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Need for genuine responsibility sharing among EU member states

Call for Ireland to reinstate relocation of people seeking asylum from Greece

EU 

  • Only One-third of asylum relocations committed in 2015-2017 pledge met  
  • Commitments made after Moria fire less than half fulfilled  
  • Member state inaction leaving people seeking asylum in limbo 

Ireland  

  • Ireland fairs well on refugee resettlement commitments, but falls short on relocation
  • Call for Ireland to reinstate relocations from Greek Islands as soon as possible  

Greece  

  • People, including survivors of sexual violence and elderly persons, are detained without reason
  • Children are not receiving any education.
  • Increase in reports of domestic abuse and difficultly accessing support services due to Covid restrictions
  • One in five people have attempted suicide  
  • “They are replacing our names with numbers”   

Today, Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees released a report detailing the impact of EU countries’ failure to relocate people from Greek refugee camps. Tipping the Scales: the role of responsibility and solidarity sharing in the situation on the Greek islands, reveals that conditions in Lesbos fail to meet even minimum standards for humanitarian crises – while Europe moves towards replicating failed policies that created these untenable conditions. 

The joint report assesses EU member states solidarity programmes and how failures to meet commitments have contributed to pressure on the Greek Islands, spawning abysmal conditions, and systemic human rights abuses. The report also looks at the EU’s newly proposed asylum laws. In particular, it focuses on the proposals for responsibility sharing and solidarity mechanisms, finding that, despite promises of starting anew, the policies on the table fail to address the flaws that led to the overcrowded and inhospitable conditions in Greece.

In response to the report findings, Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “EU member states, including Ireland, need to engage in genuine responsibility sharing rather than relying on ad hoc solidarity programmes. While we are happy that the Irish government responded to the solidarity call to enter into the EU relocation and resettlement programmes in 2015, we urge them to now engage with and support the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum’s solidarity mechanism by pledging to accept robust relocation quotas to support countries like Greece and encourage responsibility sharing among member states.” 

Greece, a country quickly overwhelmed as the number of people seeking asylum in Europe increased due to the outbreak of war in Syria in 2015, has since has harshened its stance on asylum. Reforms to their asylum law, increased use of detention and more barriers to access asylum are just some of the measures taken.   

Spyros-Vlad Oikonomou, Advocacy Officer at the Greek Council for Refugees, said: “Particularly since the EU-Turkey deal was struck, the EU and its member states have been trying to export their responsibility to protect refugees and asylum seekers. In Greece, the deal saw harsher laws, overcrowded camps and a failing reception system. Europe must overhaul its asylum laws to protect the rights of those seeking safety, while honouring the principle of solidarity between member states”

Clarken said: “Last year, in the aftermath of the Moria fires, the Irish government made commitments to resettle families and unaccompanied minors from Lesbos. These gestures of solidarity with Greece and the families and young people trapped in camps on the fringes of Europe are commendable. 

“However, it is now time to deliver on these commitments, and to reinstate relocations from Greece as soon as it is possible to do so.”

Meanwhile the human cost is mounting in Lesbos. One in five people have attempted suicide; people including survivors of sexual violence and elderly persons are detained without reason; there is a risk of sexual assault; and children are not receiving any education. Women are particularly affected. There has been an increase in reports of domestic abuse while movement restrictions due to Covid are preventing women from accessing support. People in Lesbos are left without a future.  

Clarken continued: “Our failure to respond effectively as a European community is extinguishing hope – to the despairing extent that people are attempting to take their own lives.  

“The situation in the camp is dire – and time spent in waiting there is protracted. The drop in temperature and winter conditions has particularly affected people – who continue to live in tents and makeshift shelters. Insufficient or unstable power supplies have made it impossible for many to even warm themselves, while women in the camp continue to express concerns over their health and safety, as they are exposed to various security risks, including gender-based violence. 

Barlin*, currently staying in a prolonged administrative detention in Kos, said: “We don’t even have our basic rights as refugees. We are not free and we don’t know for how long [we will remain detained]. They are replacing our names with numbers, treating us as if we were in prison, calling us by our numbers.” 

