Rights in Crisis

  • We believe that the women, men and children who are affected by conflicts and disasters have a right to live in safety and dignity. Those most at risk – whether because of an earthquake, a drought or civil war – have a right to a life free from violence, and to have clean water, shelter and food. They also have the right to be heard and to take control of their own lives.

Digging in the dust

The soft soil falls away easily as the sharp metal hits the ground. Again and again Falah Abiya raises the axe above his head and brings it down on the compacted earth. Two of his colleagues stand waiting beside him, stepping in with shovels to remove the soil he has loosened.

The blue skies, dotted with clouds and the mid morning autumn sun do not match the tough work that Falah and his team have to do in Mosul today. They are digging graves in a large cemetery in the west of the city. “We have twenty-two to dig today”, Falah comments in between swinging his pick Axe.

Falah’s team work for the department of Forensic Pathology, which is being supported by Mosul General Hospital. Although they usually spend their days digging graves for people who have just died, today their work is of a different kind. They are working on a special programme to help the state identify bodies that have already been buried.

“The work we are doing here is very sensitive but very necessary”, says Dr Aziz, who works at Mosul General Hospital. “It’s important we know who has died and why. We must make sure the people buried in those graves are the people we have been told they are. Once we have recovered a body we run DNA tests to check.”

Today Hamid Hassan Jassim stands watching Falah’s team at work; the grave belongs to his brother Mahmud. “He died in a suicide bombing at a checkpoint. His head was missing when we buried him,” he says. Suddenly Falah’s axe hits something hard and he uses his hands to expose a wooden plank which he then pulls from the hole. Three of the team carefully lower themselves into the hole and slowly pull out a black plastic body bag.

Everyone is quiet as the team unzip the plastic bag and reveal what is left of Mahmud’s body, wrapped in a red blanket. The forensic examiner pulls on rubber gloves and carefully opens the blanket before inspecting its contents. He immediately confirms the head is missing and through his examination he also suggests that the man did in fact die in an explosion. He takes samples and zips the bag back up.

“Oxfam has supported the hospital in a lot of ways since Mosul was retaken.” Says Dr Aziz. The axes Falah and the team are using were donated to Oxfam and then the hospital by Irish Aid. As were other essential items such as mosquito nets which are being used to keep the flies off of burns patients and those with extensive wounds. “We hope we will continue to receive support from Oxfam so that we can keep doing this essential work and taking care of people who need urgent medical care.”

Mosul General Hospital sees an estimated 800 patients a day. As well as providing the pick axes, Oxfam has supported the hospital with essential items such as water tanks, bottled water, emergency food rations, blankets and mosquito nets.

Hamid stands and watches Falah and his colleague Sadam Hamadi carefully lower his brother Mahmud’s newly wrapped body back into the ground, re-covering it with the soft soil. They then throw their shovels and pick axes over their shoulders and make a move to the next grave. They have twenty one more to dig today.

 

 

Two weeks into the Yemen blockade – Fuel, Food and Medicines Running Out

19 November 2017 

Two weeks since land, air and seaports in Yemen were closed, aid agencies are appalled by the complacency and indifference of the international community regarding the historic humanitarian disaster now unfolding.

Aid agencies are gravely concerned about a new outbreak of cholera and other water borne diseases. UNICEF warns that they only have 15 days’ left of diphtheria vaccines. They are due to receive a new shipment late November but still have not received clearance. If this vaccine is not brought in, one million children will be at risk of preventable diseases.

The fuel shortage in Yemen means clean water in the country is more and more scarce. Water networks are closing by the day as fuel for the pumps runs out and pipes run dry. The lack of water poses grave risks to young children most of all. Schools will become centres of disease rather than centres of knowledge.

With no fuel, hospitals are closing wards and struggling to operate intensive care units and surgical operation theatres. Refrigeration units for essential medicines are being turned off for periods of time to save fuel. Doctors, some of whom have not been paid for ten months, are asking INGOs and UN to share their small supplies of fuel to run their life-saving generators; INGOs are citing one month fuel supply only.

