IRIN: For victims of the Ituri conflict’s sexual violence, aid is scarce

Around 8pm one January night, the bullets started flying through the village of Blukwa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri Province. It was just one incident in a wave of violence that has flared up in the region in recent months, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.

As with conflicts elsewhere in Congo, rape and other forms of sexual violence feature prominently in the Ituri attacks, in which hundreds of people have been killed.

But for many women and girls who have fled to Uganda, care for their physical and psychological wounds is hard to come by – even when they are willing to seek it out, overlooking the stigma often attached to victims of sexual violence.

Support includes identifying survivors; providing access to psychosocial, medical, and legal services; training health workers in clinical management of rape; and supplying post-rape kits to health facilities.

As Dismas Nkunda, the executive director of Atrocities Watch Africa, noted, Uganda is known for its “robust” refugee regime, one that now accommodates around 1.4 million people who have fled neighbouring countries.

“Providing appropriate support for survivors of rape is mandatory for any refugee protection regime anywhere in the world, so there should be no excuse whatsoever for failure to support these victims,” he said.

Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, senior advocate for women and girls at Refugees International, said the reasons for the unmet needs are clear. “It is unsurprising that there is a limited number of services for rape survivors arriving from Ituri into Uganda,” she said. “The humanitarian response in Uganda is woefully underfunded, and limited resources are now being diverted to the cholera response,” she said.

"When I returned back home in the morning I thought I would find my husband and son… They were no more. They had been killed the same night I was terribly raped.”

Rape: One survivor’s story

Speaking recently from Kyangwali, a sprawling Ugandan settlement for refugees, one  former resident of Blukwa recalled the January night she fled. The woman, who did not want to use her name, said she and her husband heard shooting and he went to investigate. “We should run to save our lives,” he told her as he returned to the house. “He grabbed our son and ran with him,” she recalled. “I tried to follow, but I lost touch. It was dark.

“I couldn’t call them, so I decided to go my separate way to hide. While I was in the bush, I heard and saw two people coming towards my direction. They had guns; I knew I was dead.

“I tried to plead with them to spare me. They couldn’t listen. They undressed and raped me. One covered my mouth while the other raped me. After he finished, his colleague came and did the same. They raped me without any mercy. They threatened to kill me if I ever shouted.

“After raping me, they left. I remained in the bush with a lot of pain. When I returned back home in the morning I thought I would find my husband and son… They were no more. They had been killed the same night I was terribly raped.”

Exhausted and hungry, she said she managed the two-day walk to the shores of Lake Albert and boarded a boat to Uganda, where some 50,000 people from Ituri have sought refuge this year.

According to an official at a Ugandan reception centre cited by the aid agency CARElast month, nine out of every 10 women arriving  arriving from Congo – most of whom had travelled from North Kivu Province, with some coming from adjacent Ituri had been raped, sometimes more than once, and sometimes by gangs – both inside Congo and as they fled to Uganda.

“All these women who make it here were victims of rape and other forms of gender based violence,” said the unnamed official.

Addressing the gap in aid for victims of sexual violence, Vigaud-Walsh said: “In part, Uganda and its humanitarian partners simply cannot keep up with the unrelenting number of refugees that continue to stream in from the DRC and South Sudan, not to mention Burundians that have fled persecution into Uganda. The OPM (Office of the Prime Minister) scandal, with regards to refugee registration and exploitation, has not been helpful either – it has shaken the will and trust of international donors.”

“Nonetheless, international donors must recognise that joint [UN refugee agency] – OPM efforts are underway to redress these failures,” she added. “The reduction in humanitarian dollars to Uganda will only serve to punish refugees. More financing is needed, in particular to allow for services for rape survivors to be prioritised for women and girls arriving from Ituri, DRC, as [for] those who continue to arrive from South Sudan.”

The stigma of survival

Alain Sibenaler, the Uganda country representative of the UN Population Fund, which works in partnership with CARE in assisting survivors of sexual violence in Kyangwali, said: “It is not easy estimating the magnitude of the problem because the majority of the cases go unreported, given the shame associated with rape.”

