Press Releases

“We are at a turning point for Europe…” Oxfam Ireland’s reaction to historic decision on EU Temporary Protection Directive

Today, EU migration ministers agreed to activate the Temporary Protection Directive for people fleeing the crisis in Ukraine. The directive will afford those fleeing access to a residence permit for up to three years along with access to education and employment in any EU country. 

In just one week, more than a million people have fled Ukraine into Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and surrounding countries. The number is only expected to rise sharply in the following weeks. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said:
“The significance of this moment for Europe cannot be underestimated. The Commission’s decision offers a direct lifeline to people fleeing from danger in Ukraine. It also kick-starts a solidarity mechanism that asks all EU countries to share the responsibility for hosting them. This includes Ireland as we opted in to the directive in 2003. 

“However, the European Union has a particularly poor track record on responsibility sharing. Since 2015, the EU and its member states have consistently failed to agree on any type of mandatory responsibility sharing mechanism which has resulted in a small number of countries hosting the majority of people on the move.  

“Right now, it is impossible to expect Ukraine’s immediate neighbours to bear the responsibility of hosting over a million people, let alone the likelihood of so many more to come. All EU member states need to step up and take responsibility.  

“In 2015, when refugees fled to Europe to escape conflict in Syria and elsewhere, Ireland voluntarily opted in to relocate asylum seekers from Greece to Ireland, showing solidarity with that country and the people forced to seek refuge there. We welcome the fact that through today’s decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive, Ireland is showing that same solidarity to people fleeing Ukraine. We would also urge the Government to proactively promote a permanent relocation mechanism that contributes to this kind of solidarity on a constant basis, including by ensuring that asylum seekers are hosted among EU member states instead of being forced to stay in the first country they arrive in.

“In the past years, we have seen asylum seekers’ rights being systematically ignored, a crackdown on NGO workers who are giving them aid and support, overcrowded and unsuitable camps, and often violent pushbacks. This is a reality of recent European history that we cannot see repeated. 

“We are therefore at a turning point for Europe. It is not possible to remedy the wrongs from the past, but we can do much better in the future. EU countries must implement today’s decision immediately and in full. We need real and meaningful responsibility sharing across all of Europe, ensuring that people have decent and dignified conditions to live in and can rebuild their lives in safety. It also means keeping borders open to all people fleeing violence, persecution and war regardless of the country they came from.” 

ENDS 

CONTACT: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland | Mobile: +353 (0) 83 198 1869 | Email: alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

  • Oxfam spokespeople are available to comment. 
  • The EU's current asylum rules state that refugees must apply for asylum in the first EU country they arrive. This system collapsed in 2015 when millions of people fled to Europe seeking safety. 
  • The Temporary Protection Directive from 2001 has never been triggered before. It is an exceptional measure to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons, and is applied when the standard asylum system is struggling to cope with a mass influx of people needing protection. The Directive obliges all EU member states to provide minimum protection, including a residency permit for up to 3 years, access to employment, accommodation, social welfare, education, etc. The solidarity mechanism in the Directive is based on a voluntary offer from states and the consent of the person concerned. Read more here more about it.
  • Read our 2021 report: "Tipping the Scales: the role of responsibility and solidarity sharing in the situation on the Greek islands". It details how failed EU policies and the shirking of responsibilities resulted in the abysmal situation in Greece, and how the current proposals replicate these failed policies and allow for the same shirking of responsibility.  
  • Read our reaction to the crisis in Ukraine: “Protection of civilians in Ukraine conflict.”  
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COVID DEATH TOLL FOUR TIMES HIGHER IN LOWER-INCOME COUNTRIES THAN RICH ONES

3rd March 2022

3 million people died since the Omicron variant emerged, shattering perceptions that the pandemic is over

The COVID-19 death toll has been four times higher in lower-income countries than in rich ones, according to a new report, Pandemic of Greed, published today by Oxfam on behalf of the People’s Vaccine Alliance. The report is released as the world marks two years since the World Health Organisation declared the start of the pandemic.  

