations, prosecutions and convictions. In response to the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis, organizations like UNICEF, UNFPA, UNHCR and IMO are contributing strong efforts to meet the needs of citizens, refugees and migrants and prevent human trafficking in Venezuela.

Inconsistencies in Human Trafficking Criminalization

From 2013 to 2019, the Maduro administration was responsible for managing economic adversity, increased crime rates and immense migration in an attempt to obviate human trafficking in Venezuela. The Maduro administration utilized Misiones (government social aid programs) as a deterrent to poverty and human trafficking in Venezuela. Misiones benefitted some communities by providing basic needs and education but became ineffective in 2014 due to its shifting political agenda, administrative instability and insufficient funding.

Venezuela has established human trafficking as a crime, but it still does not have an anti-trafficking law and policy. The Maduro administration demonstrated the intention to combat the development of human trafficking. However, Venezuelan law in 2019 only criminalized select forms of trafficking with insufficient penalties, prevention, reporting and protection of vulnerable groups. The human trafficking industry usually percolates between developing countries, making the rapid increase the only quantifiable data. Despite the challenge in obtaining evidence, eradicating human trafficking is most successful through prevention methods, the punishment of the perpetrator and adequate protection for the victim.

UNICEF and UNFPA

Venezuelan women and children are particularly vulnerable to the risk of being trafficked while migrating to neighboring South American countries. The urgency Venezuelan migrants feel to send money back to their families increases the risk for criminal gangs and guerrilla groups to force children into begging and women into sexual and labor exploitation.

On May 28, 2019, UNICEF and UNFPA signed an agreement heightening the humanitarian aid response to nearly 1 million children, pregnant women and mothers. This joined effort provides drinkable water, sexual and reproductive health services, high-quality birthing support, educational resources and information to increase safety for those who gender-based violence affects.

UNHCR

With an 8,000% increase in Venezuelans pursuing refugee status over the past six years, hundreds of thousands prevail without access to basic necessities. Without the authorization to stay in neighboring countries, arriving Venezuelans are highly susceptible to trafficking and desperately in need of documentation, shelter, nourishment and medical attention.

In December 2018, UNHCR collaborated with IOM and host countries to commence the Regional Response Plan for Refugees and Migrants which prioritizes 2.2 million Venezuelan migrant’s needs and improves overall assistance. UNHCR has increased protection along dangerous borders, provided basic resources for relief and ensured that refugees and migrants receive adequate information about advantageous opportunities.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM)

The 1 million Venezuelan children working in the informal labor sector and an estimated 200,000 children in servitude is likely to increase due to human trafficking in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government supported programming to improve conditions for working children and assist victims of human trafficking. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) imposed a campaign translated as “Your Life Challenges with fiscal support from the U.S. This campaign aims to protect Venezuelan children, women and men from traffickers during their transit. “Your Life Changes” is a song that conveys cautionary implications for travelers who are vulnerable to human trafficking. The campaign includes live demonstrations and the propagation of informative materials to increase awareness of forced labor and human trafficking in Venezuela.

The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF)

Colombia currently hosts 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants, making The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) a crucial development in the prevention of and support for youth victims of human trafficking. From March to June 2018, ICBF determined that there were 350 Venezuelan victims of child labor in Columbia. ICBF provides care, programs, assistance, shelter and evaluations for Venezuelan child trafficking victims. The Institute focuses on the prevention of human trafficking through its educational training and increased awareness strategies.

A Continued Response

The responses from International Conventions, government policies and agencies to aid Venezuelans have undoubtedly protected many from their dangerous reality. However, Venezuela has remained a Tier 3 country as the government is not doing enough to eradicate human trafficking. The inconsistencies in the Venezuelan criminalization of trafficking and anti-tracking laws have compromised the well-being and lives of far too many. The Venezuelan crisis has stripped citizens of their humanitarian rights, calling for continued, collective efforts to assist those in need.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Malaysian RefugeesAlthough the majority of Malaysian refugees reside in or near the country’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, thousands live outside this area and struggle to access urban centers for crucial services. As a result, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has opened its first outreach and community center outside Kuala Lumpur.

