Press Releases

Oxfam prepares response to Beirut blast

Oxfam is working with local partners to assess how it can help those who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the Beirut explosion.

Oxfam is extremely concerned about the ability of communities in Beirut, and the rest of Lebanon, to recover from the latest crisis. Even before the blast, Lebanon was at breaking point, with people struggling to cope with multiple, complex crises of economic collapse and a global pandemic. The scale and magnitude of the disaster means hundreds of thousands of people now need immediate aid including food, shelter, water, fuel, protection, as well as support to rebuild their lives and livelihoods well into the future.

Bachir Ayoub, Oxfam Lebanon’s Policy Lead, said this ‘crisis on crises’ creates huge challenges for people in Lebanon for years to come:

“Lebanon was already struggling to cope. The economy has been in a tailspin, the local currency has lost approximately 80 percent of its value, and the last month has seen a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases with hospitals already under pressure.

“People whose homes have been damaged or completely destroyed will not be able to access their money to start to repair or rebuild, and essential items like wheat and medicine will soon be scarce, as the Port of Beirut, the major storage and supply point, has been obliterated. A massive effort will be required to recover.

“The devastation in Beirut is unimaginable, and the road to recovery will be long and hard. Like all of Beirut, Oxfam staff have been affected. Some have had homes completely destroyed, others have sustained injuries. Thankfully, all are safe. We stand in solidarity with all have been affected as we work together to rebuild.”

ENDS

CONTACT:

Spokespeople available on request. For interviews or more information, please contact:
Alice Dawson-Lyons | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

NOTES TO EDITORS
  • Oxfam has been working in Lebanon since 1993 providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people affected by conflict, and promoting economic development, good governance at a local and national level, and women’s rights through work with local partners. Oxfam also works with local partners to contribute to the protection and empowerment of marginalised women and men.
  • Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world: 1 out of every 4 people. In response to the Syria crisis, Oxfam has been providing water and sanitation, and emergency cash assistance for refugees and poor Lebanese, helping refugees with legal protection issues, and supporting small businesses and private-sector job creation. Oxfam is currently working in North Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, South Lebanon, and in Palestinian camps and gatherings.
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Ireland must address large-scale corporate tax avoidance despite Apple ruling

Oxfam media reaction

Wednesday 15th July 2020

Today, Oxfam Ireland called on the Irish Government to urgently address continued and extreme corporate tax avoidance. Oxfam’s call is in response to the General Court of the European Union’s ruling this morning that the European Commission was incorrect in its decision that €13 billion in unpaid taxes by Apple constituted illegal state aid from the Irish government. The General Court ruling relates to an appeal by Apple and Ireland against a 2016 EU decision that required the US company to pay Ireland 13 billion euros in unpaid taxes.

Michael McCarthy Flynn, Oxfam Ireland’s Senior Policy and Research Coordinator said: “Despite this ruling there is no disputing the fact that Apple received significant tax reductions through tax rulings made by the Irish tax authorities.

“The Apple case highlights the extreme nature of corporate tax avoidance facilitated by Ireland, for which there is clear and growing evidence outside of the Apple case alone. A recent Oxfam review of the EU Tax Haven List showed that royalty payments sent out of Ireland amounted to more than are sent out of the rest of the EU combined, making Ireland the world’s number one royalties’ provider. High levels of these payments, far above normal economic activity, indicate that a jurisdiction is facilitating tax avoidance. In addition, the 2020 European Commission Semester Report on Ireland found that Ireland’s tax rules are used by companies ‘that engage in aggressive tax planning’.

“These repeated cases of tax avoidance point to the need for more fundamental tax reforms at EU and global level. These include a digital service tax, a minimum effective tax rate, effective measures against tax havens and new rules that require companies to disclose where they generate their profits and where they pay their taxes, for each country they operate in. This would give governments and civil society the ability to hold companies to account.