While COVID-19 originally wreaked havoc in rich countries, including Ireland, Oxfam’s research shows that the world’s poorest countries have been hardest hit, with women and children bearing a disproportionate burden. Lack of testing and reporting means that very large numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 go unreported, especially in the poorest countries. Modelling using measures of excess deaths estimates that 19.6 million people have died because of COVID-19, over three times the official death toll. Based on this analysis, Oxfam calculated that for every death in a high-income country, an estimated four other people have died in a low or lower-middle income country. On a per capita basis, deaths in low and lower middle-income countries are 31% higher than high income countries.

Oxfam also calculated that three million COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the three months since the Omicron variant emerged. The figure shatters perceptions that Omicron’s milder illness means the pandemic is coming to an end, as the more contagious variant tears through unvaccinated populations. By some estimates, over half of humanity is set to have been infected with COVID-19 by the end of March 2022. While most cases will be mild, the sheer number of cases means that numbers of deaths remain high.

The report also outlines that:

  • Every minute, four children around the world have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID. In India alone, more than two million children lost a caregiver.
  • Women have been 1.4 times more likely to drop out of the labour force than men because of the pandemic. 
  • 99 percent of humanity is worse off because of COVID-19, 160 million people have been pushed into poverty, and 137 million people have lost their jobs.

However, not everyone has lost out due to the pandemic, with a new billionaire created every 26 hours. Of those new billionaires, 40 are COVID-19 billionaires, having made their billions profiting from vaccines, treatments, tests, and personal protective equipment (PPE). During the pandemic, the world’s 10 richest men have seen their fortunes double, rising at a rate of $1.3 billion a day, or $15,000 dollars a second.   

Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “This report is an urgent reminder that the pandemic has not gone away and that for the world’s poorest even the so-called “mild” variant poses a deadly risk without access to vaccines. 

“This report also exposes a number of the myths that have been used by defenders of the current patent-based system of pharmaceutical greed, defenders who include the Irish Government. 

"Now more than ever, we are calling on the Government to support a waiver of relevant intellectual property rules under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) for COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, which would allow for generic production of the COVID-19 vaccines. Countries continuing to block the TRIPs waiver while enjoying the hope and freedom the vaccine has afforded show no concern for those who will now be worst affected by the pandemic."

Oxfam is part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a global coalition of nearly 100 organisations, campaigning for vaccine equity through support for a waiver of intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and by making pharmaceutical companies share their science and know-how with qualified producers in developing countries, so they are able to make their own doses. 

Clarken continued: “The charity approach to global vaccination has failed. Global South countries can and must manufacture vaccines and treatments for themselves - and they must maintain control of their own supplies. Rich countries must waive intellectual property rules on COVID-19 technologies and force big pharma to share the recipes.” 

The report, Pandemic of Greed, warns that dangerous myths have fuelled the pandemic and excused a lack of bold and innovative policy action.  

Gregg Gonsalves, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Yale University, said:

“While Omicron tends to lead to a milder illness in many, the variant’s higher transmissibility means it can cut a deadly swath through countries, particularly among the unvaccinated. We may all be done with the coronavirus, but the coronavirus is not done with all of us. 

“There must be a better way out of the suffering of the past two years, a way where everyone had access to vaccines, and no one was disposable. Public health decisions must be based on comprehensive evidence, not political agendas. 

“The ‘post-COVID’ narrative emerging from rich countries will only worsen the complacency that has plagued the global fight against COVID-19. The Global South understandably wants to take things into their own hands – and rich countries should let them.” 

Read the report, Pandemic of Greed, in full here.

ENDS 

CONTACT: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland | Mobile: +353 (0) 83 198 1869 | Email: alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org 

 

Notes to the editor: 

  • The People’s Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of over 80 organisations and networks, supported by Nobel Laureates, health experts, economists, Heads of States, faith leaders and activists, working together for a People’s Vaccine, available free of charge to everyone, everywhere. The Alliance grew organically out of the open letter calling for a People’s Vaccine, organised in May 2020. Information on the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland can be found here: https://peoplesvaccine.ie/
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Oxfam reaction to the IPCC’s Working Group II report on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability

Responding to the publication of the IPCC’s Working Group II report assessing climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, Oxfam’s Climate Policy Lead Nafkote Dabi said:

"This catalogue of pain, loss and suffering must be a wake-up call to everyone. The poorest who have done the least to contribute to climate change are suffering the most and we have a moral responsibility to help those communities adapt.

