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Irish INGOs call on UN Security Council to vote to keep vital humanitarian aid border crossing between north-west Syria and Turkey open

4 July 2021

A group of Irish humanitarian aid organisations are collectively calling on members of the United Nations Security Council, of which Ireland is a temporary member, to approve the reauthorisation of a vital border crossing which allows aid between Turkey and conflict affected north-west Syria.

The NGOs warn that over three million people in Syria will be left without critical life-saving humanitarian assistance if consensus, which enables aid to flow through the only remaining border crossing between Turkey and north-west Syria at Bab al Hawa, is not secured.  UN Security Council members have until July 10th to unanimously agree to renew the Syria Cross-Border Resolution.

The Bab al Hawa crossing allows humanitarian aid to be delivered to a region where 81 percent of the population, half of whom are children, are in need of support.

Concern Worldwide, GOAL, Trocaire, Oxfam Ireland and World Vision are appealing to the Security Council to approve the reauthorisation of the crossing for at least another 12 months. In addition to the Bab al Hawa border crossing, they are also calling for the re-opening of the Al Yarubiyah and Bab al Salam crossings, which have been closed over the last year and a half.

In a joint statement the NGOS say: “If the last remaining border crossing is closed off after July 10th the work of the entire humanitarian community to provide timely life-saving assistance, could be in jeopardy and the consequences will be disastrous. This cannot be allowed to happen. Ireland, with Norway, has specific responsibility at the UN Security Council to convene consensus on the text of the resolution that protects cross-border aid.”

The statement also urges the Security Council to go further to expand means for the delivery of aid by urgently reinstating the Bab al Salam and Al Yarubiyah crossings in the resolution.

The renewal of the Syria Cross-Border Resolution is the only way the Bab al Hawa crossing can remain open.

The NGO group warn that a failure to do so would result in a looming humanitarian catastrophe, with food aid supplies, Covid-19 vaccines, and critical medical supplies unable to be delivered.

It said: “The number of people in need in Syria is currently at its highest ever level, growing 20 percent in the last year alone. The ongoing economic crisis in the region coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic has led to record levels of food insecurity and economic hardship. Covid-19 continues to spread at an alarming rate while the healthcare infrastructure, decimated by years of conflict, remains woefully inadequate to respond.

“Ten years on in Syria, the need for humanitarian assistance has never been greater for 22 million civilians caught up in this horrific conflict. Some 80 percent of the population now live below the poverty line and 9.3 million people are food insecure. Access is critical to ensure that all humanitarian agencies can continue to provide life-saving assistance.”

In March the group raised their concerns about the closure of the border crossing in a joint submission to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITOR:

Case studies and quotes from children living in North West Syria are available on request.

Spokespeople available:

Bríd Kennedy, Middle East Regional Director, Concern Worldwide

Lorraine Marriott, Regional Director for the Middle East, GOAL

Colm Byrne, Humanitarian Manager, Oxfam Ireland

Niall O Keeffe, Head of Portfolio, FCAS, Trócaire

Maurice Sadlier, Programmes & Policy Director, World Vision Ireland

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People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland – Official Launch

  • Irish organisations, health practitioners, trade unions, and activists unite for a People’s Vaccine  
  • People’s Vaccine coalition call on Irish government to stand for fairness, equality and global health 

Updated 5th July 2021

What: Official launch of the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland

When: 13:00 – 14:00 (Irish Summer Time), July 8, 2021 

Where: Virtual event hosted on Zoom. RSVP here

Confirmed speakers:

  • Dr Ciara Conlan, Co-Founder of Access to Medicines Ireland 
  • Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme
  • Isabel Simpson, Executive Director, Médecins Sans Frontières Ireland  
  • Majo Rivas, Paraguayan-Irish People's Vaccine activist  
  • Mustaqeem De Gama, South African Permanent Mission to the WTO in relation to the TRIPS waiver
  • Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, Irish Independent Politician
  • Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS

Further information 

This event marks the launch of a national campaign by the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland—a coalition of Irish organisations, health practitioners, trade unions and activists who have come together to call on the Irish government to take a stand for equality and global health. 

