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.

Heavy monsoon rains hit Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Thursday 26th July

The situation:

Urgent action is needed to help Rohingya refugees who are today being hit by monsoon rains in camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. The heavy rains and widespread flooding have already caused over 130 landslides, damaged 3,300 shelters and affected 28,000 people, Oxfam has said.

Outside of the camp in Cox’s Bazar, reports claim that up to 5 children have been killed in a landslide elsewhere in the town. Fallen trees and landslides are blocking some of the roads. There are predictions of up to 100mm of rainfall per day for next few days.

A survey of Rohingya refugees carried out by Oxfam before the monsoon season found that more than half were almost completely unprepared for the floods, landslides and disease that accompany the monsoon weather, with women most at risk.

The UN warns that 200,000 refugees are at risk from flooding and landslides, with around 24,000 of those considered at high risk. So far nearly 25,000 refugees have been relocated to newly flattened ground that should be safer.

What is Oxfam doing?

  • Oxfam is working with the government of Bangladesh and the UN to relocate refugees to safer areas and to make the remaining areas as weather-proof as possible.
  • To help keep disease at bay, Oxfam is supporting the UN to build water and sanitation infrastructure in two of the new, safer zones in the Ukhia mega-camp.
  • Oxfam teams are also cleaning and replacing full latrines, drilling deep wells that won't be polluted by dirty ground water, and working with refugee communities to promote good hygiene.
  • Oxfam teams are assessing the impact of the current heavy rains. They will provide further information on the numbers of households affected, landslide locations, and these teams will also be prepared to distribute some humanitarian items if necessary.
  • As part of Oxfam’s emergency plan, trained and identified Emergency Response Team members in Dhaka are available to rapidly deploy.

·         Since the start of the crisis, Oxfam has helped more than 180,000 Rohingya refugees with clean drinking water, emergency toilets and food rations.

Spokespeople and media materials

Oxfam has spokespeople available in Ireland and on the ground to discuss the humanitarian situation.

Oxfam media materials will also be available, including to mark the forthcoming first anniversary (August 25th) of the violence in Myanmar which sparked the current Rohingya refugee crisis.

CONTACT:

For interviews or more information, contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

New EU migration plans threaten the rights, safety and dignity of refugees and migrants

24th July 2018
 
Oxfam has condemned today’s suggestion by the European Commission on plans for new ‘controlled centres’ for refugees and migrants inside the EU and its proposed arrangements for disembarking migrants rescued in the Mediterranean in countries outside the EU.
 
Reacting to the news, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: “What the European Commission calls ‘controlled centres’ are de facto detention camps. This idea has been tried before and only succeeded in leaving vulnerable people in deplorable, inhumane conditions in so-called ‘EU hotspots’ in Italy and Greece. Rather than creating more camps, European governments must reform the European asylum system so that it is based on responsibility sharing between all member states and puts people’s personal safety, needs and rights first.
 
“Refugees in ‘EU hotspots’ regularly wait over two years for authorities to make a decision on their asylum claims, through procedures that are often opaque and unfair. This puts asylum seekers, many of whom are already traumatised or victims of trafficking, in a legal limbo without access to basic services such as healthcare or education for children.
 
“If EU member states are already struggling to provide proper care and a fair process for assessing asylum claims, there is no reason to believe that ‘disembarkation platforms’ outside the EU will be any better. This is just another attempt to offload Europe’s responsibilities onto poorer countries outside of the EU and directly threatens the rights of women, men and children on the move.
 
“Ireland needs to work with other EU member states to find lasting solutions for people seeking safety in Europe that go beyond so-called ‘controlled centres’. One way that Ireland can contribute to a humane European response is by amending its current restrictive policy on refugee family reunification. Right now, Ireland’s rules keep many refugee families apart and make it almost impossible for them to be re-united. Children turned 18 are separated from their parents, grandparents from their grandchildren, and elder brothers and sisters from their younger siblings.
 
 
“Having passed all stages in the Seanad with cross-party support, the International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 must now be brought before the Dáil as soon as possible so as to enact the urgent change that is needed for families in need of protection.”
 
 
ENDS
 
CONTACT:
 
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson-Lyons, Oxfam Ireland, on +353 (0) 83 198 1869 or at alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org 
 
NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 
Notes to editors:
 
  • European leaders at the EU Summit on 28 June failed to agree on reforms to the common European asylum system, instead allowing internal rows to shape the EU’s migration policy. EU leaders called for the development of “controlled centres” on EU soil, and invited the Council and the Commission to explore the concept of “regional disembarkation platforms” in third countries.
  • According to the Commission, no country will be approached for “regional disembarkation arrangements” until 30 July, when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration and the European Commission meet to discuss the issue.
  • In June 2018, the number of asylum seekers on the Greek islands reached the unprecedented figure of 17,800. In the island’s hotspot, Moria camp and its extension the ‘Olive Grove’ (not including the protected areas and the pre-removal centre in Moria), there are 72 people per functioning toilet and 84 people per functioning shower.
  • People often spend months in the dark waiting for their asylum claims to be processed. Many refugees do not have access to legal aid, either because they are not informed of their right to a lawyer or because there are not enough lawyers available.
  • Children as young as 12 are being abused, detained and illegally returned to Italy by French border guards, according to an Oxfam report published on 15 June.

