Between A Rock & A Hard Place: Shrinking Asylum Space

Between A Rock & A Hard Place: Shrinking Asylum Space

For decades, Kenya has provided a safe haven to thousands of refugees from neighboring countries fleeing war, persecution, and famine. While most reside in refugee camps, a significant number have made their way to urban centers like Nairobi where they have better access to jobs, education, and medical care. But growing insecurity within Kenya, including terrorist attacks by the Somalia-based terrorist group Al Shabab, have triggered xenophobic responses.

Friends in Los Angeles Dive Into Climate Displacement

Friends in Los Angeles Dive Into Climate Displacement

On June 24, 2014, Refugees International introduced its work to a new audience in Los Angeles. The event, hosted by RI Board Member Sam Waterston and his co-star from HBO’s The Newsroom, Thomas Sadoski, was held at the United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills. The evening highlighted RI’s short film Living on the Edge of Disaster: Climate’s Human Cost and featured a presentation and Q & A by RI’s climate displacement expert Alice Thomas. 

In Mexico, Hundreds of Thousands Displaced by Crime

In Mexico, Hundreds of Thousands Displaced by Crime

Although official counts vary widely, hundreds of thousands of Mexican citizens are known to be internally displaced. Most of those who fled their homes left as a result of violence at the hands of organized criminal groups. The highest rates of displacement are found in Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Durango, Sinaloa, Michoacán, and Guerrero – all states hit hard by drug cartels and gangs.

 

Displaced in Mexico: Stuck on the Border

Displaced in Mexico: Stuck on the Border

It's understandable to assume that Mexicans crossing the U.S. border are seeking livelihood opportunities, and many of the thousands who enter are looking for jobs. But a growing number of Mexicans are fleeing their hometowns due to violence and persecution by organized crime and other armed actors. Refugees International visited Tijuana, Mexico, in May 2014 and met some of these people: mothers who had been denied asylum in the U.S. even though their spouses were allowed in; men who were deported from the U.S. but cannot go home because their states are in turmoil. Many church-affiliated shelters in Tijuana offer free accommodation for 15 days, after which these standed Mexicans must either leave town, move into hostels, or head out onto the streets. 

Life in the DRC's "Triangle of Death"

Life in the DRC's "Triangle of Death"

Katanga may be the richest province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but it is has quickly become one of the most troubled. For more than two years, two complex conflicts have been raging in the northern region of the province, known as the “Triangle of Death”: one involving the Mai Mai Bakata Katanga, self-declared secessionist rebels; and another pitting Pygmy villagers against their Bantu neighbors. Together, these conflicts have forced roughly 500,000 people to flee their homes. Today, the humanitarian response remains weak and the threats to civilians are growing. An RI team recently visited the territory of Manono, at the northeastern edge of the Triangle, to document the situation there.

South Sudan: Living Conditions for Displaced at UN Tomping Site

South Sudan: Living Conditions for Displaced at UN Tomping Site

South Sudan is on the verge of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Ongoing conflict since mid-December 2013 has forced more than a million people from their homes. Tens of thousands of these displaced are seeking shelter on UN bases across the country. At one site in the capital Juba, UN Tomping, the cramped living space and flood-prone land make for a disastrous scenario.

Squalid Conditions for South Sudanese IDPs in UN Base

Squalid Conditions for South Sudanese IDPs in UN Base

In South Sudan, fighting between government forces and troops loyal to the former vice-president has forced more than one million people from their homes. Since December 2013, approximately 270,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. Around 800,000 more are displaced within South Sudan – including 75,000 who are sheltering in UN peacekeeping bases across the country.

Bearing Witness in CAR

Bearing Witness in CAR

The Central African Republic (CAR) has been in turmoil since the Seleka rebel group overthrew the government in March 2013. Both during the coup attempt and in the months that followed, Seleka rebels (most of whom are Muslim) terrorized non-Muslim villages, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. In response to these attacks, the anti-Balaka, a primarily Christian militia, took up arms against the Seleka. Hundreds of thousands more people were displaced as a result of the fighting between the two groups, and many reprisal attacks were carried out against the country’s minority Muslim communities. An intervention by African Union and French forces is attempting to mitigate the violence. However, the country remains highly unstable, with many people still living in fear for their lives. 

Living on the Edge of Disaster: Climate's Human Cost

Living on the Edge of Disaster: Climate's Human Cost

Each year, millions of people are driven from their homes by natural disasters such as floods, storms, and droughts. Most live in the world's poorest and most conflict-ridden states, and lack the resources to recover after a crisis. As climate continues to change across the globe, natural disasters will become more frequent and more severe.