The fairest and most effective way to end the Covid-19 pandemic is to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. Yet, pharmaceutical company monopolies could leave countries in the global south waiting until 2023 for widespread vaccination. This must change, so they too can protect their citizens. 

Current vaccine inequity can be addressed by temporarily waiving intellectual property rights to vaccines by supporting the TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organisation and by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to share their know-how, so that the manufacture of vaccines can be scaled up to the meet the global need. This is the morally right thing to do, but in addition, restricting vaccine supply to protect profits during the pandemic, means all populations remain at further risk of health and economic shocks and crises. 

Join us to discuss the obstacles standing in the way of global vaccine access on Thursday 8, July from 13:00, when we will hear from Irish and international speakers campaigning for vaccine equity worldwide.

For more information, please visit http://peoplesvaccine.ie

Register to attend this event launch: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_HxYiidujSHWAKkzPLUkLfw

ENDS

Contact 

Caroline Reid | Oxfam Ireland | 087 912 3165 

Jo-Ann Ward | ActionAid Ireland | 087 768 6289

Notes to the Editor

The People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland is coordinated by: Access to Medicines Ireland, Action Aid Ireland, Amnesty International Ireland, AMRI, Comhlamh, Christian Aid Ireland, GOAL, Friends of the Earth Ireland, ICCL, Irish General Practice Nurses Educational Association, Irish Global Health Network, Oxfam Ireland, Plan International Ireland and Trócaire. 

The people’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland’s Demands:

  1. Ireland must use its voice within the EU to support the TRIPS waiver - Call on governments to temporarily suspend intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organisation for Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. This will help break Big Pharma monopolies and increase supplies so there are enough doses for everyone, everywhere. For more info, click here and here. 
  2. Ireland must endorse the World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) to facilitate the sharing of know-how by Pharmaceutical companies to increase vaccine production.

Speaker bios:

Dr Ciara Conlan is one of the co-founders of Access to Medicines Ireland (AMI). AMI together with the other members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance Ireland have been leading voices calling for global COVID-19 vaccine equity. Ciara is a medical doctor currently working in virology and COVID- 19 surveillance. She holds a further diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Ciara has first-hand experience working on the COVID-19 wards in Ireland and has also spent time working in rural Malawi. She is interested in the intersection between social exclusion and infectious diseases, and in access to medicine problems caused by the current commercial model of drug development.

Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme has been at the forefront of managing acute risks to global health for nearly 25 years. He served as Assistant Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response in WHO's Health Emergencies Programme from 2017 to 2019. Dr Ryan first joined WHO in 1996, with the newly established unit to respond to emerging and epidemic disease threats. He has worked in conflict affected countries and led many responses to high impact epidemics. He completed medical training at the National University of Ireland, Galway, a Master’s in Public Health at University College Dublin, and specialist training in communicable disease control at the Health Protection Agency in London and the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training.

Isabel Simpson has a professional background in nursing and over 25 years in humanitarian work having worked in Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Somaliland, Iraq, North East India. As Executive Director of MSF Ireland, Isabel leads MSF’s work in Ireland – providing staff to support emergencies and MSF’s projects globally, raising funds for MSF’s operations and speaking out to highlight humanitarian crises. Isabel’s work includes bringing attention to equitable access to medicines across the world.

Majo Rivas is Paraguayan-Irish and lives in Cork. She has worked in advocacy in sexual and reproductive rights, migrant rights and disability rights. Almost all of her immediate family (whom she misses very much) is in Paraguay, so vaccine inequality is particularly close to home.

Mustaqeem De Gama is currently a Counsellor at the South African Mission in Geneva and is accredited to the WTO and UN. He has been a determined advocate, on behalf of the South African Government, for adoption of the TRIPS waiver at the WTO. He previously worked at the Department of Trade and Industry in South Africa where he headed the International Trade and Investment Directorate.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins is a progressive, independent Senator with a strong commitment to equality, the environment and human rights. Senator Higgins was re-elected to Seanad Éireann (NUI Panel) in March 2020 where she is leader of the Civil Engagement Group, a group of Senators who each have backgrounds in civil society. Alice-Mary has held a number of other policy and advocacy roles in Irish civil society organisations and has been active in many public campaigns and referenda. 