The suffering of survivors extends beyond the crime itself, noted CARE Country Director Delphine Pinault. “Despite the prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence, at the community level stigma surrounding being a survivor still persists, including being ridiculed, rejected, and isolated as a result of the shame,” she said.

CARE is setting up centres in Kyangwali to provide counselling and group activities to survivors of gender-based violence.

“Through a set of activities that brings women together in a rather relaxed fashion, they will be supported to tell their stories and process the past,” Pinault said.

Under-resourced response

She added that there were too few professional counsellors and specialists for traumatised children to allow survivors to speak in their own language.

As previously reported by IRIN, a cholera outbreak among new arrivals in Uganda has reduced the funding and resources needed to respond to cases of gender-based violence.

“I am alone and traumatised. How can I live without my husband and son? It could have been better if I was killed with them.”

And as a 17-year-old from the Ituri village of Lewi explained, individual needs are great.

“I am traumatised,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. “I am physically, emotionally, and psychologically affected. I can’t forget the terrible experience. Why did they have to rape me like that? It was so painful and terrifying.”

Primary healthcare facilities in the 17 villages that make up Kyangwali are very few in number and poorly supplied. The nearest referral hospital is 80 kilometres away. At the national level, Uganda languishes near the bottom of global healthcare league tables.

These shortcomings are all too evident for the survivor from Blukwa, who lost her husband and son. She says she is now incontinent, suffers pains in her abdomen, and that a whitish liquid is secreted from her genital area.

“I was referred to the health facility for checkups and treatment,” she said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get proper medical treatment. I was given some drugs that didn’t help.”

“I am alone and traumatised. How can I live without my husband and son? It could have been better if I was killed with them,” she said.

*This story was amended on 27 April to clarify that the Ugandan official at a reception centre was referring to Congolese women who had arrived from other parts of Congo, for the most part North Kivu Province, and not only Ituri, when he said that nine out of ten of them had been raped during their journeys.

For the full article, click here

All Africa: Nigeria: Panic Over Planned Closure of Nigeria Refugee Camps

REFUGEE rights groups have bemoaned the imminent closure of camps housing millions of Nigerians displaced by the Boko Haram terror northeast of the country.

The West African country is planning to close all refugee camps by May and facilitate large-scale returns in the Borno State, especially to remote areas only recently secured from the terrorists.

Refugees International (RI) expressed alarm at the plans.

"We are concerned that many returns are being fueled by official pressure and the spread of misinformation," Alexandra Lamarche, RI Advocate for Sub-Saharan Africa, said.

Authorities are accelerating plans to return the displaced civilians as Nigeria approaches its national elections in early 2019.

Mark Yarnell, RI Senior Advocate, said while the Nigerian military had liberated a number of areas in the northeast Nigeria from Boko Haram control, major security challenges remained.

"Making large-scale returns for the majority of displaced civilians is entirely premature," Yarnell said.

As a result of the Boko Haram banditry, the scale of the humanitarian and security challenges within Nigeria remains staggering.

About 2 million Nigerians are displaced within the country and 7,7 million in urgent need of emergency assistance.

Additionally, the conflict still results in new displacement.

Humanitarian groups estimate more than 930 000 Nigerians are located in hard-to-reach areas impacted by the security situation are likely in need of humanitarian assistance.

The Boko Haram is perpetrating a violent campaign to overthrow the government an establish a radical Islamic state.

An estimated 100 000 civilians have been killed during the insurgency that begand in 2009.

For the original article, click here. 

Click Lancashire: Immigrants sue Trump administration over end to temporary protected status

The lawsuit is the first to challenge the administration's decision and is being brought by nine TPS status holders and five of their USA citizen children. MacLean said, "The decisions by this administration to terminate TPS were not based on an analysis of the countries' conditions as required by law or as previous administrations have done but the racial animus".

TPS is an immigration status granted to certain countries experiencing dire conditions such as an armed conflict, epidemic or natural disaster, and protects individuals from deportation and authorizes them to work in America for extended periods.

