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.

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.
 
 
 

Helping the People of Syria

Deir-Ez-Zor, Syria

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The human suffering caused by seven years of civil war in Syria is overwhelming. Thousands of lives have been lost and over 13 million are living in extreme poverty, and in desperate need of humanitarian aid. We are helping those affected by the crisis across Syria with life-saving clean water, sanitation and vital food supplies. We have also been campaigning and advocating for an end to the fighting, and a sustainable and inclusive political solution since the beginning of the crisis.
 
Deir ez-Zor, the largest city in eastern Syria, gets really cold in the winter. At the beginning of the year, with the help of a local partner, we distributed over 25,000 packs of warm clothing and 400,000 bundles of bread to the families that had come back. The city of Deir-Ez-Zor was under ISIS control for the last 3 years. The civilians who remained in the war-torn city lived under besiegement with little access to food, water and medical supplies. 
 
"Before and during the besiegement, there was no food or water, people were dying. There was no medical supplies, there was nothing." 
 
It is only since late 2017 that the people of Deir-Ez-Zor have begun to return to the city. The people of the city have lost everything, their homes and their livelihoods. Due to the devastation of the city, many people had no protection from the harsh conditions of the extremely cold winter months. 
 
Since the liberation of the city, Oxfam has been providing thousands of families with warm coats for the winter and distributing bread,
 
"Thank God we can get bread and water, the water is pumped everyday, bread is available everyday, and now we are more comfortable. "
 
"Now we are warm, after being cold for a very long time me and my brothers and sister, we all feel warm now."

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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