Press Releases

New report links family separation to anxiety and depression in refugees in Ireland

Refugees living in Ireland who were forced to leave their family members behind experience depression and anxiety, often not knowing where their loved ones are or if they are safe, said the Irish Refugee Council, Nasc and Oxfam Ireland in a report launched today.

The report – “A family belongs together” – highlights how being separated from family impedes integration into Irish society, with refugees unable to concentrate on things like improving their language skills, education or securing employment while worrying about the safety and whereabouts of their spouse, children, parents, siblings or other dependents.

The report contains first-person testimonies from nine refugees now living in Ireland after fleeing conflict and persecution in Syria, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Sudan and West Africa.

One woman, forced to flee or face death, had to leave her children in the care of her best friend because she didn’t have enough money to take them with her. Upon arriving in Ireland without her family, she continued to suffer with depression and high blood pressure. She said: “I didn’t know where my children where, I was ill, I had depression, my blood pressure, I was always in hospital, I thought I was going to die, I didn’t know where my children where.”

The Irish Refugee Council, Nasc and Oxfam Ireland are calling on the Irish Government to amend the International Protection Act 2015 to expand the definition of family to include adults who are dependent on the family unit prior to flight, including, parents, siblings, in-laws and any other dependent relative.

They are joined by the Civil Engagement Group of Senators who, in July 2017, introduced The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 to the Seanad. The Bill received cross-party support, despite opposition from the government and will go through the Fourth Stage in the Seanad today. If it progresses, it presents a real opportunity to change the legislation in support of refugee families.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “These harrowing stories of people escaping unimaginable suffering only to be met with more upon reaching a safety that separates them from the people that matter most, underpins what we already know – it’s time to right the wrong of the International Protection Act 2015 and keep families forced to flee together. We couldn’t rebuild our lives and learn to call a foreign country home without our partner, parents, children and those that depend on us by our sides – and neither can they.”

Fiona Finn, CEO of Nasc, said: “We know from years of experience working with refugees, the anxiety, fear and guilt that can overwhelm them knowing they are safe while their loved ones are still in danger. We also know the joy and sense of wholeness families feel when they are reunited - life can begin again. The current family reunification provisions in the International Protection Act force people to make impossible, unimaginable choices between some family members and others. We can fix this by restoring the family reunification laws that have served both us and our refugee communities well for almost two decades.”

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said: “Family reunification is a critically important piece of providing refuge to people. We have seen the peace that comes when people who depend on each other are reunited in safety. This is often the only way refugees can truly integrate and begin to think about learning a new language, going to a new school or getting a job. We must ensure our family reunification laws make this a reality for all refugee families in Ireland.”

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Notes to the Editor:

- Download the full report – “A family belongs together”: Refugees’ experiences of family reunification in Ireland

- Drawing from the experience of those most affected by the policy, the Irish Refugee Council, Nasc and Oxfam Ireland are calling on the Irish government to act now and support family reunification by:

  • Amending the International Protection Act 2015 to expand the definition of family to include young adults who are dependent on the family unit prior to flight, parents, siblings, in-laws and any other dependent relative. At the very least, the Minister of Justice’s discretionary power to reunite dependants should be reinstated as per the 1996 Refugee Act.
  • Introducing legal aid for people seeking refugee family reunion through increased funding to the Legal Aid Board by the Department of Justice.
  • Waiving the income requirements for those who have received international protection who apply for family reunification through non-EEA general administration mechanisms.
  • Amending the International Protection Act 2015 to include a statutory right of appeal for family reunification applications which have been refused at first instance. At present, the only legal recourse open to unsuccessful family reunification applicants is judicial review.

- This report is based on nine semi-structured interviews with Irish-based refugees, all of whom have experienced family separation or family reunification. It is complemented by an interview with a resettlement worker who has practical experience with the Irish asylum system. The interviewees with international protection status come from a range of countries and are all over the age of 18. Once the interviews were completed, they were transcribed and analysed, with key themes identified. To ensure protection and privacy, identities have been anonymised. Interviewees are distinguished by an interview letter and their country or region of origin. The gender breakdown of the interviewees with international protection is seven men and two women.