Arevalo spoke at a rally to announce the lawsuit outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco that was attended by some of the plaintiffs and dozens of demonstrators, some carrying signs that read, "Let Our People Stay". She's been here since 1993. In January, the Department of Homeland Security said it cancelled TPS for them because the risky conditions created by earthquakes in 2001, which killed more than a thousand people, no longer exist. My home and family are here. The defendants in the lawsuit are the United States and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Plaintiffs in the case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California say more than 200,000 immigrants could face deportation due to the change in policy.

"These American children should not have to choose between their country and their family", Ahilan Arulanantham, advocacy and legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement. It's the latest lawsuit filed against the Trump administration over its crackdown on immigration.

"This is a bad decision", Refugees International president Eric Schwartz told The Guardianreflecting on Trump's decision.

A lawsuit challenging the termination of the program for Haitians was filed in federal court in Boston in January and a second lawsuit on behalf of Haitians and Salvadorans was filed in federal court in Baltimore in February. The programme was created for humanitarian reasons, and the status can be renewed by the United States government following an evaluation.

In 2001, after two destructive earthquakes rattled El Salvador, President Bush granted Salvadorans residing in the US Temporary Protected Status.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen concluded that El Salvador had received significant worldwide aid to recover from the quake, and homes, schools and hospitals there had been rebuilt.

The TPS termination "arises from the Trump Administration's repeatedly expressed racism toward non-white, non-European people from other countries", the lawsuit claims.

Lawyers on the case tell TPM that the immigrant parents, many of whom have lived in the USA for decades, are challenging the abrupt cancelation of their status as arbitrary and a violation of their right to due process.

For the original article, click here. 

News Deeply: For Refugees Detained in Libya, Waiting is Not an Option

Niger has halted refugee evacuations from Libya after E.U.resettlement promises were not kept. Izza Leghtas from Refugees International calls for urgent action with lives at stake.

WHEN WE MET in Niger last month, Helen* described the horrific year she had spent in Libya. She talked of the brutality of human smugglers, of being detained with hundreds of others in deplorable conditions without enough food.

The 20-year-old Eritrean is one of roughly 1,000 refugees from East Africa who have been evacuated by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) from Libya’s detention centers to its southern neighbor, Niger. That program is now under threat.

While Helen has made it to the safety of Niger, she is deeply concerned about the people she left behind. She told me she has received desperate phone calls from them wondering when they might be evacuated. “They say, It’s like we are alive, but we are dead,” she said.

Niger generously agreed to host these refugees temporarily while European countries process their asylum cases far from the violence and chaos of Libya and proceed to their resettlement. In theory it should mean a few weeks in Niger until they are safely transferred to countries such as France, Germany or Sweden, which would open additional spaces for other refugees trapped in Libya.

But the resettlement process has been much slower than anticipated, leaving Helen and hundreds of others in limbo and hundreds or even thousands more still in detention in Libya. Several European governments have pledged to resettle 2,483 refugees from Niger, but since the program started last November, only 25 refugees have actually been resettled – all to France.

As a result, UNHCR announced last week that Niger authorities have requested that the agency halt evacuations until more refugees depart from the capital, Niamey. For refugees in Libya, this means their lifeline to safety has been suspended.

Many of the refugees I met in Niger found themselves in detention after attempting the sea journey to Europe. Once intercepted by the Libyan coast guard, they were returned to Libya and placed in detention centers run by Libya’s U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The E.U. has prioritized capacity building for the Libyan coast guard in order to increase the rate of interceptions. But it is an established fact that, after being intercepted, the next stop for these refugees as well as migrants is detention without any legal process and in centers where human rights abuses are rife.

David*, a 26-year-old refugee from South Sudan, told me he spent 17 hours at sea before he and more than 100 others were picked up by the Libyan coast guard and taken to a detention center in Tripoli. David said that he and other sub-Saharan Africa refugees and migrants were given worse treatment than others because of their skin color. He said that once, when he was unwell, he waited in line to be taken to a clinic. He recalled that, even though he had arrived earlier, the guard in charge took three men from Morocco first. “[When] I said I came here before them, [the guard said], ‘You’re black, you’re a slave.’”

