The 13th Annual New York Circle

Friends of Refugees International convened in New York City on December 2, 2015 to hear "The Refugee Experience," a panel featuring two displaced people with whom RI has worked and moderated by RI Board Member Sam Waterston. The panelists included Abdi Iftin Nor, a refugee from Somalia now living in the United States, and Sigifredo Ponce, a young man from Mexico internally displaced by cartel violence.

Can We Use Aid for Syria in a Better Way?

Can We Use Aid for Syria in a Better Way?

As of this morning, the fourth international donor conference for Syria has generated $11 billion in pledges. The current appeal stands at almost $9 billion. This is the amount required to assist people inside Syria, as well as those in the nearby countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees. The size of the request has grown year after year, but so has the funding shortfall.  If the commitments for 2016 are honored, there will be a chance to improve the support available to millions of Syrians in need. But along with money, donors and humanitarians need to further develop their approach to providing aid inside Syria, where access is not likely to improve much

Cricket Match to Support Refugees

Cricket Match to Support Refugees

Like many this past fall, Dilawar Khan was moved by the news coverage of refugees making the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to seek safety in Europe. Khan, the owner of a limousine company in Virginia, decided he wanted to do something to help. Inspired by his friend and Refugees International board member Lisa Barry, he decided to use his passion for cricket and organize a charity cricket match in support of Refugees International.

The Refugee Crisis at Home

The Refugee Crisis at Home

Beginning in the summer of 2013, unusually high numbers of children, both on their own and with their mothers, crossed the southern border of the United States. The numbers increased again last fall, with some 21,500 family units apprehended at the U.S. border between October and December 2015 — almost three times as many as the same period the year before. While there has been much debate about the cause of this surge, pervasive violence in the countries of origin is a major factor. Refugees International has reported on the extreme violence and lack of protection that drives many such persons to risk this often dangerous and uncertain journey to the U.S

The MERCOSUR Visa: A Band-Aid for Ecuador’s Rejected Colombian Asylum Seekers

The MERCOSUR Visa: A Band-Aid for Ecuador’s Rejected Colombian Asylum Seekers

For years, Ecuador has been the destination for tens of thousands of Colombians seeking international protection. Fifty years after war broke out, an estimated 950 Colombians continue to cross the border into Ecuador each month, fleeing paramilitaries, guerilla groups, and organized gangs. Through its own refugee processing system, Ecuador has recognized roughly 60,500 Colombian refugees as of 2013 and hosts over 170,000 asylum seekers, 98 percent of whom are Colombian.

Pacific Islanders Speak Out At Paris Climate Negotiations

Pacific Islanders Speak Out At Paris Climate Negotiations

I’m here at the climate change negotiations in Paris, covering the issue of the impact of climate change on population displacement. In the past week, negotiators have been hammering out a legally binding agreement that aims to limit global warming to 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. For Rae — whose home nation of Kiribati sits at an average of two meters (about seven feet) above sea level — the current draft of the Paris agreement might not be enough to protect his home. 

Following the Flight Path in Greece

Following the Flight Path in Greece

Unlike a situation in which humanitarians meet refugees in the relative safety of camps at the end of their flight, Greece is just one stop on a long journey northward, where first responders have rescued people from drowning, watched dead bodies float onto shore, and embraced those celebrating a successful entry into Europe. The range of emotions is extreme, and then stories of horrific violence, hardship, and for many, disappointment follow.

No Safe Spaces for El Salvador's Youth

No Safe Spaces for El Salvador's Youth

While the number of arrivals at the U.S. border has decreased this year, it's not because less children are leaving El Salvador. Rather, the U.S. and Mexico have joined to intercept more unaccompanied children at Mexico’s southern border, so they’re not making it to the U.S. in the same numbers. There are also likely hundreds of thousands of Salvadoran children not in school because they have been forcibly displaced. 

Europe’s Refugee Crisis: A Melting Pot of Governments, Politics, and People on the Move

Europe’s Refugee Crisis: A Melting Pot of Governments, Politics, and People on the Move

As of November 19, more than 850,000 refugees and migrants arrived by sea into Europe this year, and more than 80 percent of them — around 735,000 — through Greece. While the majority are Syrian, there are also asylum seekers from many countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, and Morocco.  In addition to war, people are fleeing poverty, indignities, and persecution. Images of dead bodies washing ashore shocked the world. But the persistently poor assumption that the European Union was capable of a coherent, humane, and well-resourced response resulted in delay upon delay by the usual international humanitarian actors.

"It’s not reasonable that you come here to die.”

"It’s not reasonable that you come here to die.”

Even after four years of field missions with Refugees International, I had never seen anything like it. Around midday, we were driving high along the hills of the northern coast of the Greek island Lesvos, with the Turkish mainland in the foreground. As we descended closer the shoreline, our interpreter pointed out little black specs, tinged with orange, that were dotting the sea. “Look over there! The boats are coming. The orange is from the life jackets.”

Bringing Climate Displacement to the Fore

Bringing Climate Displacement to the Fore

Close to two hundred governments are meeting in Paris over the next two weeks to hammer out an agreement on climate change. Global leaders are attempting to strike a deal that will reduce global carbon emissions and limit global warming to 2 °C by the end of the century. With growing evidence not only that climate change is happening, but also that the 2 °C may not be enough to avert climate change’s worst impacts, the stakes could not be higher.  

One Syrian Passport

One Syrian Passport

Last week’s events in Paris prompted, predictably, an immediate backlash regarding the resettlement of Syrian refugees, both in the United States and Europe. The should-we-or-shouldn’t-we question that has been a steady topic of debate among politicians, policymakers, and advocates for the past several years has taken a firm turn toward we shouldn’t after a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers’ bodies. Calls to restrict and even stop resettlement of Syrians to the U.S. have come from public figures as diverse as a presidential candidate, leadership of the House of Representatives, and state governors. But the body of evidence regarding the risks of terrorism from a potential refugee resettlement program is not borne out.

On the ground in Greece

On the ground in Greece

I've just arrived in Greece to assess the situation for newly arriving refugees on the country’s outer islands. In a global context of increasingly harsh rhetoric that conflates refugees with security threats, we plan to gather first-hand stories from Syrian’s fleeing the ongoing and devastating war in Syria that has displaced a staggering 12 million people.

Washington Circle - Hosted by H.E. The Ambassador of Italy

Washington Circle - Hosted by H.E. The Ambassador of Italy

On November 18, 2015, the Washington Circle gathered for dinner at the residence of His Excellency The Ambassador of Italy, Claudio Bisogniero at to Villa Firenze. The evening featured remarks by former aid worker Jessica Buchanan as she described her experience being held hostage in Somalia for three months. 

A Long Way to Go for Somali Refugee Returns

A Long Way to Go for Somali Refugee Returns

Kenya hosts nearly half a million registered Somali refugees, the vast majority of whom live in the Dadaab camps in the country’s North Eastern province. For over two decades, armed conflict and food shortages have caused major waves of Somalis to flee south, across the Kenyan border for refuge – most recently during the 2011-2012 famine – when war and drought combined to kill over 260,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have also taken refuge in Ethiopia.