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.

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.

Thousands of Syrians out of reach of aid

Thousands of Syrians forced from their homes due to the recent fighting in Dar’a are unable to get the help they desperately need, Oxfam said today. 
 
Amid scorching summer temperatures, families need shelter, water, food and medical care but access for humanitarian agencies is limited and not enough assistance has been able to cross the border into Syria from Jordan. 
 
Recent clashes had seen the largest and fastest displacement of civilians since the Syria conflict began, with more than 330,000 people fleeing their homes during the two-week Syrian government offensive. 
 
A ceasefire agreed on Friday, between the Syrian government and local armed opposition groups, has provided a temporary halt to the violence, but there remains uncertainty over the future of Dar'a and how long the ceasefire will hold.  Many of those now returning home will find their houses have been destroyed while others don’t feel it is safe enough to return or are moving elsewhere. 
 
The Oxfam team in Dar’a reports that in many towns and villages, wells and other water supplies are not functioning, and back-up power systems are currently out of service. 
 
Moutaz Adham, Oxfam’s Country Director in Syria, said: “Thousands of families have been displaced and their communities wrecked by recent fighting across Dar’a province. Their struggles will get worse unless they receive the water, food and medical care they urgently need.”   
 
There are also concerns for approximately 100 people from Dar’a who remain at the Jaber/Nasib crossing on the border with Jordan, the UN confirmed. Those 100 have joined tens of thousands of others already sheltering close to the border in need of protection and assistance. 
 
Many of those displaced, including Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, have expressed concerns about returning home, fearing insecurity, detention, conscription, and other potential threats to their safety. 
 
Nickie Monga, Oxfam’s Country Director in Jordan said: "Jordan is already bearing an immense burden in hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees but we urge it to once again provide a safe space for those fleeing the violence and continue to facilitate cross-border assistance. The international community too must play its part by providing more aid to Jordan and increased resettlement of Syrian refugees." 
 
Oxfam is calling on all parties to the conflict and those with influence over them to work to stop the violence, which has led to civilian deaths and the destruction of medical facilities and schools in Dar’a. 
 
Oxfam is providing water and sanitation in an emergency shelter in Al-Sanamayn and has identified other areas in need of support across the Dar’a province.
 
ENDS 
 
Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview. For interviews or more information, contact: 
• ROI – Alice Dawson-Lyons on +353 83 198 1869 / alice.dawsonlyons@oxfamireland.org
• NI – Phillip Graham on 07841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org
 

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.
 
 
 

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