To be clear, evacuating refugees from Libya and resettling them from Niger is a humanitarian necessity. It does not absolve European governments of their responsibilities to push for an end to Libya’s criminalization of irregular migration and detention of refugees and undocumented migrants. European governments work very hard at great expense to stop people from crossing the Mediterranean Sea. This includes support for a system that picks up refugees and migrants at sea and deposits them to captivity and abuse.

For the full article, click here. 

The Daily Dot: Lawsuit against Trump immigration decision cites ‘sh*thole countries’ remark

A class action lawsuit will be filed on Monday to try and overturn President Donald Trump’s decision to terminate temporary protected status (TPS) granted to immigrants fleeing natural disasters or conflict.

The lawsuit is the first to challenge the administration’s decision and is being brought by nine TPS status holders and five of their U.S. citizen children. The complaint will be filed with a district court in San Francisco by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and law firm Sidley Austin.

It argues that the “new rule violates the constitutional rights of school-age United States citizen children of TPS holders, by presenting them with an impossible choice: they must either leave their country or live without their parents.”

The Trump administration controversially ended the protections for all individuals from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan back in January. 

The complaint also cites reports, made days after the announcement of the administration’s plans, that the president had criticized the nations affected as “shithole countries.” The lawsuit argues that remark are proof that the administration’s decision “arises from the Trump Administration’s repeatedly-expressed racism toward non-white, non-European people from other countries.”

Immigrants from ten Central American and African countries have been afforded TPS since it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush under the Immigration Act of 1990, many building businesses and raising families in the U.S. in the decades since.

Salvadorans make up 262,000 of the beneficiaries, more than half of the overall 436,000 TPS immigrants. Many came to the U.S. after two earthquakes devastated their country in 2001 or during the 1990s, fleeing a civil war.

According to a 2017 report by the Center for Migration Studies, 51 percent of Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries have resided in the U.S. for more than 20 years and 34 percent own a mortgage. The Department of Homeland Security has given them until September 2019 to leave or change their immigration status before deportations are enforced. As far as the DHS is concerned, the conditions under which the status was granted no longer exists.

Still, advocacy groups like Refugees International have protested that the country, although rebuilt, still suffers from severe economic problems and violent organized crime.

“This is a bad decision,” Refugees International president Eric Schwartz toldThe Guardian reflecting on Trump’s decision. “Given conditions in El Salvador, the return of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding residents of the United States who have been here for nearly two decades is just wrong. It’s wrong ethically and in terms of U.S. interests in stability in El Salvador.”

The lawsuit filed in California, however, will make its case against separating families and the constitutionality of the new policy. ACLU legal director Ahilan Arulanantham putting it quite simply: “These American children should not have to choose between their country and their family.” 

For the original article, click here. 

Daily Kos: White House aide with 'vindictive' views on refugees appointed to refugee post at State Department

White House aide Andrew Veprek “has been selected for a top State Department post overseeing refugee admissions, according to current and former officials.” There’s a slight hitch, though:

“My experience is that he strongly believes that fewer refugees should admitted into the United States and that international migration is something to be stopped, not managed,” the former U.S. official said, adding that Veprek’s views about refugees and migrants were impassioned to the point of seeming “vindictive.”

Veprek’s “close” relationship white supremacist Stephen Miller has Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, “deeply concerned,” to say the least. According to the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration’s website, the agency “provides aid and sustainable solutions for refugees, victims of conflict and stateless people around the world, through repatriation, local integration, and resettlement in the United States.” But:

Veprek played an influential role in Trump administration’s December withdrawal from international talks on a nonbinding global pact on migration issues. He also argued in favor of dramatically lowering the nation’s annual cap on refugee admissions, the current and former officials said.

Well, that’s not troubling at all, or the first time this has happened. Last month, the administration nominated Ken Isaacs to the UN’s International Organization for Migration despite—or because of—making anti-Muslim remarks. When it comes to Veprek’s appointment, “such a position typically does not require Senate confirmation,“ according to Politico, adding that some officials from the bureau may end up quitting in protest.

For the full article, click here. 

Preemptive Love Coalition: Let’s Rise Together

It’s been quite a year for women in the U.S.

From the #MeToo movement reverberating across the country, to the record number of women running for political office, to the examples of strong feminine role models in media (hello, Wonder Woman and Black Panther!), there is no denying that women are on the rise.