Clarken concluded: “While the new Pact on Migration and Asylum aims to balance responsibility sharing across the EU, this will only happen if member states choose to act in solidarity and to uphold and protect a person’s right to seek asylum and to have their application assessed in a fair and timely manner. The alternative is to move towards further deterrents, which erode and undermine these rights – and mean that we are failing in our own international obligations – obligations designed to protect lives. 

“Our inaction is at best leaving people in limbo, at worst, it is sending them back to the persecution they tried to escape.”  

*Names have been changed  

END

Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org

Notes to editors:

  • The Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was established in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis. Under this programme, the Government committed to accepting up to 4,000 people into the State, primarily through a combination of the EU Relocation Programme and the UNHCR's Refugee Resettlement Programme. A total of 3,358 people have arrived in Ireland to date under the various strands of the IRPP. You can read more about Ireland's response and commitments here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/ede36-irish-refugee-protection-programme/
  • Relocation: 
  1. According to OPMI, in 2015 the Irish government committed to relocate 2,622 people via the EU Relocation Programme. The most up to date publicly available relocation data is from a PQ dated Oct. 6 2020: Ireland has relocated 1,022 people, including six unaccompanied minors, from Greece under the first phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), and consider their commitment met and the scheme concluded (PQ 30 July 2020). 
  2. Phase two of IRPP only includes commitments on resettlement and community sponsorship: "In December 2019, a programme was put in place to welcome up to 2,900 refugees between 2020 and 2023 through a combination of resettlement and the new community sponsorship initiatives."
  • Ireland has yet to meet the commitment made last year to relocate families and unaccompanied minors from Greece after fires destroyed Moria camp on Lesbos.
  • Read the Lesbos bulletin, the February update on the situation in the EU ‘hotspot’ refugee camps in Lesbos. It details quotes from people currently living in camps in Greece, how the situation is falling short of Sphere standards - a set of principles mapping out the minimum standards in humanitarian settings with respect to access to water, sanitation, hygiene promotion, food, security and nutrition.    
  • Read our report: Tipping the Scales: the role of responsibility and solidarity sharing in the situation on the Greek islands. It details how failed EU policies and the shirking of responsibilities resulted in the abysmal situation in Greece, and how the current proposals replicate these failed policies and allow for the same shirking of responsibility.       
  • International Rescue Committee research, The Cruelty of Containment: The Mental Health Toll of the EU’s ‘Hotspot’ Approach on the Greek Islands, has found that one in three asylum seekers report suicidal thoughts, and one in five have already attempted to take their lives due to the impact of prolonged containment in 2018–20.    
  • Only one-third of the agreed upon 160,000 relocations took place from the 2015-2017 pledge. Following the fire in Moria, European countries made promises for the relocation of 5100 people. With 2050 relocations, less than half of this has been fulfilled. This was partly due to flight restrictions related to COVID-19, and partly due to cumbersome procedures, slow implementation and ’cherry picking’ practices by (at least) some member states.    
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Crisis upon crisis: Families in Yemen forced into debt to pay for food and medicine

Almost six years of war has pushed Yemen to the brink. Thousands have been killed, millions displaced and the country's infrastructure has been devastated. 

With the economy shattered, food prices skyrocketing and huge levels of unemployment, it has emerged that almost 40 percent of families are using debt to buy food and medicines. 

New research by Oxfam has revealed that families say they can’t borrow the money they need for essentials unless shopkeepers know they have a monthly income. For many, this means the cash transfers they receive from humanitarian agencies. 

Shopkeepers estimate that the number of families using debt to buy food has risen by 62 percent since the conflict started, while pharmacists estimate an increase of 44 percent in debt being used to purchase medicines.

Hind Qassem* with her 10 children in their temporary tent. Photo: Ahmed Al-Fadeel/Oxfam

Hind Qassem*, 45, was pregnant with her tenth child when her husband was killed by an artillery shell, forcing her to flee with her children.  At first, they lived under a plastic sheet, relying on leftovers given by neighbouring families. Three of her sons suffer from sickle cell anaemia and need blood transfusions every month.