Winnie Byanyima is the Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. A passionate and longstanding champion of social justice and gender equality, Ms. Byanyima leads the United Nations efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Ms. Byanyima believes that health care is a human right and has been an early champion of a People’s Vaccine against the coronavirus that is available and free of charge to everyone, everywhere.

Before joining UNAIDS, Ms. Byanyima served as the Executive Director of Oxfam  International, a confederation of 20 civil society organisations working in more than 90 countries worldwide, empowering people to create a future that is secure, just, and free from poverty.

Ms. Byanyima was elected for three terms and served eleven years in the Parliament of her country, Uganda. She led Uganda's first parliamentary women’s caucus, championing ground-breaking gender equality provisions in the county's 1995 post-conflict constitution. Ms. Byanyima led the establishment of the African Union Commission’s Directorate of Gender and Development and also served as Director of Gender and Development at UNDP. She founded the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), an influential Ugandan NGO, and has been deeply involved in building global and African coalitions on social justice issues. A global leader on inequality, Ms. Byanyima has co-chaired the World Economic Forum and served on the World Bank’s Advisory Council on Gender and Development, ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work and the Global Commission on Adaptation.

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Time on your hands? Why not volunteer with your local Oxfam shop!

23 June 2021

There are two things that keep our network of shops going strong – your amazing donations and your precious time.

And right now, we would love if you could donate some of your time and volunteer at your local Oxfam shop. Volunteers play a vital role in Oxfam’s work around the world, while also providing a solution to throwaway fashion by saving items from ending up in landfills here at home.

By giving us a little bit of their time and creativity, each one of our incredible volunteers makes a huge difference in support of some of the most at-risk communities in the world, while helping our planet a little along the way.

We're currently looking for:

  • Sunday volunteers in our shops in Dublin's George’s Street, Francis Street, Parliament Street and Malahide, and Oxfam Sligo
  • Bridal volunteers in George’s Street, Dublin
  • General volunteers for all locations
  • Social media volunteers for all shops

Trevor Anderson, Director of Trading with Oxfam Ireland, said: “I would encourage anyone interested in lending some time to pop into their local Oxfam shop and let the manager know - people can give as little or as much time as they like. Oxfam shops are a hive of activity with lots of opportunities to meet new people, learn new skills, and of course, have plenty of fun along the way.

“Our volunteers are the backbone of our network of shops and by giving a little of their time and creativity, each person makes a huge difference in support of some of the most at-risk communities in the world.

“It is because of the commitment and enthusiasm of our amazing volunteers that Oxfam can change lives and work toward building a fairer and more sustainable world for everyone.”

So, why not lend some time to your local Oxfam shop, and see what you can do for people and planet!

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World Refugee Day: We can do more for young people seeking refuge on our shores

Photo: Pablo Tosco / Oxfam

New research puts forward recommendations for treatment of unaccompanied minors in Europe

The theme for this years World Refugee day is ‘together we heal, learn and shine’. And we can, but as our new research report reveals – we can definitely improve how we do things to ensure that we strive to achieve these goals for refugee youth in our care.

While for many teenagers around the world, turning 18 is a milestone – a moment of joy and celebration – our new research finds that for young people seeking refuge in Europe, this is a moment of massive anxiety. As turning 18 symbolises losing support due to the sharp nosedive in our protective legal frameworks.

The report has sounded the alarm about the risks young face – and our governments must now heed them.

The research shines a spotlight how unaccompanied minors (young people seeking asylum who under the age of 18 and have either lost or have been separated from their family or legal guardian) across Europe are falling through the gaps and into situations of extreme vulnerability.

The most worrying aspect of the report is the changes in supports once a young person in the asylum process in Ireland reaches their 18th birthday. 