But it’s not just happening in the U.S. Despite being largely excluded by the women’s movement in the States, women around the world on the rise, too—and they’re overcoming some extraordinary challenges along the way.

Millions of women in Iraq are free from ISIS control. In some places, displaced people are returning home. Women are starting businesses, getting an education, and healing from the trauma of war.

They are rebuilding, helping each other start over, and reinventing themselves in the wake of tragedy. Women are rising, and it’s beautiful to see.

Refugee women are breaking into the tech sector.

A few days ago, dozens of women graduated from WorkWell, our tech hub transforming refugees into freelancers and entrepreneurs.  These women are breaking ground and laying a firm foundation for their future success in an industry typically dominated by men. One single mom brought her two small children to watch her graduate—our staff corralled the kids while their mom accepted her diploma.

Those kids don’t yet realize that their mom is a hero—but they will. 

Women are rebuilding their communities after years of war.

One of our closest friends and colleagues in Iraq, Hala Al Saraf, is receiving an international leadership award from Refugees International for her “tireless efforts in addressing the needs of the internally displaced in Iraq, particularly during the urgent humanitarian crisis of the past several years.” She is building her country back with love, grace, and grit—and we are so honored to work with and learn from Hala.

For the full article, click here. 

Politico: Refugee skeptic lands top State Department refugee job

A White House aide close to senior policy adviser Stephen Miller who has advocated strict limits on immigration into the U.S. has been selected for a top State Department post overseeing refugee admissions, according to current and former officials.

Andrew Veprek’s appointment as a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) is alarming pro-immigration activists who fear that President Donald Trump is trying to effectively end the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

Current and former officials also describe Veprek’s appointment as a blow to an already-embattled refugee bureau. Trump has made clear his disdain for liberal immigration policies, and the bureau has been adrift under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — even as a record 65 million people are displaced around the world because of war, famine and other calamities.

The bureau’s website says it “provides aid and sustainable solutions for refugees, victims of conflict and stateless people around the world, through repatriation, local integration, and resettlement in the United States.” It adds that the bureau “also promotes the United States’ population and migration policies.”

Veprek is a Foreign Service officer detailed to the White House, which listed him as an “immigration adviser” in a 2017 staff document. He has worked closely there with Miller and the Domestic Policy Council, according to a current State official and a former one in touch with people still serving in the department. A former U.S. official also confirmed the appointment.

In interagency debates, some administration officials have viewed Veprek as representing Miller’s hard-line views about limiting entry into the U.S. for refugees and other immigrants.

Veprek played an influential role in Trump administration’s December withdrawal from international talks on a nonbinding global pact on migration issues. He also argued in favor of dramatically lowering the nation’s annual cap on refugee admissions, the current and former officials said.

“He was Stephen Miller’s vehicle,” the former State official said. The current official predicted that some PRM officials could resign in protest over Veprek’s appointment.

“My experience is that he strongly believes that fewer refugees should admitted into the United States and that international migration is something to be stopped, not managed,” the former U.S. official said, adding that Veprek’s views about refugees and migrants were impassioned to the point of seeming “vindictive.”

Veprek’s appointment as a deputy assistant secretary is unusual given his relatively low Foreign Service rank, the former and current State officials said, and raises questions about his qualifications. Such a position typically does not require Senate confirmation.

“On the positive side, one would hope that an appointee with limited experience would come into the job with a willingness to learn from professionals who have decades upon decades of experience,” said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International and a former assistant secretary of state for the PRM bureau.

He added, however, that he was “deeply concerned” given Veprek’s relationship with Miller and the Domestic Policy Council.

For the full article, click here. 

UNHCR: The Refugee Brief – 7 Mar 2018


Aid trucks forced to flee Eastern Ghouta without unloading.The delivery of desperately needed food and medical supplies to Douma in Eastern Ghouta on Monday had to be cut short when the area came under attack. As a result, 14 out of 46 trucks could not be unloaded and nearly half of the food carried by the convoy couldn’t be delivered. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “safe and unimpeded access” for other aid convoys, including a second one planned for Douma on Thursday. Aid workers who were part of Monday’s convoy reported that residents are spending much of their time in cold, cramped basements with no proper sanitation or access to safe drinking water. Children told UNICEF staff they were getting by on one meal a day of wheat, sugar and water.