“In the wake of COVID-19 and the devastating economic fallout already being felt, governments must not continue to spurn the chance to raise vital revenue in corporate tax income for the benefit of their citizens. Corporate tax avoidance costs governments hundreds of billions of euros every year – money that could be used to deliver essential services, such as health and child care, which are even more critical in the wake of the global pandemic.

“The billions raised through corporate tax has the potential to benefit all citizens of Ireland at a time when need has never been greater, while clear and transparent tax systems would go someway towards restoring people’s frayed trust in a global tax system that favours large multinationals.”

ENDS

CONTACT:

For interviews or more information, contact:

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to editors:

  • The European Commission’s investigation into Apple’s tax deal with Ireland shows that, since the early 1990s, Apple has received significant tax reductions through tax rulings issued by the Irish tax authorities. According to the Commission, Apple’s subsidiaries in Ireland in some years paid as little as 0.005 percent of their annual profit in taxes. The Commission ruled in 2016 that Ireland had granted Apple an unfair advantage over other companies through its tax deals with two Apple subsidiaries, and it ordered Apple to pay 13 billion euro in so far unpaid taxes. Ireland and Apple challenged the decision in court.
  • According to the European Commission, tax rulings may involve state aid within the meaning of EU rules if they are used to provide selective advantages to a specific company or group of companies. Tax rulings are used in particular to confirm transfer pricing arrangements. Transfer pricing refers to the prices charged for commercial transactions between various parts of the same group of companies, in particular prices set for goods sold or services provided by one subsidiary of a corporate group to another subsidiary of the same group. Transfer pricing influences the allocation of taxable profit between subsidiaries of a group located in different countries.
  • Today (Wednesday 15 July 2020) the EU plans to launch a Action Plan for fair and simple taxation to support Europe’s strategy for the coronavirus recovery, a communication on tax good governance in the EU and beyond, and a proposal to revise EU rules on automatic exchange of tax information.
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12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to Covid-19 by end of year, potentially more than the disease, warns Oxfam Ireland

“Poverty is another disease, it is as dangerous as this virus”

Millions of people in hunger on a planet that produces more than enough food for everyone

As many as 12,000 people could die per day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to COVID-19, potentially more than will die from the disease itself, warned Oxfam in a new briefing published today. The global observed daily mortality rate for COVID-19 reached its highest recorded point in April 2020 at just over 10,000 deaths per day.

‘The Hunger Virus,’ reveals how 121 million more people could be pushed to the brink of starvation this year as a result of the social and economic fallout from the pandemic including through mass unemployment, disruption to food production and supplies, and declining aid.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “COVID-19 is the last straw for millions of people already struggling with the impacts of conflict, an escalating climate crisis, extreme inequality and a broken food system that has impoverished millions of food producers and workers. Meanwhile, those at the top are continuing to make a profit: eight of the biggest food and drink companies paid out over $18 billion to shareholders since January even as the pandemic was spreading across the globe - ten times more than the UN says is needed to stop people going hungry.”  

“We need to look at why so many people are going hungry and why so many more are at-risk of hunger. This report shines a light on a food system that has trapped millions of people in hunger on a planet that produces more than enough food for everyone.”

The Oxfam briefing reveals the world’s ten worst hunger hotspots, places such as Afghanistan, Venezuela and Yemen where the food crisis is most severe and getting worse as a result of the pandemic. It also highlights emerging epicentres of hunger – middle-income countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil – where millions of people who were barely managing have been tipped over the edge by the pandemic.

Clarken continued: “Hunger can also be a weapon of war, as warring parties destroy markets and warehouses, suspend food imports and cut transportation links to gain power. Countries like this are particularly vulnerable and these issues are exacerbated by depleted funding and humanitarian aid as a result of the pandemic.”

An Afghani woman told Oxfam: “Poverty is another disease, it is as dangerous as this virus and if people continue staying home this way, a lot of families could die because of hunger.”

