Press Releases

Oxfam Ireland welcomes European Parliament’s vote to suspend vaccine patents

Media reaction

10 June 2021

Today, the European Parliament supported an amendment calling for Europe to support the temporary suspension of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

In reaction to this vote, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said:

“This vote sends a strong signal that Europeans stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of the world in the fight against the pandemic. European governments, including our own, and the European Commission must stop spouting red-herring arguments and instead follow suit by backing the proposal on the table at the World Trade Organisation. Other qualified producers must be given the know-how and technology to make more vaccines so everyone can access them. 

"We have seen what happens when big pharma only cares about their profits – more deaths and more suffering. They should not be allowed to decide who gets to live or die, especially against the backdrop of emerging variants and countries overwhelmed by new Covid surges. The EU has helped the big pharma billionaires long enough, now we need to help the billions of people who remain at risk. It is time to break the vaccine monopolies and put people before profit.”

END

Contact

Caroline Reid | Communications Manager | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to editors: 

  • The European Parliament voted today on a resolution on the TRIPS waiver – this vote, while symbolic.  
  • Currently, the EU’s proposal at the WTO table is to end export bans, ramp up the production of vaccine manufacturers and remove the red tape around vaccine production. Oxfam believes:  
  1. Export bans: we support removing export bans wherever possible but getting rid of them does not solve the inequitable distribution of existing vaccines.  
  2. Voluntary licensing agreements: These do nothing to shift us away from the current industry-controlled model where just a handful of powerful corporations retain control over global vaccine supplies and continue to prioritise profitable deals with richer countries leaving poorer countries at the back of the queue. Any voluntary licensing should be done through the World Health Organisation’s Covid Technology Access Pool to maximise vaccine production by qualified manufacturers around the world rather than those handpicked by big pharma.  
  3. COVAX: This mechanism aims to vaccinate 20 - 27% of the population in eligible countries by the end of this year. It is dangerously off-track having only delivered a third of the planned doses. COVAX remains over-dependent on just one supplier from India which due to the rapid spread of the virus in India will not provide any further doses to COVAX until the end of the year. These failings only increase the urgency to ramp up manufacturing around the world which will increase competition lowering vaccine prices.  
  • The TRIPs waiver was tabled by South Africa and India in October 2020 to boost vaccine supplies and other Covid-19 health technologies globally. Recently, the US joined over 100 other countries and backed this waiver for the vaccines.  
  • Oxfam is part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a movement advocating that Covid-19 vaccines are manufactured rapidly and at scale, as global common goods, free of intellectual property protections and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge. 
  • The call for a TRIPs waiver is supported by nearly 400 MEPs and MPs, 175 Nobel laureates and former Heads of State and Governments, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), scientists, trade unions, NGOs and the general public. 
  • Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s successful mRNA vaccines are set to become two of the three bestselling pharmaceutical products in the world. The companies are projecting revenues of $33.5 billion in 2021 from their vaccines. Their vaccines are also the most expensive, ranging from $13.50 to $74 per course, with both firms looking to increase prices. In an investor call, Pfizer cited between $150 and $170 a dose as the typical price it receives for vaccines. This is despite a study from the Imperial College in London showing that the cost of production of new mRNA vaccines could be between 60 cents and $2 a dose.  
  • Vaccine production has created 9 new billionaires. Meanwhile, current vaccination rates mean low-income countries will be waiting 57 years for their entire population to be vaccinated.  
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Turning 18 as an unaccompanied minor in Ireland - “it was a very dark time”

  • New research puts forward recommendations for treatment of unaccompanied minors in Europe

10 June 2021


New research released today by Oxfam, the Greek Council for Refugees, the Dutch Council for Refugees, and ACLI France sounds the alarm about the risks facing young people seeking refuge in Europe. The research was conducted through interviews with refugees, frontline staff and researchers in Ireland, France, Greece, the Netherlands, and Italy.

