Refugees

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Andrew Trimble meets refugees in Tanzania: ‘They’re focusing on making each day count’

Just over a week after returning home from the Ireland rugby tour in South Africa in the summer I found myself heading back to the same continent but for very different reasons.
 
Most of the people on the flight to Tanzania were heading there to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or go on safari. I was travelling with Oxfam Ireland to meet people affected by a crisis that’s totally off the world’s radar.
 
In the past year, over 130,000 people have fled their homes in Burundi because of unrest and crossed into neighbouring Tanzania.
 
It was my first time in this kind of situation and naturally you feel a bit self conscious – a rugby player walking around a refugee camp.
 
You’re aware of how you stand out. The people in the camp were very welcoming, but probably wondering who this bloke was and why he was having his photo taken beside the water pumps and the sanitation facilities!
 
 
Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble at an Oxfam water treatment tank supported by Irish Aid at the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
Travelling through the camp, you’re very aware that everybody you see – the adults, the children, even the volunteers working with Oxfam – are refugees.
 
We heard stories of husbands and wives who got separated on the journey to safety, or ended up in different camps hours from each other and unable to reunite.
 
The two camps we visited – Nyarugusu and Nduta in the north west of Tanzania - were different to how I expected. Dry season means red dust was everywhere – and it’s still on my shoes some time later back home in Belfast.
 
There are rows and rows of tents, but there is also shade and vegetation thanks to the trees. Some people have started to plant vegetables near their tents. The trees offer important protection from the sun for the children who study at the camp’s outdoor school.
 
Others are in school buildings and we visited one where the kids seemed to be enjoying school a lot more than I used to! They were full of smiles. You got the sense that going to school was at least providing them with some normality; something familiar, even if just for a few hours each day. Their teachers are also refugees, trying to keep going; knowing that educating these children is key to their future.
 
 
Children enjoying a lesson on rugby by Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble at a school in the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble with Irakoze* and Zebunissa* during a rugby lesson by Andrew at a school in the Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
With a few rugby balls brought from home, I tried to show them what rugby had to offer. It was a fun afternoon, and one brave girl put up her hand to volunteer to try to tackle me. You could almost forget that these children have witnessed harrowing things. In that moment the kids are like any other group of children – laughing, smiling and simply wanting to play.
 
But children have to grow up quickly here, like the five-year-old girl I saw carrying her baby brother, or the boy – no more than a year and a half – fetching water by himself. And that’s when it struck me, he’s the same age as my wee fella Jack, just out picking up water from the tap by himself. That’s the contrast.
 
This time last year the picture of the body of the Syrian child, Alan Kurdi who was aged three, washed up on a beach in Turkey was something that stuck with anybody who saw it. I became a father myself shortly before that so the impact was increased.
 
More recently we’ve been shocked by the photo of an injured five-year-old boy Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance after an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. It shows you the level of desperation for people coming from countries where they just need to get out of there.
 
We visited a children’s centre, a place where kids can come and play in safety. They were putting on a play about going to the toilet, as part of an Oxfam project to teach children about staying safe and healthy. It was very funny but with a serious message – diseases like cholera are a real threat in crowded camps so the children need to learn about washing their hands.
 
Their parents welcomed us into the humble tents they call home. They smiled too, but there was a sadness there too.
 
I try to picture what it would be like to leave my house and run for my life, and what I would need to do to keep my family safe.
 
 
Burundian refugees Belange Mugisha* with her one-year-old son Remy Habonimana and husband Habonimana Christophe* meet Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble outside the tent they now call home in the Nduta camp in Tanzania. Asked why they fled Burundi, Habonimana* says: “I was hunted.” The life they had hoped for has not come to pass and it seems like everything is on hold. “Sometimes I feel bad, like crying, when I think of how I couldn’t complete my education,” he says. Yet despite the challenges, they are trying to make the most of their situation. Habonimana* is really passionate about making things better for everyone living in the camp, and has been voted as a community leader for one of the zones. He also works with Oxfam as a community hygiene promoter, while Belange* has a job in one of the camp’s schools.” Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam
 
One of the refugees I met was Habonimana Christophe*. He’s 31 like me, and is also married and the proud dad of a one-year-old boy called Remy Habonimana. He showed us inside his tent. He opened up to me about his journey from Burundi and why he had to leave. “I was hunted,” he told me.
 