Women, and women-headed households, are more likely to go hungry despite the crucial role they play as food producers and workers. Women are already vulnerable because of systemic discrimination that sees them earn less and own fewer assets than men. They make up a large proportion of groups, such as informal workers, that have been hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic, and have also borne the brunt of a dramatic increase in unpaid care work as a result of school closures and family illness. 

Clarken concluded: “Governments must contain the spread of this deadly disease but it is equally vital they take action to stop the pandemic killing as many – if not more – people from hunger.

“Governments can save lives now by fully funding the UN’s COVID-19 appeal, making sure aid gets to those who need it most, cancelling the debts of developing countries to free up funding for social protection and healthcare, and supporting the UN’s call for a global ceasefire. To end this hunger crisis, governments must also build fairer, more robust, and more sustainable food systems, that put the interests of food producers and workers before the profits of big food and agribusiness.”

Ends

Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to editor

  • The Hunger Virus: How the coronavirus is fuelling hunger in a hungry world is available here.
  • Stories, pictures, and video highlighting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on hunger across the globe are available on request.
  • Spokespeople are available for interview.
  • The ten extreme hunger hotspots are: Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Venezuela, the West African Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Haiti.
  • Action needed: Provide emergency assistance to save lives now; Build fairer, more resilient and more sustainable food systems; Promote women’s participation and leadership; Cancel debts to allow developing countries to scale-up social protection; Support the UN’s call for a global ceasefire; Take urgent action to tackle the climate crisis.

EXTREME HUNGER HOTSPOTS – Spotlight Yemen

Ravaged by more than five years of war, Yemen has the worst humanitarian and food security crisis worldwide. Two-thirds of the population – 20 million people – are hungry, and nearly 1.5 million families currently rely on food aid to survive. Within this bleak picture, women and children are the worst affected, with 1.4 million pregnant or breastfeeding women and over two million children suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition.

The ongoing conflict has decimated the country’s infrastructure, restricted food imports, led to mass unemployment and meant that health workers have not been paid since the start of the war. Meanwhile, locust swarms that have gone unchecked because of the war are adding to the problem and fuelling hunger in the country.

As of late June, Yemen had reported over 900 COVID-19 infections and over 250 deaths. However, with only half of the health system functioning and limited capacity to test for the virus, these figures are likely to be grave underestimates.

The impact of the pandemic on food security in Yemen is clearer. The slump in economic activity in wealthy Gulf states, brought on by lockdowns and low oil prices, has caused up to an 80 percent drop in remittances to Yemen in the first four months of 2020. The impact this decrease has had on poverty and food security is significant, as last year, remittances brought $3.8bn into Yemen, which equated to 13 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The closure of borders and supply routes in response to the pandemic has also severely disrupted supply chains in a country that imports 90 percent of its food. This has led to food shortages and price increases, especially for wheat flour and sugar. Food imports were down 43 percent in March and 39 percent in April compared with the same months in 2019.

Continued fighting, despite the UN calling for a global ceasefire, has also hampered humanitarian access, with aid reaching only 13.5 million people in early 2020, compared with 15.2 million in 2019. As well as this, humanitarian aid, already in decline before the crisis, is severely stretched. The USA cut $73m of its aid to Yemen in March 2020, and a donor pledging conference held in June raised only $1.35bn to support the country’s COVID-19 response, well below the target of $2.4bn.

Oxfam is rehabilitating the water supply to one of the main hospitals in Aden, providing cash assistance to families affected by flooding in the south of the country, and training community health volunteers to provide information about COVID-19 and the importance of hygiene and hand washing.

