Press Releases

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Oxfam warns of a race against time, as famine declared in parts of South Sudan

20 Febuary 2017

As the UN and the government of South Sudan have today declared famine in parts of the war-torn country, Oxfam is warning that time is running out.

This is the UN’s first confirmation of famine anywhere in the world since 2011.

Unity State is the region most affected by severe food shortages – caused by ongoing conflict and economic turmoil – with more than 100,000 people facing starvation. Reports suggest that more than 40% of South Sudan is in urgent need of food, while more than a million people throughout the country could be on the brink of famine.

Oxfam has been working there for over 30 years and is currently distributing emergency food supplies; delivering clean water to prevent the spread of disease; and providing livelihoods support. In the past year alone, Oxfam has helped over 600,000 people across the country with food and water distributions, and assisted almost 40,000 of the most vulnerable in Panyijar county, Unity State.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken, who has lived and worked in the region, said: “This is a man-made tragedy, and we are running out of time to avoid it getting worse. 

“In over 30 years working in the affected areas, Oxfam has never witnessed such dire need. Vulnerable people, out of reach of life-saving assistance due to the conflict, are paying the ultimate price. People have been pushed to the brink of surviving on what they can find to eat in swamps. As so often in a crisis, women and children being the worst affected. We need an end to the fighting so that we can get food to those that urgently need it and provide them with support to rebuild their shattered lives”. 

“In 2011 after the famine that hit Somalia the world said never again. The declaration of famine in South Sudan reflects the collective failure to heed the countless warnings of an ever-worsening situation”. 

ENDS 

For further information or to arrange an interview: 

Phillip Graham – T: 00 44 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org 

NOTES TO THE EDITOR 

About South Sudan

Following decades of fighting, South Sudan formally became an independent state in July 2011. There was high expectation for growth and many believed they would not see another conflict in the country they fought so hard and so long for. Sadly, war erupted in Juba in mid-December 2013 and quickly transformed into a national, political and ethnic crisis. 

Since then, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced. Of these 830,000 have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The crisis has made it hard for people to plant crops, disrupted livelihoods and markets and forced host and displaced communities to share the little they do have, leaving one in three people severely food insecure.

Oxfam has been assisting populations in South Sudan since the 1980s providing food security and water, sanitation and hygiene assistance. 

Spokespeople 

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview now, both in the region and in Ireland:

Emma Jane Drew, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Programme Manager, based in Juba, South Sudan 

Oxfam Ireland Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne has visited Oxfam programmes in South Sudan numerous times and is available for interview in Dublin.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken, who lived and worked in the region, is available for interview in Dublin.

 
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Oxfam Ireland and GOAL explore merger

Tuesday 14th February, 2017

Oxfam Ireland is entering formal discussions with GOAL on a potential merger that, if successful, will see the organisations coming together under the name Oxfam GOAL to create a global development agency headquartered and rooted in Ireland, delivering a broad programme combining humanitarian and development work with evidence-based advocacy and campaigns.

The announcement follows approval from the boards of both organisations to explore the possibility of a merger which both parties believe could achieve stronger results, save more lives and support more people to lift themselves out of poverty.

GOAL and Oxfam Ireland believe a successful merger would result in greater impact for people in poverty and crisis and increase effectiveness. Coming together will increase the scale and scope of the organisations’ humanitarian and development programmes around the world and strengthen their voice as advocates for the communities they support.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “We are very excited by the prospect of a successful merger. GOAL’s action-oriented approach and first responder ethos is core to their DNA and has saved millions of lives. Oxfam’s approach of practical action and people-led response, challenging the structures and systems that keep people locked in poverty, has led to real change across the world. Bringing our organisations together will increase our scale, which means we can deliver greater impact for people in poverty and in crisis. We believe it will create new energy and dynamism through sharing programmatic, geographic and other synergies.”

Commenting on the proposed merger, GOAL General Manager, Celine Fitzgerald said: “In looking to its future, GOAL has assessed the merits of continuing as a standalone entity or achieving a step change in scale and impact in the delivery of humanitarian support and advocacy.  A merger with Oxfam would create a strong organisation in Ireland with a true global reach, saving and changing the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet for the better.  Accordingly, both parties have now engaged in a formal process to assess the practicalities and impacts of a merged entity.”

GOAL and Oxfam already share key areas of focus and work in many of the same countries.

Both organisations have long-standing operations in Ireland – Oxfam since the 1950s, while GOAL celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Following a successful merger, the new organisation will remain part of the global Oxfam confederation, which currently has 19 affiliates and works in over 90 countries.

Pending the outcome of formal discussions both organisations will continue to deliver their respective aid programmes whilst also assessing how to combine the best of both organisations to increase the overall reach and impact of resources and programmes. 

“As we begin a robust due diligence exercise and examine the possibility of a merger over the coming weeks, I’d like to assure our donors and supporters that we will continue with our life-saving and life-changing work as normal. Any partnership with GOAL will retain and respect both of our unique heritages to create a better organisation rooted in the Irish tradition of social justice,” Mr Clarken added.