“Inequality is at the heart of today’s climate crisis —in the little over 100 days since COP26, the richest 1 percent of the world’s population have emitted much more carbon than the population of Africa does in an entire year. The super-rich are racing through the planet’s small remaining carbon budget for limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Clearly the time has come to claw back their outsized wealth, power and consumption through wealth taxes or bans on carbon-hungry luxury goods like private jets and mega yachts.

"People living in the most affected countries do not need this report to tell them that the climate has changed. The highest price is already being paid by the cattle farmer in Somalia whose entire herd has died from thirst. By the mother sheltering in a school gym in the Philippines because her home was swept away just before Christmas.

"Regardless of how quickly governments and corporations cut carbon emissions, some warming is already baked-in from our past behavior. It’s shortsighted —and too late—to focus almost exclusively on mitigation. Billions of people need early warning systems, access to renewable energy and improved crop production now, not after we bring emissions under control.

"Only a fourth of all climate finance to vulnerable countries is for adaptation. The recent agreement at COP26 to double adaptation finance to $40 billion by 2025 will help, but it’s nowhere near enough. The UN estimates that developing countries need $70 billion every year to adapt, and those costs are not falling. Rich countries are overwhelmingly responsible for the climate crisis and must do more to support the poorest communities whose citizens struggle to meet their daily needs let alone prepare for the future.

"The other clear message from this report is that we are all in the driving seat. Our foot is on the accelerator and every squeeze produces more harmful gases and higher temperatures. Every ton of carbon we avoid increases the chances of a livable planet —there is a huge difference between 1.5°C and 1.6°C of heating.

"We must adapt, and we must ensure the planet remains adaptable. Because runaway global heating will only lead to events that we cannot build back from —deaths, submerged homes, unfarmable wastelands, and mass migrations of desperate people."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Photos of Somalia’s Jubaland drought are available for download.

Since COP26, the world’s richest 1 percent (79 million people) have emitted an estimated 1.7 billion tons in carbon emissions. This is more than the continent of Africa emits in an entire year, home to almost 1.4 billion people. According to the Global Carbon Project, Africa’s consumption emissions for 2019 (latest year available) were 1.03 billion tons(1.03 billion tons divided by 365 x 107 = 294 million tons emitted by Africa in 107 days). Calculations were made using Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Confronting Carbon Inequality report.

Recent data from Oxfam shows that the wealthiest 1 percent of humanity are responsible for twice as many emissions as the poorest 50 percent, and that by 2030, their carbon footprints are in fact set to be 30 times greater than the level compatible with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

According to Boat International, the superyacht industry has largely shrugged off the COVID-19 pandemic to record a third year of consistent order book growth. The 2022 Global Order Book records 1,024 projects in build or on order, a rise of 24.7 percent on last year’s 821.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), developed countries provided only around $80 billion in climate finance in 2019. While the UN Secretary-General, Oxfam and others have called for half the money to be spent on adaptation, only about a quarter of total climate finance goes to adaptation.

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that annual adaptation costs in developing countries are expected to reach $140 to $300 billion in 2030 and $280 to $500 billion in 2050.

The UNFCCC estimates Somalia could need $48.5 billion to adapt to climate change between now and 2030. Somalia’s GDP is less than $7 billion (2020)

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Innocent civilians must be protected in Ukraine

Published: 1st March 2022

As a humanitarian organisation, Oxfam is horrified by the loss of life being witnessed, and gravely concerned by the impacts of the conflict in Ukraine.  We call for an immediate end to hostilities. The protection of life is of paramount importance.  It is vital that civilians everywhere are safeguarded and we stand in solidarity with all those affected by violence, wherever they may be.

The protection of civilians must be assured: respect for international law and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations are vital to preserve peace.  All Members of the United Nations must redouble their commitment to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered” as the UN Charter requires.    

In any conflict it is always the most vulnerable people who are the worst affected. As conflict and its consequences ravage economies, it is people living in poverty, on both sides, who will lose their jobs and their access to services, and who will struggle most to cope with daily life. As ordinary men and women are pulled into a conflict they do not want, children and the elderly will be left without support.   

As of today, the UN estimates that 386,000 people have already fled Ukraine into Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and other surrounding countries. Without peace, these numbers will sharply increase as people are displaced both internally and outside of Ukraine’s borders.   