“Now, I receive YER 45,000 (around US$70) every month," she said. "Yes, it is not enough to cover all our needs but it helps a lot. I am now able to pay for my children’s treatment and buy some flour and vegetables for us to eat. Shops will now allow us to buy food on credit because we are receiving monthly assistance."

Many families who are struggling with debt say that they are living permanently in arrears - using their transfer to pay off what they owe and then run up more debt as they wait for their next aid payment. 

Last year, donors only provided half of the aid money needed for the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. With the 2021 UN humanitarian need budget for Yemen due imminently, Oxfam is urging the international community to be generous when pledging funds. 

Ibrahim Alwazir, who carried out the research for Oxfam, said: “To struggle this hard to be able to provide food and medicine for one's family is an avoidable hardship that millions have to overcome on a daily basis. We need peace so no more Yemenis are forced to flee their homes and live in poverty.

“Peace will allow people to rebuild their lives and businesses, but we need support to help communities to do that. This war has turned my country into the world’s largest humanitarian crisis and it’s only getting worse. We all just want to get back to normal life.”  

Some 24.3 million Yemenis, over 53 per cent of the population, currently need humanitarian assistance. This year, 16.2 million Yemenis will rely on food aid to survive, with 17.9 million lacking access to healthcare in a country where only half of health facilities are fully functional.

It is estimated that in parts of Yemen one in five children are severely malnourished and will grow up with life-long medical conditions if they do not get more food.

Oxfam, along with other agencies in Yemen, provides support for struggling families in the form of cash transfers which allows people to choose what they buy and helps stimulate local markets.

Grocery store owner Abdulkareem Salaeh said: "We are left with no choice [but to offer credit]. People are desperate, and we are struggling to keep the business going. While some are able to pay, others can't and that's a problem.

"We only agree to lend people with a reliable source of income, like employees, business owners, daily wage labourers or those receiving humanitarian aid, else it will be a loss that we can't afford. We are barely able to cover operational costs and the costs of goods we sell. It's unfortunate!"

Oxfam staff distribute hygiene kits in Alkoba camp, Taiz. Photo: Hitham Ahmed/Oxfam

Oxfam been on the ground in Yemen since 2015, helping more than 3 million people in nine governorates with clean water and sanitation, cash assistance and food vouchers. 

We’ve provided clean water and sanitation to more than one million people, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, through providing water by truck, repairing water systems, delivering filters and jerry cans, as well as building latrines and organising cleaning campaigns.

To help combat Covid-19, we’re also supporting the healthcare system with hygiene equipment, hospital supplies and mobile services for rural areas. We’ve been able to provide the health authorities in Amran governorate, northern Yemen, with five mobile health centres, as well as oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, PPE and fuel to help with the running of generators.

*Name changed

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Fashion Relief Donation Drive - we want your pre-loved gems

Join Brendan Courtney in supporting Fashion Relief with Lorraine Keane.

It’s almost the spring – according to the calendar, anyway. So, if you’re at home, looking around the office-gym formerly known as your bedroom and wondering where all that clutter came from, you’re not alone.

And better still, help is on the way!

Style guru and TV presenter Brendan Courtney is teaming up with broadcaster Lorraine Keane for a donation drive in aid of Fashion Relief, Lorraine’s sustainable fashion fundraiser with Oxfam Ireland.

It’s your chance to spring-clean your home while raising money to support Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s poorest countries.

"The evenings are getting longer, and our homes are probably starting to feel a little more cluttered as, let's face it, we are all spending a lot of time in them these days, so why not start your spring-clean early and send your pre-loved gems over to us at Fashion Relief."

“People can donate up to 12 items at a time. When they let us know that they would like to donate, we will send a pre-paid and addressed donation bag out to them. Once their donations are packaged up all they need to do is bring them to their local post office and they will be winging their way to us at Fashion Relief.” - Lorraine

Fashion Relief started in 2018 when Lorraine teamed up with Oxfam Ireland to organise a series of live events. Since then, the fundraiser has raised almost €270,000 for Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. 

It’s also part of Oxfam’s solution to ‘throwaway fashion’, encouraging people to donate pre-loved items rather than binning them. Retailers are also supported to donate their end-of-line or excess stock instead of sending it to landfill – a more sustainable solution for people and planet.