  • The WFP estimates that the number of people in crisis level hunger − defined as IPC level 3 or above – will increase by approximately 121 million this year as a result of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. The estimated daily mortality rate for IPC level 3 and above is 0.5−1 per 10,000 people, equating to 6,050−12,100 deaths per day due to hunger as a result of the pandemic before the end of 2020. The global observed daily mortality rate for COVID-19 reached its highest recorded point in April 2020 at just over 10,000 deaths per day and has ranged from approximately 5,000 to 7,000 deaths per day in the months since then according to data from John Hopkins University. While there can be no certainty about future projections, if there is no significant departure from these observed trends during the rest of the year, and if the WFP estimates for increasing numbers of people experiencing crisis level hunger hold, then it is likely that daily deaths from hunger as a result of the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic will be higher than those from the disease before the end of 2020. It is important to note that there is some overlap between these numbers given that some deaths due to COVID-19 could be linked to malnutrition.
  • Oxfam gathered information on dividend payments of eight of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies up to the beginning of July 2020, using a mixture of company, NASDAQ, and Bloomberg websites. Numbers are rounded to the nearest million: Coca-Cola ($3,522m), Danone ($1,348m), General Mills ($594m), Kellogg ($391m),  Mondelez ($408m), Nestlé ($8,248m for entire year), PepsiCo ($2,749m) and Unilever (estimated $1,180m). Many of these companies are pursuing efforts to address COVID-19 and/or global hunger.
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Your local Oxfam shop needs you: All-island call for volunteers

  • Are charity shops your thing? Then why not volunteer in your local Oxfam Ireland shop!

  • Oxfam Shops Across the Island of Ireland seek volunteers


Oxfam Ireland have launched an all island call for volunteers to help their network of shops “bounce back” after the COVID-19 lockdown, which resulted in them closing their doors for the first time in over 60 years.

Trevor Anderson, Director of Trading with Oxfam Ireland said: “Our teams are thankfully back doing what they do best and our shops are now open after months of closure. Sadly, not all of our volunteers are in a position to return to the shops at the moment, this, coupled with the incredibly generous volume of donations dropped off to shops already, means we are currently in desperate need of people power.

“I would encourage anyone interested in lending some time to pop into their local Oxfam shop and let the manager know - people can give as little or as much time as they like. Oxfam shops are a hive of activity with lots of opportunities to meet new people, learn new skills, and of course, have plenty of fun along the way.

“Our volunteers are the backbone of our network of shops and by giving a little of their time and creativity, each person makes a huge difference in support of some of the most at-risk communities in the world.

“It is because of the commitment and enthusiasm of our amazing volunteers that Oxfam can change lives and work toward building a fairer and more sustainable world for everyone.”

At the start of April, Oxfam shops, along with countless other businesses in Ireland, made the difficult decision to close – to protect staff, volunteers and customers – and to play its part in Ireland’s response to COVID-19.

Oxfam Ireland’s network of shops play a vital role in supporting their work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive as well as saving lives when disaster strikes. The loss of income during this period dealt a massive blow to the capacity of Oxfam and their global mission to beat poverty and fight inequality.

To find your nearest Oxfam Ireland shop visit: https://www.oxfamireland.org/shop/oxfam-shops

Ends

Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869


Notes to the Editor

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New asylum system in Greece designed to deport, not protect, warns Greek Council for Refugees and Oxfam

Oxfam Ireland call on Irish Government to honour commitment made on unaccompanied minors

A briefing paper released by the Greek Council of Refugees (GCR) and Oxfam today, reveals how the newly reformed Greek asylum system is designed to deport people rather than offer them safety and protection. The joint report, Diminished, Derogated, Denied, shows that people who have fled violence and persecution have little chance of a fair asylum procedure, and how the new reforms make it possible to expose people to abuse and exploitation – including the detention of particularly vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and people with disabilities.

Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam’s Europe Migration Campaign Manager, said: “Greece’s new law is a blatant attack on Europe’s humanitarian commitment to protect people fleeing conflict and persecution. The European Union is complicit in this abuse, because for years it has been using Greece as a test ground for new migration policies. We are extremely worried that the EU will now use Greece’s asylum system as a blueprint for Europe’s upcoming asylum reform.

“While Greece has a sovereign right to manage its borders, it must protect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. The EU and Greece have made a political choice to jeopardise the lives and futures of people it has a responsibility to protect.”

