Syria and Refugee Crisis

  • Every three seconds, someone flees their home because of violence, poverty or disaster. Millions of refugees – many of them children - are trying to survive on the move. Oxfam is working tirelessly to give vital support to those who’ve lost everything.

Syria: Preparing for a harsh winter

Last winter, nearly 4,900 families, who have escaped the fighting in Afrin, Syria, received warm winter clothes that helped them face the harsh weather conditions, especially with the little heating they had and the lack of proper attire. Each kit consisted of two adult winter coats and three children-sized. 

Funding for these winter kits came at a time of a great need for some of Syria’s most vulnerable people who have escaped the violence and are still hoping for a better future for both them and their children.

Woman carries a winter survival box
Credit: Islam Mardini/Oxfam

Nazeera* was displaced from Afrin and now struggles to provide food and clothes for her five children. “We lost our home and livelihood when fighting escalated in our hometown, destroying my husband’s shop. It was very difficult for him to find another job and we must now rely on the support of relatives. Our disappointment is only increasing, day by day, as we cannot return home and cannot afford to live here,” Nazeera* tells Oxfam.

Elderly man receives winter box
Credit: Islam Mardini/Oxfam

70-year-old Nezar*, was also displaced from Afrin and now stays with his relatives in Aleppo. His leg was injured, and he cannot walk without crutches – but still he perseveres. “I lost three sons to this war, and now I must support their three little children. My condition does not help, and this means we must rely on handouts for the time being. We live in a shoddy apartment with no reliable electricity, which means scarce heating in the cold winter months. We can’t afford to buy fuel. I really miss my old house and hope to return to it soon,” he tells Oxfam.

Winter is upon Syrian families who fled for their lives across the border to Lebanon or Jordan. Many of them live in flimsy, improvised shelters.

Please help us provide Winter Survival Boxes which could contain thermal blankets, food vouchers, jerry cans, tarpaulin to insulate their shelter – simple, yet life-saving items.

As the nights start to get colder and more unbearable for Syrian refugees, your gift can’t come soon enough and will help support our emergency responses in places like Syria and where needed the most.

*Name(s) changed to protect identity

 

Oxfam calls for international community urgent action to prevent humanitarian crisis in North-East Syria

Oxfam Ireland launches emergency appeal for North-East Syria

Oxfam is calling for urgent action from the international community to do all in their power to ensure that the humanitarian situation in north-east Syria does not worsen further.

Oxfam Ireland has also now launched an emergency appeal for public donations, following on from the aid agency’s announcement that it is providing new funding for the unfolding and ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Amid news reports of an increasingly chaotic situation and escalating humanitarian concerns following the US withdrawal from north-eastern Syria, and Turkey’s offensive, Oxfam is primarily concerned for the safety, security and rights of the civilians caught in the middle.

Oxfam is calling on all sides to protect civilians, adhere to international humanitarian law and to allow full access to aid.

Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne, recently returned from Syria, said: “As concerns continue to raise for the humanitarian consequences of on-going hostilities, we re-iterate the need for the international community to respond.

“For too long, the conflict in Syria has risked becoming a forgotten crisis and the world can no longer stand idly by. Urgent action is needed to prevent potentially dire consequences for families and children who find themselves once again caught up in deadly violence. All children must be protected and provided humanitarian assistance.

“With an ongoing major crisis in Idlib and huge needs across the country, the aid response in Syria is already stretched to breaking point.

“This latest violence is compounding the suffering of civilians in Syria – nine years after the crisis began. Before this latest escalation in conflict 12 million people needed humanitarian aid and 300,000 have already lost their lives.

“The security situation in the area is already fragile, with tens of thousands of fighters and their families being held in camps and detention centres.

“An estimated 450,000 people live within 3 miles of the Syria-Turkey border and are at risk if all sides do not exercise maximum restraint and prioritize the protection of civilians. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are at least 1,650,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance in north-east Syria. The population includes more than 90,000 internally displaced people, who have already been forced to flee their homes at least once in Syria’s unrelenting war.

“Oxfam is on the ground, already helping over one million people in Syria with aid including clean water, cash and essential clothing items. Those now forced to flee are facing a winter of dreadful conditions with little means to survive it – they urgently need food, water, clothing, warm blankets, stoves and fuel. As winter approaches and the conflict escalates we urgently need to continue our live-saving work to reach even more women, children and men in desperate need.”

People wishing to support Oxfam’s emergency appeal for Syria can donate online via www.oxfamireland.org/syria-appeal, or through Oxfam Ireland’s network of 47 retail shops across the island. To find the Oxfam shop nearest to you, visit www.oxfamireland.org/shops .

ENDS

Oxfam Ireland’s Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne, recently returned from Syria, is available for interview. For more information please contact:

Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfam.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • In 2018/19, Oxfam in Syria helped over 1.2 million people with aid including clean water, cash, essential clothing items, and support to help make a living and grow nutritious food. In Lebanon and Jordan, Oxfam has to date helped some 300,000 people affected by the Syria crisis.

