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Your local Oxfam shop needs you: All-island call for volunteers

  • Are charity shops your thing? Then why not volunteer in your local Oxfam Ireland shop!

  • Oxfam Shops Across the Island of Ireland seek volunteers


Oxfam Ireland have launched an all island call for volunteers to help their network of shops “bounce back” after the COVID-19 lockdown, which resulted in them closing their doors for the first time in over 60 years.

Trevor Anderson, Director of Trading with Oxfam Ireland said: “Our teams are thankfully back doing what they do best and our shops are now open after months of closure. Sadly, not all of our volunteers are in a position to return to the shops at the moment, this, coupled with the incredibly generous volume of donations dropped off to shops already, means we are currently in desperate need of people power.

“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.”

At the start of April, Oxfam shops, along with countless other businesses in Ireland, made the difficult decision to close – to protect staff, volunteers and customers – and to play its part in Ireland’s response to COVID-19.

Oxfam Ireland’s network of shops play a vital role in supporting their 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. The loss of income during this period dealt a massive blow to the capacity of Oxfam and their global mission to beat poverty and fight inequality.

To find your nearest Oxfam Ireland shop visit: https://www.oxfamireland.org/shop/oxfam-shops

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Contact

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869


Notes to the Editor

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New asylum system in Greece designed to deport, not protect, warns Greek Council for Refugees and Oxfam

Oxfam Ireland call on Irish Government to honour commitment made on unaccompanied minors

A briefing paper released by the Greek Council of Refugees (GCR) and Oxfam today, reveals how the newly reformed Greek asylum system is designed to deport people rather than offer them safety and protection. The joint report, Diminished, Derogated, Denied, shows that people who have fled violence and persecution have little chance of a fair asylum procedure, and how the new reforms make it possible to expose people to abuse and exploitation – including the detention of particularly vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and people with disabilities.

Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam’s Europe Migration Campaign Manager, said: “Greece’s new law is a blatant attack on Europe’s humanitarian commitment to protect people fleeing conflict and persecution. The European Union is complicit in this abuse, because for years it has been using Greece as a test ground for new migration policies. We are extremely worried that the EU will now use Greece’s asylum system as a blueprint for Europe’s upcoming asylum reform.

“While Greece has a sovereign right to manage its borders, it must protect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. The EU and Greece have made a political choice to jeopardise the lives and futures of people it has a responsibility to protect.”

This situation is further aggravated by the inhumane living conditions in Greece’s refugee camps where people are now at risk of a devastating health crisis should COVID-19 hit. Moria camp, for example, is currently at six times its capacity and people have insufficient access to basic healthcare, clean toilets or handwashing facilities, while overcrowding makes social distancing - critical to prevent COVID-19 spreading - next to impossible.

Testimonies gathered by the Greek Council for Refugees expose the harrowing living conditions for people seeking asylum in Moria camp. Rawan*, from Afghanistan, came to Greece with her two children to seek safety in Europe. A single mother, and also a survivor of gender-based violence, Rawan was forced to live for six months in a tent, in the overspill area of the Moria camp, where basic facilities such as toilets are not always accessible.

Rawan, from Afghanistan said: “The situation in Moria was scary. During the pandemic, everybody was afraid that if the virus gets to us, then they will dig a mass grave to bury us. They only gave us two masks and soap. But how are we supposed to wash our hands without water? In the food line, it was so packed, we couldn’t keep a distance. We were not protected.”

The reformed asylum law effectively bars people who don’t have legal support from appealing a negative asylum decision. Deadlines have been shortened drastically and, in many cases, expire before people are even informed that their application for asylum was refused. People seeking asylum are only able to submit an appeal through a lawyer – but, on Lesbos, there is only one state-sponsored lawyer. The asylum system also makes it extremely difficult for people seeking asylum to have the authorities properly review the reasons why they have fled conflict or persecution in their home countries.

