Press Releases

Two weeks into the Yemen blockade – Fuel, Food and Medicines Running Out

19 November 2017 

Two weeks since land, air and seaports in Yemen were closed, aid agencies are appalled by the complacency and indifference of the international community regarding the historic humanitarian disaster now unfolding.

Aid agencies are gravely concerned about a new outbreak of cholera and other water borne diseases. UNICEF warns that they only have 15 days’ left of diphtheria vaccines. They are due to receive a new shipment late November but still have not received clearance. If this vaccine is not brought in, one million children will be at risk of preventable diseases.

The fuel shortage in Yemen means clean water in the country is more and more scarce. Water networks are closing by the day as fuel for the pumps runs out and pipes run dry. The lack of water poses grave risks to young children most of all. Schools will become centres of disease rather than centres of knowledge.

With no fuel, hospitals are closing wards and struggling to operate intensive care units and surgical operation theatres. Refrigeration units for essential medicines are being turned off for periods of time to save fuel. Doctors, some of whom have not been paid for ten months, are asking INGOs and UN to share their small supplies of fuel to run their life-saving generators; INGOs are citing one month fuel supply only.

Agencies are starting to double the value of the cash distributions to the most vulnerable people. This will enable people to buy and stock food for the coming cold winter months before prices rise beyond their means. This means agencies will exhaust their funds allocated for next year. Additionally, aid agencies have grave concerns for wellbeing of people that are currently inaccessible.

The country’s stocks of wheat and sugar will not last for longer than three months if cargo vessels are not allowed to discharge in Hodeidah, the country’s only deep water seaport, in the next few days. Even if they are allowed, food distribution systems have been severely disrupted and may collapse within weeks. Moreover, having incurred so many additional costs and in a highly volatile environment, international traders may decide that importing to Yemen is too risky a proposition to continue.

The international community must break its shameful silence and use all possible means to lift the blockade on Yemen immediately. Hodeidah port, that serviced 80% of all imports, and Sana’a airport, needs to be reopened to let in urgently needed shipments of food, fuel, and medicines. Every day the blockade lasts means thousands of Yemenis will suffer from hunger and preventable diseases. Millions could die in a historic famine if the blockade continues indefinitely. This is not the time for carefully balanced statements. The choice is between resolution, or complicity in the suffering; there is no third option.

 

Daniel English

Oxfam Ireland

086 3544954 

Cabinet’s plan for refugee reunifications welcome but inclusive scheme needed

Proposals brought to cabinet today to make 530 places available to allow refugees to apply to be reunited with family members living in Ireland are a positive development. 
 
However, according to Oxfam Ireland, a system for family reunification which puts the rights of refugee families on a statutory footing and which expands the current definition of the family is urgently needed. 
 
Last week in Seanad Éireann the Family Reunification Bill passed Committee stage despite Government opposition, with cross-party support from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and Independents. The Bill seeks to undo the unintended consequences of the International Protection Act 2015 which narrowed the definition of the family for refugees to include only a spouse and children under 18. 
 
This has had a devastating impact on the lives of refugees settled in Ireland. It has separated children aged 18 and over from their parents, divided siblings and destroyed the bonds between grandparents and grandchildren. 
 
Under the 2015 Irish Refugee Protection Programme, Ireland committed to accept 4,000 refugees by the end of 2017. However, currently, less than half of this number have arrived. 
 
Oxfam Ireland said today; “We welcome the proposals by the Minster for Justice. Any development which enables refugees already settled in Ireland to be reunited with their family members is a positive one. There are too many people in Ireland who are currently separated from parents or older children. They long to be have them join them, to be able to provide for them and to live together in safety and dignity, but they haven’t even been able to apply to do this. 
 