The report looks at how unaccompanied minors across Europe are falling through the gaps and into situations of extreme vulnerability. The most worrying trend revealed in the report is the changes to supports once an unaccompanied young person in the asylum process reaches their 18th birthday.  

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “While for many teenagers around the world, turning 18 is a milestone – a moment of joy and independence - our research finds that for minors seeking refuge in Europe, this is a moment of massive anxiety. As turning 18 symbolises losing support due to the sharp nosedive in protective legal frameworks.

“One of the key tenants of EU law is protecting minors regardless of their legal status. This protection helps shield them from the high risk of abuse, homelessness, and exploitation. Turning 18 does not mean these risks disappear overnight, yet the protection they receive dramatically shifts. No longer considered children in the eyes of the law, young unaccompanied minors can find themselves displaced for a second time.” 

Reuben, who arrived in Ireland as an unaccompanied minor and since been granted status*: “It’s hard, because you are just learning how to live with your foster family, and then you have to leave.” 

European law ensures that unaccompanied minors arriving in Europe are housed in child-appropriate accommodation and are appointed a social worker to support them with administrative and legal matters. In Ireland, unaccompanied minors in the asylum process are in many cases removed from foster or residential care once they turn 18 and are sent to Direct Provision - where they find themselves living in the same room as adult strangers and quite often in a different region to where they were first accommodated.  

Lee, who arrived in Ireland as an unaccompanied minor and since been granted status*: “You’re not fully an adult at 18, most Irish kids are still living with their parents at 18.” 

When asked what they would change about their experience, the young interviewees noted that they would like to see an end to the removal from foster or residential care to Direct Provision. They called for a more flexible system that would take the individual needs of the young person into account. Additionally, all of those interviewed noted that there were large disparities in opportunities between young people based in Dublin and those based in smaller Irish towns - with those in Dublin having better access to their aftercare worker, support organisations, and educational opportunities.

A focus group attendee stated that being allowed to stay in foster care after 18 would be good for mental health and would encourage young people to move forward. They said that it was very stressful to leave their foster family as soon as they turned 18 stating that, “it was a very dark time in their life until everything was sorted out” (Mo).

A secondary issue that arose in focus groups with professionals and guardians was the issue of family reunification law in Ireland, which is restrictive and has time restraints which give little consideration to the complexity of family tracing (locating a family member.) Interviewees gave several examples of young people whose application for family reunification was rejected because they waited too long after they received status, or they applied slightly after they turned 18**. This whole process places a massive responsibility on the young person and can cause considerable anxiety.

Clarken concluded: “With this report, we want to shed light on the traumatic and sudden process of turning 18 as an unaccompanied minor in Ireland. You go to sleep a child in the eyes of the law, and the next morning you wake up an adult and find you are stripped of many of the supports and protections you experienced when you first arrived. The security these young people were afforded is suddenly toppled.

“Oxfam will be writing to the Minister for Children, the Ombudsman for Children and the Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children seeking meetings to discuss the findings of the report and to explore how the issues raised can be addressed.”

Erin McKay, Oxfam’s European Migration Campaign Manager and researcher and author of the Irish report section, said: “European countries need to step up. They must simplify asylum processes, set up guardianship schemes, create professional training programmes for people engaging with refugee youth, and invest in transitionary social housing with wraparound supports to help young people navigate the extremely complex systems that they find themselves in.  

“The EU also has a part to play by introducing best practices for European countries to help young people seeking protection in Europe to navigate their transition to adulthood."

END

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the young people who contributed to the research report.

**Under the 2015 Act, an unaccompanied minor is entitled to reunification with his or her parents and the parents’ children under the age of 18. Aged-out minor beneficiaries of international protection who submit applications for family reunification after turning 18 years old may face difficulties in making successful applications for family reunification as they are no longer treated as children at the time of application (Cosgrave and Thornton, 2015).