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Oxfam Ireland will lead on delivering global safeguarding reforms

Oxfam Ireland will play a leadership role across the global organisation in delivering a comprehensive action plan to strengthen the confederation’s safeguarding systems and enforce a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

An urgent, independent review of Oxfam’s culture and practices led by leading women’s rights experts was announced today. It was confirmed yesterday by directors across the international confederation, including Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken and Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. 

The immediate measures include: 

  • A new independent High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change, comprised of leading women’s rights experts, which will be able to access Oxfam records and interview staff, partners and communities it supports around the world. 
  • The immediate creation of a new global database of accredited referees – designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff. Oxfam will not be issuing any references until this is in place.
  • An immediate injection of additional money and resources into Oxfam’s safeguarding processes.
  • A commitment to build on the ongoing work to improve the culture within Oxfam to ensure that no one faces sexism, discrimination or abuse, that everyone, especially women, feel safe to speak out, and everyone is clear on what behaviour is acceptable or not.
  • Oxfam is also committing to publish its 2011 internal investigation into staff involved in sexual and other misconduct in Haiti as soon as possible, after taking steps necessary to prevent witnesses being identified. The names of the men involved have already been shared with the authorities in Haiti.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “Today’s announcement of an external, independent and confederation-wide review underpins our shared commitment to enforce a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct. 

“I am committed to playing a leadership role in facilitating this comprehensive action plan to root out any form of abuse. At home and overseas, we will not stand for any kind of harassment of staff, partners, volunteers or those we serve and we are doubling the number of people who work on safeguarding to make sure we are living up to our responsibility to protect them. 

“I feel great responsibility in the trust our supporters across the island of Ireland put in us and am dedicated to rebuilding any trust lost. This review marks the beginning of change for Oxfam as an international organisation – Oxfam Ireland is 100% committed to playing our part and to working with others in government and across the sector to implement urgent reforms that enable us to do more and do better for the world’s poorest.”

The independent High-Level Commission will shape its own approach and its membership will be announced within a few days. Oxfam will provide the resources it needs to do its job effectively, across the confederation, including full access to records, staff as well as partners and communities supported by the organisation. As part of the Commission's work, it will create an historical record about cases of sexual misconduct and abuse of power that is as complete as possible, which will be made publicly available. 

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Notes to Editor: 

  • Oxfam Ireland’s all-island polices to protect and support staff and volunteers include: 
  1. Safeguarding policy
  2. Anti-bullying and Harassment
  3. Disclosure of Malpractice in the Workplace/Whistle-blowing Policy
  4. Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Policy
  5. We also have robust recruitment processes which involve vetting, reference checks, probationary periods and adherence to Oxfam’s codes of practice and conduct, as required by the role. 
  • No staff employed by Oxfam Ireland were involved in the case in Haiti.
  • The case in Haiti did not involve the misuse of public funds. All of the money raised by Oxfam Ireland supporters was spent as planned on the response to the earthquake of 2010.
 
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Oxfam Ireland statement on safeguarding

We completely condemn any form of abuse against the people we work to protect and support. We have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct and will not stand for any kind of harassment of staff, partners, volunteers or those we serve.

The behaviour of some staff employed by Oxfam Great Britain in Haiti in 2011 and Chad in 2006 was totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff. 

It is our absolute priority to ensure that our staff and volunteers in our offices, shops and overseas programmes are safe and valued in their workplace.

We have several safeguarding policies in operation to prevent harassment and abuse, including a prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse policy. Staff are encouraged to raise any concerns they may have without reprisal and we have a robust whistleblowing policy in place.

We have recently completed consultation with Volunteer Now as part of the development and implementation of a robust Safeguarding Policy to include both children/young people and Adults at Risk. This is designed to support and protect both staff and volunteers.  It includes training for designated safeguarding roles, which are already in place in the organisation. 

We also remain committed to earning and maintaining the trust of our supporters. 

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Notes to Editor: 

  • Oxfam Ireland’s all-island polices to protect and support staff and volunteers include: 
  1. Safeguarding policy
  2. Anti-bullying and Harassment
  3. Disclosure of Malpractice in the Workplace/Whistle-blowing Policy
  4. Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Policy
  5. We also have robust recruitment processes which involve vetting, reference checks, probationary periods and adherence to Oxfam’s codes of practice and conduct, as required by the role. 
  • No staff employed by Oxfam Ireland were involved in the case in Haiti.
  • The case did not involve the misuse of public funds. All of the money raised by Oxfam Ireland supporters was spent as planned on the response to the earthquake of 2010.
 
