Press Releases

Oxfam: Six years on and no escape for Syrians seeking safety

'Doors slammed in their faces' as countries enact more hostile policies

6th Syria anniversary coincides with lifting by EU on suspension on return of refugees to Greece

Monday 13 March 2017

Ahead of the six year anniversary on Wednesday [March 15th] since the demonstrations that triggered the descent into a brutal civil war, Oxfam has warned that millions of Syrians are bearing the brunt of increasingly restrictive policies around the world and inside Syria to stop them reaching safety.

13.5 million men, women and children are in urgent need of humanitarian and protection assistance in Syria. Nearly 700,000 are trapped in besieged areas, where it is either impossible or extremely difficult to provide humanitarian aid. Amongst the most vulnerable are the approximately 78,000 people trapped along Syria’s sealed borders with Jordan, the hundreds of thousands more prevented from entering Turkey, and over 640,000 people struggling to survive under military sieges in Syria, imposed by the Government of Syria and its allies, armed opposition groups and ISIS.

Over half of the country’s population has fled: 4.9 million people have sought refuge in the region and beyond, and 6.3 million people are internally displaced, in most cases multiple times. To date, Oxfam has helped more than two million people across Syria, Jordan and Lebanon to access humanitarian assistance like clean water, cash and legal aid.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “The crisis is now entering its seventh year, with all sides to the conflict targeting civilians and deliberately cutting off people’s access to vital services such as water, food, medical supplies and electricity.

“Syria is not a safe country for refugees to return to yet a new international consensus is emerging to stop Syrians fleeing violence, rather than stopping the violence that is causing them to flee. The result is civilians in the firing line and under crippling military siege, vulnerable refugees left with no resettlement options, and attempts to return Syrians to a conflict zone.”

Those who have fled Syria are seeing doors slammed in their faces as rich countries across the world enact policies hostile towards refugees. Since the end of January 2017, the United States, European Union member states, including the United Kingdom, have changed, suspended or cancelled policies that could have seen tens of thousands of refugees offered a safe haven.

US President Donald Trump recently issued a new Executive Order that completely halts the country’s refugee resettlement programme for 120 days. This unprecedented action poses a real threat to the lives of Syrians and other refugees who, given the multiple, overlapping and time-sensitive medical and security screenings imposed by the process, effectively have only a two month window to travel before checks begin to expire.

Mr Clarken said: “This new US Executive Order is yet another attempt to slam the door on thousands of vulnerable refugees who desperately need help. The drastically shrinking options for refugees makes it all the more important for the Irish and UK governments to play their part. Ireland can do so by speeding up the resettlement process, expanding the humanitarian visa programme, and increasing options for family reunification for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

On the anniversary of the first Syria protests on Wednesday (15 March), the EU will lift a suspension on the return of refugees to Greece under the Dublin Regulation, meaning refugees who enter into Greece after this date and travel across Europe are at risk of being returned to Greece to process their asylum claims. This is despite the European Commission’s own admission that their policies are putting the Greek asylum system under massive strain and leaving people in appalling conditions.

The date also coincides with one year on from the EU-Turkey deal, which has caused huge suffering to many people – including many Syrians – who are trying to enter Europe to reach safety and the chance of a better life. The EU-Turkey deal has left many people in overcrowded and appalling conditions on Greek islands, as Europe attempts to return people to Turkey to avoid having to process asylum claims on its shores.

The UK government announced in February that it would cease to accept unaccompanied refugee children from Europe under an amendment to its immigration law passed last year.

Inside Syria, civilians in besieged areas are under a tightening grip. Like in Aleppo at the end of last year, when territory is taken by the Syrian government and their allies, civilians are given the choice of evacuation – often to unsafe areas and where they face threats en route – or to remain in the area and accept rule by the Syrian government, with considerable risks for those who the government perceives as being part of the opposition. Civilian humanitarian workers who have helped their communities in the last years of war are often particularly at risk of reprisal.