This short film examines the toll that our changing climate is having on some of the world's most vulnerable people, and the efforts being made to address this growing threat.

 

Philippines: Can't Stay, Can't Leave

Philippines: Can't Stay, Can't Leave

Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall. But as global climate change continues, such super-stroms could become much more common. That’s why, in addition to providing emergency relief, Philippine officials are trying to move populations away from the sea and clearing out so-called “no build zones.” Relocation may be necessary, but so far it has been a confusing and slow process. Families know they need to leave, but not where or when they will go, or whether they’ll have access to jobs and schools when they get there. It is vital that relocated families get the help they need quickly, and that the authorities respect their rights. 

Chicago Supporters Reflect on Twin Tragedies: Iraq & Syria

Chicago Supporters Reflect on Twin Tragedies: Iraq & Syria

Friends of Refugees International gathered for the 3rd Annual Chicago Circle at the Arts Club of Chicago on November 14, 2013. The evening featured Kirk W. Johnson – founder of The List Project and author of To Be A Friend Is Fatal. RI staff also shared their experiences working on the crisis in Syria, with a special focus on the challenges women and girls are facing as a result of the conflict.

United Arab Emirates: Nationality Matters

By Maureen Lynch

It’s been five years now since Refugees International first visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to better understand and then call for solutions on behalf of the country’s stateless population – the bidoon.  Since mid-2008 there have been a number of media reports indicating that change was afoot, and that efforts were being made to tackle statelessness through a one-time only special registration process.  So, when the possibility popped up of visiting the country last summer, we took it.

What we learned, though, was not exactly what we anticipated to find.  There was a real mix of opinions regarding how much these changes had actually helped the bidoon population. On one hand, authorities painted a fairly rosy picture of how the registration process had been rolled out and some of its beneficial consequences, intended or otherwise.  The bidoon themselves, on the other hand, painted a far less glowing picture of the same process and its impact on their lives.  
I’d really like to be able to take an official’s word as the authority on the matter while getting clarification on some important points. However, it’s not possible to be very complimentary in light of the accounts we heard from people who attempted to undergo the registration process.  The words of one young bidoon man protest loudly in my mind.  

In the UAE, the bidoon are represented by two major groups– Arabs (from neighboring countries) and non-Arabs (mainly from Iran and the Indian Sub-Continent) whose families settled in the Gulf generations ago as merchants or workers. Exact numbers of the bidoon in the UAE are not generally known and range from 10,000 to 100,000. While they’re not generally subject to deportation, they do face discrimination in the labor market and, as a result, encounter some serious socio-economic challenges. The bidoon have limited access to medical care and education, and without passports and other basic identity documents, their movement is restricted, both within UAE’s borders and internationally. 

When I met him, a young man I’ll call Ilir had just gone through the registration process and was eager to resolve his statelessness through legal means.  Though born in the UAE, he had not been given a birth certificate. This, despite the fact that the UAE is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which include the right to an identity, registration and nationality.

This family of seven, including Ilir’s parents, had gone together to a designated registration site to pick up a copy of the 14-page application form.  Questions included the applicant’s name, nationality, whether the individual had traveled outside the country and to where, if they sent money to anyone outside the country and if so to whom and by what method.  Each individual was fingerprinted and videotaped making a statement about themselves.  Samples of saliva were collected, and then applicants were sent to another building for an eye scan.

The registration procedure continued with an additional three-step process.  Family members were taken individually and asked about their relationship to the people waiting outside the room.  In this case, the father of the family had documents providing evidence of residence in the country for several decades. “People who have been in the country longer, should get recognized first,” Ilir suggested. 

On the day we met, Ilir said that for all the people he knows who went through the registration process around the same time that his family did, nothing has happened in 80 percent of the cases.  He doesn’t know anybody who got citizenship or nationality rights.  “The future is not getting better, it’s just unjust and unfair,” Ilir laments.  “After people got the new cards from this process, some 40 individuals lost their jobs.  My parents couldn’t get healthcare… Other people had problems getting married.”

One of Ilir’s friends, a man who I’ll call Khaled, had come along with Ilir to meet us.  I asked Khaled if he knew any stateless people who had been able to solve their problem.  He answered affirmatively.  When I subsequently asked about whether or how that person’s life had been changed as a result of his newly regularized legal status, Khaled was quick to respond.  “Every aspect of his life is different.  He got a job, and then a raise.  He feels safe and secure.” 

Nationality matters.