Notes to editors  

  • Read the report and the report summary for ‘Teach us for what is coming: the transition into adulthood of unaccompanied minors in Europe’ . Oxfam will be hosting an EU event outlining the findings of the report on 29 June 2021. Contact Jade in our EU office at jade.tenwick@oxfam.org in relation to the conference.
  • The organisations who contributed to this research are Oxfam, the Greek Council for Refugees, the Dutch Council for Refugees, and ACLI France. The research was conducted through interviews with refugees, frontline staff and researchers in France, Greece, the Netherlands, Ireland and Italy.
  • According to AIDA's 2020 report, in Ireland, of the 1,926 applicants for international protection, 30 were unaccompanied minors. Numbers, as of July 2020, showed that there were 59 unaccompanied minors in the care of Tusla, the Irish Child and Family agency. A study published in 2018 cited Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Syria as their main countries of origin, with ages ranging from 13 to 17
  • In 2020 the Irish government also joined a ‘coalition of the willing’ of EU member states and committed to relocate 36 unaccompanied minors from the Aegean Islands. A Parliamentary Question put to Minister Simon Coveney on the 12 May 2021 stated that: ‘Ireland also has an existing commitment to accept 36 unaccompanied minors from Greece. Eight of these minors arrived in Ireland last June. Staff from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, along with staff from Túsla and An Garda Síochána, will travel to Greece in the coming weeks to interview 25 unaccompanied minors and 50 people in family groups, with a view to arranging their relocation to Ireland’. Minister Roderic O’Gorman reconfirmed this in a later PQ on the 27 May 2021.
  • Oxfam Ireland has been advocating for the passing of the International Protection (Family Reunification)(Amendment) Bill 2017 to address failings in Ireland’s Family Reunification system
  • Looking at the practices of five European countries the report found that incoherent policies, sparsely available essential services like language classes and difficulties accessing information on their rights severely impacts on a young person's ability to fully integrate into their new society.
  • The authors of the report also highlight good practices that can bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. One such example is transitionary housing programmes, which help young people get on their feet, and gain autonomy. In these programmes, children about to turn 18 can move into semi-autonomous apartments where they receive support to gain financial and personal independence. The report also finds that support systems – guardians and community-based programmes – can play a significant role in easing the transition. Specialised training to staff in contact with refugee youth to improve their understanding of the asylum system should also be developed.  
  • Actions at both an EU level and a national level are crucial to improving the transition process, to create a child-centred support system coordinating local and national competencies and to make a period of intense anxiety more manageable.  

Key recommendations:

  • Simplification of the administrative procedures   
  • Support to help young unaccompanied minors (UAMs) understand the bureaucratic system, management of finances and searching for accommodation. Both legal guardians and voluntary guardians play a fundamental role in helping the young person adjust and get on their feet  
  • Accessible professional training for actors engaging with refugee youth  
  • Transitionary social housing with support services for UAMs who turn 18  
  • Coordination mechanisms at local and national levels to foster effective communication and interaction  

What can the EU do? 

While this transition to adulthood falls mainly under the responsibility of EU countries, the European Commission has begun to address issues related to UAMs turning 18. These have focused on exchanging good practices, providing funding for integration projects, encouraging EU countries to facilitate access to education and training, strengthening guardianship systems as well as promoting national strategies to move away from a reception centre approach towards family and community-based care services with an adequate focus on preparing UAMs to leave care.  

While the EU funding can play a crucial role in identifying and promoting good practices, research and promotion is not enough. There is a need for a determined approach.

