On World Humanitarian Day 2017, Eric Schwartz remembers Sergio Vieira de Mello, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who died in a 2003 bombing in Iraq and for whom this day honoring humanitarians was created.
On World Humanitarian Day, Refugees International honors aid workers around the world who risk their lives in the service of others. Tragically, the places where people are most in need – whether in Yemen, northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo – are also some of the most dangerous places in the world.
This month marks the three-year anniversary of the withdrawal of an 11,000-strong Peshmerga force from Sinjar in northern Iraq. The withdrawal left Sinjar’s Yazidi minority community besieged by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters. For one displaced Yazidi family with whom I recently met in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, there is both reason to grieve and to celebrate. The head of family told me that dozens of extended family members were kidnapped by ISIS during the siege. But this anniversary also marks the first that his now 15-year-old daughter, Vian,* is home.
In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), a dusty camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) houses about 5,000 Iraqis, many of whom fled the Islamic State (ISIS) when the extremist group seized control of their villages in northern Iraq. In its attack on Sinjar during the summer of 2014, ISIS murdered or abducted thousands—and to this day, survivors do not know the fate of family members who disappeared in the ISIS assault. Many of the people who were able to avoid or escape the Sinjar massacre had come to Iraqi Kurdistan for safety.
Since 2014, millions of Iraqis have been displaced by Islamic State (IS) and Iraq’s ongoing military efforts to defeat the group. Even as people return home to retaken areas, more continue to be displaced.
In this webinar, Refugees International Senior Advocate for Human Rights, Dan Sullivan provides a first-hand account of his experience in Bangladesh and discuss the objectives of his new report, Reluctant Refuge: Rohingya Safe but not Secure in Bangladesh.
Izza Leghtas, RI's Senior Advocate for Europe, remarks on her time spent interviewing refugees stranded on islands in Greece. Watch her video update below.
While the Greek islands used to be places of transit where asylum seekers and migrants spent only days on their way to other European countries, as a result of an EU agreement with Turkey, thousands are stranded on Greece’s Aegean islands.
Somalia is now well into its third consecutive season of a severe drought that, in the last seven months alone, has forced more than 760,000 people to flee their homes in search of food and water. Most come from areas controlled by Al-Shabaab or other non-state armed groups, places where the government and humanitarian agencies have limited to no access. The town of Baidoa, retaken from Al-Shabaab in 2012 and now marginally under state control, has become the only means of survival for much of the rural population across the country’s drought-stricken, south central region.
As a human rights researcher and advocate for many years, I have sadly become accustomed to listening to painful stories and to witnessing people’s despair. But on the Greek islands, there is an added layer of cruelty: this pain is avoidable.
Somalia is again in the throes of another drought that by many accounts is worse than the last. Thankfully, greater government control and a prompt humanitarian response by the government and aid agencies have saved lives, but the scale of displacement is enormous. More than 760,000 Somalis have been displaced across the country since November 2016, 160,000 of them to Mogadishu. Here they are struggling to access assistance and protection in a dangerous and volatile environment.
Following the Supreme Court's "travel ban" decision on June 26, Refugees International has assembled the following Q&A.
On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will travel to Washington, D.C. and will meet this week with Members of Congress and administration officials. He will be in Washington in the wake of an extraordinary press conference he held at the United Nations in New York on June 20, in which he urged the Trump administration to stay engaged on global issues. This is an extraordinary plea to the U.S. president from the UN's chief.
On Dec. 4, 2000, the United Nations General Assembly declared that June 20 would be "celebrated" annually as World Refugee Day. For millions of people displaced by conflict and persecution globally, there is little to celebrate, but World Refugee Day does present an opportunity to bring attention to their plight, and to the possibility of solutions.
On World Refugee Day 2017, the world faces massive humanitarian crises in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and beyond. More than 65 million men, women, and children are displaced today – the largest number since World War II.These historic and multiple refugee crises come at a time when countries are retreating from long-standing humanitarian commitments, closing their doors to millions seeking refuge.
The only response to World Refugee Day 2017 is urgent action, as we face proposed Trump administration funding cuts of 32 percent to the international affairs budget. Such drastic slashes to humanitarian and development assistance as well as peacekeeping and international organizations at this time of unprecedented global need is incomprehensible. Should these cuts be implemented, the impacts on the most vulnerable populations will be devastating and, unfortunately, deadly.
Elena Kvochko recently hiked more than 18,300 feet up Mount Everest as part of a charity challenge to raise awareness for displaced individuals and refugees. Here she recounts her journey and what inspired her to support RI’s work.
War and conflict are no longer the primary drivers of displacement and humanitarian crises. More extreme weather and other climate change impacts are increasingly playing a role. In 2016 alone, 24 million people were forced from their homes by weather-related disasters, far more than were displaced by conflict. Meanwhile, more frequent and protracted droughts, especially in poor and unstable countries in Africa and the Middle East, are undermining food security, causing people to migrate in order to survive, and fueling pre-existing social and ethnic tensions.
Refugees International’s (RI) 2015 Richard Holbrooke Award Winner Tun Khin traveled recently with RI’s Senior Advocate for Human Rights Dan Sullivan to Bangladesh to visit Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar (also called Burma). In this guest blog, Tun Khin shares his thoughts on the experience of being within sight of his homeland and what motivates him to continue to fight on behalf of his fellow Rohingya.
Throughout the 20th century, it was a common and largely uncontested practice for refugees to be placed in camps when they arrived in their country of asylum. The advantages of this arrangement appeared to be self-evident. However, alternatives to camps must be pursued as a global principle, while the provision of appropriate support to refugees in urban centers and rural host communities must be guaranteed.