The best way for the government to meet its international obligations and demonstrate Ireland’s commitment to those fleeing war and persecution is to drop its obstruction of the Family Reunification Bill. This legislation simply seeks to restore the definition of family which stood from 1996 – 2015, which is more in tune with an Irish understanding of the innate value of the family. Any discretionary scheme which enhances family reunion, but which restricts the numbers of people eligible and their countries of origin should be a complementary mechanism only. It does not duplicate or replace the provisions sought through the Family Reunification Bill. 
 
It is important to note that the bill is not pushing for anything radical or new. It is simply seeking a return to the family reunification system that operated in this country for the past 20 years, and the numbers of people granted reunification in Ireland are low – last year it was approximately 400.” 
 
The Bill was introduced by the Seanad Civil Engagement Group; Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan and John Dolan, who worked with Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council on the new legislation. 
 
Worldwide, 65 million people are on the move, trying to escape conflict, persecution and disaster. This is the highest number ever recorded in human history. 
 
ENDS
 

Family reunification bill advances through Seanad despite Government attempts to derail

8 November 2017
 
The Government today attempted to derail the passage of a bill aimed at enabling refugees living in Ireland to be reunited with family members. Following a vote, the bill passed committee stage in the Seanad despite the government voting against it.
 
However, although having majority backing from across the political spectrum, Minister David Stanton, speaking against the bill, indicated that Government are planning to block further progress when it reaches the Dáil via invoking a controversial, little-known technical power which denies a “money message”1 for the Bill.
 
The Family Reunification Bill seeks to undo the unintended consequences of the International Protection Act 2015 which narrowed the definition of the family for refugees to include only a spouse and children under 18. 
 
This has had a devastating impact on the lives of refugees settled in Ireland. It has separated children aged 18 and over from their parents, divided siblings and destroyed extended family networks. 
 
The Bill was introduced by the Seanad Civil Engagement Group; Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan and John Dolan, who worked with Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council on the new legislation. 
 
Senator Colette Kelleher said; 
“We were happy to win the vote in the Seanad today however the government’s stated intention to use an obscure technicality to block the Bill’s passage in the Dáil is a devastating blow to those refugees who have already been recognised and settled in Ireland. This Bill would make it more straightforward for siblings over 18 and other immediate family dependents to apply to join those already granted asylum in Ireland.
 
This legislation simply seeks to restore the definition of family which stood from 1996 - 2015 and one which is more in tune with an Irish understanding of a wider, more inclusive one.
 
I know of refugee families in Ireland who are separated from their parents or older children. They long to have them join them in Ireland but haven’t been allowed due to the existing legislation. Sadly, the government isn't listening and has decided to thwart our attempts to change this. We plan to continue to advocate on behalf of refugees and push to change the law to make it simpler for family members to join their loved ones.”
 
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said; 
“The small number of refugees settled in Ireland have often fled traumatic situations and endured distressing journeys to arrive here. Anyone starting a new life in a different country needs support and integration and the best way to do this is with your family beside you.
 
It is disappointing that rather than address this Bill on its merits, the government are planning to block its future progress via the controversial and rarely-used denial of a money message. This is not in the true spirit of democracy and could be seen as showing a disregard for the legislative process.
 
Ireland was co-chair the 2016 UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants and should be showing global leadership rather than indulging in evasions and excuses which damage people's lives. We urge the government to reconsider their position and face up to their moral responsibilities on family reunification."
 
ENDS
 
Daniel English 
Oxfam Ireland
086 3544954 
 
1. Money message: In order for Private Members’ Bills which are deemed by the Ceann Comhairle to involve a charge on the State to progress to committee stage in the Dáil, they need a ‘money message’ from the government. Historically, this mechanism has rarely been used. However, the denial of a money message has recently been used to block a number of opposition Bills from reaching Committee stage in the Dáil.
 