Spyros-Vlad Oikonomou, advocacy officer at GCR said: “When the Greek authorities refuse an asylum application, it does not necessarily mean people are not in need of international protection. It is often a consequence of the accelerated asylum procedure applied in the context of border procedures. Short deadlines increase the possibility of errors. In addition, people don’t have the time or a suitable environment that allows them to prepare for the asylum interview, in which they have to speak about the horrors from which they have fled.

“This puts people’s lives at risk.

“The Greek government must restore a fair asylum system, which fully respects human rights. The European Commission must review Greece’s asylum practices and assess their compliance with EU law.”

Oxfam and GCR call on the Greek government and the EU to immediately review the new Greek asylum law and give everyone seeking asylum in Greece access to a fair and effective asylum procedure. They also call on EU member states to honour the principle of solidarity underlying the very fabric of the EU, and share responsibility with Greece in protecting people fleeing persecution.

In March, Ireland joined a coalition of willing EU member states who agreed to take a portion of the 1,600 unaccompanied refugee children being held on the Greek Islands. Several countries have already relocated children to their respective states. Ireland, by fulfilling this commitment, can demonstrate an important first step to responsibility sharing and an immediate show of solidarity in these challenging and unprecedented times. The unaccompanied minors on the Greek Islands, children alone in the world, are in need of a safe place now more than ever.

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Contact:

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869

Notes to editors:

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

  • Spokespeople are available in Athens, Lesbos and Brussels for interview
  • Full report: Diminished, Derogated, Denied
  • The Greek government also illegally suspended asylum applications for the month of March.
  • While the authorities sometimes decide within days on the asylum requests of people who arrived in 2020, those who have arrived in 2019 have to wait for months or even years for their first interview to take place. During this period, most are not allowed to leave the inhuman EU-sponsored camps on the Greek islands.
  • The Greek authorities are required to offer legal support to people seeking asylum in the appeals stage. This is to ensure that any mistakes in the first instance can be corrected and people entitled to international protection are not returned to potentially dangerous places. However, state-funded lawyers is very limited and in 2019, only 33% of appeals benefited from the state-funded legal support scheme. The majority of people are directed to NGO-funded lawyers, but NGOs have limited capacity and the restricted movement in the camps also prevents people from easily finding a lawyer at an NGO.
  • The European Commission will soon release a new Migration and Asylum Pact, which will lay out the direction for the EU and member states to reform the EU asylum system and the bloc’s migration policies. The new Pact will most likely suggest to use more development aid to curb migration, and it risks perpetuating the humanitarian catastrophe that has been unfolding in Greece over the past years.
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Oxfam Shops and Sustainability

Through our all-island network of shops, we are proud to offer solutions to ‘throwaway fashion’, encouraging people to donate pre-loved items and reduce the amount of clothes that end up in Irish landfills – as well as extending the lifecycle of clothes and raising awareness about fast fashion.

People have been reusing and reselling clothes with Oxfam Ireland since it opened its first shop in 1971, and since then we have always worked to maximise the value of everything we are given and minimise waste.

Although there is a growing sustainable fashion movement in Ireland, it is not usually the industry people think of when considering climate villains or big polluters.

Fast fashion clothes are produced in high volume which means a high cost to the planet: According to the UNFCCC, the textiles industry accounts for more carbon emissions than international aviation and shipping combined  – it is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil and accounts for approximately eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, clothes are produced cheaply which often means low wages and poor working conditions for garment workers.

Overproduction is part of the problem. Shared Cloth published a report that states 20 items per person are produced every year (150 billion garments), and 30 percent of them are never sold. On top of that, cheap production and plummeting prices means the items we buy often end up in landfill before they should.

According to Re-dress, 225,000 tonnes of textiles are dumped in Ireland each year – that’s the equivalent of over 5,000 44 tonne lorry loads. This is having a devastating impact on our planet and people. We know that the world’s poorest, who did the least to cause climate change, are most affected, through droughts, floods and extreme weather events.