Our suggestion is three-fold:  

  • Use the new cycle of EU funding to address the issues highlighted in this research and implement key recommendations 
  • Promote and coordinate data collection on the transition to adulthood to ensure sustained commitment by all EU countries on their promise of employment and education for all young people 
  • Continued mainstreaming of UAMs specific issues into broader social policies and, most importantly, a Commission Guidance on the transition into adulthood taking a holistic approach on the needs, concerns and considerations in this complex process. 
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Opportunity to ramp up production of lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines worldwide opposed by EU, again

Media Reactive

World Trade Organisation members (who met today for a council on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) have just agreed that they will engage in a text-based process on waiving Intellectual Property rules on Covid-19 vaccines, test and treatments. This means a deal, which would see a temporarily suspension of Intellectual Property, is increasingly likely. However, Europe and key governments are continuing to oppose.

In response, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “This move to text-based negotiations is good news, because it means all WTO member states acknowledge that pharmaceutical monopolies are blocking access to life saving vaccines for millions of people and that this needs to be addressed.

“However, it is shameful that in the midst of a pandemic it has taken eight long painful months and 2.7 million deaths from Covid-19 for a handful of wealthy country government blockers to finally agree to enter formal text-based negotiations on this life saving proposal.

“Despite rising infections and the lack of vaccine stock in Africa and other regions of the world, the EU with support from Ireland continues to side with a handful of pharmaceutical corporations in protecting their monopolies against the needs of people around the world.  

“It’s unforgivable that while some are literally fighting for breath and countries continue to be overwhelmed by new waves of the virus, our political leaders continue to oppose what could be a vital breakthrough in ending this pandemic for everyone in rich and poor countries alike.  

“Ireland and the EU should now follow countries like the US and New Zealand and more than 100 developing countries and end their opposition to the TRIPS waiver. Instead, they must work together to deliver urgently needed vaccines to the world.  

“In April, Minister Simon Coveney made favourable comments about the need to ensure that the protection of vaccine patents and intellectual property rights don’t undermine efforts to address the Covid-19 pandemic globally.   

“However, disappointingly, the Irish Government continues to oppose this important measure despite initial signals of support from senior Irish politicians. This is hugely regretful for the billions of unvaccinated people around the world because the reasons put forward by EU leaders to support their approach do not stand up to scrutiny, as we recently detailed in an op-ed.  

"We call on Ireland to end its support of the EU’s position and engage with fellow EU member states to reverse the EU's continued opposition to this essential intervention - that is supported by over 100 low-and middle-income countries.   

“They can do this by backing the TRIPs waiver at the WTO and by supporting the transfer of vaccine technology through the WHO’s Covid Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). More manufacturers are coming forward by the day from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Senegal, Denmark and Canada with offers to make vaccines but are now blocked from doing so.   

“While this proposal should not be seen as a 'magic bullet' to solve global vaccine supply issues it will go a long way to bringing as much vaccine production capacity online as is possible.    

“This opportunity to speed up and scale up the production of Covid-19 vaccines will save lives and livelihoods the world over.

“Oxfam Ireland — along with a number of other NGOs, faith organisations, trade unions, and medical organisations —have proposed that a relevant Oireachtas committee undertake a detailed review of Ireland’s position on the TRIPS waiver as a matter of urgency. As we begin to see the benefits of reaching herd immunity through mass vaccination, our government should not be standing in the way of the world’s poorest citizens being afforded the same access to life-saving medicine.”     

END 

Contact

Caroline Reid | Communications Manager | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to editors:

The TRIPS waiver proposal was first presented to the WTO on October 2, 2020. Since then to June 8, 2021, there have been a recorded 2.67 million deaths from Covid-19 worldwide.

WTO delegates agreed an urgent timetable to move negotiations forward ahead of the next General Council meeting in July.

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Millions facing double disaster as second Covid wave overwhelms rural India

3 June 2021

The second wave of Covid-19 has left public healthcare in shambles, warned Oxfam India today, people have lost their lives due to lack of proper medical facilities and infrastructure. While the situation is getting a little under control in cities, it is still very grim in rural India.

Around 65 percent of the total population, which is approximately 1.3 billion, live in rural India where there are issues related to access to medical facilities, hospitals, doctors, technically trained staff and testing facilities. 

Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India said: “There was a time when we woke up every day to news of death of a friend, family, acquaintance. Villages were even worse off. With no access to health care and no testing, in some cases 20-25 people from a village died within days of each other. No one in India has remained untouched by this pandemic. And most of these lives could have been saved if there was proper, adequate, and affordable healthcare for all.

“People outside the major cities do not have the same access to social media to reach out for help or raise awareness of what is happening. While a lack of testing, healthcare facilities and post-mortems, means large numbers of cases in rural communities are not being recorded.”

Oxfam India plans to strengthen the rural health ecosystem in some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities by providing the necessary tools, training and equipment needed by frontline health workers for early identification of cases and timely referral to health centres. 

While healthcare is the primary focus, Oxfam India is also reaching out to some of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities with food. In the long-run Oxfam will work towards providing livelihood support to informal sector workers and their families. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Apart from a healthcare calamity, India was already reeling under economic stress. The sporadic lockdowns and containment zones mean that once again that informal sector workers - from street vendors to domestic workers - are the worst hit. Latest report from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) states that over 10 million Indians lost their jobs in the second Covid wave and around 97 percent of household incomes have fallen since the start of the pandemic last year. 

“Millions who slipped into poverty last year due to job losses are now facing another looming crisis, hunger. India already has the largest population facing food shortages in the world, with an estimated 189 million people in India already undernourished before the pandemic began.

“We have received an incredible response to our India appeal so far. From individual donations to corporate fundraisers – the support from the people and businesses across the island of Ireland has been so heartening and is having a direct and positive impact on the ground. It is fantastic to see such global solidarity in times of crisis. To help overcome the double disaster that Amitabh and his team are seeing right now in rural India, please support Oxfam’s India Crisis Appeal at www.oxfamireland.org, to provide much needed food and health care supplies to the people who need it most."

END

For more information, please contact:

Caroline Reid | Oxfam Ireland | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Savvy Soumya Misra | Oxfam India | savvy@oxfamindia.org    

Notes to the Editors:  

  • In the second wave, Oxfam India is working with the government and local administrations to deploy 7 Oxygen generation plants, 25 ventilators, 500 Oxygen concentrators, 3000 Oxygen cylinders (40-lts capacity), 11800 Oxygen nasal masks, 300 BiPAP machines, 1200 ICU beds, around 16000 diagnostic equipment of different types, and 19000 PPE kits. We are also aiming to provide one-month dry ration supply and community safety kits to 225,000 people.
  • Oxfam are reaching out to public healthcare institutions, district administrations and COVID Care Centres with medical equipment will also reach the most marginalised and vulnerable communities with food, ration, and safety kits. 
  • Oxfam India also plans to train 35000 ASHA workers and provide them with medical kits for a larger community outreach to ensure Covid appropriate behaviour and also to tackle the issue of vaccine hesitancy.
  • Since March 2020, Oxfam India has been working in 16 states, reaching the most marginalised and vulnerable with medical supplies, food kits, cooked meals, safety and PPE kits, cash, and livelihood trainings.  
  • In the first month of Oxfam’s response to the second wave, they have provided support in Maharashtra, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh. While continuing to work in these states among the most marginalised and vulnerable communities, Oxfam India will also look at expanding to Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Gujarat.  

About Oxfam India 

Oxfam India is a movement of people working to create a just and an equal India. We work to ensure that Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, and women and girls have safe-violence free lives with freedom to speak their mind, equal opportunities to realize their rights, and a discrimination free future. 

During the last five years, Oxfam India has responded to more than 35 humanitarian disasters across the country and directly provided relief to nearly 1.5 million people. Oxfam India’s humanitarian response is guided by the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in disaster affected areas.

