Press Releases

Bill to reunite refugee families passes in the Seanad

Wednesday 19th July 2017

A Private Members’ Bill to enable more refugee families living in Ireland to be reunited with their dependent loved ones has passed the second stage in Seanad Éireann tonight.

The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 was proposed by members of 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.

While opposed by Fine Gael, the Bill had cross-party support from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and a group of Independent Senators and passed with 24 votes to 17.

The Bill will now return to the Seanad for committee stage in the Autumn before proceeding to the Dáil. If passed in the Dáil, the Bill will amend the International Protection Act 2015 which makes it overly restrictive for refugees in Ireland to reunite with loved ones outside the nuclear family and enable a wider range of family members to apply for family reunification, including a grandparent, parent, sibling, grandchild or guardian.

Speaking after the vote passed the second stage, Senator Colette Kelleher said: "It is great that the bill has passed the second stage. We will take on board the comments made by the Minister and other Senators. Most importantly, we will make sure that this important piece of legislation works for refugees and their families."

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Press release from Monday 17th July 2017:

Seanad Group introduces bill to reunite refugee families 

Proposed amendment seeks to restore original definition of family provided in 1996 Act

On Wednesday (19th July) members of the Seanad Civil Engagement Group, Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan and John Dolan will propose a Private Members’ Bill in Seanad Éireann to enable more refugee families to be reunited in Ireland.  

The bill seeks to amend the International Protection Act 2015 which makes it overly restrictive for refugees in Ireland to reunite with loved ones outside the nuclear family.

This has a devastating impact on the lives of refugees and people seeking protection as it separates children aged 18 and over from their parents and grandparents, divides siblings and destroys extended family networks.

Members of the Civil Engagement Group worked with Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council on developing the legislation which would enable a wider range of family members to apply for family reunification, including a grandparent, parent, sibling, grandchild or guardian.

All three organisations have seen first-hand the additional trauma and anxiety caused when people fleeing conflict and disaster are separated from their loved ones, a vital source of solace and support in times of anguish and uncertainty. 

The 2015 Act changed Ireland’s family reunification policy by removing the category of dependents which existed under the Irish Refugee Act 1996. Amending the legislation restores and strengthens the provisions of the 1996 Irish Refugee Act, and offers Ireland an opportunity to show leadership by upholding fundamental rights.

Under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme the Government promised to welcome 4,000 refugees to Ireland by the end of 2017 – less than a third have arrived so far.

Speaking in advance of the bill’s introduction, Senator Colette Kelleher said:

“We are seeking to restore the old definition, which is more in tune with an Irish understanding of family. The International Protection Act 2015 was brought in in a hurry and may be having unintended consequences. It’s a timely moment to take stock and to reconsider the required rules for effective family reunifications.”

Frances Black, Independent Senator for the Industrial and Commercial Panel, said:

“This bill is about treating the small number of refugees who arrive in Ireland with compassion and understanding. These people have lost so much and are attempting to build a new life here – the best way to do that is with your family beside you.”

Alice-Mary Higgins, Independent Senator for National University of Ireland, said:

“This bill facilitates a more humane approach to family reunification, one consistent with the full understanding of family seen in other areas of public policy. I also believe most citizens want to see Ireland stepping up to its international responsibilities by responding in a compassionate and constructive way to the international crises which have forced so many to flee their homes. Further reform of our flawed asylum system is certainly needed, but this Bill is a step in the right direction’.

The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 will be proposed by members of the Seanad Civil Engagement Group, Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Grace O'Sullivan, Lynn Ruane and John Dolan, during their private members time on Wednesday 19th July. The bill will be debated in the Seanad from 17:00 to 19:00 and will be streamed live on Oireachtas TV.

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CONTACT:

For interviews or more information, please contact:

Oxfam Ireland: Alice Dawson, Communications Coordinator: +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

Senator Kelleher’s Office: Pádraig Rice, Assistant to Senator Colette Kelleher: +(01) 6183642 / +353 (0) 85 748 7378 / Padraig.Rice@Oireachtas.ie

LINKS:

A copy of the bill can be viewed here: http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=36718&&CatID=59 or https://www.oxfamireland.org/sites/default/files/upload/pdfs/seanad-bill.pdf

An explanatory memo for the bill can be viewed here.