"What better way to start a journey to a more sustainable lifestyle, than with the clothes we wear."

"By donating items to Fashion Relief, you are reducing the amount of clothes and textiles that end up in landfill and giving pre-loved clothes a second lease of life, while also supporting people experiencing poverty and disaster." - Brendan

“When Covid-19 resulted in the postponement of the 2020 events, Fashion Relief pivoted to an online shopping platform with the help of Irish tech firm Axonista. Now we are pivoting to Instagram and the fashionistas of Ireland to ensure we can continue to offer people unique fashion finds at discounted prices. 

“This is our own little Fashion Relief circular economy – as long as people continue to donate fabulous items, we will continue to have fabulous bargains up for grabs.” - Lorraine

The profits from Fashion Relief support Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive as well as saving lives when disaster strikes.

If you have any items you’d like to donate to Fashion Relief’s donation drive, contact Aisling at aisling.wallace@oxfam.org to arrange for delivery of your donation bag.

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Brendan Courtney teams up with Lorraine Keane's Fashion Relief with Oxfam Ireland for donation drive

  • Style duo Keane and Courtney call for high-end donations in support of Fashion Relief 
  • Spring clean with purpose for Lorraine Keane’s Fashion Relief with Oxfam Ireland 

What? 

This Friday, 5th February, style guru Brendan Courtney is teaming up with Broadcaster Lorraine Keane in support of a pre-loved designer and high-end clothing drive in aid of Fashion Relief, Keane’s sustainable fashion fundraiser with Oxfam Ireland. 

When? 

Friday 5th February, kicking off at 6pm

Where? 

Tune into Broadcaster Lorraine Keane’s Instagram account: @lorrainekeaneofficial

This Friday, style duo Lorraine Keane and Brendan Courtney will be taking to Instagram to call upon supporters to donate new or pre-loved items to Fashion Relief - Keane’s sustainable fashion fundraiser with Oxfam Ireland - with a specific ask for designer and high-quality clothing and bags. 

Broadcaster Lorraine Keane said: “The evenings are getting longer, and our homes are probably starting to feel a little more cluttered as, let's face it, we are all spending a lot of time in them these days – so why not start your spring clean early and send your pre-loved gems over to us at Fashion Relief. 

“People can donate up to 12 items at a time. When they let us know that they would like to donate, we will send a pre-paid and addressed donation bag out to them. Once their donations are packaged up all they need to do is bring them to their local post office and they will be winging their way to us at Fashion Relief.”

Fashion Relief started in 2018 when Lorraine Keane teamed up with Oxfam Ireland to organise a series of live Fashion Relief events. Since then, Fashion Relief has travelled nationwide to Dublin, Galway and Cork and raised almost €270,000 for Oxfam’s work with some of the most vulnerable communities across the world.

Fashion Relief is also part of Oxfam’s solution to ‘throwaway fashion’, encouraging people to donate pre-loved items rather than binning them. In addition, Fashion Relief works with retailers, supporting them to donate their end of line or excess stock instead of sending it to landfill – a more sustainable solution for people and planet.

Brendan Courtney said: “What better way to start a journey to a more sustainable lifestyle, than with the clothes we wear. By donating items to Fashion Relief, you are reducing the amount of clothes and textiles that end up in landfill and giving pre-loved clothes a second lease of life, while also supporting people experiencing poverty and disaster.”

Keane concluded: “When Covid-19 resulted in the postponement of the 2020 events, Fashion Relief pivoted to an online shopping platform with the help of Irish tech firm Axonista. Now we are pivoting to Instagram and the fashionists of Ireland to ensure we can continue to offer people unique fashion finds at discounted prices.

“This is our own little Fashion Relief circular economy – as long as people continue to donate fabulous items, we will continue to have fabulous bargains up for grabs.”

All Fashion Relief profits support Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive as well as saving lives when disaster strikes.

If you have items you would like to donate to Fashion Relief’s donation drive contact Aisling at aisling.wallace@oxfam.org to arrange for delivery of your donation bag.