Omar* (27 years old), Fatima* and their 2-year-old son. Photo Credit: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

Refugees deserve to rebuild their lives

They have lost so much, the millions of people who have been forced to flee due to war and natural disasters.

They have lost their homes. They have lost their loved ones. They have lost their livelihoods.

But their hopes and dreams can never be lost.

On World Refugee Day, we meet just three of the 70.8 million people displaced around the world and pay tribute to their determination and creativity.

In Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, 12-year-old Muna* from Eastern Ghouta, Syria, is taking part in an art project run by Oxfam.

Muna*, who wants to become a fashion designer, engineer or journalist, can’t remember much about her life in Syria because she was just six years old when she and her family had to flee.

 

“I didn’t go to school in Syria; it was the beginning of the war and there was a lot of bombings,” she says.

Despite the trauma she has already experienced in her short life, Muna* is full of confidence and hope for the future.

“If you have a dream don’t give it up, it is nice to have a dream and work towards achieving it,” she says. “We as kids need to draw our dreams with our hands so we can achieve them one day.”

 

When Mosees, Christine and their three children were threatened with a weapon one night, they fled their home in Juba, South Sudan, and made their way to Impevi camp in Uganda.

Despite only being residents of the camp for a few months, they have already built their own house. Christine (24), who is a member of a group called Ask & Try, was also trained by Oxfam on how to make eco-stoves from clay, which must be moulded to a fixed shape so that they burn briquettes properly.

Christine, who has perfected the art, also made her own stove: “I light it in the morning and if it burns well it will do it all day. I don't have to look for firewood anymore and that saves a lot of time and stress, because it is not safe to leave the camp.”

Although she would like to go home to South Sudan someday, she will only do so if the violence ends.  In the meantime, Christine says: “We will stay here, and we can build a good life.”

Meanwhile, in Zambia’s Kenani refugee camp, Falia loves hairdressing and happily spends her days braiding, weaving and cutting the residents’ hair. She used to have a hair salon in the Democratic Republic of Congo before the conflict forced her to flee with her husband and three children.

 

“We left because we saw people breaking into people’s homes, killing people and stealing stuff – we realised it was time to go,” she says. “I was scared of getting killed. I have lost too many people in this war.”

Falia is part of Oxfam’s livelihoods programme and received tools and equipment to open a salon in the camp. Unfortunately, heavy rains destroyed the salon, but she continues to work under a tree.

“The salon is important because some people come to rest and relax, even if they are not having their hair done and others come to forget their problems or to learn how to do hair,” she says. “I just want to keep being a hairdresser and I want to grow. I want my children to be able to go to school and have a better life, I want to keep working in the salon so that everything is great.”

Oxfam is working in refugee camps around the world, providing life-saving aid such as clean water, sanitation and food to those who have been forced to flee.

We also help to protect refugees from violence and abuse, ensure they understand their rights and give them access to free legal aid.

 

*Name changed to protect identity

Rebuilding Al Rusul Primary School for Girls in Mosul

By Jerry Wessen, Oxfam Ireland’s Communications and Campaigns Intern.

The Iraqi city of Mosul was left devastated after occupation by ISIS – homes were ruined, schools were blown apart and infrastructure was uprooted. Now that the fighting has ended, families have returned to the city to rebuild and are slowly sending their children back to school.

One school located in west Mosul, Al Rusul Primary School for Girls, was completely destroyed. Muna Husein Kadu, the headteacher of the school explains: “It [the school] was destroyed, the furniture was broken. All our records were all over the floor. There was nothing left for us.” Students are two years behind on schooling and lost records make the situation worse.

“The kids are the ones with hope, they want to carry on and progress.”

Other than the school’s building being damaged, the bathrooms were also in dire need of attention. The toilets and sinks don’t work, and new septic tanks are needed - plus the smell makes it unbearable to step foot in the bathroom, let alone use it.

With so many obstacles already making it hard for these children to go to school, sanitation should not be one of them. So, Oxfam has focused our efforts on rehabilitating the water and sanitation systems of several schools in Mosul.

Gashaw Shareef is the lead of the project for Oxfam, in charge of contracting out the work and being the headteacher’s liaison. She explains the tasks at hand: “We clean the toilets first and then rehabilitate the sinks and then repair the taps with handles. [To] get rid of the smell is the most important thing.”

The efforts to reconstruct the bathrooms in the Al Rusul school took a total of three days, including installing new pipes and water tanks and sanitising the bathrooms.

One of the students said: “[Before], we couldn’t even go inside before because of the dirt and the horrible smell. It’s so much better now.”

Rehabilitating the bathroom was not the only goal. Gashaw explains: “We fix all the toilets and then we teach them how to use it.” Proper sanitation techniques are as important as new bathroom facilities for keeping communities safe from deadly disease.

Gashaw says: “When I see the results I will be happy, they are happy and that’s enough for me.”

 

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.

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