Press Releases

EU leaders abandon core values in migration deal with Libya

Friday 3 February 2017 

Today EU leaders dealt a further blow to the rights of refugees and migrants by agreeing a deal that outsources migration to Libya, a country marred in conflict and which has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Prime Minister Theresa May were among the EU heads of state and government meeting in Malta today to discuss migration and other issues. 

The new agreement between Italy and Libya will see Italy and the EU take part in and finance migration control in Libya, including support for refugee and migrant reception centres in Libya, returns from Libya to countries of origin and border control.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “The primary aim of this deal is to prevent refugees and migrants reaching Europe with no regard for safeguarding their right to safety and dignity.

“EU leaders say they are committed to human rights and international law but Italy has struck a dodgy deal with Libya which undermines these principles. The fact that all EU governments have welcomed the Libya deal shows their hypocrisy, particularly because it makes no attempt to increase Libya’s commitments to people’s rights whilst shutting off the route to Europe.

“So-called ‘irregular migrants’ arriving in Italy have told Oxfam about the horrific abuses they faced in Libya, a place they call ‘hell’. The agreement with Libya deals a serious blow to core EU values and exposes desperate people to suffering and even death by forcing them to seek more dangerous routes to safety.”


For more information or interviews, please contact:

Dublin: Alice Dawson on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 /

Belfast: Phillip Graham on 028 9089 5959 / 07841 102535 /

Notes to editors:

  • Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews, including in Dublin, Belfast, Brussels and Washington
  • On Thursday, the Italian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Libya. It commits Italian and EU funding for migration management.
  •  In their Malta declaration, EU heads of state and government state “the EU welcomes and is ready to support Italy in its implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding”.
  • The memorandum does not include any obligations for Libya to increase its commitment to international law and human rights. It only refers to "international obligations and human rights agreements to which the two countries are parties". Libya is not even signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
  • The Italian commitment to provide support to regional authorities in Libya is only linked to the presence of irregular migrants, rather than being delivered based on the actual needs of people.
  • Security measures and support to border construction and control is linked to irregular migration, with no apparent safeguards for human rights.
  • Oxfam has laid out guiding principles for EU cooperation with Libya that puts the rights, the safety and the dignity of people at the forefront.
  • Oxfam is working with migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. Their testimonies are documented in the report ‘Hotspots – Rights denied’ (pages 31-34).
  • According to data from the Italian Ministry of Interior, 39% of people that arrived in Italy in 2016 were granted international protection. 
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Oxfam: EU-Libya migration plans shine a spotlight on EU leaders’ hypocrisy

  • EU member states must protect human rights in migration talks with Libya
  • Oxfam joins US lawsuit opposing President Trump’s ban on refugees and immigrants

Thursday 2 February, 2017

Oxfam has said that EU leaders denouncing US President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on refugees and immigrants highlights their own hypocrisy in the face of Europe’s flawed migration response.

At an informal EU meeting in Malta on Friday, February 3, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other EU heads of state and government will discuss closer cooperation with Libya on managing migration. 

The talks could see Libya receive aid in return for strengthened border control and surveillance to stem the flow of refugees and migrants coming to Europe. Oxfam described this as a deliberate outsourcing of migration control to a country mired in conflict where migrants are at great risk of abuse and even death. Such a move would mean EU leaders would again fail in their responsibility to uphold the rights of refugees and migrants.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive’s Jim Clarken said: “EU leaders cannot speak out against President Trump’s discriminatory and unjust Executive Order and then make a deal with Libya which also threatens the safety and dignity of refugees and migrants. 

“I have met young people who have experienced horrific abuses in Libya and are now living in safety in Oxfam-supported centres in Sicily. People who have managed to escape have told us about beatings, burnings, starvation and exploitation.

“In their haste, European leaders are throwing money at authorities in war-torn Libya without the necessary checks and balances. 

“A deal that aims to above all else stop migrants from entering Europe is dangerous and runs contrary to Europe’s core values – shutting down borders does not stop desperate people searching for safety but forces them to seek more dangerous and exploitative routes. EU member states must put the rights, safety and dignity of people at the forefront of any plans to cooperate more closely with Libya.”

As leaders meet on Friday to discuss how to manage migration from Libya and other African states, Oxfam is calling for EU heads of state and government to manage migration with full respect for human rights and concern for the safety of people. Governments must protect migrants, grant international protection to refugees and promote safe and regular channels for migration, it said. 