Ends

For media queries contact:

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org |087 912 3165

Notes to the Editor

About Fashion Relief: Fashion Relief is a fundraiser extraordinaire that offers people the unique opportunity to bag a bargain from the wardrobe of their style icon or beloved brand, boutique or designer. It started in May 2018 and has since rolled out annual events in Dublin, Cork and Galway. All profits support Oxfam’s work in some of the world’s poorest countries, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive as well as saving lives when disaster strikes. Since its inception, Fashion Relief has shone a light on the suffering of millions of children, women and men across the world who face hunger and starvation due to a catastrophic combination of conflict, disasters and extreme weather.  Funds raised will be used to support Oxfam’s work worldwide – including families tackling the climate crisis in East Africa, Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and the millions of people who are desperately trying to survive in Yemen and Syria.

About Oxfam Ireland: Oxfam is a global movement of people who won’t live with the injustice of poverty. Together they save lives and rebuild communities when disaster strikes. They help people build better lives for themselves. They speak out on the big issues that keep people poor, like inequality and discrimination against women. And they won’t stop until every person on the planet can live without poverty. Oxfam Ireland is one of 20 Oxfams working in over 90 countries worldwide.

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Historic climate win in French court as law rules in favour of Oxfam and partners

The people have had their say – and in this case, it was the people of France.

In December 2018, four NGOs – including Oxfam France – launched a legal action against the French government for failing to cut the country’s emissions fast enough to meet its climate commitments.

The four organisations were backed by a record 2.3 million people, all of whom had signed a petition supporting the action.

Now a French court has found in favour of the plaintiffs, agreeing that the country’s political leaders have failed to take adequate action to tackle the climate crisis.

This marks the first time that the French state has been taken to court over its climate responsibilities – and the decision leaves the government open to lawsuits from French citizens who have suffered climate-related damage.

It could also force the French government to take further steps to cut its emissions.

Other countries, including Ireland, have already brought similar cases to court. In June 2020, Friends of the Irish Environment took the Irish government to the Supreme Court for failing to take adequate action on climate change – and won.
Climate Case Ireland was the first case of its kind in Ireland and only the second case in the world in which the highest national court of law required a government to revise its national climate policy in light of its legal obligations.

Michael McCarthy Flynn, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Oxfam Ireland, said:
“As our own Supreme Court has already put the Irish government on notice for failing to take adequate action on climate change, in a similar case, it is essential that the new Climate Change Bill currently going through the Oireachtas is robust enough."

- Michael McCarthy Flynn, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Oxfam Ireland
Ireland’s win followed that of the Urgenda Climate Case in the Netherlands in December 2019, when the country’s Supreme Court upheld previous decisions that the Dutch government had a duty to urgently and significantly reduce emissions in line with its human rights obligations. Climate change litigation is increasingly seen as a way to influence policy, according to a 2019 report by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. The report, co-published by the London School of Economics and Political Science, revealed that more than 1,300 climate cases have been filed in at least 28 countries, with governments cited as the main defendant in over 80 percent of cases.
Back in France, the government’s proposed climate law is, by its own admission, not enough to achieve its target of cutting emissions by 40 percent by the end of this decade. Even this target is not enough to put the country on track to tackle the climate crisis, Oxfam France said.
“For the first time, a French court has ruled that the State can be held responsible for its climate commitments. This sets an important legal precedent and can be used by people affected by the climate crisis to defend their rights.

“This is a source of hope for the millions of French people who demanded legal action, and for all of those who continue to fight for climate justice around the world. It is also a timely reminder to all governments that actions speak louder than words.”

- Oxfam France
The French government now has two months to appeal the court’s decision. While the four NGOs have asked the court to order the state to take extra measures to fulfil its climate commitments, the court has reserved its decision until later in the spring, allowing for further discussions between the two parties.
Oxfam launched the legal action because the climate crisis is fuelling poverty, hunger and inequality around the world. Often it is the poorest countries that have contributed least to the crisis that pay the highest price. In September 2020, Oxfam revealed that the richest one percent of people produce more than double the emissions of the poorest half of the world population combined.

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