Press Releases

Oxfam Ireland urges Minister Flanagan to reverse restriction preventing refugees reuniting with family in Ireland

Move could help Ireland meet deadline to bring in 4,000 refugees by end of 2017

Criteria for family reunification was limited after pledge to take in more refugees

New UN refugee figures published today highlight massive scale of global crisis

Monday June 19th, 2017

Oxfam Ireland has called on the newly appointed Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to urgently reverse a restriction devised in 2015 – following the Government’s promise to take in 4,000 refugees – which is preventing people seeking refuge from reuniting with relatives here.

The call follows the publication today of new statistics by the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR which show the massive scale of the global refugee crisis. The total number of people forcibly displaced is now at 65.6 million – an increase of 300,000 on the previous year.

Oxfam said re-instating a wider criteria for family reunification which was ended in a 2015 Act could help the Irish Government to deliver on its commitment to bring 4,000 refugees to Ireland by the end of 2017 – a deadline less than six months away. So far less than a third (1,259 as of May 15th) have arrived under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme with over 2,700 people languishing in camps in Italy and Greece still to come.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “It’s quite contradictory for the Government to pledge to resettle 4,000 refugees and then to change the laws and prevent certain family members from seeking refuge here. This is like building a bridge from one side while at the same time taking away the foundation stones from the other.

“In his previous ministry in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Minister Flanagan witnessed first-hand the impact of widespread conflict and persecution on people who were forced to flee their homes. Now he must ensure that Ireland plays its role in providing them with safety.

“It’s time to right the wrongs and reverse this poor decision that’s tearing families apart. Children are wrenched from their grandparents, siblings divided and extended family networks weakened. Families are forced to continue living apart after being separated during often perilous journeys to find safety – this is heaping trauma upon trauma on some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. Restrictive policies and practices across Europe mean refugees can find themselves stuck indefinitely in camps in places like Greece and Italy, just a short flight away from the relatives they long to be with.”

Responding to the publication of the UN’s new refugee figures, Jim Clarken added: “The war in Syria continues into its sixth year, tens of millions are caught in an unprecedented hunger crisis in South Sudan, East Africa, Yemen and north-east Nigeria, while other deadly violence and natural disasters force people from their homes around the globe.

“These new numbers underscore that the global community must immediately offer stronger lifelines to people as they flee for their lives, and also work together to tackle the root causes.”

As Oxfam published a new report today which shows how migration policies across Europe are keeping families apart, Oxfam urged the Government to reverse a change in law made by the 2015 International Protection Act which significantly restricts the ability of refugees to reach family members living in Ireland.

The Act narrowed the eligibility criteria which means refugees living here who want to bring family members to safety in Ireland through the asylum process can only apply for spouses and children or siblings under the age of 18. Those aged 18 and over are separated from parents and younger siblings, grandparents are separated from grandchildren and children travelling alone cannot reach extended family members settled in Ireland.

The previous 1996 Refugee Act granted a discretionary power to the Minister for the Justice which allowed for a wider definition of the family, i.e. any grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, ward or guardian of the refugee who is dependent on them or suffering from a mental or physical disability that means they cannot fully care for themselves.

Oxfam is calling on the Irish government to amend the 2015 International Protection Act 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. The agency says that at the very least the Minister’s discretionary power should be reinstated as per the 1996 Refugee Act.

Jim Clarken added: “Changing the rules on family reunification not only offers Ireland an opportunity to show leadership in upholding fundamental human rights and share responsibility for the global refugee crisis, but could also help to meet our existing obligations.”

While Ireland struggles to meet its pledge, Lebanon, a country half the size of Munster, currently hosts 1.2 million refugees from Syria. In Uganda, up to 3,000 refugees from South Sudan are arriving each day.

Oxfam’s new report Dear Family: How European Migration Policies are Keeping Families Apart, details the situation of refugee families in Europe, with a particular focus on Greece. It details the testimony of refugees and migrants who are desperately seeking to be reunited with their loved ones and shows how a narrow definition of ‘family’ in EU member states, including Ireland’s legislation alongside bureaucratic challenges, keep families apart.

As of May 2017, 35% of people benefiting from Oxfam’s legal aid programmes in Lesbos and Epirus were trying to reunite with family members in Europe. Several cases were reported to Oxfam in Greece of pregnant women who were transferred to other refugee camps, or even the mainland, while their partner was forced to stay behind in Moria, a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, because they had no paperwork proving their relationship.