Refugees In Malaysia

Nearly 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with the UNHCR across Malaysia. Currently, refugee community groups estimate that tens of thousands more reside in the country undocumented. Rohingya Muslims make up the majority of Malaysia’s refugee population. Malaysia currently hosts the largest number of Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. Other refugee populations originate from countries such as Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

Rising Hostility

Although initially supportive of refugees and asylum seekers, Malaysia has become increasingly hostile towards these vulnerable populations. For example, the country is not a signatory to the 1953 UN Refugee Convention. This means it does not recognize the legal status of refugees and asylum seekers. Classified as illegal immigrants, refugees in Malaysia risk arrest, detention, and deportation. Xenophobia towards foreigners has risen in recent years. Many now view Rohingya refugees as a threat to the nation’s social, economic, and security systems.

Malaysia’s refugee populations are especially vulnerable to aggressive crackdowns on immigration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Malaysian authorities have increased immigration arrests in refugee and migrant neighborhoods and turned away nearly 30 boats of displaced Rohingyas since the virus began. Human rights groups warn that the virus could spread through the country’s overloaded immigration detention centers, and reduce the likelihood of refugees seeking coronavirus treatment. The Malaysian government’s COVID-19 relief package excludes refugees despite their need for food and essential services.

The Johor Outreach and Community Centre

As there are no refugee camps in Malaysia, most settle into urban areas of the greater Klang Valley Region including Kuala Lumpur. However, thousands of refugees live outside this region and struggle to access urban UNHCR centers. These refugees have to travel long distances just to access crucial services. UNHCR is working to make essential services accessible to refugee communities living outside Kuala Lumpur through the establishment of outreach and community care centers. The refugee agency has recently opened a model outreach center in Johor, a southern state near Kuala Lumpur, and plans to develop more centers across Malaysia in the coming years.

The Johor Outreach and Community Centre (JOCC) will make essential services accessible to over 16,000 refugees in Southern Malaysia. This will save these vulnerable communities over three and a half hours of travel time and excessive bus fare costs. Moreover, the outreach center is life-changing during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it will bring vital services to Johor’s refugee population while preventing the movement of people and gathering of crowds in urban areas.

The JOCC will be managed by Cahaya Surya Bakti (CSB), a partner of the UNHCR. Since 2013, the Malaysian-based NGO has provided community-based support to Johor’s refugee community. CSB works to ensure the education of refugee children in Johor and develop resilient communities through the establishment of schools, refugee empowerment programs, health services and outreach initiatives like food distributions. The JOCC will help CSB strengthen its existing community-led initiatives and provide a safe space for refugees throughout the state.

The Importance of UNHCR Documentation Services

Outreach and community centers provide critical UNHCR registration and renewal services to Malaysia’s refugee populations. Registering with the UNHCR provides refugees claims of asylum and identification as “Persons of Concern”. UNHCR cards demonstrate official identity and refugee status and are usually respected by Malaysian authorities, protecting refugees from illegal immigration arrests. In addition, UNHCR cards incentivize businesses to employ refugees in the informal economic sector and reduce the foreigner’s fare at public hospitals. Refugees are deemed illegal immigrants with no rights if their UNHCR card is not updated every five years. The JOCC will make UNHCR registration and renewal services more accessible and prevent card expirations from upheaving the lives of Johor’s refugee community. The center will also provide accurate, up to date information on refugee protection in Malaysia, as well as available services.

Looking Ahead

The JOCC is a symbol of hope for refugee populations outside Malaysia’s urban areas. Expanding UNHCR outreach and community centers across the country will give refugees greater access to documentation and essential services. Therefore, this is a vital step in enabling them to contribute to society and rebuild their lives.

Claire Brenner

Photo: Flickr