ENDS

Contact:

Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Oxfam Ireland, +353 83 1975 107, sorcha.nicmhathuna@oxfamireland.org
David Williams, GOAL, +353 87 419 7140, dwilliams@goal.ie

Notes to editors:

About Oxfam: The global Oxfam confederation has 19 affiliate members and works in over 90 countries. Oxfam was founded in 1942 to campaign for food supplies to be sent through an allied naval blockade to starving people in Greece during the Second World War.

Present in Ireland since the 1950s, Oxfam Ireland is a secular organisation with offices in Dublin and Belfast and shops across the island, supported by over 2,000 volunteers and 136 staff.

As well as being a world leader in the delivery of emergency relief, Oxfam implements long-term development programmes in vulnerable communities. Oxfam also campaigns on global issues that keep people poor or hit poor people hardest, like inequality and discrimination against women and to demand better health and education services for all.

There are 19 member organisations of the Oxfam International confederation. They are based in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Quebec, South Africa, Spain and the United States.

About GOAL: GOAL is an international humanitarian agency dedicated to the alleviation of suffering amongst the poorest of the poor. It was founded in 1977.

GOAL has almost 3,000 staff working across 17 countries. In the year ending December 2015, GOAL’s total income exceeded €209m, while total expenditure was €201 million.

Since its inception, GOAL has sent almost 3,000 international staff to work in the developing world, alongside many thousands of local staff. It has spent in excess of €1 billion on the delivery of aid to the poor in more than 50 countries.

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EU leaders abandon core values in migration deal with Libya

Friday 3 February 2017 

Today EU leaders dealt a further blow to the rights of refugees and migrants by agreeing a deal that outsources migration to Libya, a country marred in conflict and which has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Prime Minister Theresa May were among the EU heads of state and government meeting in Malta today to discuss migration and other issues. 

The new agreement between Italy and Libya will see Italy and the EU take part in and finance migration control in Libya, including support for refugee and migrant reception centres in Libya, returns from Libya to countries of origin and border control.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “The primary aim of this deal is to prevent refugees and migrants reaching Europe with no regard for safeguarding their right to safety and dignity.

“EU leaders say they are committed to human rights and international law but Italy has struck a dodgy deal with Libya which undermines these principles. The fact that all EU governments have welcomed the Libya deal shows their hypocrisy, particularly because it makes no attempt to increase Libya’s commitments to people’s rights whilst shutting off the route to Europe.

“So-called ‘irregular migrants’ arriving in Italy have told Oxfam about the horrific abuses they faced in Libya, a place they call ‘hell’. The agreement with Libya deals a serious blow to core EU values and exposes desperate people to suffering and even death by forcing them to seek more dangerous routes to safety.”

ENDS

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Dublin: Alice Dawson on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Belfast: Phillip Graham on 028 9089 5959 / 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to editors:

  • Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews, including in Dublin, Belfast, Brussels and Washington
  • On Thursday, the Italian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Libya. It commits Italian and EU funding for migration management.
  •  In their Malta declaration, EU heads of state and government state “the EU welcomes and is ready to support Italy in its implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding”.
  • The memorandum does not include any obligations for Libya to increase its commitment to international law and human rights. It only refers to "international obligations and human rights agreements to which the two countries are parties". Libya is not even signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
  • The Italian commitment to provide support to regional authorities in Libya is only linked to the presence of irregular migrants, rather than being delivered based on the actual needs of people.
  • Security measures and support to border construction and control is linked to irregular migration, with no apparent safeguards for human rights.
  • Oxfam has laid out guiding principles for EU cooperation with Libya that puts the rights, the safety and the dignity of people at the forefront.
  • Oxfam is working with migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. Their testimonies are documented in the report ‘Hotspots – Rights denied’ (pages 31-34).
  • According to data from the Italian Ministry of Interior, 39% of people that arrived in Italy in 2016 were granted international protection. 
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Oxfam: EU-Libya migration plans shine a spotlight on EU leaders’ hypocrisy

  • EU member states must protect human rights in migration talks with Libya
  • Oxfam joins US lawsuit opposing President Trump’s ban on refugees and immigrants

Thursday 2 February, 2017

Oxfam has said that EU leaders denouncing US President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on refugees and immigrants highlights their own hypocrisy in the face of Europe’s flawed migration response.

At an informal EU meeting in Malta on Friday, February 3, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other EU heads of state and government will discuss closer cooperation with Libya on managing migration. 

The talks could see Libya receive aid in return for strengthened border control and surveillance to stem the flow of refugees and migrants coming to Europe. Oxfam described this as a deliberate outsourcing of migration control to a country mired in conflict where migrants are at great risk of abuse and even death. Such a move would mean EU leaders would again fail in their responsibility to uphold the rights of refugees and migrants.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive’s Jim Clarken said: “EU leaders cannot speak out against President Trump’s discriminatory and unjust Executive Order and then make a deal with Libya which also threatens the safety and dignity of refugees and migrants. 