This is actually his second time living the in the Nduta camp. He arrived here as a child in 1993 with his family and lived there until 2008. Habonimana found himself back in the Nduta camp this time with his wife and child in November 2015.
 
“This is the first time for my wife to be a refugee,” he says. “It wasn’t easy for her.”
 
Habonimana is really passionate about making things better for everyone living in the camp, and has been voted as a community leader for one of the zones, volunteering his time. He also works with Oxfam as a community hygiene promoter, while his wife has a job in one of the camp’s schools.
 
Both Habonimana and his wife have diplomas in language studies. He was planning on graduating with a degree at university in Burundi before life changed so radically. 
 
The life he hoped for has not come to pass. Everything is on hold.
 
“Sometimes I feel bad, like crying, when I think of how I couldn’t complete my education,” he says. Inside his tent are his certificates.
 
“Whenever I chat with relatives and friends that are in other countries and in universities, I feel bad as my life has already bust as I have my certificate that allows me to go to university. But I will live here for the rest of my life.”
 
Yet he’s focusing on making each day count – and I am in awe of how he and his wife have managed – coming here under pressure and raising a child.
 
That spirit and determination to keep going despite the odds was something I felt throughout the camp.
 
I met a group of men and women who had been tailors in Burundi. They got together in the camp with the idea of starting a business together. Oxfam provided them with machinery, equipment and a building.
 
 
Rugby player and Oxfam Ireland ambassador Andrew Trimble tries on a handmade jacket which fits his shoulders but not quite his arms during a visit to a tailors’ workshop set up by Burundian refugees with the support of Oxfam at the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: Mary Mndeme/Oxfam
 
With the old school Singer sowing machines and fabrics in almost every colour under the sun, they were so passionate about their work. The tailors told me that they are hoping lights can be installed in their workshop so as they can work even longer hours.
 
They hadn’t heard of rugby – but they all knew about football. One of the tailors asked if I was wealthy like David Beckham, perhaps hoping I might be in the market for a wardrobe like his!
 
Listening to how people’s lives changed so utterly because of the war made me think about the choices ahead of me when the time comes to retire from rugby. I’m so fortunate to have options. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be stuck on pause, with no idea of if or when your life will begin again.
 
I’m well used to training for the physical strength and stamina needed for rugby, but that’s surpassed by the mental fortitude and resilience shown by the people I met –people just like you and me, but thrown into an extraordinary situation, not of their own making.
 
People with hopes and dreams just like ours, looking for safety and security for their families and kids, a job, a home, a future.
 
It also made me think about our responsibilities towards helping refugees. The one greeting I heard over and over again wherever we went was ‘karibu’, which means welcome. This attitude towards welcoming strangers helps explain why Tanzania has become a safe haven for refugees fleeing Burundi.
 
It’s incredible to think that this developing country, where there is still widespread poverty, has opened its doors to refugees.
 
This is despite the challenges it faces. During the long journey on dirt roads, I saw children walk barefoot, women walking for miles to fetch water and men pushing bicycles up hills laden with heavy loads. Despite this, Tanzania has welcomed refugees for decades – many of the people I met were actually refugees twice over.
 
You hear it time and again, but it’s truly an eye-opening experience to do a trip like this. When you come back home, you think about everything you take for granted. Simple things, like being able to turn on a tap to get clean water or have electricity and heat at the flick of a switch. Also the freedom to move about, to have a home, to work and to be with your loved ones.
 
The work I saw by Oxfam is genuinely saving and changing lives. It is a strange feeling to be temporarily planted into a world so alien; to have strangers who have lost everything smile at you and tell their life story, and young children whose futures are so uncertain put on an incredible performance of song and dance to welcome us visitors from Oxfam Ireland.
 
