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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the aftermath of last week’s tragic events in France, Lebanon, and Sinai, Refugees International extends its deepest condolences to all who have suffered unimaginable loss due to the hateful, egregious acts of terrorists claiming affiliation to ISIS. We join them in mourning their loved ones and wish them peace and solace during this difficult time.
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.
Each year throughout the May to October monsoon season, Myanmar experiences increased rainfall and flooding. This is a part of life. However, in late July and early August 2015 record-level rainfall, worsened by tropical Cyclone Komen, led to unprecedented levels of flooding and subsequent landslides, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency.
As record numbers of people around the globe continue to flee war and persecution, there has been growing public concern about whether the world is ready to protect millions more who, in the decades to come, may be uprooted by floods, storms, sea level rise, and other climate change effects. While the issue of what to do about “climate refugees” is by no means new, groundbreaking progress was made last week when more than 110 governments met in Geneva to endorsea “Protection Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displacement in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change. While the event received little fanfare, its importance should not be underestimated. Many times more people displaced each year by floods, storms and other extreme weather events than are uprooted by conflict, and climate change is expected only to increase these numbers.