One of the key tenants of EU law is protecting young people regardless of their legal status. This protection helps shield them from the high risk of abuse, homelessness, and exploitation. Turning 18 does not mean these risks disappear overnight, yet the protection they receive dramatically changes.

No longer considered children in the eyes of the law, young unaccompanied minors can find themselves displaced for a second time.

“It’s hard, because you are just learning how to live with your foster family, and then you have to leave.”

*Reuben, who arrived in Ireland as an unaccompanied minor and since been granted status

Photo: Pablo Tosco / Oxfam

European law rightly ensures that unaccompanied minors arriving in Europe are accommodated in child-friendly accommodation and are appointed a social worker to support them with administrative and legal matters. But in Ireland, unaccompanied minors in the asylum process are in many cases removed from foster or residential care once they turn 18 and are sent to Direct Provision - where they find themselves living in the same room as adult strangers and quite often in a different region to where they were first accommodated.  

“You’re not fully an adult at 18, most Irish kids are still living with their parents at 18.” 

Lee*, who arrived in Ireland as an unaccompanied minor and since been granted status

When they were asked what they would like to change about their experience, the young interviewees noted that they would like to see an end to the removal from foster or residential care to Direct Provision.

One young person said that this change would be good for their mental health and would encourage young people to move forward, as it was very stressful to leave their foster family and was a “a very dark time in their life” (Mo*).

Photo: Giorgos Moutafis/ Oxfam

A second worrying issue that came up in focus groups with professionals and guardians was the issue of family reunification law in Ireland, which is restrictive and has time restraints which give little consideration to the complexity of family tracing (locating a family member they may have been separated from when escaping persecution.) This whole process places a massive responsibility on the young person and can cause considerable anxiety.

"We want to shed light on the traumatic and sudden process of turning 18 as an unaccompanied minor in Ireland. You go to sleep a child in the eyes of the law, and the next morning you wake up an adult and find you are stripped of many of the supports and protections you experienced when you first arrived. The security you  were afforded is suddenly toppled."

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland

We have written to the Minister for Children, the Ombudsman for Children and the Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children seeking meetings to discuss the findings of the report and to explore how the issues raised can be addressed.

European countries need to step up. They must simplify asylum processes, set up guardianship schemes, create professional training programmes for people engaging with refugee youth, and invest in transitionary social housing with wraparound supports to help young people navigate the extremely complex systems that they find themselves in. 

Surely we can find a better way for refugee youth who have lost, or been separated from, their families. One that better reflects the theme of this year’s World Refugee Day –to heal, learn and shine together.

The research was conducted through interviews with refugees, frontline staff and researchers in Ireland, France, Greece, the Netherlands, and Italy.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the young people who contributed to the research report.

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Broadcasters Lorraine Keane and Maïa Dunphy partner up for Oxfam Bridal

  • Something pre-loved, something new, something for all brides-to-be at Oxfam's Bridal Rooms
  • Oxfam call on Brides to donate their wedding dresses – for people and planet 

16 June 2021

Today, Broadcasters Lorraine Keane and Maïa Dunphy donned their wedding dresses one more time to encourage brides-to-be to book an appointment at Oxfam's Bridal Rooms in Dublin and Belfast.

If you want to find a beautiful dress that doesn’t cost the earth (literally), you can shop with piece of mind at Oxfam Bridal where you will find wedding dresses for all tastes – vintage, designer or pre-loved! Many of the dresses you'll find are donated by bridal boutiques or designers, saving them from landfills, and have never even had their special day. So, if shopping on a budget, you could find your dream dress at a fraction of what it would normally cost.

In the mix, you will also find some beautiful pre-loved dresses, like Maia Dunphy’s stunning Jenny Packham dress – which she generously donated to Oxfam last year. Or Lorraine Keane's beautiful lace detailed dress by Spanish designer Jesus Peiro, which she bought in San Sebastián.

Lorraine Keane, Broadcaster and founder of Fashion Relief with Oxfam Ireland, said: “Your wedding day is a time to celebrate love, happiness and a future together. For many couples, incorporating some sustainable elements or charitable giving into their special day is becoming more popular. It's a great way to have a positive impact on the future of others while you celebrate your love and commitment to that special someone in your life.