The report finds that many people in Greece, separated from loved ones in another EU member state, are becoming increasingly desperate. Most have been stranded in Greece for over a year, trying to navigate the asylum system and family reunification procedures, and often contemplating using smugglers in their attempt to move on.

Oxfam has been providing support to more than 6.7 million people in conflict-affected countries in the past year.

ENDS

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

Oxfam Ireland’s press releases are available at www.oxfamireland.org/press and follow @Media_OxfamIRL on Twitter for breaking news, spokesperson information and other updates

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Cholera killing one person almost every hour in Yemen

08/06/2017

Oxfam calls for massive aid effort and immediate ceasefire.

Yemen is in the grip of a runaway cholera epidemic that is killing one person almost every hour and if not contained will threaten the lives of thousands of people in the coming months, Oxfam warned today. The aid agency is calling for an urgent, largescale aid effort and an immediate ceasefire in Yemen to allow health and aid workers to tackle the outbreak. 

According to the World Health Organisation, in the five weeks between 27 April and 3 June 2017, 676 people died of cholera and over 86,000 were suspected of having the disease. Last week the rate jumped to 2,777 suspected cases a day from 2,529 a day during the previous week. Given Yemen’s neglected medical reporting system and the widespread nature of the epidemic, these official figures are likely to be under reporting the full scale of the crisis. 

In the coming months there could be up to 150,000 cases of cholera, with some predictions as high as 300,000 cases. 

The cholera crisis comes on top of two years of brutal war which has decimated the health, water and sanitation systems, severely restricted the essential imports the country is dependent upon and left millions of people one step away from famine. 

Colm Byrne, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager, said: “Yemen is on the edge of an abyss. Two years of war has plunged the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, leaving it facing devastating famine. Now it is at the mercy of a deadly and rapidly spreading cholera epidemic. 

“Cholera is simple to prevent and treat but while the fighting continues, that task is made difficult and at times impossible. Lives hang in the balance - a massive aid effort is needed now. Those backing this war in Western and Middle Eastern capitals need to put pressure on all parties to the fighting to agree an immediate ceasefire to allow public health and aid workers to get to work saving lives.”

Oxfam said that the outbreak is set to be one of the worst this century if there is not a massive and immediate effort to bring it under control. It is calling on rich countries and international agencies to generously deliver on promises of $1.2bn of aid they made last month.

Money, essential supplies and technical support are needed to strengthen Yemen's embattled health, water and sanitation services. Health workers and water engineers have not been paid for months while hospitals, health centres, public water systems have been destroyed and starved of key items, such as medical supplies, chlorine and fuel. Even basic supplies such as intravenous fluids, oral rehydration salts and soap are urgently needed to enable an effective, speedy response - some of which will have to be flown into the country. Communities also need to be supported with their efforts to prevent the disease spreading and quickly treat people showing the first signs of infection. 

Oxfam Ireland is appealing to the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal and support people facing famine in Yemen, as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: oxfamireland.org/hunger  

ENDS

CONTACT: For interviews or more information, contact:

ROI: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org  

NI: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to Editors: 

Stats on cholera outbreak: http://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-cholera-outbreak-dg-echo-who-ech...

Cholera is easily prevented with simple and affordable efforts at home and in the community, such as disinfection of water with chlorine, safe collection and storage of water, washing hands with soap, and understanding the myths, behaviours associated with cholera. When people suspect they have the symptoms they can drink a mix salt and sugar to rehydrate them while they make their way to the medical centre. 

 

As 30 million face famine, G7 leaders must pay up and push for peace

G7 leaders meeting in Taormina, Sicily tomorrow (Friday 26 May) should show leadership in fighting famine and immediately fund their fair share of the UN’s urgent appeal for $6.3 billion for those suffering in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, urged Oxfam.

Without an immediate and far-reaching response, this crisis will spiral out of control and more lives will be lost.

To date, no G7 country has provided its fair share of funding for all four countries – if they did, they would raise almost half ($2.9 billion) of the total required, Oxfam estimates.

