In 2017, Elena Kvochko scaled Mt. Everest, climbing more than 18,300 feet to raise awareness of refugees and displaced people around the world. Elena recounts her journey and what inspired her to climb in support of refugees.
Last week, when I was in Minneapolis teaching at the University of Minnesota, I took the four hour drive up I-94 to Madison, Wisconsin for an evening of music benefiting Refugees International. The band The Whiskey Farm performed their song, "You are Welcome Here," which honors America's tradition of welcoming and supporting refugees and displaced people from around the world.
When the militant group Boko Haram took over in 2013, the majority of Bama, Nigeria's population those fled and have yet to return. Nigerian forces successfully recaptured Bama in 2015, and, recently, the city has become the focus of highly publicized reconstruction plans and along with plans for the return of its former residents. But the security situation in surrounding areas remains perilous. With approaching Nigerian elections in 2019, the government wants to return people to Bama, but security and stability should dictate returns, not politics.
In an age of travel bans and closing borders, communities across the United States continue to welcome recently arrived refugees into their neighborhoods. As a student at Washington University in St. Louis, a city troubled by economic disparity and home to an often isolated resettled refugee population, it was hard not to notice how insulated my campus was from its surrounding neighborhoods. I wanted to change that.
The first time I ordered food from Foodhini, a Washington D.C.-based start-up that delivers meals cooked by refugee and immigrant chefs, I chose dishes prepared by Syrian Chef Majed. The incredible sautéed okra and baked chicken were accompanied by a note with Majed’s story: how he fled from Syria to Jordan before being resettled in the United States, and how he learned to cook from his mother back in Syria.
Earlier this month in Geneva, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) held a high-level ‘stocktaking’ meeting on the Global Compact on Refugees. Governments, international organizations, and civil society gathered to provide input before UNHCR releases a draft Compact in late January 2018. Many remain understandably skeptical that the Compact negotiations will ultimately lead to the kind of systemic change demanded by the global refugee crisis. In Geneva, however, there were cautious signs that the process is headed in the right direction.
While brutal attacks against the Rohingya Muslims continue, the minority ethnic Kachin people in northern Myanmar also live under severe human rights abuses at the hands of Myanmar's government and military. One displaced woman, Aye Hkine, sends a simple message on Human Rights Day.
At the close of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, Francisca Vigaud-Walsh writes that women’s bodies are often a battleground in conflict zones, and humanitarian aid areas must be a place for healing their wounds. Programs such as the U.S. initiative "Safe From the Start" are essential tools in the addressing the impacts of violence against woman and girls in conflicts.
Responding to the current global refugee crisis, the UN General Assembly in September 2016 convened a special meeting to examine the effectiveness of the international community’s response to mass movements of people. That meeting lead to two important outcomes, with the third - the Global Compact on Migration - still pending. Jeff Crisp argues that the formulation of a Global Compact represents an invaluable opportunity to reassess, revise and reinvigorate the international community’s efforts to protect and find solutions for the world’s refugees.
Following a recent mission to the Northern Triangle region of Central American, Refugees International finds that current conditions require that the United States government not deport Temporary Protective Status beneficiaries from Honduras and El Salvador. Rather, the U.S. should provide alternatives for Honduran and Salvadoran women, men and children to remain in the United States legally.
An important renewal of global commitment to peacekeeping took place recently at the United Nations Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial conference in Vancouver. Member countries and international organizations presented their commitments to improve and reinforce peacekeeping efforts. But at this time of funding cuts in many countries, the actual fulfillment of those pledges will be a challenge.
This was a year of new beginnings and the start of an exciting opportunity as I took on the leadership of Refugees International. But as I begin this gratifying new chapter of my own professional life, I am fully aware that for millions of refugees and displaced people around the world, 2017 was a devastating year.
In short, two months after Hurricane Maria pummeled this island, the U.S. response remains too slow and bureaucratic, and lacks transparency and the broad information-sharing that is essential to an effective disaster response.
In October, a Refugees International (RI) colleague and I traveled to Turkey to revisit the issue of work permits and livelihood access for the 3.5 million refugees now living there – 3.2 million of whom are Syrians. As in previous missions, we interviewed Syrian refugees who had recently fled their war-torn homeland.
Turkey faces a long list of challenges that come with hosting 3.5 million refugees, the highest number for any refugee-hosting country, but the Turkish authorities and international and humanitarian actors should not treat people differently based on the country from which they fled.
For the first time in its 38 year history, Refugees International (RI) is conducting a mission to the United States. Over the next week, my colleagues and I will be in Puerto Rico where eight weeks after Hurricane Maria made a direct hit, urgent humanitarian needs remain unmet.
Despite the alarming numbers of people in need, as well as the grave atrocities being carried out, the Kasai region has received very little international attention and humanitarian funding. More than 30,000 people have fled from the Kasai region into Angola, seeking protection and support, and another 1.4 million people are internally displaced. The UN estimates that roughly one million people are food insecure, including 400,000 children who are facing malnutrition. The needs are staggering
As tensions between English- and French-speaking communities in Cameroon continue to rise, RI Advocate Alexandra Lamarche calls on the United States and the international community to facilitate talks between the factions while this emerging crisis can still be mitigated.
Izza Leghtas recently completed a two-week research mission in Turkey, investigating the ongoing challenges refugees face in accessing the formal labor market. She met men and women from Syria, Afghanistan and Iran, who shared their personal experiences and described their current jobs and work conditions.
Following the liberation of Raqqa, Syria from ISIS control, Daryl Grisgraber looks at the humanitarian needs of internally displaced people and of those who remained during the conflict. The physical and logistical obstacles to providing humanitarian aid may be fewer with the end of the fighting, but in a sense aid organizations are now playing catch-up with people whom they couldn’t previously serve adequately or at all.