More resettlement places needed for refugees evacuated from Libya. EU member states promised an “emergency operation” to evacuate refugees and migrants stuck in Libyan detention centres at a summit in November, but so far European countries have only offered 430 resettlement places for the 1,020 refugees and asylum seekers transferred from Libya to Niger by UNHCR. Addressing the European Parliament on Monday, UNHCR’s regional head for North Africa, Karmen Sakhr said the agency had been advised that “until more people leave Niger, we will no longer be able to evacuate additional cases from Libya”. Izza Leghtas of Refugees International spoke to some of the refugees evacuated to Niger from detention centres in Libya. One Somali woman, who gave birth while in detention, described not seeing the sun or the sky for five months. Although grateful to have found safety in Niger, she worries about those left behind.

For the full article, click here. 

Axios: U.S. pressure needed to prop up imperiled Syrian ceasefire

The Assad regime continues to flout the UN Security Council’s resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. Meanwhile, a Russian plan for a humanitarian corridor into Eastern Ghouta has collapsed amid renewed fighting, a sign that Moscow is not yet serious about reigning in their client in Damascus.

Why it matters: The 400,000 civilians trapped in Eastern Ghouta and over a quarter million Syrians in other remote and besieged areas are in acute need of humanitarian assistance. That aid will remain out of reach.

What's next: In the coming days, supporters of the UN resolution will ratchet up the pressure for the Assad regime and Russia to comply with the ceasefire. Russia will counter by seeking to revive its plan for a limited corridor, which does not comply with the terms of the UN resolution. In any event, humanitarian officials insist that a five-hour pause does not allow enough time to deliver the needed relief and organize the medical evacuations to and from Eastern Ghouta.

The bottom line: Russia has an advantage as the dominant external military player in Syria, but the U.S. has a seat at the table too, with some 2,000 troops in the northeast of the country. Any diplomatic effort to salvage a ceasefire must be led by the U.S. at the most senior level — a long shot, yes, but also an issue of great moral urgency.

Hardin Lang is vice president of programs and policy at Refugees International.

For the original article, click here. 

The Submarine: Tutti i migranti dell’Africa subsahariana sono rifugiati climatici

La definizione di “migrante climatico” è molto complessa. Gli eventi causati dalla crescente variabilità climatica sono così vari e imprevedibili che definire chi sia un migrante climatico è difficile, o forse impossibile.

Esistono i casi di migranti climatici in senso stretto, come gli agricoltori che devono spostarsi di fronte all’avanzata del deserto, ma ricadono in questa definizione anche persone che fuggono da conflitti o instabilità provocati dalla mancanza di risorse direttamente causata dal cambiamento climatico, o chi deve spostarsi in seguito a catastrofi imprevedibili.

Lo IOM (Organizzazione mondiale per le migrazioni) prova a definire il fenomeno come “persone o gruppi di persone che, principalmente perché colpiti negativamente dal cambiamento, improvviso o progressivo, nell’ambiente, sono costrette a abbandonare le proprie case, o scelgono di farlo, temporaneamente o permanentemente, e che si spostano all’interno del proprio paese o all’estero.” (Glossary on Migration, International Migration Law, no. 25, 2nd Edition, IOM, Ginevra, 2011, p. 33). Si tratta insomma, di una migrazione forzata che riguarda molte piú persone di quante in genere si pensi.

Il legame tra instabilità geopolitica e cambiamento climatico è forte quanto invisibile, e ignorato da una fetta di politici ancora piú ampia di chi già nega il cambiamento climatico.

È il caso dei migranti provenienti da vari paesi del Sahel, a sud del deserto del Sahara,  che vengono puntualmente considerati dall’Unione Europea come “migranti economici,” e che la nostra politica usa volentieri come punching ball di retorica razzista e retrograda. Sono paesi come il Senegal, l’Algeria, la Nigeria e l’Eritrea — tra gli altri. Tutti i paesi della fascia del Sahel sono considerati dallaBanca mondiale come fragili — a causa di alti livelli di povertà, conflitti costanti, e governi tradizionalmente debolissimi. Secondo i dati raccolti lo scorso anno dall’OCHA, il 60% della popolazione della regione — 150 milioni di persone — è impiegata nell’agricoltura pluviale.