Agencies are starting to double the value of the cash distributions to the most vulnerable people. This will enable people to buy and stock food for the coming cold winter months before prices rise beyond their means. This means agencies will exhaust their funds allocated for next year. Additionally, aid agencies have grave concerns for wellbeing of people that are currently inaccessible.

The country’s stocks of wheat and sugar will not last for longer than three months if cargo vessels are not allowed to discharge in Hodeidah, the country’s only deep water seaport, in the next few days. Even if they are allowed, food distribution systems have been severely disrupted and may collapse within weeks. Moreover, having incurred so many additional costs and in a highly volatile environment, international traders may decide that importing to Yemen is too risky a proposition to continue.

The international community must break its shameful silence and use all possible means to lift the blockade on Yemen immediately. Hodeidah port, that serviced 80% of all imports, and Sana’a airport, needs to be reopened to let in urgently needed shipments of food, fuel, and medicines. Every day the blockade lasts means thousands of Yemenis will suffer from hunger and preventable diseases. Millions could die in a historic famine if the blockade continues indefinitely. This is not the time for carefully balanced statements. The choice is between resolution, or complicity in the suffering; there is no third option.

 

Daniel English

Oxfam Ireland

086 3544954 

Give an unexpected gift this Christmas

Christmas songs playing in shops, lights strewn between buildings on city streets, shopping windows decorated with evergreen trees and holly, rosy cheeks on passers-by. The Christmas season has officially begun.

This also means crowded shops, long queues, and heavy bags. Ba-humbug!

Instead of enduring the crowds, waiting in queues and braving the cold, consider nestling up to a warm cup of tea with your internet browser opened to Oxfam Unwrapped.

Oxfam Unwrapped offers 17 unique and unexpected gifts ranging from €5/£5 to €1,000/£926. Whether it’s a cooking stove or a clutch of chicks, each gift funds Oxfam’s work around the world. Don’t worry… a clutch of chicks won’t arrive on your doorstep. Your gift donation goes toward poor families and communities that need it most.

Leave the soap and lotion gift baskets at the shops. Instead, purchase our soap stocking filler for a family member. Money raised from your donation supports humanitarian work from our Saving Lives fund. It provides people like Binta and her daughter Fati in Niger with hygiene training to keep them from illness and deadly diseases.

Want to get something sweet for a friend? Instead of picking up the predictable box of chocolates, make a donation to our Livelihoods fund by buying a honeybees gift card. This purchase helps fund the communities who depend on animals for their livelihoods. It empowers people like Augustina in Ghana. Through an Oxfam-supported beekeeping project, she was able to earn additional income to pay her children’s school fees.

When drought struck Somaliland, Faria moved with her children to Karasharka Camp where Oxfam provided safe water. This Christmas, give something better than a bottle of wine or bubbly to your colleague. Consider making a donation to our Water for All fund by purchasing safe water for a family gift card. This gift provides poor communities with safe access to water through pumps, tanks, taps and purification systems.

Your unexpected gift card from the Unwrapped campaign provides the tools, training and resources to support and empower communities. While bringing a smile to your loved one’s face, you will also be building brighter, happier futures. Happy shopping!

Cabinet’s plan for refugee reunifications welcome but inclusive scheme needed

Proposals brought to cabinet today to make 530 places available to allow refugees to apply to be reunited with family members living in Ireland are a positive development. 
 
However, according to Oxfam Ireland, a system for family reunification which puts the rights of refugee families on a statutory footing and which expands the current definition of the family is urgently needed. 
 
Last week in Seanad Éireann the Family Reunification Bill passed Committee stage despite Government opposition, with cross-party support from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and Independents. The Bill seeks to undo the unintended consequences of the International Protection Act 2015 which narrowed the definition of the family for refugees to include only a spouse and children under 18. 
 
This has had a devastating impact on the lives of refugees settled in Ireland. It has separated children aged 18 and over from their parents, divided siblings and destroyed the bonds between grandparents and grandchildren. 
 
Under the 2015 Irish Refugee Protection Programme, Ireland committed to accept 4,000 refugees by the end of 2017. However, currently, less than half of this number have arrived. 
 