All people have the right to flee from conflict, and to seek asylum in safe countries. As countries bordering Ukraine receive tens of thousands of asylum seekers, Oxfam appeals to all governments to ensure that they find safe refuge. This must apply equally to all people fleeing conflict, whether from Ukraine, or to those in Yemen and Afghanistan and beyond. At moments where there is the greatest peril to human life, we must stand together in our common humanity, united in our pursuit of peace and human rights for all people.

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EU set to bin 25 million more vaccine doses than it has donated to Africa in 2022

February 16th 2022

The EU and Ireland have betrayed Africa by blocking proposals which would allow manufacturers on the continent to make their own COVID-19 vaccines while hoarding millions of doses set to expire at the end of the month, warns Oxfam.

Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of African and European leaders at the AU-EU Summit, new analysis from Oxfam highlights how the EU will have to throw away 55 million doses of COVID vaccines by the end of February, significantly more than the 30 million doses they have donated to Africa so far in 2022. Ireland, who have not donated any vaccines to low-income countries so far this year, are throwing out hundreds of thousands of vaccines.

Despite the rhetoric of a special relationship with Africa, the EU – which is now the world’s biggest exporter of vaccines – has prioritised selling vaccines made on EU soil to rich nations and just eight per cent of its vaccine exports have gone to the African continent. The figures for Germany are even worse – just one per cent of vaccine exports from BioNTech, the German pharmaceutical company behind the Pfizer vaccine, have gone to Africa.

At the same time, EU member states, including Ireland, have been a major blocker of proposals tabled by South Africa and India and supported by the African Union and over 100 countries for an intellectual property waiver which would allow the generic production of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. Leaked drafts of the summit declaration show a divide between the EU and the AU, with the AU insisting language on the waiver is included. Last summer, French President Emmanuel Macron - who is hosting the AU-EU summit - announced his support for the waiver but has done little since to challenge the EU’s stance on it.

Jim Clarken CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “The European Commission said at the beginning of the pandemic that the vaccine should be a global public good. Instead, they have ensured it is a private profit opportunity, raking in billions for Big Pharma and the EU, while almost 9 out of 10 people in Africa aren’t fully vaccinated, two years into this deadly pandemic. This is shameful.”

“It is estimated that almost 7,000 people in Africa have died per day as a result of COVID-19 in 2022, a quarter of a million since the beginning of the year. Due to very low vaccine supplies, just 11 per cent of people on the continent have received their first two COVID-19 vaccines to date.”

The EU has made much of plans to support the set-up of vaccine factories in Africa under the monopoly control of European pharmaceutical corporations – but this still wouldn’t give countries autonomy on vaccine supplies produced. BioNTech recently announced plans to produce 50 million vaccines in Africa once fully operational, however, this is less than their factory in Germany produces each month.

Clarken said: “It is shameful that Ireland continues to support the EU’s policy of blocking African producers from making their own doses of COVID-19 vaccines. If there truly is a common agenda between the Unions, then the EU would stop putting the interests of pharmaceutical companies, who have reaped billions from the pandemic, ahead of African lives.

“These vaccines were publicly funded and the recipes should be shared with the world to allow all qualified producers to make these vital shots.”

The EU have contributed €3 billion in funding to COVAX, the initiative designed to help developing countries to access vaccine doses, but the scheme has now run out of funds after failing to reach its target of vaccinating 20 per cent of people in poorer countries by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, Germany alone has received €3.2 billion back in tax revenue from BioNTech.

Clarken concluded: "Ireland and the EU claim they are promoting a ‘prosperous partnership of equals’ with the African Union and yet they are dumping more vaccine doses than they are donating to Africa, while continuing to block a waiver on vaccine patents which would enable African countries to produce our own vaccines. What's equal about that?

“This vaccine apartheid - perpetuated by the EU and Ireland - has a brutal human cost. Livelihoods continue to be destroyed, economies are being shattered and health workers pushed beyond the brink.

“It is encouraging that the African Union is standing up to the EU and asking for a reference to the TRIPS waiver to be included in the Summit's outcome document. We need the TRIPS waiver now and the EU and Ireland must stop standing in the way.”

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