Catalogare persone che si vedono costrette a migrare di fronte a una desertificazione che avanza di vari chilometri l’anno è una lettura iperpoliticizzata di un problema da cui non si può scappare.

La migrazione, ovviamente, non è diretta, e sono tantissimi i fattori che offuscano il rapporto di concausa. Sara Vigil scrive, per “Out of Africa: Why People Migrate” (LediPublishing, ISPI, Milano, 2017) che “molteplici studi hanno sottolineato come nei periodi di siccità i fenomeni migratori diminuiscono. Questo è perché le persone usano le proprie ultime risorse per i bisogni primari (come il cibo), e non hanno quindi le risorse per imbarcarsi in viaggi piú lunghi.”

Le politiche che mirano a tenere il problema dei rifugiati fuori dal blocco europeo sono scandalosamente miopi. Spostare le cause della migrazione, anche quelle considerate strettamente politiche o economiche, nel contesto del cambiamento climatico rivela un’evidenza innegabile: che le grandi migrazioni dall’Africa subsahariana sono appena iniziate. La proiezione piú citata è quella firmata da Norman Myers, che calcola 200 milioni di persone costrette ad abbandonare la propria casa entro il 2050. Secondo dati raccolti da diverse organizzazioni umanitarie che operano nella zona, il 30% degli abitanti della zona del Sahel del Burkina Faso hanno dovuto migrare negli ultimi vent’anni.

Malgrado queste condizioni di totale costrizione, i migranti saheliani non sono considerati tecnicamente rifugiati. Questo principalmente perché lo status di rifugiato riservato esclusivamente a chi si muove costretto da persecuzioni, è descritto da un documento molto datato, definito nel 1951 — anche se nel contesto politico mondiale contemporaneo i suoi contenuti sono di un’ambizione umanitaria sempre piú lontana alle sensibilità attuali, quasi un relitto di un momento di maggiore civiltà.

Ci sono voci che sostengono che le vittime del cambiamento climatico dovrebbero rientrare in questa definizione. È l’opinione, tra gli altri, anche di Alice Thomas, manager del programma di migrazioni climatica di Refugees International. “Per i poveri saheliani che devono ‘andarsene o morire qui’ — come una donna ha descritto il suo dilemma — leggi e politiche offrono protezione limitatissima, e pochissime soluzioni sul lungo termine,” dice Thomas.

For the full article, click here. 

KQED Radio: Refugees International President Eric Schwartz

Eric Schwartz, President of Refugees International, joins us in studio to discuss the globe’s refugee hot spots. Schwartz recently travelled to Bangladesh to assess the plight of Rohingya refugees who have been targeted by Myanmar’s military.

For the original article click here

World Affairs: Eric P. Schwartz: Refugee Crises: Improving Lives, Protecting Rights

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are currently 65 million refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons in the world. War and internal conflicts have led to this record-high number as individuals from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Myanmar have been forced from their homes. Global climate changes have also impacted people in the four famines--South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen--where decades of ongoing conflicts and severe droughts have led to an increase in internally displaced persons.

As the US seeks to limit accepting refugees and other countries struggle to host new populations, how are displaced persons protected? How is Refugees International, an independent humanitarian organization responding to displacement crises, providing support?

Eric Schwartz, President of Refugees International and former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, will join us to discuss the relief efforts which are improving the lives of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons.

SPEAKER: Eric P. Schwartz President, State, Refugees International

MODERATOR: Jane Wales CEO, World Affairs and Global Philanthropy Forum; Vice President, The Aspen Institute

For more information about this event please visit:

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The Gonzaga Bulletin: Gonzaga's seventh Presidential Speaker Series will focus on sexual assault

Earlier today, President Thayne McCulloh announced the speakers that will visit campus for the seventh installation of the Gonzaga Presidential Speaker Series. In the midst of a national movement to combat sexual assault, McCulloh said that he is pleased to welcome New York activist Tarana Burke and journalist Ronan Farrow.