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As elite gather at Davos, Oxfam reports biggest ever global increase in billionaires

·         Richest 1% bagged 82% of wealth created last year – poorest half of humanity got nothing

·         Two new Irish billionaires created with combined wealth of €34.2bn

·         Ireland has role to play in tackling obscene global inequality

Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with one more billionaire created every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth, according to a new Oxfam report released today.

During this period of “billionaire boom”, 82% of the wealth generated went to the richest 1% of the global population, as the combined wealth of billionaires increased by $762bn. This is enough to end extreme poverty seven times over.

Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with one more billionaire every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide. Nine out of 10are men.5

Billionaires also saw huge increase in their wealth. This increase was enough to end extreme poverty seven times over. 82% of all of the growth in global wealth in the last year went to the top 1%, whereas the bottom 50% saw no increase at all. 6, one more every two days. Billionaires saw their wealth increase by $762bn in 12 months

. This huge increase could have ended global extreme poverty seven times over. 82% of all wealth created in the last year went to the top 1%, while the bottom 50% saw no increase at all Ireland also contributed to the upsurge in billionaires. Two more Irish people joined this exclusive club in 2017, bring the total number to eight, with a combined wealth of €34.2bn.

‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ reveals how the global economy enables a wealthy few to accumulate vast fortunes while hundreds of millions of people are struggling to survive on poverty pay. The report is being launched as political and business elites gather this week for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The report also finds that;

·         In the period between 2006 and 2015, ordinary workers saw their incomes rise by an average of just 2% a year, while billionaire wealth rose by nearly 13% year – almost six times faster.

·         The richest 1% continue to own more wealth than the whole of the rest of humanity.

·         It takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime.

·         It would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers to a living wage. This is about a third of the amount paid out to wealthy shareholders by the top five companies in the garment sector in 2016.

Oxfam’s report outlines the key factors driving up rewards for shareholders and corporate bosses at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions. These include the erosion of workers’ rights; the excessive influence of big business over government policy-making; and the relentless corporate drive to minimise costs in order to maximise returns to shareholders.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system. The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.”

Women workers often find themselves at the bottom of the heap. Across the world, women consistently earn less than men and are usually in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work. By comparison, 9 out of 10 billionaires are men.

Clarken continued: “Oxfam has spoken to women across the world whose lives are blighted by inequality. Women in Vietnamese garment factories who work far from home for poverty pay and don’t get to see their children for months at a time. Women working in the US poultry industry who are forced to wear nappies because they are denied toilet breaks. Women working in hotels in Canada and the Dominican Republic who stay silent about sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs.”

Oxfam is calling for governments to ensure our economies work for everyone and not just the fortunate few by:

  • Limiting returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensuring all workers receive a minimum ‘living’ wage that would enable them to have a decent quality of life.
  • Ensuring that Governments set concrete, time bound targets and action plans to reduce inequality: In Ireland’s case this would mean implementing commitments made in the Programme for Government, whereby the Government committed to ‘develop the process of budget proofing as a means of advancing equality.’
  • Ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share of tax through higher taxes and a crackdown on tax avoidance, and increasing spending on public services such as healthcare and education. Oxfam estimates a global tax of 1.5 percent on billionaires’ wealth could pay for every child to go to school.

On Ireland’s role, Jim Clarken said; “The Irish Government is not helpless in the face of technological change and market forces. A major contributor to this obscene inequality is the widespread use of tax dodging by large corporations and the super-rich.

“Recently, 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 international tax reforms.

“Ireland must also step up and play a central role in driving change in the way global economies work. We need to use our influence and support initiatives which mean that everyone, not just elites, enjoy the fruits of international trade.”