But perhaps the strangest feeling of all was to stand in a place of such sadness and find myself so inspired.
 
Andrew Trimble is an Oxfam Ireland ambassador.  

 

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Bringing your voice to the UN Summit on migration

Oxfam brought its global call to stand as one with people forced to flee their homes to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

From a sea of life jackets laid beneath the Brooklyn Bridge highlighting the sobering reality of this crisis, to meetings at UN Headquarters, we reminded world leaders that over a quarter of a million people worldwide have joined our movement to support people on the move.

Left: Hundreds of life jackets, collected from the beaches of Chios in Greece, lie on Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park, highlighting the desperate plight of children and adults forced to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Photo: Darren Ornitz Photography; Right: Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima and Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken remind Ireland’s UN Ambassador David Donoghue (centre) that 250,000 people worldwide are standing as one with refugees. Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam

WATCH: Advocacy and Campaigns Manager Marissa Ryan reacts to the sea of life jackets at Brooklyn Bridge

We were there and made sure your voice continued to be heard

As Irish and UK Government leaders – including an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, and UK Prime Minster Theresa May - addressed the very first UN Summit on Migration and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit, they did so knowing that over 25,000 people across the Republic of Ireland and almost 6,500 people from Northern Ireland (over 86,876 from the United Kingdom in total) were demanding they show strong leadership and take action to protect and uphold the rights of refugees and migrants.

Left: Oxfam campaigners Claire Payne, Joanna Sammons, Marissa Ryan and Dan Byrne meet an Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald outside Government Buildings ahead of the UN Summit on migration: Photo: Brian Malone/Oxfam; Right: Oxfam campaigners Emma Barronwell, Kelly Fisher and Christine McCartney at Belfast docks to mark the huge support in Northern Ireland for the Right to Refuge campaign. Photo: Alex Clyde/Oxfam

Some UN migration summit highlights

"Refugees are already taking action. We want world leaders to do the same" - Mohammed Badran

Mohammed Badran, a refugee from Syria and Oxfam partner, addressed the opening segment of the UN summit on migration, calling for world leaders to do more to protect and empower refugees everywhere. Mohammed is the Chair of Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands, a network of over 600 volunteers who work to give back to local communities.

“World leaders need to remember those who are relying on them – the people running for their lives from their homes, trying to keep their children calm as they set off on an inflatable dingy across the Mediterranean sea, or facing barbed wire and check points instead of compassion in their desperate search for safety.” -  Jim Clarken

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken attended the summits and highlighted our call to stand as one with people forced to flee live from New York.

“I cried my eyes out when I arrived in the UK, a refugee.” -  Winnie Byanyima

Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima shared her experience of being a refugee from Uganda and called on world leaders to make sure these summits amount to more than a half-hearted beginning to help those millions of people forced to flee but are the start of real and lasting solutions. Read Winnie’s article here: 

More needs to be done and we are not giving up

Over 65 million displaced people were counting on the outcome of the summits – an unprecedented opportunity for a bold and fair deal to ensure their safety and dignity. While we welcomed world leaders’ calls for a more equal sharing of responsibility for the refugee crisis, we were disappointed that they failed to make tangible commitments on how they are going to affect real change for refugees and migrants.

We will continue to speak out and ensure that the Irish and UK Government play their part in responding to this global crisis. We will not allow these summits to amount to more meaningless talk but will continue to fight for the political commitments of the summits to be translated into action to ensure the safety and dignity of people on the move.

People from across the island of Ireland continue to show that refugees are welcome here by writing messages of solidarity at Oxfam’s Culture Night events in Dublin and Belfast the weekend before the summits in New York.

Help us to stand as one with children, women and men fleeing conflict, persecution, disaster and poverty.

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Forced to flee Boko Haram and facing hunger – crisis in Nigeria and West Africa

Thousands of people are believed to have died due to hunger and malnutrition and experts say that more than 65,000 people are officially classified as suffering from famine in a desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, one of the poorest places on earth.