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EU agreement fails to deliver on expectations for real corporate tax transparency

Oxfam media reaction

1 June 2021

Today, EU negotiators struck an agreement on the public Country-by-Country Reporting proposal. The deal means companies with operations in the EU will be required to publish information on how much tax they pay in EU countries and non-EU countries that are on the EU’s black or grey list. Information on other non-EU countries will only be available on an aggregated global basis.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said:  “This agreement falls short of expectations following the major breakthrough earlier this year when EU governments gave their first green light to tax transparency. The deal fails to force companies to provide real country-by-country reporting as it leaves over three-quarters of countries in the world off the list. Instead, EU legislators have granted multinational corporations plenty of opportunities to continue dodging taxes in secrecy by shifting their profits to tax havens outside the EU, like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Switzerland. The deal also leaves poorer countries in the dark by failing to shine a light on the activities of multinationals in their countries.

“The EU legislators gave tax havens and tax-dodging companies a free pass during a time when tax revenues are vitally needed to boost the economy. Most of the world's real tax havens are not on the EU's blacklist and will not be reported on separately. We need everyone to pay their fair share of tax, not least multinational corporations, some of which recorded huge profits during the pandemic.

“The has EU failed to answer demands of citizens, investors, unions and civil society for real corporate tax transparency. Many corporations already do real public country-by-country reporting and the US has a deal on the table. This decision shows the EU is not in step with current global trends, instead it is lagging behind them.”

END 

Contact

Caroline Reid | Communications Manager | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to editors:  

  • Today, in the third trialogue meeting the representatives from the European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the Directive regarding “disclosure of income tax information by certain undertakings and branches”. The text must now go through formal approval by adoption in the European Parliament Committees (JURI and ECON), the European Parliament’s plenary, and in the Council. Most agreements reached in trialogue meetings are subsequently adopted without substantial amendments.  
  • The European Commission in 2016 sent a draft text to the European Parliament and Council in the wake of the Luxleaks scandal. The European Parliament passed the file to the Council in July 2017 and the Council agreed on a first compromise text in February 2021. Only the European Parliament’s proposal included disaggregated data at the global level.  

According to Oxfam, the compromise has the following serious weaknesses:  

  1. an obligation for companies to publicly report information on a country-by-country basis only for their operations in EU members states and countries included in the blacklist or greylist (for 2 consecutive years) of the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions;  
  2. a “corporate-get-out-clause” allowing a reporting exemption for “commercially sensitive information” for 5 years; and 
  3. a reporting requirement applied only to companies with an annual consolidated turnover above EUR 750 million. This will exclude 85 - 90 per cent of multinationals. 
  • Transparency for only the 27 EU member states and the 21 currently blacklisted or greylisted jurisdictions means keeping corporate secrecy for over 3 out of 4 of the world’s nearly 200 countries.  
  • 80 civil society organisations, trade unions and networks from across Europe in April, 63 trade unions and CSOs in May, investors representing US$5.6 trillion in assets and 133.000 citizens so far have called for a real public country by country reporting. This includes an obligation for companies to report their profit and tax paid in every country they operate in – not just EU countries and EU-listed tax havens. 
  • Oxfam has highlighted the weaknesses of the EU blacklist and greylist and how it fails to capture real tax havens. Not one of the world’s 15 worst tax havens are on the EU’s list.  
  • With the current compromise, people in low-income countries would not have access to information about multinational companies’ profit made or tax paid in their countries. Moreover, under the OECD system, most tax authorities in low-income countries, unlike in EU countries, do not have access to the confidential country-by-country reports.  
  • The U.S. Congress recently introduced legislation that would require full, public, and global country-by-country reporting. It passed the relevant committee in the House two weeks ago. 
  • The EU already requires public country-by-country reporting covering all countries inside and outside the EU for companies in the financial and extractives sectors. Since January 2021, some multinational companies have voluntarily adopted this reporting through the GRI tax standardOxfamTransparency Internationalresearchers and others have used this information to document and analyse the tax affairs of multinational companies. 
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