Mr Clarken said: “The international community must listen to all those affected by the crisis – including those forced to flee across borders and those within Syria, as well as the local humanitarian organisations that have helped them through this tragedy. Until there is a sustainable peace in Syria, all members of the international community have a duty to offer a safe haven to those fleeing the violence and repression.”



CONTACT: Oxfam has Syria emergency response spokespeople available for interview on the ground in the region, including staff in Lebanon and Jordan.

For interviews or more information, please contact

Belfast: Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 /

Dublin: Alice Dawson on 083 198 1869 /

Notes to the Editor:

·         Oxfam is providing clean water to conflict affected populations in Syria through the rehabilitation of water infrastructure, water trucking and repairing of wells. It is working in Lebanon and Jordan to bring Syrian refugees clean drinking water, cash and relief supplies. Oxfam also helps families get the information they need about their rights and connects them to special services such as legal aid, as well as implementing programmes in sanitation and livelihoods. It has so far helped more than two million people across Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. 

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Oxfam Ireland calls for financial and diplomatic action to meet unprecedented humanitarian needs and prevent catastrophic loss of life

‘To see people in famine in 2017 is the ultimate betrayal of our common humanity’

‘Without urgent financial support, already stretched humanitarian system will be unable to cope and many more people will die’

Saturday March 11th 2017

Oxfam Ireland has called for immediate and urgent action to respond to what the UN’s Stephen O’Brien has described as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

The UN’s humanitarian chief has warned that more than 20 million people across South Sudan, Yemen, north east Nigeria and Somalia face starvation and famine.

Oxfam recently warned that the world stands on the brink of an unprecedented four famines in 2017 due to a catastrophic failure of the global community to uphold its obligations to the most vulnerable of people. 

The aid agency is already helping over a million people in Yemen, more than 600,000 in South Sudan, over 200,000 in Nigeria and plans to begin a response to the drought in Somalia. Oxfam Ireland is appealing for members of the public to donate to its hunger crisis appeal.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “Yemen is on the brink of famine after nearly two years of devastating conflict. After months of early warnings, famine was declared last month in parts of South Sudan. In northern Nigeria it is likely that some 400,000 people living in areas cut off from aid are already suffering famine. The primary driver of these crises is conflict, though in Somalia it is drought. 

“To see people in famine in 2017 is the ultimate betrayal of our common humanity. When famine strikes, it is not a sudden phenomenon. Going hungry is a slow and agonising process. It comes when warnings go ignored. We must learn from failures in the past to respond with sufficient speed. UN appeals for humanitarian funding have grown ever bigger yet the response has not matched the need. There is now a urgent humanitarian imperative to meet the $4.4 billion needed for the aid response for these crises at the required scale.

“If the international community acts collectively now with a massive injection of aid, backed with diplomatic clout driven by the imperative to save lives, we can prevent a catastrophic loss of life. Without financial support, an already stretched international humanitarian system will not be able to cope and many more people will die.

“There is an urgent need for increased diplomatic efforts to convene ceasefires, enable safe passage by those fleeing insecurity and secure access by aid agencies to those in need of assistance.”

People can donate to Oxfam Ireland’s hunger crisis appeal at  



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

Notes to editors:

In South Sudan, 100,000 people are facing starvation now and a further 1 million people are classified as being on the brink of famine in Unity State. 

In Yemen, over 7 million people are just one step away from famine, and an extra 10 million people are severely hungry. This is the largest hunger emergency in the world. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation is reporting that wheat stocks for the country will run out in April.

In Nigeria, over 5 million people are in food crisis, and this is projected to reach 5.7 million by June 2017. There is a strong likelihood that at least 400,000 people could already be experiencing famine-like conditions and that this could rise to up to 800,000 over the course of 2017 if humanitarian assistance cannot be delivered.

In Somalia, 2.9 million people face acute food security ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ levels. This could tip into famine if the April-June rains fail, their ability to buy food declines and people do not receive humanitarian support.


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A time for action, not words: more than 160 NGOs call on EU to lead by values in migration response

8 March 2017 

EU leaders must live up to their commitment to European values in responding to migration and stop copying xenophobic populist trends, 162 NGOs have said today in a joint statement.