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Notes to editors

·         ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ and a methodology document that outlines how Oxfam arrived at the key statistics in the report, is available for download: https://oxfam.box.com/s/eosi27xj7nxuyywysr06d734ct1xyuev

·         Broadcast quality footage and photographs available featuring Lan, who works in a garment factory in Vietnam, supplying many global fashion brands. Long hours and poverty pay mean Lan has not been able to get home to see her son for 9 months.   https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=34775&k=ae837a41d2

·         New data from Credit Suisse reveals that 42 people now own the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity. This figure cannot be compared to figures from previous years - including the 2016/17 statistic that eight men owned the same wealth as half the world - because it is based on an updated and expanded data set published by Credit Suisse in November 2017.  When Oxfam recalculated last year’s figures using the latest data we found that 61 people owned the same wealth as half the world in 2016 – and not eight.

·         Oxfam’s calculations are based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book 2017.  The wealth of billionaires was calculated using Forbes' billionaires list last published in March 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

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More than 80% of new global wealth goes to top 1% while poorest half get nothing, new Oxfam report reveals

Oxfam campaigners set up an ‘inequality restaurant’ in Belfast city centre

Eighty-two percent of wealth generated last year across the world went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half saw their wealth flatline, according to a new Oxfam report published today.

Reward Work, Not Wealth sets out how the very biggest gains were made by billionaires. Oxfam said it was unacceptable and unsustainable for our economies to continue to enable a super-rich minority to accumulate vast wealth while hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive on poverty pay. It called for a rethink of legal and business models that prioritise shareholder returns over broader social impact.

As political and business elites gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum, Oxfam campaigners in Belfast city centre set up a mini restaurant – with unequal servings – to illustrate the huge gap between rich and poor.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “Something is very wrong with a global economy that allows the one percent to enjoy the lion’s share of increases in wealth while the poorest half of humanity miss out.

“In the 12 months to March 2017, billionaires’ fortunes grew by a staggering £585 billion [$762 billion] – enough to end extreme poverty more than seven times over.”

Oxfam has previously identified the role of tax dodging in driving inequality. This year its report highlights how the excessive corporate influence on policy-making, erosion of workers’ rights and relentless drive to minimise costs in order to maximise returns to investors all contribute to a widening gap between the super-rich and the rest.

Billionaire wealth rose by an average of 13 percent a year between 2006 and 2015 – six times faster than the wages of ordinary workers. It takes just four days for a CEO of one of the world’s five biggest fashion retailers to earn as much as a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her entire lifetime.

Women consistently earn less than men and are concentrated in the lowest-paid, least-secure forms of work. At current rates of change it will take 217 years to close the global gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men. Oxfam has heard from women in Vietnamese garment factories whose low wages force them to live apart from their children, women in the US poultry industry who wear nappies because they are denied toilet breaks, and women working in hotels in Canada and the Dominican Republic who stay silent about sexual harassment for fear of being fired.

Clarken added: “The world has made huge strides forward in ending poverty but progress could be even faster if we did more to break down the barriers that are holding back the world’s poorest people. For work to be a genuine route out of poverty we need to ensure that ordinary workers receive a living wage and can insist on decent conditions, and that women are not discriminated against. If that means less for the already wealthy then that is a price that we – and they – should be willing to pay.

“Leaders should ensure that wealthy individuals and businesses pay their fair share of tax by cracking down on tax avoidance, and invest this into essential services like schools and hospitals, and creating jobs for young people.”

A new survey of 70,000 people in ten countries, including the UK, demonstrates huge support for action to tackle inequality. Nearly two-thirds of people – 72 percent in the UK – say they want their government to urgently address the income gap between rich and poor in their country. In the UK, when asked what a typical British CEO earned in comparison to an unskilled worker, people guessed 33 times as much. When asked what the ideal ratio should be, they said 7:1. In some sectors the reality can be very different. FTSE 100 bosses, for example, earn on average 120 times more than the average employee.

Clarken added: “Many leaders say they’re worried about the corrosive effect of inequality but their tough talk too often fades away at the first resistance. Some companies and wealthy individuals are taking steps towards fairer ways of doing business but too many others use their power to protect their own interests. To really transform our economies, we need to look again at the business models and laws that prioritise shareholder returns above wider social benefit.”