Latest Paradise Papers scandal reveal that “Ireland tied itself in knots hoping to retain Apple”

Minister Donohoe must support moves on tax haven “blacklisting” at tomorrow’s EU meeting

Responding to the latest Paradise Papers revelations which contain startling information about multi-national companies such as Nike and Glencore and which highlight Ireland’s relationship with Apple, Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland, CEO said;

“The latest leaks show the lengths to which major multi-nationals have gone to avoid tax. Tellingly, they claim that “Ireland tied itself in knots hoping to retain Apple”. This is unedifying, damages our international reputation and deprives governments of vast sums in tax revenue.

Tomorrow in Brussels, EU finance ministers will discuss setting up a blacklist of tax havens. Blacklisting is one measure which can be effective for tackling tax avoidance, so Minister Donohoe needs to express Ireland’s unequivocal support for the move."

Corporations such as Apple, Nike and Glencore spend millions lobbying governments to water down tax reforms. The 50 biggest US companies, including Apple, spent an estimated $352 million lobbying on tax issues in the country between 2009 and 2015 while receiving over $423 billion in tax breaks. For every $1 they spent lobbying on tax issues they received an estimated $1200 in tax breaks

Time for Irish Government to back tax transparency reforms

6 November 2017 
 
Ireland needs to get on board with proposed EU reforms which would tackle the type of scandalous activity revealed in the Paradise Papers, Oxfam Ireland has said today. 
 
Information released in the papers has shed new light on the role played by Irish banks that allowed some of the world’s most profitable corporations significantly reduce their tax bills. Further details of Ireland’s involvement are also scheduled to be released. 
Oxfam Ireland, CEO Jim Clarken said; “I wish I could say that I was surprised by the detail contained in the Paradise Papers and Ireland’s suggested involvement.  However, we’ve been here before with the Panama Papers and other leaks. Nevertheless, we can’t just shrug our shoulders and accept this as a part of international commerce.
 
Tangible options are now available to put a stop to this murky world where corporations and the super-rich cheat governments out of billions in revenue. 
 
Ireland now has the opportunity to show leadership by supporting EU proposals aimed at fighting this type of tax evasion. This is especially important considering that our own country’s tax arrangements have been implicated as facilitating some of these nefarious practices. So now is the opportune time for the Irish Government to show their support for these reforms.” 
 
Specifically, the Irish Government now needs to support:
 
Public Country by country reporting: This requires large multinational companies to disclose where they generate profits.  This means that companies would have to pay taxes in the country where the profits are made. Currently, they declare profits in offshore havens where in reality, the company has little or no activity and pay miniscule tax. 
 
Establish a “blacklist” of non-tax compliant countries: Compile a list of those nations which refuse to adhere to international tax rules. Listed countries should face stiff penalties. Currently Trinidad and Tobago is the only blacklisted country in the world which is not credible. 
 
Jim Clarken said; “At the core of these reforms is transparency. These is no legitimate reason for big corporations to hide their tax affairs. The only reason multi-national companies use these offshore funds is to allow them avoid paying their fair share of tax. Tax that could be used in Ireland and in poorer nations to help fund health, education and other social services. 
 
The Irish government must show commitment to playing its part in tackling this global scandal by supporting reform measures at EU level. In the past, the Irish Government claims that it fulfils international standards in tax transparency as set out by the OECD. However, under these transparency standards the tax information of multinational companies remains secret.  
 
These so-called ‘transparency measures’ haven’t prevented the abuses we are seeing in the Paradise Papers. It is obvious that public reporting is needed to end these abuses once and for all.
 
Government has said that tax avoidance is a problem best tackled at international level. Now is their opportunity to be part of this global response by dropping its opposition to these vital reforms.” 
 
Oxfam estimates that over $7 trillion of personal wealth is hidden in these offshore accounts. At least $100 billion of tax revenue is lost to developing countries alone every year. Even if half of this money was paid in taxes, the lives of 8 million women, children and babies would be saved. Ireland, the lack of tax revenue leads to essential services being cut or additional taxes imposed on ordinary citizens. 
 
ENDS
 

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Daniel English on +353 (0) 86 354 4954 / daniel.english@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on +44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

 

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