The organisations – including Oxfam and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland – are calling for strong leadership in actions, not just in words, which upholds the ideals of equality, liberty and human rights that have been the founding principles of the European Union for 60 years.

The statement comes ahead of this week’s meeting of the European Council in Brussels and follows months of decisions by EU leaders aimed at shutting migration routes across the Mediterranean at any cost, including backing an Italian deal with Libya which will see the EU taking part in and financing migration control in Libya.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “It is time for EU leaders to go beyond their repeated rhetoric of respect for human rights and dignity and actually deliver on their commitments to defend and protect men, women and children on the move.

“In our work with refugees and migrants in Greece, Italy and the Balkans, as well as beyond Europe’s shores, we see the terrible impact that European migration policies are having on the lives of people forced to flee. Closing borders and stopping people from reaching Europe – these decisions have life and death consequences. Europe is perfectly capable of hosting more refugees and migrants and treating them with dignity and respect for human rights – all that is needed is the political will and courage to do so.”

Edel McGinley from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, said: “Europe’s focus on border closures and push backs stands in stark contrast to the widespread solidarity shown by ordinary Europeans towards people fleeing war, persecution, danger and extreme poverty. In Ireland, we’ve witnessed communities welcoming refugees and migrants with warmth and generosity, opening up their homes and lives to help. EU governments must not undermine this solidarity but match it proactively with courage and determination to protect the lives of the most vulnerable.”

According to the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition who welcomed this joint letter, governments are failing to uphold their obligations under international and European law and are instead doing their utmost to keep people in need out of Europe and out of sight through migration deals with countries like Turkey, Libya and other states in Africa. European authorities are also pushing to expedite asylum procedures in order to facilitate the deportation of asylum seekers. As a result, many people are unable to submit their asylum applications in a fair and effective manner, or access adequate legal assistance.

Mr Clarken said: “Desperate people seeking safety from wars and persecution are forced to take dangerous journeys across Europe, often at the mercy of traffickers and smugglers. EU member states must make a drastic U-turn and deliver sustainable, long-term migration policies that guarantee respect for people’s rights rather than pushing them into danger. These policies include expanding safe and regular pathways to Europe. The Irish Government must play its part by expanding the humanitarian visa programme and increasing options for family reunification so that some of the world’s most vulnerable people have access to safe and regular routes to Europe.”

To read the joint letter to EU leaders in full, click here.



CONTACT: Spokespeople from Oxfam Ireland and other organisations are available for interview. To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact: Alice Dawson, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at

Notes to editors:

·          Read the full letter to EU leaders, listing all 162 organisations that signed it.

·          This action is supported by the Irish Refugee and Migrant Coalition  Refugee and Migrant Coalition: ActionAid Ireland; Community Work Ireland; Christian Aid; Comhlámh; Crosscare; Conference of the Religious of Ireland; Cultúr Migrants Centre; Dóchas; Doras Luimní; ENAR Ireland; Immigrant Council of Ireland; Irish Missionary Union; Irish Refugee Council; Jesuit Refugee Service; Mercy International Association; Migrant Rights Centre Ireland; Mayo Intercultural Action ; Nasc  Ireland; National Women’s Council of Ireland ; Oxfam Ireland; Trócaire ; World Vision Ireland

·          A deal with Libya, struck by Italy and which received backing by EU member states in February in the Malta declaration, exposes people to suffering and death.

·          In October 2016, Oxfam published a media briefing paper “Causing suffering and problems - Europe’s approach to migration”, detailing the various failures of the EU’s migration response.

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Corporations continue to shift billions in profit to and through Ireland to avoid tax

Tax loopholes cost Irish taxpayer hundreds of millions each year – new Oxfam Ireland report

Tuesday February 28th, 2017

Government measures aimed at tackling tax avoidance are falling short as tens of billions of euro of corporate profits continue to be shifted to and through Ireland each year to avail of Ireland’s lax tax system, a new report by Oxfam Ireland shows.