Those experiencing the most extreme form of hunger are in pockets of north east Nigeria, mainly in Borno state, only recently accessible to humanitarian agencies following protracted military action to secure areas formerly under the control of Boko Haram. They are part of a humanitarian crisis largely ignored by the international community which is also affecting people in Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

 

Unless there is a rapid scale up in the provision of assistance, there will be many more deaths. Estimates suggest that as many as 67,000 children aged under 5 could die by the end of September in Nigeria’s Borno and Yobe states alone – that’s 184 every day – due to lack of nutritious food.

Oxfam is providing life-saving support in Nigeria, Niger and Chad to people who have been forced to flee their homes as well as the already impoverished communities in which they are taking shelter. We are providing people with desperately needed food as well as clean drinking water and sanitation to protect health and prevent the spread of disease. And we are also calling on donors and governments to act now to support humanitarian efforts.

BACKGROUND TO THE CRISIS

The present crisis across the Lake Chad basin began seven years ago as a result of the emergence of the group Boko Haram in Nigeria and military operations against it. Violence has escalated further in recent weeks exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation. It has forced 2.7 million people to flee their homes, including 1.9 million Nigerians alone, and left over 9 million people in need of help.

Unable to grow or buy food, or access humanitarian aid, millions are going hungry. 3.8 million people across the Lake Chad Basin region as a whole face severe hunger. Over 20,000 people have been killed and thousands of girls and boys are thought to have been abducted. There have been alarming levels of sexual violence, violations of international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) and human rights law including the forced recruitment of civilians, even children, as combatants.

Fatima Mohammed* (35) from Nigeria’s Borno State is living among the Kabbar Maila host community. Boko Haram forced their way in to her home and cut her husband’s throat in front of her and her children. She is struggling and is not sure where her children’s next meal is coming from. *Name has been changed. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

AFRICA'S FASTEST GROWING DISPLACEMENT CRISIS

The Lake Chad Basin crisis now represents Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis and is the seventh largest internally displaced population in the world. The conflict has caused widespread destruction of vital but already limited infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, roads, markets and farmland.

Across the region, people are on the move trying to escape threats to their lives, liberty and other human rights in search of safety and protection. Since the start of the conflict in 2009, more than 20,000 people have been killed as a direct result of the violence. In 2015, around one in every 15 people who died throughout the world as a direct result of violent conflict died in Nigeria. Countless more are dying or face permanent disability as a result of hunger, disease and a lack of healthcare, the secondary impacts of war.

Children at the government-run Farm Centre camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. It is a camp established by displaced people themselves when they moved into empty unfinished buildings the government was building for government workers. There are also people living in makeshift shelters, especially those who have arrived more recently. Oxfam is providing water, latrines and sanitation in the camp. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

ZAHRA'S STORY

Zarah Isa* (50) is from Borno State in Nigeria. She and her husband were farmers and grew vegetables. She also collected firewood which she would sell and their children used to go to school.

Caption info: Zarah Isa* (50) is from Borno State in Nigeria, one of the worst affected regions. She was forced to flee her village during a Boko Haram attack which saw her husband killed. *Name has been changed. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

But three years ago Boko Haram attacked her village and killed her husband. Unable to bury his body, Zarah was forced to flee with her six children. The oldest child was 12, the rest were aged under 10. They spent one month in the forest. To survive they drank water from open sources such as streams. Often the water was dirty. For food they relied on leftovers from communities they passed along the way, as well as scavenging for food that had been thrown away. It took them one week of walking through the forest on foot to reach the Kabbar Maila host community in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, where they now live.

Once in Maiduguri they asked around for people who came from their community. For two weeks they lived in a makeshift tent with 10 other internally displaced families and then through local community leaders she was able to find accommodation to rent with a local landlord. Zarah now lives with her children in a crowded room with a leaking roof. She pays her landlord with money her children bring back from begging but for the last three months she’s hasn’t had enough to cover the rent.