Link to Oireachtas TV: http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/watchlisten/watchlive/seanadeireann/

Notes to the Editor:

·         As of May 2017, 1,259 people have arrived under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme with over 2,700 people still to come.

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New one-of-a-kind accessories shop will do a world of good

Oxfam Ireland’s unique fashion collaboration with SIX opens in Dublin

An accessories and jewellery shop with a difference has opened in Dublin city centre – and will help Oxfam Ireland to raise vital funds for people in crisis and poverty across the world.

The new SIX 4 GOOD store, now open for business in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin 2, sells a wide range of brand-new fashion accessories and jewellery for women, men and children, including hair accessories, sunglasses, bags, purses, mobile phone accessories and homewares.

All the new items for sale in the store have been generously donated by European brand SIX free of charge to Oxfam Ireland, with profits going to support the charity’s work worldwide in emergency response, long-term development and campaigning, including projects with women and girls.

This opening of the SIX 4 GOOD store – the first of its kind – is part of an ongoing corporate partnership with SIX, a brand of the Beeline fashion group, one of Europe’s leading suppliers of jewellery and accessories.

Michael McIlwaine, Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail, said: “Opening a shop which exclusively sells brand-new items from a single brand is an innovative departure for us and we’re delighted to be working with our long-standing partner Beeline on this unique collaboration.

“SIX 4 GOOD offers great value on a fantastic range, selling at discounted prices with items like rings, bracelets and earrings starting at just €3. This is exciting news for Ireland’s bargain-hunting fashionistas and shoppers who like to look good and give back.”

Ulrich Beckmann, Founder and CEO of Beeline GmbH, said: “We want to give back part of our success to the community. This project is of particular importance for us and we are looking forward to continuing our successful cooperation with Oxfam Ireland to provide help for people in poverty worldwide.”

Mr. McIlwaine added: “Thanks to the generous donations by SIX, we are able to raise vital funds for our work worldwide, saving lives in emergencies like the current hunger crisis in countries like South Sudan, helping people build better lives through long-term development work and speaking out on the issues that keep people poor, like discrimination against women.

“For example, the handbag you buy in SIX 4 GOOD for €16 could provide 50 bars of soap for 50 Syrian families displaced by conflict, helping hygiene and preventing the spread of deadly diseases. Grabbing a bargain feels great but supporting families fleeing conflict or trying to lift themselves out of extreme poverty feels even better.”

For more visit https://www.oxfamireland.org/shop/six-4good

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CONTACT: For images, more information or to arrange an interview with an Oxfam spokesperson, please contact: Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO THE EDITOR:

  • Oxfam and Beeline have been working together since 2005. Beeline donates new stock to Oxfam for sale in Oxfam shops across the island of Ireland which helps raise vital funds for the charity’s work worldwide.

About Oxfam Ireland

  • Oxfam Ireland has shops across Ireland, north and south, selling everything from clothes, jewellery, and homewares to books, music and other donated goods. These include the specialist shops, Oxfam Books, Oxfam Bridal and Oxfam Home.
  • Oxfam Ireland is a member of Oxfam International, a confederation of 19 organisations working together in more than 90 countries as part of a global network of people and organisations working for change by mobilising the power of people against poverty.
  • Oxfam has been supported by people across the island of Ireland, north and south, for over 50 years. We have over 2,000 volunteers, 140 staff and 45 shops throughout the island.
  • For more information about Oxfam, visit www.oxfamireland.org