Ireland must amend restrictions on family reunification to contribute to a humane EU migration policy, says Oxfam

Internal rows at Brussels summit shape EU’s migration policy
 
28th June 2018
 
European leaders at the EU summit in Brussels have failed to agree on reforms to the common European asylum system. Instead, they try to respond to internal rows by reducing the space for asylum seekers even further, and want to offload their responsibilities to countries outside the EU. Oxfam argues that European agreements on migration are welcome, but they should not have a negative impact on the lives of refugees and migrants.
 
Reacting to the news, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive Jim Clarken, said: “EU leaders’ migration plans should have addressed the flaws of our current asylum system and provide an effective and humane response to migration, not only respond to political problems at home.
 
“At a time when EU leadership on global issues is needed more than ever, European heads of state and government continue to try to offload their responsibilities onto poorer countries outside the EU. They also agree to create even more de facto detention centres, a measure that has evidentially failed with the so-called ‘hotspot’ in Greece and Italy. This approach to migration is a recipe for failure, and directly threatens the rights of women, men and children on the move.
 
“Well-managed migration and an effective asylum system go beyond disembarkation centres, and they are essential parts of a healthy European economy and culture.
 
This week, the Irish government committed to provide humanitarian assistance and support to 25 people who were stranded on the MV Lifeline. While we commend this leadership, we need to go beyond ad hoc responses and instead find lasting solutions for people seeking safety in Europe.
 
“One way that Ireland can contribute to a humane European response is by amending its current restrictive policy on refugee family reunification. Right now, Ireland’s rules keep many refugee families apart and make it almost impossible for them to be re-united. Children turned 18 are separated from their parents, grandparents from their grandchildren, and elder brothers and sisters from their younger siblings.
 
“Having passed all stages in the Seanad with cross-party support, the International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 must now be brought before the Dáil as soon as possible so as to enact the urgent change that is needed for families in need of protection.”
 
ENDS
 
Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews.
 
Contact information:
For interviews or more information, contact:
Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 
·         Research from Oxfam Ireland, Nasc and Irish Refugee Council has shown that the International Protection Act 2015 has had a devastating impact on individuals and on their ability to rebuild their lives as part of the community, by making it effectively impossible for anyone outside of the immediate family to be reunited in Ireland.
·         The International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017 seeks to amend the International Protection Act 2015, which makes it overly restrictive for refugees in Ireland to reunite with loved ones outside the nuclear family. The Amendment would enable a wider range of family members to apply for family reunification, including a grandparent, parent, sibling, grandchild or guardian. The Bill was first proposed by the Civil Engagement Group of Senators in July 2017 and completed the Final Stage in the Seanad in March 2018. Amending the legislation restores and strengthens the provisions of the 1996 Irish Refugee Act, and offers Ireland an opportunity to show leadership by upholding fundamental rights.
 
 
 

The world has turned its back on South Sudan

Oxfam has been working in South Sudan for over 30 years. Since 2017, we have been responding to a deepening emergency, reaching over 500,000 people across South Sudan with life-saving aid. We also implement long-term development projects to advance gender justice and support people to build resilient livelihoods to help beat poverty now and into the future. In this blog, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, Jim Clarken, reflects on his recent trip there.

South Sudan - A Country in Crisis

South Sudan is a country in crisis – a country on the brink of what could well become the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Yet tragically, for the people of this young nation, their ongoing plight has failed to make the headlines.

For more than four years, the people of South Sudan have been caught up in a brutal civil war. The violence has had a devastating impact on the country’s citizens, millions of whom are suffering from extreme hunger as a result.

More than 4 million people have fled their homes since war broke out in December 2013. And last year alone, some 700,000 people fled South Sudan to neighbouring countries – that means that in 2017, more than one person fled the country every minute.

When I visited South Sudan earlier this month, I met many people whose lives have been turned upside down by the ongoing conflict. I spoke to women grieving for their dead children, families who have had to flee their homes and farmers forced to abandon their land – ordinary people, who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves caught up in the crisis.