Tax avoidance by businesses and wealthy individuals is estimated to cost developing countries and poor regions $170 billion a year – money that could be used to fight poverty and provide public services. In the UK, Oxfam is urging the government to help fight tax dodging by using its upcoming Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill to ensure that Britain’s overseas territories publish the owners of companies incorporated on their shores. The Paradise Papers revealed the key role that UK-linked tax havens such as Bermuda play in facilitating global tax avoidance.

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SUGGESTED CAPTION: Table for one percent... Ahead of this week’s meeting of the world’s elite in Davos, Oxfam campaigners on inequality set up a mini restaurant in Belfast city centre to illustrate the huge gap between rich and poor. Eighty-two percent of new global wealth last year went to the richest one percent, while the poorest half saw no increase, according to a new Oxfam report. Photo by Press Eye/Darren Kidd.

More photos available for media use via: https://oxfam.box.com/v/BelfastPhotoStuntDavos2018

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview. For interviews or more information, contact:

Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

Inequality in numbers:

·         In 2017 it took just three days for the UK’s top bosses to make more money than the typical UK full-time worker will earn all year, according to The High Pay Centre.

·         In Nigeria, the legal minimum wage would need to be tripled to ensure decent living standards.

·         Eighty-two percent of new wealth last year went to the richest one percent, while the poorest half’s share of wealth flatlined.

·         Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with one more billionaire created every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide.

·         The increase in billionaires’ wealth in the year up to last March was enough to end extreme poverty more than seven times over.

·         In the period between 2006 and 2015, ordinary workers saw their incomes rise by an average of just 2% a year, while billionaire wealth rose by nearly 13% a year – almost six times faster.

·         By the end of the 4-day Davos meeting, billionaires’ fortunes could swell by an estimated $8 billion. This is enough money to lift 66 million people out of poverty for the year.

·         A CEO of one of the world’s five biggest global fashion retailers earns as much in four days as a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her entire lifetime

·         At current rates of change it will take 217 years to close the gap in pay and employment opportunities between women and men.

·         Cracking down on tax avoidance by wealthy corporations and individuals could save developing countries and the world’s poorest regions an estimated $170 billion a year – money desperately needed for schools and hospitals.  

The embargoed report and methodology are available for download. https://oxfam.app.box.com/s/eosi27xj7nxuyywysr06d734ct1xyuev

Table showing distribution of new global wealth: https://drive.google.com/file/d/15NMFNjFFWQCyimLPK_V3eAF0stTVn3md/view

Case study footage and photos available: Lan, a worker in a Vietnam factory supplying global fashion brands, sews 1200 pairs of trainers a day for around $1 [74p] an hour. https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=34775&k=ae837a41d2

Reward Work, Not Wealth will be published online. The report includes case studies of workers around the world interviewed by Oxfam about their pay and conditions.

See the report and methodology note for more information about Oxfam’s statistics.

·         Calculations are based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book 2017. The wealth of billionaires was calculated using Forbes' billionaires list last published in March 2017.

·         The real increase in global wealth between July 2016 and June 2017 was $9.2 trillion [£7.3 trn], of which $7.6 trillion [£6 trn] (82 percent) went to the top one percent of the population and the remainder to the rest of the top 20 percent.

·         The top five largest publicly listed apparel retailers (excluding department stores) by sales are listed on the 2017 Forbes Global 2000 list of The World’s Biggest Public Companies.

·         Oxfam uses World Bank data to calculate how much it would cost to raise the income of everyone living in extreme poverty to above $1.90 a day. This is only one measure - ending poverty will require a range of actions.

·         RIWI and YouGov conducted the online survey of 70,000 people in ten countries: India, Nigeria, United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Morocco, Netherlands and Denmark. In the UK 3,016 adults were surveyed online and the sample size for the control group was 1,004 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between October and November 2017. The figures are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

The High Pay Centre has calculated ratios for UK CEO to worker average wages.

The UN estimates that tax avoidance by businesses costs developing countries $100bn a year. Economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that the world’s poorest regions – Africa, Asia and Latin America – lose $70bn in annual revenue due to wealthy individuals’ use of tax havens.

The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill is expected to reach Report Stage in the House of Commons in March. Oxfam is urging the government to accept an amendment that would ensure Britain’s overseas territories publish public registers of beneficial ownership of companies.

The sterling conversion of $762bn to £585bn was calculated based on the average FX rate GBP:USD between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017.

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