About SIX/Beeline

  • SIX is a brand owned by the Beeline group, one of Europe's leading suppliers for accessories and jewellery. Founded in 1990, Beeline now operates in 20,500 sales areas – including 264 owned stores – across 53 countries and employs 4,600 people.
  • SIX is the urban fashion accessory and jewellery brand from Beeline which was launched in 1998 and now has 166 stores and 1,700 concession stores throughout Europe.
  • Beeline donates a percentage of profit every year to social institutions. Previous examples include: HIV therapy in Africa and projects in the millennium village Gandhiji Songha in India. Oxfam Ireland is one of its Corporate Social Responsibility partners.
  • For more information about SIX and Beeline, visit www.beeline-group.com
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Oxfam ramps up efforts to tackle world’s worst cholera outbreak in Yemen

Aid agency ships 39 tonnes of water and sanitation equipment to war-ravaged country

Thursday 29th June 2017

Oxfam is dispatching 39 tonnes of water and sanitation equipment to Yemen as the aid agency urgently ramps up its efforts to tackle the world's worst cholera outbreak.

In just two months, Yemen’s cholera epidemic has spread to nearly every corner of the war ravaged country. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people are suffering from the preventable illness and more than 1,300 people have died – a quarter of them children.

The aid convoy from Oxfam, worth over €400,000 (£360,000), includes water storage tanks, buckets, tap stands, hand washing water dispensers, water testing and purifications kits, oral rehydration sachets, insecticide sprayers, pipes and fittings – all vital in preventing the spread of the deadly disease.

It will be loaded from Oxfam’s emergency warehouse in the UK between 10am and 2pm on Thursday 29th June and will fly from London via Djibouti in Africa and then onto Yemen.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “The war in Yemen has laid the country to waste, destroying schools, hospitals, homes and lives. It’s impossible to overstate the human cost – over 10,000 people dead and tens of thousands injured while countless men, women and children face death every day through the lethal combination of hunger and now cholera.

“As we ship 39 tonnes of aid to Yemen, we’re continuing to call for a massive aid effort and an immediate ceasefire so that humanitarian workers can reach communities most in need. The UN is forecasting that the number of people affected by cholera will reach 300,000 by August – aid is vital to stopping this outbreak from spiralling out of control and to saving lives.”

The conflict has forced three million people from their homes and left nearly 19 million people – almost 70 percent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance.

Shane Stevenson, incoming Oxfam Country Director in Yemen, said: “Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and its health service has been all but destroyed by two years of a brutal war. Efforts to beat cholera are being massively undermined by the war. That is why we are calling on all parties to the fighting to agree a ceasefire to allow health and aid workers to get on with the task of saving lives.”

Oxfam has reached more than one million people in eight governorates of Yemen since July 2015 with water and sanitation services, food vouchers, cash and other essentials. In response to the cholera outbreak, Oxfam has been coordinating with partners to deliver clean water and sanitation to affected communities.  

Oxfam Ireland is appealing for vital funds for their hunger crisis appeal to support people facing famine in Yemen as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria: oxfamireland.org/hunger

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CONTACT

Shane Stevenson, incoming Country Director in Yemen is available for interview and will be  in Oxfam’s emergency warehouse from 10.30am – 11.30am on Thursday 29th June. For interviews, images or more information, please 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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Uganda needs more help in world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis

Thursday 22nd June 2017

Uganda’s “open door” policy toward refugees – now being held up around the world as a gold standard – could quickly buckle and fail unless the international community respond in full to the country’s $673 million UN appeal.

International donors have pledged only $117 million so far to Uganda out of the $637 million needed for the county’s South Sudan refugee response. So far the $1.38 billion UN appeal for the wider region’s response to the world’s fast-growing refugee crisis – which includes Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo – is only 15% funded.

Almost one million people have fled South Sudan for Uganda since December 2013. So far this year an average of 2,000 people have arrived each day. Uganda is now hosting more than 1.25 million refugees in total, a number which has doubled over the last year. The vast majority – 86% – are women and children who need specific support to keep them safe from rape, beatings, torture, hunger and abandonment.

Peter Kamalingin, Oxfam’s Country Director in Uganda, said: “Uganda hosts the third-largest population of refugees in the world and yet it is one of the most under-funded host nations. This is both highly unfair and highly unsustainable. Uganda must get the support it needs to continue its welcoming policies toward its neighbour.”