To feed the family, Zarah’s eldest daughter buys sachets of water from a vendor and hawks them on the streets. If her daughter is unable to make money from selling the water, the family goes hungry. When this happens she sends her daughter and some of her other children to beg for money. Zarah is unable to find work as people do not want to give jobs to someone her age as they are looking for younger people to do menial jobs. The family is barely able to eat two meals a day. Their meal usually consists of corn flour or maize and they are unable to afford vegetables or meat.

The local host community have opened their arms and have been very welcoming. They share the little they have but people are poor.

Her biggest need currently is food. When her children go hungry, it causes her pain. Zarah is unable to go back to her village and home because there is a lack of security there. She heard that people had gone back and had been killed. Her hope is to one day return home so that she and her children can grow food on their land and sustain themselves.

Zarah says: “I don’t like seeing my children go hungry, all I want is food. I am ready to go back home today if the government assures us on security, we can farm our food because we have our farms there.”

Read other stories and find more information in the new Oxfam report, Lake Chad’s Unseen Crisis.

A child outside a makeshift shelter at the Farm Centre camp in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria where 13,000 internally displaced families now live after fleeing their homes. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Oxfam has supported over 250,000 people so far in Nigeria since we began responding to the crisis in May 2014 but we urgently need your support.

We are providing people with desperately needed food as well as clean drinking water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.

An Oxfam water tank in the Kabbar Maila community which is hosting displaced people forced to flee their homes. Photo: Ibrahim Dung/Oxfam

We work in Adamawa, Borno and Gombe states, providing people with emergency food support, clean water and better sanitation, including constructing showers and repairing toilets, and making sure people have areas to wash their hands. We have set up community protection groups for women to give them information about access to support facilities if they have suffered from sexual violence and exploitation. We are distributing food and cooking equipment, as well as providing seeds and tools to help traders and farmers get back on their feet.

In Niger, Oxfam has helped over 31,400 people since our emergency response began there in 2015. We are installing water systems to make sure people have clean water to drink, as well as distributing essential items such as cooking pots, buckets and water purifying tablets. Elsewhere in Niger there has been massive flooding, and in some regions where the lean season – the time when people are at the end of their food until the next harvest comes – there is desperate hunger.

Oxfam has recently started responding to the crisis in Chad, with the aim to reach over 30,000 people. We will distribute cash and tarpaulins for shelter and provide clean water to people to help prevent the spread of diseases.

Please support our West Africa crisis emergency response. 100% of your donation will go directly to this response.

You can also add your voice to our Right to Refuge campaign which is calling on the Irish and UK governments to ensure that everyone has the right to refuge when their safety and dignity is threatened.

Colm Byrne is Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager.

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Aleppo – voices from the ground

Cut off from supplies and heavily bombarded, the people of in the Syrian city of Aleppo have borne the brunt of the fighting and have suffered far too much and too long in this bloody conflict. 
 
Since the end of July, when the fighting intensified in the city, there have been reports of attacks on schools and hospitals from the air and indiscriminate shelling and bombardment of civilian areas. Hundreds of people, including many children, have reportedly been killed. 
 
The city, which is divided in two parts (the West side of the city is under control of the government and the East side is under control of the opposition) has seen its main supply routes blocked by warring parties and thousands of civilians are cut off from food, water, and health care.
 
Since the encirclement of the eastern part of Aleppo by pro-government forces and its allies at the end of July, and the counter-attack by armed opposition groups, little to no aid has reached hundreds of thousands of people in need. The situation is harrowing, with the recent battles pushing already vulnerable people to the brink.
 

DAILY STRUGGLE 

 
“Just when you think the situation might improve, something new happens,” says Amjad*, a 33-year-old taxi driver who lives with his mother in West Aleppo. He spends most of his time driving around the city. 
 
“We got used to the destruction, the scene of people filling in jerry cans, and children carrying jerry cans heavier than them”.
 
Samah*, a 12-year-old girl, recently fled with her family from rural Aleppo, looking for safety and shelter in the city. Samah says: “I used to go to school, but now every day I go to collect water for my family. It’s easy to carry the jerry cans if they are empty, but it’s hard when they are filled with water.”
 