“You also don’t have to spend a fortune to look a million dollars. By booking an appointment with Oxfam Bridal today you can browse and try on a selection of beautiful brand new and pre-loved wedding dresses - including my own, which I just donated to Oxfam! From vintage to the occasional designer gown, Oxfam’s dedicated Bridal Rooms in Dublin and Belfast stock all styles and sizes - a selection of which are currently on display at the Frascati Centre in Blackrock - as well a range of bridal accessories and bridesmaids' dresses. And, the extra bonus is, by supporting Oxfam, your big day creates a brighter future for people living with the injustice of poverty.”

Broadcaster and writer Maia Dunphy, who recently donated her wedding dress said: "After wearing my dress during lockdown, to raise a smile and funds for a charity close to my heart, I realised there's no point in keeping my gorgeous Jenny Packham wedding dress locked away in a bag forever. I'm never going to wear it again and feared one day I'll take it down for a peek to find a moth hole in it!

"After seeing a call out from Lorraine for donations I decided to donate it, hoping that someone else will get as much joy as I did out of wearing something so special. I would encourage other people out there to consider the same. You can give your wedding dress a second life – and contribute to another Bride’s special day - while also helping vulnerable communities the world over by donating your wedding dress to Oxfam's Bridal Rooms. ”

By choosing Oxfam, know that the wedding dress you buy will make a difference to the environment and help save lives by raising funds for Oxfam’s work across the world - whether it's reaching the most vulnerable when disaster strikes or supporting people to lift themselves out of poverty by building sustainable livelihoods.

So pay less for the dress and shop sustainably at Oxfam Bridal this year - located on George’s Street in Dublin City Centre and in Castle Court Shooping Centre, Belfast. Over the coming weeks people can see a selection of Oxfam's wedding dresses at the Frascati Shopping centre in Blackrock - where they can also pick up amazing outfits for amazing prices at Lorraine's Fashion Relief Pop-up shop.

Book your appointment with for Oxfam's Bridal Rooms today!

Oxfam Bridal Room in Dublin

Oxfam George’s Street - book your appointment online now, or contact the shop today: +353 1 478 0777 | georgesstreet@oxfam.org


Oxfam Bridal Room in Belfast

Oxfam in Castel Court Shopping Centre - contact the shop to book your appointment today: +44 28 90 231157 | castlecourt@oxfam.org

END

Contact

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

Notes

Images are available for use. Contact Caroline for access.

Dress descriptions:

Lorraine is wearing her own wedding dress by Spanish designer Jesus Peiro. The colour is antique ivory. The top of the dress is Spanish lace with a French sleeve length, a scallop edge and covered buttons. The skirt is silk with a Spanish lace underskirt finished with a scallop edge. It has an Audrey Hepburn neckline and covered buttons down the back.

Maia is wearing her own wedding dress by fashion designer Jenny Packham. It is an oyster a-line 'Carmen' dress made from the most beautiful silk . The bodice features amazing beadwork, on both the striking v-cut neckline at the front of the dress with embellishment in crystal, bugle bead and sequins, and at the back on the cross over straps giving it an elegant, Art Deco feel. The dress falls beautifully to the floor with a slight train at the back. 

  • Oxfam can only accept wedding dress donations at their Bridal Rooms:
  • 90% of Oxfam's bridal dresses are brand new and have been gifted to Oxfam by designers and bridal boutiques
  • 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 21 Oxfams working in over 90 countries worldwide.  
  • Broadcaster Lorraine Keane founded Fashion Relief in 2018 with Oxfam Ireland. 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, more recently pivoting to an online interactive shopping channel where people can view and shop from the comfort of their home. Their latest show aired on Friday so there are some amazing items available to buy on – www.fashionrelief.ie. In addition, Fashion Relief has a pop-up shop at the Frascati Shopping Centre in Blackrock where people can also view a selection of wedding dresses from Oxfam's Bridal Rooms.
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