Launched today, Mantras and Myths: A True Picture of the Corporate Tax System in Ireland, says Ireland’s extensive network of legal double taxation agreements could allow companies to continue to route profits to low tax jurisdictions beyond the 2020 end date of the ‘Double Irish’ loophole. A corporation can simply establish an Irish-registered company which is tax resident in a country with which Ireland has a double tax arrangement, such as Qatar or Panama.

The report highlights the potential negative impact of Ireland’s corporate tax system on developing countries and how its lack of full transparency leaves them and the Irish public in the dark about where companies make their profits and pay tax. Despite recent changes to Ireland’s double taxation treaties with developing countries, most contain no anti-abuse provisions aimed at preventing tax avoidance. The UN, World Bank, IMF and OECD recommend that all such treaties with developing countries should include anti-abuse provisions.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “Corporate tax dodging is not a victimless crime. Not only does Ireland harm its own reputation by allowing such practices, but profits that flow through Ireland without being taxed here should have been taxed elsewhere.

“The European Commission’s Apple ruling provided a rare glimpse into a secretive world. It showed that Apple routed two-thirds of its profits on global sales, including in Africa, through Ireland, resulting in no tax accruing to relevant developing countries. Africa has a bigger mobile phone market than the US and will shortly surpass Europe but African tax revenues are not benefiting from this boom.

“Globally, an estimated $100 billion is lost to developing countries every year because of corporate tax avoidance schemes. This denies the world’s poorest places the additional resources that would make a huge difference by providing the schools, hospitals and infrastructure that lift people out of poverty.”

Elsewhere, the report estimates that incentives and tax relief for the aircraft leasing industry cost the Irish taxpayer approximately €577m in foregone corporate taxes every year. It also references a 2016 study by Oxfam and other NGOs which found that French banks reported €272 million in profit in Ireland – completely out of proportion to their reported turnover and number of employees in Ireland. For example, for the same turnover, Société Générale recorded profits in Ireland which were proportionately 18 times higher than in other countries and 76 times higher than in France.

The report acknowledges the reforms made by the Irish Government to date, including through the OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) process and others at EU level to address tax avoidance. However, Oxfam says it has serious concerns about whether the existing processes Ireland is engaged in go far enough and warns that BEPS will ultimately fall short in its efforts to tackle the global nature of corporate tax avoidance because of its limited scope and membership and its exclusion of developing countries from the start of the process.

Mr. Clarken said: “We need to have an honest discussion about corporate tax avoidance in Ireland and be prepared to admit that while we’ve made a good start, there is still a secretive network of loopholes to be exposed and removed if harmful. Despite some improvements, reporting requirements for multinational corporations’ tax activities are still opaque.

“We believe that ensuring Ireland’s prosperity and making our tax system fair and transparent isn’t mutually exclusive. The Irish Government has repeatedly said there should be no conflict between growing your economy and doing what is right. Ultimately, corporate tax dodging will be ended by a concerted global effort and we believe Ireland can play a positive role in ensuring this reform happens,” he added.

“Changing geo-political conditions mean Ireland must fully engage at an international level to stem the negative effects of corporate tax avoidance. This report sets out the practical solutions, from strengthening tax rules that remain open to abuse to supporting the establishment of an international tax body. Otherwise, citizens here in Ireland and in developing countries will pay the price.”

Among the report’s recommendations, Oxfam Ireland is calling on the Government to do the following:

·         Support efforts at the EU to agree meaningful legislation to ensure that multinationals publically report on a country by country basis where they make their profits and pay their taxes

·         Tackle profit-shifting by revising Ireland’s weak transfer pricing (the way in which the transfer of goods and services between subsidiaries of the same group of companies are accounted for) legislation and give Irish revenue officials the authority to investigate instances where profit-shifting may be used as a tax avoidance strategy

·         Re-examine Ireland’s network of double taxation agreements to ensure that companies cannot avail of tax structures similar to the ‘Double Irish’ post-2020.

·         Legislate in the next Budget for strong Controlled Foreign Company Rules to discourage profit shifting to tax havens outside the EU as agreed to under the EU Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive

·         Commission a new spillover analysis to improve understanding of financial flows between Ireland and developing countries via third countries using data that will become available to Ireland through exchange of information protocols agreed as part of the BEPS process

·         Support the formation of a global tax body to ensure an international tax system which considers the interests of developed and developing countries equally. 