Faisal* (65) lives with his wife in their home in West Aleppo. Faisal has lived in his neighbourhood for more than 30 years, and never had to buy water.
 
He says: “I miss those days when we used to open the tap and get as much water as we wanted. The first thing you lose when you don’t have water is your dignity”. 
 
Faisal has two sons who left Syria. Instead of having water delivered to his home at a cost, Faisal walks two kilometres each day to fill half a jerry can. With his back pain and the distance, he can’t carry more than 10 litres of water.
 
“It is a daily struggle, but I have no other option. Our building is empty, all the neighbours left. I have to make this journey every day.”
 
Nada* (23) has three sons and lives with her relatives in East Aleppo. When her husband died in 2013, she wanted to reduce her expenses and she moved in with her relatives. Now five families share two rooms. 
 
“I am a desperate woman who took a desperate measure, but I had no choice,” says Nada. 
 
Amina* was also displaced inside East Aleppo, and moved with her daughter and two sons to her relatives’ house. 
 
Amina says: “I am tired. The only thing I have is the clothes I am wearing. Everything is expensive, cooking is a struggle, showering is a struggle. Everything is a struggle. There’s no electricity, I have no income, no skills and I can’t support my children and that’s frustrating. I can’t ask my poor relatives for support. We are all waiting for things to get better. We are waiting without hope.”
 
Dibeh* (27) has three children and lives with her family in a in a basement with two other families who have been displaced inside Aleppo. 
 
“I lost hope, and I feel that things will never improve,” says Dibeh. “I don’t have money and I lost everything. I can’t afford a jerry can. I would prefer to pay rent, buy milk and nappies for my two-year-old son. My husband is not working anymore and we have no income at all. We were filling water in old bottles and buckets. We are eating less and less food every day to save some money because things are getting worse.”
 
 
Children in West Aleppo fill jerry cans from a truck. Both sides of the divided city have been suffering from water cuts, since the fighting intensified at the end of July. Power cuts and damage to the infrastructure have meant that more than 1.6 million people have little to no access to the water system. Alternative solutions are local wells, and water trucking. All photos: Oxfam
 
 
Syrians who have been displaced by the fighting in Aleppo camp in a park in the Western side of the city, under government control. Thousands of civilians have taken shelter in parks, mosques, and schools on both sides of the city as the conflict rages on. Their humanitarian needs are increasing as food prices have increased, and access to healthcare and water is becoming more difficult. Photo: Oxfam
 

WHAT OXFAM IS DOING IN ALEPPO

 
Oxfam is helping to provide clean water across battle lines in eastern and western Aleppo as well as elsewhere in Syria. 
 
Oxfam is making available goods such as family hygiene kits, jerry cans, water tanks, water filters, chlorine tablets, and water testing kits for planned UN convoys out of Damascus and we hope that the proposed 48 hour ceasefire will allow delivery into Aleppo. 
 
A generator intended to ensure that water is pumped to the city, even when power supplies are cut off, has only been able to operate irregularly due to fuel shortages and engineers have been unable to carry out essential repairs to the water infrastructure due to the fighting. 
 
We have people on the ground in Aleppo who are trying to assess and meet the needs of water infrastructure and of water, sanitation and hygiene needs for displaced people – but until there is a cessation of fighting in the area, insecurity and lack of access make that very difficult. 
 

CEASEFIRE

 
While a proposed 48 hour ceasefire in Aleppo is welcome, it must not be a one-off. A fully-fledged sustained ceasefire in the conflict is necessary to get desperately-needed humanitarian aid into all areas of Aleppo; to deal with the scale of the suffering, devastation and destruction in the city; to ensure that essential repairs to the water and power supplies can be carried out; and to ensure the protection of civilians. 
 
Such a ceasefire is needed not just in Aleppo but also across all of Syria. Somehow, the conflict needs to be de-escalated by all parties and there must be an end to indiscriminate attacks or deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.
 
* All names have been changed to protect identities.
 