“I have met young people who have experienced horrific abuses in Libya and are now living in safety in Oxfam-supported centres in Sicily. People who have managed to escape have told us about beatings, burnings, starvation and exploitation.

“In their haste, European leaders are throwing money at authorities in war-torn Libya without the necessary checks and balances. 

“A deal that aims to above all else stop migrants from entering Europe is dangerous and runs contrary to Europe’s core values – shutting down borders does not stop desperate people searching for safety but forces them to seek more dangerous and exploitative routes. EU member states must put the rights, safety and dignity of people at the forefront of any plans to cooperate more closely with Libya.”

As leaders meet on Friday to discuss how to manage migration from Libya and other African states, Oxfam is calling for EU heads of state and government to manage migration with full respect for human rights and concern for the safety of people. Governments must protect migrants, grant international protection to refugees and promote safe and regular channels for migration, it said. 

Oxfam is calling for an EU migration management plan that: 
• Delivers development aid for the sole purpose of poverty reduction. Under no circumstances should development aid be used to restrict mobility, as this may even work counter to the aim of reducing poverty. 
• Ensures cooperation on border control is contingent upon demonstrated respect for human rights, mobility principles, and the rights of asylum-seekers. 
• Includes credible monitoring schemes to ensure the implementation is in line with international law. If this is not possible, no deal should be agreed. 

Beyond Europe, Oxfam has joined the American Civil Liberties Union and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s executive order. The suit claims that the order violates federal law and calls on it to be declared unconstitutional. As a global organisation working in five of the countries - Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen - affected by Trump’s actions, as well as other conflict-affected countries, the order could jeopardise the charity’s ability to address some of the worst humanitarian crises around the globe.

In Ireland, Oxfam has urged the Government to step up its intake of refugees and help fill the void left by the recent actions of the US government. Oxfam is calling on leaders to increase the number of refugees resettled through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, including some of those now denied a safe haven in the US. 

Oxfam is also calling for increased opportunities for family reunification in Ireland and for the Government to expand the Syria Humanitarian Admissions Programme to allow those fleeing persecution from other war-torn states such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Central African Republic to be granted refuge here.

People can support Oxfam Ireland by joining their ‘Right to Refuge’ petition: https://www.oxfamireland.org/getinvolved/righttorefuge   

ENDS

For more information or interviews, please contact Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Notes to editors: 
• Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews, including in Dublin, Belfast, Brussels and Washington

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Oxfam calls on Irish Government to condemn US Executive Order barring refugees and immigrants

  • Urgent review of US pre-clearance system in Irish airports now required
  • Ireland cannot stay silent while door is slammed on thousands of vulnerable people

Monday January 30th, 2017

Oxfam Ireland has urged the Irish Government to make a public statement condemning the recent US Executive Order banning the entry of refugees and immigrants of certain nationalities and to call for it to be rescinded with immediate effect.

Oxfam said that following the Executive Order Ireland should conduct an urgent review of the US pre-clearance system available in Irish airports and suspend the pre-clearance agreement if it finds Irish or international human rights law is being violated, in line with the calls of leading Irish human rights lawyers.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “Ireland cannot stay silent while the door is slammed on thousands of vulnerable men, women and children being refused safety. Those impacted are among the world’s most vulnerable people, many of whom are simply trying to find a safe place to live after fleeing unimaginable violence and loss.”

Mr Clarken said Ireland should show leadership by publicly pledging to increase the number of refugees in the resettlement programme and play a role in filling the void left by the actions of the US government, ensuring that some of those denied access to the US find a safe haven in Ireland. 

Jim Clarken said: “Barriers to refugees entering Ireland also need to be addressed. So far just over 750 people have arrived in Ireland since the Irish Government pledged in 2015 to take in 4,000 refugees. The slow pace of response is unacceptable given the daily trauma faced by those fleeing war and conflict.”

Globally, Oxfam is calling for increased resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees, as well as for governments to offer expanded opportunities for family reunification and to allow safe passage through the use of humanitarian visas. Inside Europe, Oxfam is also calling on governments to develop a fairer and more effective asylum system and for conditions in countries hosting large numbers of people who have fled their homes to be improved, including through expanded opportunities for employment and education.

Oxfam Ireland’s recent ‘Right to Refuge’ campaign was supported by 34,000 across the island of Ireland, calling on political leaders to do more to help people on the move.

Jim Clarken added: “Thousands of people in Ireland and around the world already support the right of people forced to flee their homes to seek refuge. Political leaders must not stand by while refugees are left in limbo and vilified.”

ENDS

Contact: Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Communications Manager, Oxfam Ireland, +353 83 1975 107, sorcha.nicmhathuna@oxfamireland.org

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