Oxfam is calling for an EU migration management plan that: 
• Delivers development aid for the sole purpose of poverty reduction. Under no circumstances should development aid be used to restrict mobility, as this may even work counter to the aim of reducing poverty. 
• Ensures cooperation on border control is contingent upon demonstrated respect for human rights, mobility principles, and the rights of asylum-seekers. 
• Includes credible monitoring schemes to ensure the implementation is in line with international law. If this is not possible, no deal should be agreed. 

Beyond Europe, Oxfam has joined the American Civil Liberties Union and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s executive order. The suit claims that the order violates federal law and calls on it to be declared unconstitutional. As a global organisation working in five of the countries - Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen - affected by Trump’s actions, as well as other conflict-affected countries, the order could jeopardise the charity’s ability to address some of the worst humanitarian crises around the globe.

In Ireland, Oxfam has urged the Government to step up its intake of refugees and help fill the void left by the recent actions of the US government. Oxfam is calling on leaders to increase the number of refugees resettled through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, including some of those now denied a safe haven in the US. 

Oxfam is also calling for increased opportunities for family reunification in Ireland and for the Government to expand the Syria Humanitarian Admissions Programme to allow those fleeing persecution from other war-torn states such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Central African Republic to be granted refuge here.

People can support Oxfam Ireland by joining their ‘Right to Refuge’ petition:   


For more information or interviews, please contact Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at

Notes to editors: 
• Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews, including in Dublin, Belfast, Brussels and Washington

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Oxfam calls on Irish Government to condemn US Executive Order barring refugees and immigrants

  • Urgent review of US pre-clearance system in Irish airports now required
  • Ireland cannot stay silent while door is slammed on thousands of vulnerable people

Monday January 30th, 2017

Oxfam Ireland has urged the Irish Government to make a public statement condemning the recent US Executive Order banning the entry of refugees and immigrants of certain nationalities and to call for it to be rescinded with immediate effect.

Oxfam said that following the Executive Order Ireland should conduct an urgent review of the US pre-clearance system available in Irish airports and suspend the pre-clearance agreement if it finds Irish or international human rights law is being violated, in line with the calls of leading Irish human rights lawyers.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “Ireland cannot stay silent while the door is slammed on thousands of vulnerable men, women and children being refused safety. Those impacted are among the world’s most vulnerable people, many of whom are simply trying to find a safe place to live after fleeing unimaginable violence and loss.”

Mr Clarken said Ireland should show leadership by publicly pledging to increase the number of refugees in the resettlement programme and play a role in filling the void left by the actions of the US government, ensuring that some of those denied access to the US find a safe haven in Ireland. 

Jim Clarken said: “Barriers to refugees entering Ireland also need to be addressed. So far just over 750 people have arrived in Ireland since the Irish Government pledged in 2015 to take in 4,000 refugees. The slow pace of response is unacceptable given the daily trauma faced by those fleeing war and conflict.”

Globally, Oxfam is calling for increased resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees, as well as for governments to offer expanded opportunities for family reunification and to allow safe passage through the use of humanitarian visas. Inside Europe, Oxfam is also calling on governments to develop a fairer and more effective asylum system and for conditions in countries hosting large numbers of people who have fled their homes to be improved, including through expanded opportunities for employment and education.

Oxfam Ireland’s recent ‘Right to Refuge’ campaign was supported by 34,000 across the island of Ireland, calling on political leaders to do more to help people on the move.

Jim Clarken added: “Thousands of people in Ireland and around the world already support the right of people forced to flee their homes to seek refuge. Political leaders must not stand by while refugees are left in limbo and vilified.”


Contact: Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Communications Manager, Oxfam Ireland, +353 83 1975 107,

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Just 8 men own same wealth as half the world, new Oxfam report reveals

  • Gap between rich and poor bigger than previously thought
  • Research published as World Economic Forum meets this week in Davos, Switzerland
  • We need global economy that works for the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent

Monday 16 January, 2017

Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorer half of the world’s population, according to a new report published by Oxfam as political and business leaders meet this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

An Economy for the 99 Percent’ shows that the gap between rich and poor is far greater than had been thought thanks to new and better data on global wealth. Since 2015, the richest one percent has owned more wealth than the other 99 percent combined. Oxfam says this concentration of wealth at the top is holding back progress in ending global poverty. The richest are accumulating wealth at such an astonishing rate that the world could see its first trillionaire in just 25 years. Someone would have to spend over €1 million a day for 2,738 years to spend a trillion euro. 