Facebook Live chat with Oxfam's Syria Crisis Response Manager

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It’s time to stand as one with refugees worldwide

Almost a year on from the dramatic images of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe to rebuild their lives and the tragic death of three-year-old Syrian Alan Kurdi, offering safe haven to people on the move remains elusive. With the E.U.-Turkey deal that returns refugees en masse to Turkey, the mood is ever darkening.

The recent deal between European governments and Turkey has left thousands of men, women and children detained in Greece in appalling conditions, in legal limbo and susceptible to abuse. When announcing the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp, the Kenyan government said that if Europe could turn away Syrians, so Kenya could Somalis.

It has been saddening to see the wealthy nations of the world squabble over relatively small numbers of resettlement places, reluctant to welcome more refugees. Governments are backsliding on commitments, leaving people stuck at borders with no prospects of dignified futures.

Europe is but a chapter in a global displacement crisis. More than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced by war, violence, persecution and human rights violations. Turkey alone is hosting 2.5 million people. In Lebanon, one out of every five people is a refugee. Ethiopia and Kenya host more than 1.3 million refugees. Meanwhile, the six richest countries host less than 9% of refugees. 

A NEW WAY FORWARD

Oxfam hopes that September’s twin summits in New York – the U.N.’s first on refugee and migrant issues, coinciding with President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on refugees – will bring countries together to back a more humane and coordinated approach. These are historic opportunities to draw up a blueprint for more effective international response based on shared responsibilities. We need to see significant new commitments to support and protect refugees.

These summits take place in 50 days’ time. Make sure they count.

SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE

Joseph* (34) from Burundi now lives on Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania. He works as team leader at Oxfam’s tailoring centre and also teached English. Photo: Keith McManus/Oxfam

Oxfam’s latest analysis shows that the six wealthiest countries – which make up more than half the global economy – host less than 9% of the world’s refugees. Meanwhile Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, South Africa as well as the Occupied Palestinian Territory are hosting more than half of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers. Together, they account for under 2 percent of the world’s economy.

The countries that are least equipped are shouldering by far the biggest responsibilities.

One of Oxfam’s key asks is that this complex crisis receives a coordinated global response based on the concept of “responsibility sharing”. Wealthier countries should welcome more refugees. They should substantially increase their support for the low- and middle-income countries to meet the needs of both displaced people and their host communities. All countries should ensure that people who are displaced have a promise-filled future through permits to work and the ability to send their children to school.

ESCALATING CRISES

Around the world, more than 34,000 people a day are forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution. Many of them die in their efforts to reach safety. This is the fifth year in a row that the number of internally displaced people has increased. This has largely been driven by the violence in the Middle East. Yemen, Syria and Iraq account for more than half of all new internally displaced people (IDPs). Despite this shocking trend, neither of these two summits in September will focus on IDPs.

OXFAM’S INITIATIVES

 

Nadi Hassan* (27) from Iraq with her daughter. After fleeing her home due to violence, Nadi has returned home and with Oxfam’s help has restarted a small shop that provides income for her family. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

Oxfam is helping 9 million people in crises around the world. We work in nine of the top 10 countries from which refugees are fleeing. Our programmes in Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar and Colombia are helping those people affected by conflict, working to reduce inequality and poverty, and to support civil society and citizens to claim their rights and be heard.

Oxfam is also working in Italy and Greece, where there have been a high number of refugees and migrants, providing basic support.

STAND AS ONE

Rosa* (3) from Syria waits with her family at a registration centre for migrants and refugees in southern Serbia. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

The U.N. Summit on Refugees and Migrants and the Leaders’ Summit are two big opportunities to find a solution that does not come at the expense of the most vulnerable people in the world. The meetings need to put refugees’ and migrants’ rights at the front and centre of this solution. Oxfam’s global displacement campaign aims to ensure that world leaders guarantee these desperate people more safety, protection and sustainable futures. More than 100,000 supporters have signed our petition demanding exactly this. The world must come together and stand as one with people who have lost everything.

*All names have been changed to protect identities 

Attila Kulcsar is Oxfam International’s Humanitarian Media Officer

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