Oxfam Ireland will host a panel discussion: ‘Corporate tax reform: Has Ireland done enough?’ tonight which will include contributions by tax activists from Kenya and Nigeria. The event takes place at the Dublin’s Royal Irish Academy at 6pm. 

To read the full report, click here:

To read the summary, click here:

For information about tonight’s event and speakers, see


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


Notes to Editor:

The report and event are part of Oxfam Ireland’s Make Tax Fair campaign. This project is funded by the European Union.

Double taxation agreements: Double taxation agreements are legal arrangements between jurisdictions to determine the taxing of cross-border activities.

Profit-shifting in Ireland: Oxfam’s ‘Tax Battles’ report in December 2016 found the level of excess profits (profits over and above what one might normally expect based on real economic activity) reported in Ireland to be in the tens of billions, while a 2015 research report published by the International Centre for Tax and Development estimated that excess profits in Ireland could be as high as $93 billion.

Corporate tax dodging and developing countries: The UN has estimated that developing countries lose around $100bn annually as a result of corporate tax avoidance schemes.

Oxfam calculates that this is enough to pay for the education for all of the 124 million children currently out of school, and to pay for health interventions that could save the lives of four million children. The total annual financing gap to achieve universal pre-primary, primary and secondary is $39 billion each year, while the number of children out of school is 124 million (59 million young children, 65 million adolescents) according to UNESCO.

$32bn would fund the key healthcare to save the lives of six million children across the world each year.

Calculation on Ireland’s aircraft leasing industry: In answer to a Parliamentary Question, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan revealed that in 2014 the Irish aircraft leasing business as a whole paid less than €23 million in corporate tax. According to the IDA, the aircraft leasing industry manages more than €100 billion in assets. While we do not have profit figures, industry observers suggest that return on investment in aircraft leasing can be between 3 and 15 percent. If we suppose, for example, a 5 percent return on those assets, then profits would be in the region of €5 billion, which, taxed at 12.5 percent, would give us €600 million in corporate tax. This would mean that incentives and tax relief for the aircraft leasing industry cost the Irish taxpayer approximately €577m in foregone corporate taxes every year. (See p17-18 of the report for additional detail).

French banks research: A study by Oxfam and other NGOs in 2016 found that French banks reported €272 million in profit in Ireland – completely out of proportion to their reported turnover and number of employees in Ireland. For example, for the same turnover, Société Générale recorded profits in Ireland which were proportionately 18 times higher than in other countries and 76 times higher than in France. This was calculated by comparing two ratios – (i) the amount of profit Société Générale made in Ireland divided by its turnover in Ireland, and (ii) the aggregated profit it makes in other countries divided by the aggregated turnover in these countries. The 2016 report Following the Money: French Banks’ Activities in Tax Havens is available at

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Oxfam Media Planning Calendar February – April 2017

Please find below and attached our calendar of media stories and reports for the next few months. Do get in touch if you’d like any more information: contact Alice Dawson on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at and for breaking stories, follow us on twitter: @Media_OxfamIRL and @OxfamIreland and via the media section of our website at


Breaking emergencies: We anticipate our humanitarian work over the next few months will focus on the developing food crises in South Sudan, where famine has been declared; in northern Nigeria, where it is likely that some 400,000 people living in areas cut off from aid are already suffering famine; and also Somalia and Yemen, which both currently stand on the brink of famine. Millions of vulnerable people across these regions are affected by ongoing conflicts and are facing starvation, with Oxfam supporting with life-saving food, water and sanitation.

Monday 27 February: ‘The Taxing Question – Would changing our corporate tax system do more harm than good?’ Oxfam Ireland hosts a panel discussion at the MAC in Belfast at 6pm on Monday 27 February, looking at the global and domestic impact of potential changes to Northern Ireland’s tax system. Chaired by Yvette Shapiro, speakers will include Oxfam Ireland CEO Jim Clarken; UU economist Philip McDonagh; Patricia McKeown, regional secretary of UNISON and Wanjiru Kanyiha, a tax justice activist from Kenya.