Deadly famine is already affecting 100,000 people in parts of South Sudan and threatens to extend to Yemen, Somalia and northeast Nigeria. Widespread famine across all four countries is not yet inevitable, but G7 leaders need to respond immediately. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “Political failure has led to this crisis and now political leadership is needed to resolve it. The world’s most powerful leaders must act now to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch. A massive injection of aid is urgently required, backed by a concerted diplomatic push to bring an end to the long-standing conflicts that are driving this hunger crisis.

“Currently the UN appeal for people facing famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen is only 30 percent funded overall. It is hugely regrettable that none of the G7 nations has provided its fair share of funding to all four countries at risk of famine while thousands of people are already dying from disease and extreme hunger.

“While we welcome the Irish Government’s commitments to respond to this crisis, we urge them to work with G7 leaders and other international donors to ensure that the substantial funding needs are immediately met, including by increased assistance from Ireland. The UK is doing more than most having given its fair share of aid to three out of four affected countries - South Sudan, Yemen and Somalia, but needs to deliver on its promises to provide more help to people at risk of starvation in Nigeria.

“As Ireland moves towards the 2020 UN Security Council election, our leaders should leverage Ireland’s influence at EU and UN level to stop countries being arms brokers but encourage them to become peace brokers. Conflict has driven millions of people from their homes, disrupting their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Sieges and shelling and violence is preventing aid agencies like Oxfam from reaching people in desperate need of food and water. This is unacceptable and is leaving people to suffer and die.”

In 2015, the G7 committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition, yet 30 million people across the four countries are now experiencing severe hunger - 10 million of whom are facing emergency and famine conditions. Famine and hunger are the glaring symptoms of larger challenges that include conflict and migration.  

In addition to funding the UN appeal, G7 leaders should press for immediate ceasefires and inclusive peace processes, as well as for safe access to places where aid agencies are having trouble reaching people in need.

In Yemen, countries including G7 members continue to supply weapons, munitions, military equipment, technology, or logistical and financial support for military action that is in contravention of the rules of war. In South Sudan, three years of conflict have displaced more than 3.5 million people – including 2 million children. Somalia also remains an active conflict where access is limited by Al Shabaab, as well as other parties involved in the conflict. Nigeria’s conflict has spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon forcing 2.6 million people to flee and leaving nearly 11 million people in need of emergency aid. 

When G7 leaders have chosen a symbolic place to meet in Sicily – Europe’s coast, where thousands of people have died trying to reach safety and security – it is reprehensible that they are set to overlook the suffering of refugees and migrants on their doorstep, and ignore the challenge of migration and forced displacement. Rich countries should lean into this challenge, exercise positive global leadership and compassion, and agree to concrete steps that protect the dignity and rights of people on the move.

ENDS

NB: Oxfam is attending the G7 summit with spokespeople available for interview on the hunger crisis in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen as well as on migration and inequality.

Oxfam can also offer journalists the opportunity to visit some of our programmes supporting refugees and migrants in Catania, Sicily.

For more information, contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Notes to Editors 

1.     The Group of Seven (G7) is comprised of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

2.     Download Oxfam’s latest policy report on what governments need to do to avert the threat of global famine: https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/bn-four-famines-190517-en.pdf

3.     The UN ‘four famines’ appeal was originally launched for a total of $5.6 billion  http://interactive.unocha.org/emergency/2017_famine/index.php  and was later revised up to $6.3 billon after the Somalia response plan was updated in earlier this month http://reliefweb.int/report/somalia/somalia-humanitarian-response-plan-may-2017-revision

4.     There has been a rise of 40 percent in the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity over the last two years according to FEWSNET: http://www.fews.net/global/alert/january-25-2017

5.     Oxfam’s fair share analysis: Oxfam calculates its fair share analysis by comparing data from the UN’s Financial Tracking System (FTS) and information received from G7 members with their national income. No G7 country has provided its fair share of funding for all four nations facing famine. (The FTS website may not have been updated with recent pledges.)

According to UN figures, as of May 18, only 30 percent of the $6.3 billion needed has been received. Country by country, this means that Nigeria is only 21 percent funded; Somalia, 33 percent; South Sudan, 42 percent; and Yemen, 21 percent.

G7 leaders must commit to fund their fair share for each country, while pressing other donors to do their part, in order to prevent more people from dying of hunger. These contributions alone would mean $492 million for Nigeria, $703 million for Somalia, $764 million for South Sudan, and $964 million for Yemen.