This situation is further aggravated by the inhumane living conditions in Greece’s refugee camps where people are now at risk of a devastating health crisis should COVID-19 hit. Moria camp, for example, is currently at six times its capacity and people have insufficient access to basic healthcare, clean toilets or handwashing facilities, while overcrowding makes social distancing - critical to prevent COVID-19 spreading - next to impossible.

Testimonies gathered by the Greek Council for Refugees expose the harrowing living conditions for people seeking asylum in Moria camp. Rawan*, from Afghanistan, came to Greece with her two children to seek safety in Europe. A single mother, and also a survivor of gender-based violence, Rawan was forced to live for six months in a tent, in the overspill area of the Moria camp, where basic facilities such as toilets are not always accessible.

Rawan, from Afghanistan said: “The situation in Moria was scary. During the pandemic, everybody was afraid that if the virus gets to us, then they will dig a mass grave to bury us. They only gave us two masks and soap. But how are we supposed to wash our hands without water? In the food line, it was so packed, we couldn’t keep a distance. We were not protected.”

The reformed asylum law effectively bars people who don’t have legal support from appealing a negative asylum decision. Deadlines have been shortened drastically and, in many cases, expire before people are even informed that their application for asylum was refused. People seeking asylum are only able to submit an appeal through a lawyer – but, on Lesbos, there is only one state-sponsored lawyer. The asylum system also makes it extremely difficult for people seeking asylum to have the authorities properly review the reasons why they have fled conflict or persecution in their home countries.

Spyros-Vlad Oikonomou, advocacy officer at GCR said: “When the Greek authorities refuse an asylum application, it does not necessarily mean people are not in need of international protection. It is often a consequence of the accelerated asylum procedure applied in the context of border procedures. Short deadlines increase the possibility of errors. In addition, people don’t have the time or a suitable environment that allows them to prepare for the asylum interview, in which they have to speak about the horrors from which they have fled.

“This puts people’s lives at risk.

“The Greek government must restore a fair asylum system, which fully respects human rights. The European Commission must review Greece’s asylum practices and assess their compliance with EU law.”

Oxfam and GCR call on the Greek government and the EU to immediately review the new Greek asylum law and give everyone seeking asylum in Greece access to a fair and effective asylum procedure. They also call on EU member states to honour the principle of solidarity underlying the very fabric of the EU, and share responsibility with Greece in protecting people fleeing persecution.

In March, Ireland joined a coalition of willing EU member states who agreed to take a portion of the 1,600 unaccompanied refugee children being held on the Greek Islands. Several countries have already relocated children to their respective states. Ireland, by fulfilling this commitment, can demonstrate an important first step to responsibility sharing and an immediate show of solidarity in these challenging and unprecedented times. The unaccompanied minors on the Greek Islands, children alone in the world, are in need of a safe place now more than ever.

Ends

Contact:

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to editors:

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

  • Spokespeople are available in Athens, Lesbos and Brussels for interview
  • Full report: Diminished, Derogated, Denied
  • The Greek government also illegally suspended asylum applications for the month of March.
  • While the authorities sometimes decide within days on the asylum requests of people who arrived in 2020, those who have arrived in 2019 have to wait for months or even years for their first interview to take place. During this period, most are not allowed to leave the inhuman EU-sponsored camps on the Greek islands.
  • The Greek authorities are required to offer legal support to people seeking asylum in the appeals stage. This is to ensure that any mistakes in the first instance can be corrected and people entitled to international protection are not returned to potentially dangerous places. However, state-funded lawyers is very limited and in 2019, only 33% of appeals benefited from the state-funded legal support scheme. The majority of people are directed to NGO-funded lawyers, but NGOs have limited capacity and the restricted movement in the camps also prevents people from easily finding a lawyer at an NGO.
  • The European Commission will soon release a new Migration and Asylum Pact, which will lay out the direction for the EU and member states to reform the EU asylum system and the bloc’s migration policies. The new Pact will most likely suggest to use more development aid to curb migration, and it risks perpetuating the humanitarian catastrophe that has been unfolding in Greece over the past years.
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