Tuesday 28 February: ‘Mantras and Myths: A true picture of the corporate tax system in Ireland’. Publication launch of a new review of Ireland’s corporate tax system, commissioned by Oxfam Ireland. There will be a photocall at 10.30am at Leinster House (Kildare St side) with visiting tax activists and Oxfam Ireland campaigners, followed by a panel discussion hosted by Oxfam Ireland at the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2, 6pm on Tuesday 28th of February 2017. Chaired by RTE's Conor Brophy, speakers will include Oxfam Ireland CEO Jim Clarken; Wanjiru Kanyiha, a tax justice activist from Kenya; Feargal O’Rourke, Managing Partner, PWC; and Mary Cosgrove, Lecturer at NUI Galway.

Date tbc: Oxfam publishes research on the thousands of boys and men missing from communities caught up in conflict with Boko Haram and military operations to counter them. More than nine million people in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon are in desperate need of emergency aid and there are alarming levels of human rights abuses and forced recruitment of young children.

Date tbc: Oxfam publishes report on rules around refugees reuniting with family in the UK.


Thursday 2 March: Women, Work and Wages: Oxfam launches a new report on women's inequality at work ahead of International Women’s Day.

Early March – Balkans deportations report: Oxfam partners on the Balkans have interviewed refugees and other migrants in Serbia and Macedonia to hear about their experience with illegal deportations along the Balkans route.

Wednesday 8 March: International Women's Day.

Wednesday 8 March: UK Chancellor’s Spring Budget. Oxfam spokespeople available for comment on the impact of policies affecting poverty in the UK and abroad.

Monday 13 - Thursday 16 March – European Parliament vote on asylum reform: Oxfam spokespeople available for comment

Wednesday 15 March: Sixth anniversary of the start of the war in Syria. Oxfam spokespeople will be available for comment on how Syrian refugees have ever fewer options for where to go.

Wednesday 15 March: Tax justice: judgement expected in LuxLeaks Whistleblowers re-trial.

Friday 17 – Saturday 18 March: G20 Finance Ministers’ Meeting, Baden-Baden. Oxfam spokespeople available for comment on the impact of tax and economic policies on fighting poverty.

Wednesday 22 March: World Water Day. Around the world, Oxfam is helping to keep millions of people healthy when disaster strikes by providing clean water and toilets. Photo case studies available.

Thursday 23 March: Oxfam launches research into tax practices of European banks – their use of tax havens and how they facilitate tax dodging.

Date tbc: Oxfam publishes report on the use of water as a weapon of war in Syria.


Early April: OECD publishes annual overseas aid spending figures. Oxfam spokespeople available for comment on how UK aid is helping to raise living standards for the world’s poorest people.

Monday 17 April: Iraq – six months since the start of the offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS. Oxfam is supporting thousands of people affected by the conflict, providing clean water, shelter and toilets. Oxfam spokespeople available.

Friday 21 – Sunday 23 April: World Bank Spring Meetings, Washington. Finance leaders and politicians will discuss the global economy, poverty eradication and aid effectiveness. Oxfam spokespeople available to comment.


Please note we can also provide spokespeople in Ireland, north and south, and across the world on a wide range of subjects, including:

  • The global refugee crisis and Oxfam Ireland’s Right to Refuge campaign in support of vulnerable people escaping conflict
  • Humanitarian crises including South Sudan, north east Nigeria, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, plus breaking stories (Oxfam specialises in providing safe water and sanitation in emergencies)
  • Economic inequality including the human cost of large-scale tax dodging by corporations and wealthy individuals (Even it Up and Make Tax Fair campaigns)
  • Women’s rights including gender-based violence, gender pay gap and female entrepreneurship



Alice Dawson, +353 83 198 1869,
Sorcha Nic Mhathúna, +353 83 1975 107,

Phillip Graham, +44 7841 102535,

Follow us on Facebook at or on Twitter @Media_OxfamIRL or @OxfamIreland

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