G7 must also commit to increase aid for longer term solutions that build resilience and improve food security and nutrition, in order to prevent further crises from escalating into disasters. 

Only one G7 leader (UK) has provided its fair share for Yemen, two (UK and Canada) for South Sudan, two (UK and Germany) for Somalia and two (Canada and Germany) for Nigeria. 

The United States Congress commitment of $990m to address famine in the four countries is welcomed, but this must be urgently translated into aid on the ground if the impact of famines is to be reduced. 

View or download Oxfam’s fair share analysis here: http://oxf.am/ZERG.

6.     About 30 million people are are experiencing alarming levels of hunger in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen - 10 million of them are facing emergency and famine conditions. (10 million people are at IPC4 and 5, and a further 20 million people are at IPC3.)

• South Sudan: 4.9 million people dangerously hungry (IPC Phases 3-5, including 100,000 already in famine) 

• Yemen: 17 million people dangerously hungry (IPC Phases 3-4) 

• Somalia: 3.2 million people dangerously hungry in Somalia (IPC Phases 3-4) 

• Nigeria: 4.7 million people dangerously hungry in northeast Nigeria (IPC Phases 3-5)

7.     Oxfam is responding directly and with local organisations across the affected countries delivering food and other essential aid including cash so that people can buy from local markets. It is striving to ensure people have clean water to be used for drinking, cooking, washing and sanitation and to fight waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. We are also helping vulnerable communities, focusing especially on women, to stay safe and access aid in these unstable circumstances. 

 

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Public urged to ‘banish bursting wardrobes’ by donating unwanted items to Oxfam shops

“Set yourself free from stuff and help our shops fight poverty,” says charity

Wednesday May 17th, 2017

Oxfam Ireland is launching a donation drive to encourage the public to banish bursting wardrobes, clear out those cupboards and take back the toyboxes – by donating to their local Oxfam shop.

Michael McIlwaine, Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail, said: “Set yourself free from stuff, get your space back and help in the fight against poverty, by clearing out those wardrobes and cupboards that have been crying out for your attention – and then donate the unwanted clutter to your local Oxfam shop.

“The clothes that don’t fit, the teapot too many, or the DVD double-up – you don’t have to live with it. It's satisfying to unburden yourself of the clutter other people are looking for and will love.

“It is a great solution for everyone. Not only does it liberate precious floor and storage space in our homes it also raises money for people in desperate circumstances across the world. Just grab a bag and bring your unwanted stuff into your local Oxfam shop – cutting out the clutter feels good, but ending poverty feels even better.”

“There are so many ways your unwanted items could be given a second life in Oxfam’s fight against poverty – which is why we urgently need your donations.

“An average bag of your pre-loved donated stuff – like clothes, books, music, DVDs and homewares – can raise enough money to help two vulnerable families buy desperately needed food in an emergency. Or buy five buckets specially designed to keep water clean and disease-free. A jumper worth €16/£13 could provide 50 bars of soap for 50 Syrian refugees, preventing the spread of disease,” added Mr McIlwaine.

Donations to the charity’s shops will raise vital funds and enable Oxfam to continue its life-saving work in humanitarian crises, including responding to the hunger crisis in South Sudan, north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia and war-torn Yemen. About 30 million people across these four countries are in desperate need of food to survive with famine already declared in South Sudan. Oxfam is currently providing food, clean water, sanitation and other essentials to people in need.

Oxfam shops are appealing for donations of clothing and shoes; books, toys and games; CDs, vinyl and DVDs; homewares; pictures and collectables; bags, accessories and jewellery, rugs, linen and curtains. A number of Oxfam Ireland shops can also take: furniture; wedding dresses and accessories; cameras and mobile phones; stamps and coins.

Oxfam’s stores are also looking for additional enthusiastic people eager to volunteer in the shops. If you feel you can help fight poverty by volunteering, or have any questions about donating stock, please contact the manager of your local Oxfam shop, or (01) 672 7662 (ROI) or 028 90 230 220 (NI). Find your nearest Oxfam Ireland shop on www.oxfamireland.org/shops.

ENDS

CONTACT:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

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Oxfam helps refugees to find safety without risking their lives at sea

Last year’s Mediterranean death toll equivalent to nearly 3 Irish Ferries’ Ulysses boats sinking

First families arrive in Italy to seek asylum under new safe and regular routes programme

Monday May 1st, 2017

With an average of nine people dying each day so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, Oxfam has joined an innovative new programme which provides an alternative and safer route.