Uganda is hosting the first Refugee Solidarity Summit on 22nd and 23rd June. Oxfam is calling on the international community to provide funds, humanitarian aid and, crucially, to pave the way for a peaceful resolution to conflicts in neighbouring countries. 

“Governments urgently need to invest in the Uganda response to ensure that refugees and their host communities are provided with shelter and protection among other urgent needs. Local humanitarian agencies here have a vital understanding of the context of the crisis, so they need to be supported to deal with the needs of refugees in timely and cost-effective ways,” Kamalingin said.

Uganda’s policies provide a basis for refugees to be able to access land, shelter and employment.

Kamalingin continued: “On paper, these policies are laudable and Uganda is rightly being praised – but it needs to be supported too. Host communities also need land, clean water, food and employment opportunities. Uganda is balancing people’s needs as best it can for the moment, but it won’t be able to sustain that over time without proper backing. Most importantly, it should not be lost to regional governments and the International community that the most urgent relief for a refugee is peace at home.”

Speaking on behalf of fifty national and local organisations who were consulted ahead of the summit, Paparu Lilian Obiale, Humanitarian Programme Manager at CEFORD, an Oxfam partner in the West Nile region, said: “Ugandan civil society hopes that the summit will not only raise the profile of refugees in Uganda but also bring much needed funding and encourage real discussion about the root causes of the displacement in the region. There needs to be genuine discussion about how we foster sustainable futures both for refugees and those in hosting communities." 

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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:

Oxfam’s refugee response in Uganda: Oxfam’s response to the refugee crisis in Uganda, alongside partners, is currently reaching over 280,000 refugees across four districts providing life-saving assistance, clean water, sanitation hygiene including construction of pit latrines, sustainable livelihoods and integrating gender and protection work. Oxfam and partners are actively engaged in advocacy for sustainable approaches to the refugee response as well as peace building at local level, national, regional and international levels.

Over the last 4 years, Oxfam in Uganda invested in pilot humanitarian capacity building for over 15 local and national organisations across different parts of Uganda. Those partners, working closely with Oxfam are critical in delivering timely and quality humanitarian services to people in need including during the influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012/13 and the influx of South Sudanese refugees since December 2013 to date. 

South Sudan: famine pushed back but more people hungry than ever before

Wednesday, June 21st 2017

Despite efforts made to contain famine in South Sudan, the country remains firmly in a humanitarian crisis, with 6 million people severely hungry and in need of urgent assistance – the greatest number of people ever recorded in the country – according to new figures released today.

Responding to the IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) figures, Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne said:

“Thanks to aid efforts, famine has been pushed back in most of Leer and Mayendit, but 45,000 people in these areas and in former Jonglei State are still facing famine-like conditions. There is no room for complacency: the food crisis continues to spread across the country and 6 million people, half the population of South Sudan, are still facing severe hunger and need immediate help.

Mr Byrne, who will be travelling to South Sudan later this week, added: “More than one million people in former Jonglei State are living in extreme hunger, having gone for months without enough food to eat. Oxfam is distributing emergency food in affected areas in a race against time to prevent the situation getting even worse.

“Aid is helping, but South Sudan's hungriest people have run out of ways to cope and still depend on food aid to survive. The coming rainy season means that delivering help to people will be harder. With the rains also come higher risks of cholera and other water borne disease epidemics. And the rains occur at the hungriest time of the year just before this year's crops are harvested.

“While immediate help to fight hunger is still needed now, what the people of South Sudan ultimately need is peace. Along with sending aid, the international community needs to redouble its efforts to bring all warring parties to the negotiating table and to peacefully end their differences.”

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

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For further information or to arrange an interview with Oxfam Ireland’s Colm Byrne, contact: Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

NOTES TO EDITORS:

The IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) is a tool for improving food security analysis and decision-making. It is a standardised scale that integrates food security, nutrition and livelihood information into a clear statement about the nature and severity of food insecurity and implications for strategic response. The IPC was originally developed for use in Somalia by FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU). Since then, several national governments and international agencies have introduced it in different food security contexts and is now being used in over 25 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

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