Oxfam Ireland said today; “We welcome the proposals by the Minster for Justice. Any development which enables refugees already settled in Ireland to be reunited with their family members is a positive one. There are too many people in Ireland who are currently separated from parents or older children. They long to be have them join them, to be able to provide for them and to live together in safety and dignity, but they haven’t even been able to apply to do this. 
 
The best way for the government to meet its international obligations and demonstrate Ireland’s commitment to those fleeing war and persecution is to drop its obstruction of the Family Reunification Bill. This legislation simply seeks to restore the definition of family which stood from 1996 – 2015, which is more in tune with an Irish understanding of the innate value of the family. Any discretionary scheme which enhances family reunion, but which restricts the numbers of people eligible and their countries of origin should be a complementary mechanism only. It does not duplicate or replace the provisions sought through the Family Reunification Bill. 
 
It is important to note that the bill is not pushing for anything radical or new. It is simply seeking a return to the family reunification system that operated in this country for the past 20 years, and the numbers of people granted reunification in Ireland are low – last year it was approximately 400.” 
 
The Bill was introduced by the Seanad Civil Engagement Group; Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan and John Dolan, who worked with Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council on the new legislation. 
 
Worldwide, 65 million people are on the move, trying to escape conflict, persecution and disaster. This is the highest number ever recorded in human history. 
 
ENDS
 

Family reunification bill advances through Seanad despite Government attempts to derail

8 November 2017
 
The Government today attempted to derail the passage of a bill aimed at enabling refugees living in Ireland to be reunited with family members. Following a vote, the bill passed committee stage in the Seanad despite the government voting against it.
 
However, although having majority backing from across the political spectrum, Minister David Stanton, speaking against the bill, indicated that Government are planning to block further progress when it reaches the Dáil via invoking a controversial, little-known technical power which denies a “money message”1 for the Bill.
 
The Family Reunification Bill seeks to undo the unintended consequences of the International Protection Act 2015 which narrowed the definition of the family for refugees to include only a spouse and children under 18. 
 
This has had a devastating impact on the lives of refugees settled in Ireland. It has separated children aged 18 and over from their parents, divided siblings and destroyed extended family networks. 
 
The Bill was introduced by the Seanad Civil Engagement Group; Senators Colette Kelleher, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan and John Dolan, who worked with Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and the Irish Refugee Council on the new legislation. 
 
Senator Colette Kelleher said; 
“We were happy to win the vote in the Seanad today however the government’s stated intention to use an obscure technicality to block the Bill’s passage in the Dáil is a devastating blow to those refugees who have already been recognised and settled in Ireland. This Bill would make it more straightforward for siblings over 18 and other immediate family dependents to apply to join those already granted asylum in Ireland.
 
This legislation simply seeks to restore the definition of family which stood from 1996 - 2015 and one which is more in tune with an Irish understanding of a wider, more inclusive one.
 
I know of refugee families in Ireland who are separated from their parents or older children. They long to have them join them in Ireland but haven’t been allowed due to the existing legislation. Sadly, the government isn't listening and has decided to thwart our attempts to change this. We plan to continue to advocate on behalf of refugees and push to change the law to make it simpler for family members to join their loved ones.”
 
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said; 
“The small number of refugees settled in Ireland have often fled traumatic situations and endured distressing journeys to arrive here. Anyone starting a new life in a different country needs support and integration and the best way to do this is with your family beside you.
 
It is disappointing that rather than address this Bill on its merits, the government are planning to block its future progress via the controversial and rarely-used denial of a money message. This is not in the true spirit of democracy and could be seen as showing a disregard for the legislative process.
 
Ireland was co-chair the 2016 UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants and should be showing global leadership rather than indulging in evasions and excuses which damage people's lives. We urge the government to reconsider their position and face up to their moral responsibilities on family reunification."
 
ENDS
 
Daniel English 
Oxfam Ireland
086 3544954 
 
1. Money message: In order for Private Members’ Bills which are deemed by the Ceann Comhairle to involve a charge on the State to progress to committee stage in the Dáil, they need a ‘money message’ from the government. Historically, this mechanism has rarely been used. However, the denial of a money message has recently been used to block a number of opposition Bills from reaching Committee stage in the Dáil.
 

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