The ‘Humanitarian Corridors’ initiative aims to reduce the number of people forced to risk their lives in perilous sea crossings or endure long and dangerous journeys over land in order to reach safety. It supports people to reach Europe via safe and regular routes in order to claim asylum.

Over 60 people from Syria, including many families, arrived in Italy last week to seek asylum as part of a humanitarian visa programme approved by the Italian government. These people will be hosted by Oxfam in the Italian region of Tuscany for the duration of this process.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “In 2016 over 5,000 people lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean – the same as almost three Irish Ferries’ Ulysses boats sinking in the sea. We cannot grow immune to these numbers and we cannot allow this year to be the same as the last.

Many of those 5,000 people were fleeing unimaginable situations – conflict that robbed them of their homes, livelihoods and loved ones, persecution, poverty and disaster. Getting into an unseaworthy boat is a last resort, a desperate attempt to reach safety and dignity. Through the ‘Humanitarian Corridors’ programme, we are now offering people in need an alternative to the last resort so that they can reach Europe safely.”

‘Humanitarian Corridors’ is the first project of its kind and a good example of how civil society and EU governments can work together to effectively protect and integrate refugees. It aims to support 500 people from different regions in 2017 that are currently located in three transit countries – Lebanon, Morocco and Ethiopia. 

Oxfam in Italy has now joined and will host Syrian refugees in reception facilities. Oxfam will also provide legal assistance and help people to access cultural mediation services and Italian language courses, as well as work and education mentorship for up to 250 people.

Fatem, a 28-year-old mother of two from Syria, part of the first group hosted by Oxfam in Italy, said: “We just want to be happy. We don’t want to live in constant fear that we will not be able to make it through the day. My children deserve a chance at a better future.”

Mr Clarken continued: “This programme shows that it is possible to provide more humane routes to Europe with government support. The alternative leaves people no choice but to turn to smugglers and use increasingly dangerous routes that risk their lives. Too often, in the desperate search for safety, families are torn apart and there is no guarantee they will be reunited again. Safe and legal routes are essential to keeping people safe and families together.

“In 2015, the Irish government committed to receiving 4,000 refugees through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme by the end of 2017. However, less than 900 people have arrived so far. We urgently need to find ways to overcome obstacles and stay on track to meet this commitment. If we cannot bring 4,000 people to safety in Ireland through the current mechanisms, Ireland must consider alternative schemes such as the Humanitarian Corridors project. The last time countries turned away refugees en masse was during the Second World War. We must act urgently to help people who need protection.”

Oxfam is calling on the Irish government to improve access to protection for those in need by taking concrete action to ensure that its commitments under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme are met, including through tackling barriers to relocation from Greece and Italy and increasing the use of humanitarian visas as a safe route to seeking asylum in Ireland. In addition, Oxfam is calling on the Government to expand opportunities for family reunification to ensure that families can stay together in their time of need.

Oxfam is also calling on European governments to urgently improve access to international protection for those fleeing conflict and persecution, including through humanitarian visas. In addition, more flexible family reunification policies and more resettlement programmes are needed. The agency has called on rich countries, including European nations, to resettle or offer other forms of admission to 10 percent of the Syrian refugee population by the end of 2017.

ENDS

ROI: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NI: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

Oxfam spokespeople are available, including from Brussels and in Florence, Italy. Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, visited Oxfam’s programme with unaccompanied minors in Italy last year and is available for interview

Photos of the Syrians arriving in Italy are available here: https://oxfam.box.com/v/corridors

Notes to editors:

  • 1,089 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in the first four months of this year, the equivalent of nine people per day.
  • During the first four months of 2016 – the deadliest year so far for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe – 1,266 people died, 177 more than in 2017. Statistics re the number of lives lost in the Mediterranean were taken from http://migration.iom.int/europe/
  • The Humanitarian Corridors programme was conceived by three faith-based organisations – the Sant’Egidio Community, the Union of Methodist Churches and the Waldensian Church – with Italian government permission.
  •  The programme selects people who are either likely to be recognised as refugees in Italy according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, or particularly vulnerable people, for example those who have been abused, unaccompanied minors, women on their own, families with children and elderly or ill people
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