In addition, clothes can take up to 200 years to decompose whereas recycling the 225,000 tonnes of textiles would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 300,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the roads.

Oxfam staff sort clothing into different grades depending on garment type, condition, style and fabric.  The clothing donated is then used in the most suitable market via several different routes, including:

  • Oxfam high street shop – most of the donated clothing is sold in the shop it was donated too as we believe in local economy.
  • Online platforms such as Thriftify
  • Designers who restyle garments and reuse fabrics in their collections – for example, we provide denim to a company that make them into really cool tote bags

The low-grade items not sold as clothing are sold in bulk to recycling reprocessing companies in Ireland where it’s used, for example, as mattress filler, carpet underlay, upholstery or car sound insulation. Unsaleable items which are too soiled or damaged to be recycled are incinerated by a textile recycler.

We also work with retailers and big brands, encouraging them to donate their end of line or excess stock instead of sending it to landfill – a more sustainable solution for people and planet.

So, as you can see, your donations hold a lot of value and power. Every garment or item donated to us raises money to fight inequality around the world and supports our mission to beat poverty globally.

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Climate Action and the New Irish Government

Assessments as to whether the climate commitments in the proposed Programme for Government will deliver faster and fairer climate action have been a major point of debate in government formation talks in Ireland. This is a welcome departure from previous government formation talks, when dealing with the climate crisis barely featured in negotiations. However, one aspect of climate action that has not gotten much attention is Ireland’s role in helping poorer countries respond to the challenges of climate change by providing them with adequate and appropriate climate finance.

Article 4.3 of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commits developed countries, like Ireland, to provide climate finance to developing countries to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change, due to their greater responsibility for emissions to date, and their greater financial capacity.  Such climate finance should be additional, adequate and predictable.

The devastating impacts of climate change are being felt everywhere and are having very real consequences on people’s lives, especially in the world’s poorest countries. It is affecting many of the communities Oxfam work with; undermining their livelihoods through gradual, insidious changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, and increasing the frequency and/or intensity of hazards such as floods and droughts. Vulnerability to disaster and climate change matters because it perpetuates and deepens poverty and suffering. It stands in the way of people – particularly women – being able to enjoy their basic rights and reduces their chances of ever being able to attain them.

As well as reducing carbon emissions at home, richer countries like Ireland should provide sufficient climate finance to ensure that nations most impacted by climate breakdown have adequate resources to implement necessary adaption and mitigation measures. After all, poor countries and people living in poverty are being hardest hit by a problem they have not caused and have the least resources to address. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, has pointed out the profound inequality behind climate breakdown. Projections estimate that developing countries will bear 75 percent of the cost of the climate crisis, despite the fact that the poorest half of the world’s population, mainly residing in these countries, are responsible for just 10 percent of historical carbon emissions. In a report last year on Climate Change and Poverty, Mr Aston stated: “We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict, while the rest of the world is left to suffer.”

Ireland has done comparatively well in ensuring that it provides quality climate finance, with its focus to date on targeting poorer countries, adaptation and gender. Ireland’s new overseas development aid (ODA) strategy, A Better World, commits to continue this focus, along with the policy of 100 percent of untied, grant-based climate finance. Ireland’s continued commitment to grant aid is particularly welcome considering that the OECD has found that between 2013 and 2017, 60 percent of bilateral, and nearly 90 percent of multilateral climate finance was in the form of loans, further adding to the looming debt crisis.

While the quality of Irish climate finance is high, Ireland is falling short in terms of the quantity and predictability of these financial flows. In 2018, Ireland reported nearly €80 million in climate finance as its annual contribution to the $100 billion a year global climate finance target to be reached by 2020. However, based on estimates using the Eco-Equity Stockholm Environment Institute Responsibility Capacity Index, Ireland’s fair share of this annual figure should be around $500 million a year. Importantly, the global $100 billion a year commitment is a political target, rather than an amount based on detailed assessment of needs in developing countries, which by some estimations are up to 18 times greater.