The report also details how governments are facilitating big corporations and the super-rich to dodge taxes and use their power to influence politics – which is fuelling the inequality crisis.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of just eight men – so few they would fit on a golf buggy – when one in nine people on this planet go to bed hungry every night. Public anger is already creating political shockwaves across the globe with inequality cited as a significant factor in the election of Donald Trump in the US and Brexit in the UK. People are tired of a system which seems rigged against them, where big business and the super-rich use their money and connections to ensure government policy works for them.

“A fundamental change in the way we manage our economies is required so they benefit everyone, not just a fortunate few. We need a global economy for the 99 percent, not just the one percent.”

The report highlights how large-scale tax dodging by corporations and wealthy individuals is contributing to inequality with the poorest losing out, as they are most reliant on the public services this forgone revenue could provide. For example, Kenya is losing $1.1bn every year in tax exemptions for corporations, nearly twice its budget for health, in a country where women have a one in 40 chance of dying in childbirth.

Mr Clarken said: “Tax revenues are critical for funding the policies and services that can fight inequality including infrastructure, health and education. The use of tax havens and loopholes or the securing of preferential tax treatment doesn’t just reduce abstract balance sheets. Everyone else is forced to pick up the bill and the human cost is borne by the most vulnerable in society.”

Oxfam Ireland is urging the Irish Government to introduce new mechanisms to increase tax transparency and stop tax dodging by multinational corporations that negatively affects poorer countries.

Mr Clarken continued: “The Irish Government has made efforts to reform the tax system especially in relation to tax dodging by wealthy individuals. We need to tackle aggressive tax planning by corporations, to implement strong controlled foreign company rules to prevent profit-shifting and improve transparency by forcing multinationals to make public where they make profits and pay tax.

“Ireland needs to continue supporting international tax transparency and should back a proposal to create a global tax body to oversee necessary reform.”

Oxfam Ireland is also asking that commitments made in the Programme for Government to ‘develop the process of budget and policy proofing as a means of advancing equality’ be put into action.

Mr Clarken said: “With Northern Ireland set to take control of corporation tax in 2018, the Stormont Executive must ensure any new proposed tax regime is fair, open and transparent – and that it does not negatively impact on vulnerable people.

“Any reform of the corporate tax system must contain safeguards preventing corporations from taking advantage to avoid tax owed elsewhere. Otherwise there is a risk that Northern Ireland could be used as a tax haven.”

Mr Clarken added: “Inequality is not inevitable. World leaders can rebalance economies with every budget passed and every rule of law or regulation written or dismantled.”

Oxfam’s report lays out a blueprint for a more human global economy, which includes greater cooperation between governments on tax dodging to generate the funds needed to invest in healthcare, education and job creation, and by dismantling the barriers to women’s economic progress such as access to education and the unfair burden of unpaid care work. On current trends it will take 170 years for women to be paid the same as men.

People can also join the campaign at


To arrange an interview, or to request images, video or more information, contact:

Belfast – Phillip Graham: +44 (0) 7841 102535 /

Dublin – Alice Dawson: 00 353 (0) 83 1981 869 /

For more news and updates, follow Oxfam Ireland Media on Twitter

Notes to editor

The 2017 World Economic Forum takes place in Davos, Switzerland from Tuesday 17th to Friday 20th January.

The following materials are available for download here:

  • Full report and executive summary of ‘An Economy for the 99 Percent’
  • A document outlining the methodology behind the statistics in the report
  • VNR footage and shot list featuring the stories of people in Kenya, Vietnam and Brazil who face a daily struggle with inequality

The Oxfam report, ‘An Economy for the 99 Percent’, will be published early AM on Monday 16th January at

New and better data on the distribution of global wealth – particularly in India and China – indicates that the poorest half of the world has less wealth than had been previously thought. Had this new data been available last year, it would have shown that nine billionaires owned the same wealth as the poorest half of the planet, and not 62, as Oxfam calculated at the time. The world’s 8 richest people are, in order of net worth, are:

  1. Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion)
  2. Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion)
  3. Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion)
  4. Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion)
  5. Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion)
  6. Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion)
  7. Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle (net worth $43.6 billion)
  8. Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion)

Oxfam’s calculations are based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Data book 2016:

The wealth of the world’s richest people was calculated using Forbes' billionaires list last published in March 2016.