Oxfam Ireland CEO Jim Clarken speaks with local fisherman in Nyal, South Sudan. Credit: Ben Clancy/Oxfam Ireland

People can no longer protect themselves and their families from the destabilising impact of war. There are battles on every front. Inflation rates are so high that the price of even basic foodstuffs is beyond the reach of families. Meanwhile, farmers who have had no choice but to leave their land are missing out on harvests – leaving the country’s food stocks at dangerously low levels.

In February of last year, famine was declared in two counties – Leer and Mayendit. At that time, 100,000 people were facing famine, and one million more were on the brink. A strong humanitarian response has undoubtedly kept famine at bay but the need for aid is more urgent than ever. In fact, an estimated 1.6 million more people are now more at risk than when famine was declared in 2017. And while the United Nations World Food Programme has been carrying out food drops in South Sudan, the supplies aren’t enough for the population which finds itself in a race against time.

During my visit I travelled to the islands around Nyal in Unity State, which have seen a large influx of people fleeing the violence. There I met many people who have been displaced and are now in a dire situation. Many arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs, joining countless others with shared experiences. It had taken one group of women I spoke to seven days to reach safety. Having endured the harrowing and terrifying journey, they finally got the chance to grieve the children they had lost along the way.

With the support of Irish Aid, Oxfam Ireland is on the ground in Nyal, providing canoes to bring the sick and vulnerable from the islands to access life-saving aid and health care. We have also set up community gardens in the region, which enable people to grow their own food, or sell it to earn an income. And our protection teams are working with girls and women to ensure their safety in a new and unfamiliar environment.

Villagers of RAFONE island gather to meet Oxfam staff and discuss the progress they’ve made since receiving aid. Credit: Ben Clancy/Oxfam Ireland

Yet, despite our best efforts, the humanitarian situation remains dire – and it’s getting worse by the day. With other stories dominating the global headlines, I fear that South Sudan will be forgotten.

There is an onus on all of us to make sure the plight of this young nation is no longer ignored.

WORLD REFUGEE DAY 2018

Today, almost 45,000 people will be forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution. But there is nothing unusual about today – the same thing will happen tomorrow and every day after that.

There is no end in sight to this unprecedented displacement, and unless global political leaders take action, this is a tragedy that will continue to unfold.

To mark World Refugee Day, we meet just some of the 68.5 million refugees and displaced people forced to leave their homes – and the life they once knew – behind.

 

Nur* (35) with her youngest child Sikander* (2) outside their shelter in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Kelsey-Rae Taylor/Oxfam

In Bangladesh, Nur* and her children live in a makeshift camp in Cox’s Bazar. They were forced to flee the violence in Myanmar, which claimed the life of Nur’s husband.

“We had to struggle such a lot for four nights and five days on our way over here,” said Nur*. “We had to starve for four days. We had to crawl over hills.

“My shoulder swelled up to my neck as I had to carry my baby by fastening him with a rope. If he fell, I knew I’d lose him.

“Our tears dried up, we lost our hunger. We had to go through such traumatic circumstances to reach safety.  

“We could not sleep in Myanmar because we were afraid but we can sleep well here in the camp. There, we could not sleep, we were always tense. But here we don’t have that sort of fear.”

Ikhlas and Ali sit with their son Muhamed* inside their container at the Filippiada camp in Greece. Photo: Andy Aitchison/Oxfam

Meanwhile, Ali and Ikhlas and their young son Muhamed* are trying to adjust to their new life after fleeing the war in Syria.

The young family is currently living in a camp on the Greek island of Lesvos after being saved by the coast guard. They had been en route to Italy when the sea conditions deteriorated. “We were at sea on a boat with another 47 people,” said Ali (30). “The sea got very rough. It was terrifying. My wife and my little boy were with me and I cannot swim.

“Thankfully the Greek navy came and helped us… I was looking at my phone every minute, hoping it would end. The whole thing lasted 55 minutes. I still have nightmares because of it.”

Back in Syria, Ali was a farmer and had his own livestock. But he said: “Because of the bombings, we had to leave everything behind. I have seven brothers; only one of them is still in Syria, while the other six are in Germany. We would like to join them and start a new life away from bombs and violence.”

Dieudonné* was forced to flee his home with his wife and four children. Photo: John Wessels/Oxfam

Elsewhere, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dieudonné* describes how he and his family were attacked by their neighbours from a nearby village. Seven people were killed during the violence, forcing the father of four and his family to seek refuge in a camp miles from home.

“When we fled, we would sleep during the day in the bush and carry on the journey at night,” he said. “We had to walk all night because we feared they would spot us and arrest us.”

Dieudonné* said the attackers set fire to his house and his livestock, adding: “That’s all the wealth I had. Now I am left with nothing.”

Oxfam is working in refugee camps worldwide, providing life-saving aid including clean water, sanitation and food to those who have been forced to flee. In addition, we help to protect refugees from violence and abuse, ensure they understand their rights and give them access to free legal aid.

*Names changed

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