The Irish Government committed to at least doubling the percentage of ODA spending on climate finance by 2030 in its Climate Action Plan published last year. To reach this target, Ireland needs to spend about 20 percent of its ODA budget on climate finance. However, as climate breakdown is happening now, it important that this commitment is reached as soon as possible – by 2025 at the latest. It is equally important that increased ODA spending on climate finance should receive an additional budgetary allocation rather than being diverted from the existing ODA budget.

And on this point, we return to proposed Programme for Government and its commitments related to climate finance. While the 2016 Programme for Government had an established target for climate finance supported by specific funds, the currently proposed Programme instead commits to increasing the percentage of Official Development Assistance being counted as climate finance, rather than committing to new or additional funding, as envisioned under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The commitment in the Programme for Government to double the percentage of development assistance that counts as climate finance, without allocating additional funds, is therefore disappointing as it risks simply re-labelling existing aid as climate finance rather than committing to providing new and additional finance to support climate action in the poorest countries. While there are many positives in the Programme for Government related to climate action, the next government needs to do a lot more if Ireland is to fulfil its obligations to provide much-needed finance to help poorer countries adapt to a changing climate.

Mary Robinson has starkly outlined what is at stake in relation to figures: “With every incremental increase in global temperature, the need to adapt increases. The adaptation burden is greatest in developing countries where capacity and resources are most constrained and where there will be losses, even at 1.5°C of warming. In order to reduce the risks of famine, conflict, migration and injustice, climate vulnerable countries will need to be supported through a cooperative, global response based on solidarity.” It must be remembered that even if we can limit global warming to just a 1.5°C increase, 122 million more people could experience extreme poverty, with substantial income losses for the poorest 20 percent in 92 countries, a recent IPCC Report has estimated. This report also highlighted that an increase of 450 million flood-prone people will be vulnerable to a doubling in flood frequency in a 1.5°C warmer world. Depending on development scenarios, between 62 and 457 million additional people will be exposed to climate risks and vulnerability to poverty with a 2°C increase compared to 1.5°C.  And these are the best-case scenarios. 

To read more about Oxfam Ireland’s recommendations to the new Irish Government, read our briefing Responding to New Global Realities: An Agenda for the New Irish Government and Oireachtas.

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This Father’s Day, we celebrate dads who put family first – no matter what

On Father's Day, we celebrate and remember dads around the world. And on this Father's Day, we wanted to share the stories of Ali and Tawab – two dads who battled conflict and climate change to take care of their families.

Ali and his son Muhamed* in their container home on the Greek island of Lesvos. Photo: Andy Aitchison/Oxfam

Ali, his wife Ikhlas and their 14-month-old son Muhamed* were brought to the Greek island of Lesvos after being saved by the coast guard. The bombings and violence they witnessed in Syria forced them to flee their home, leaving everything behind. They had hoped to reach Italy but their journey across the Mediterranean almost ended in tragedy.

“We were at sea on a boat with another 47 people,” said Ali. “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.”

Only one of Ali’s seven brothers is still in Syria – the rest are now living in Germany.

“We would like to join them and start a new life away from bombs and violence,” he said.

After Mozambique was devastated by Cyclone Kenneth last year, fathers like Tawab rushed to protect their families. When his two-year-old son Calado* developed an eye condition and breathing difficulties in the aftermath of the cyclone, Tawab carried his little boy through the floodwaters to their local hospital.

With climate change hitting the world’s poorest people the hardest, Tawab said he fears for the future: “Two walls of our house have gone, and half of the roof. I was very afraid. The wind was so strong. Trees were falling through the electricity lines, and one even hit the wall of our house. Most of the crops in my village have been taken by the water.

“And we are an agricultural community so we depended on those crops. Every year there is some flooding here but not like this. This is so much worse. These rains are like nothing we've ever seen before. There is so much damage. It will not be easy to rebuild our house like it was before. Life is not easy for us now.”

*Names changed to protect identities

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