Other statistics in the report:

  • Corporate tax dodging costs poor countries at least $100 billion every year. This is enough money to provide an education for the 124 million children who aren’t in school and fund healthcare interventions that could prevent the deaths of at least six million children every year.
  • Between 1988 and 2011 the incomes of the poorest 10 percent increased by just $65, while the incomes of the richest 1 percent grew by $11,800 – 182 times as much. 
  • The world’s 10 biggest corporations – including Wal-Mart, Shell and Apple – have a combined revenue greater than the government revenue of 180 countries combined, in a list which includes Ireland, Indonesia, Israel, Colombia, Greece, South Africa, Iraq and Vietnam.
  • 1 in 10 people live on less than $2 a day
  • Had action been taken to reduce the gap between rich and poor, 700 million fewer people would have been living in poverty at the end of the last decade.
  • Oxfam interviewed women working in a garment factory in Vietnam who work 12 hours a day, six days a week and still struggle to get by on the $1 an hour they earn producing clothes for some of the world’s biggest fashion brands.
  • The major corporate shareholders of big businesses are private equity firms and hedge funds – not pension funds. Thirty years ago pension funds owned 30 percent of share in the UK – now they own just 3 percent
  • In the UK around 10 percent of company profits were returned to shareholders in 1970 – now it is 70 percent.
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Oxfam Ireland calls for Ireland to step up refugee intake after US Executive order

Government urged to use every opportunity between now and White House visit to stand up for refugees and migrants

World’s 6 richest countries host just 9% of asylum seekers and refugees

Oxfam Ireland has called on the Irish Government to use every opportunity between now and Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s White House visit to stand up for those left in limbo as a result of the US Executive Order denying access to vulnerable refugees and migrants based on their religion or country of origin.

It has urged the Government to step up its intake of refugees and help fill the void left by the recent discriminatory actions of the US government.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “Families are being torn apart and every second counts. Those desperately seeking safety cannot afford to wait. We cannot stand back while refugees are left in limbo and vilified. This is not ‘extreme vetting’ – this is an injustice.

“From Minister Charlie Flanagan’s visit to Washington this week to Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s White House visit on St. Patrick’s Day, the Government needs to use every available opportunity to speak out publicly and boldly against this discriminatory Executive Order, reflecting our nation’s long-standing commitment to human rights and solidarity with people in need.

“We need to use the close and long-standing ties between the USA and Ireland to speak out against the US Administration’s harmful restrictions and press President Trump to drop them. Irish people have emigrated all over the world for generations. We have a responsibility to act to uphold the rights of all people on the move, no matter what their nationality or religion.

“Ireland needs to step up and take action to help fill the void by pledging to increase the number of refugees resettled through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, including for some of those now denied a safe haven in the US.”

Oxfam Ireland is calling for increased opportunities for family reunification in Ireland and for the Government to expand the Syria Humanitarian Admissions Programme to allow those fleeing persecution from other war-torn states such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Central African Republic to be granted refuge here.

It welcomed Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s announcement that there would be a full review of the operations of US pre-clearance in Irish airports following the Executive Order.

Jim Clarken said: “The Executive Order is being applied on Irish soil, in Irish airports – the Government has a responsibility to ensure that the human rights are upheld in this country. We need to ensure that Gardaí and Irish immigration officials aren’t being forced into implementing measures that could violate international human rights law. If violations are discovered, the scheme should be immediately suspended. Reviewing the processes in preclearance is an important step and the Government must ensure that anyone refused pre-clearance has opportunity to seek information and legal advice.”

Oxfam said wealthier countries needed to do more to share responsibility for those who have fled their homes which is at a record 65 million people.

Jim Clarken added: “At a time when more people are fleeing for their lives than any other time in history, the six richest countries in the world host just 9% of the world’s asylum seekers and refugees. It is shameful so many governments are turning their backs on the suffering of millions of vulnerable people.

“Shutting down borders does not stop people from looking for safety, dignity and a better life, but forces them to seek more dangerous and exploitative routes.”


Contact: Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, Communications Manager, Oxfam Ireland, +353 83 1975 107,

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