Both speakers will present Friday, April 20 at 7 p.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Burke, a sexual assault survivor herself, started the “Me Too” movement in an act of solidarity for other survivors. Her efforts gave a voice to others affected by sexual assault and brought attention to the movement on social media. Burke has also worked to further social justice for over 25 years, acting as the Senior Director of Programs at Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity. She was recognized by Time Magazine as one of multiple “Silence Breakers.”

Farrow exposed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. After a ten month investigation, Farrow broke the stories about Weinstein. His series of articles published in "The New Yorker" landed him global recognition.  Additionally, Farrow received Refugees International’s McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award among multiple other human rights awards.

In terms of getting tickets for the event, McCulloh said that a limited number of complimentary employee and student tickets will be available April 3.

Starting March 15 public tickets will be available through the McCarthey Athletic Center and TicketsWest. In the future, more information on the event will be made available. For the time being, any questions should be directed to Angela Ruff at

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The Sydney Morning Herald: 'Race to the bottom': Trump and Turnbull urged to end refugee limbo

One of the world’s peak refugee groups is calling on Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump to extend their agreement to resettle refugees in the United States while warning of the “unconscionable” treatment of those who may be left behind.

As Mr Turnbull prepares to meet the US president in the White House, refugee advocates are lobbying for a bigger intake by the Trump administration to resettle people from Manus Island and Nauru.

The president of Refugees International, Eric Schwartz, warned that Australia could lead a “race to the bottom” on the treatment of refugees unless it found a new solution for those left on Manus and Nauru after the US completes its intake.

“We don’t want Australia to be leading the race to the bottom on refugee protection,” he told this newspaper.

“Given the circumstances these refugees are confronting, we would welcome the United States accepting more of them.

“But that should not let Australia off the hook.”

Mr Schwartz said Australia should end offshore detention and the “unacceptable” conditions on Manus Island and Nauru, warning the Australian policy “does not work”.

“Something has to change,” he said.

The agreement between Australia and the US sparked a fiery telephone conversation between Mr Turnbull and Mr Trump in January last year, when the President slammed the “worst deal ever” and sought to rewrite the terms agreed by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Since then, however, the US appears to have accepted as many as 200 refugees. The Obama agreement said the US would consider up to 1250 applicants but put no obligation on the US as to the final number.

Fairfax Media reported last month that a second cohort of Manus Island refugees, consisting of 40 men who were mostly from Afghanistan and Pakistan, had flown to the United States.

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VOA News: Plight of Refugees

Host Carol Castiel sits down with Eric Schwartz, former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration under the Obama Administration, currently President of Refugees International, an independent humanitarian organization that advocates on behalf of displaced and stateless people. He discusses the plight of refugees worldwide with a focus on the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar; the impact of US refugee policy under the Trump administration and the EU’s struggle to integrate the largest refugee flow since World War II.

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FOX News: Major refugee aid fraud under investigation in Uganda, U.N. reveals

In March 2017, the non-profit humanitarian organization Refugees International, or RI, which says it does not take money either from governments or the U.N., issued a lengthy field report on Uganda, with a section devoted to such warning signs.

The report noted that the Ugandan Prime Minister’s office (OPM)  was exercising “tight control” over where non-government organizations could conduct relief work, and making them seek permission to work in refugee settlements.

Refugee International field workers were told by aid workers that even though the government was not supposed to have any say in choosing contractors who would work with humanitarian NGOs on aid distribution,  “aid organizations were allegedly denied access to settlements after rejecting a contractor that OPM suggested”—a warning sign of possible collusion.

They also heard that “OPM allegedly delayed approving projects for months because of disagreements over the choice of a contractor.” The field report also says that U.N. officials “did not deny the government’s involvement in these decisions.”

Aid donors also knew of the untoward pressures, Refugees International reported, but their response was tepid at best, at least until RI brought the matter to their attention.

In fact, the uncovering of the Uganda scandal may actually point in a novel direction—of the U.N. beginning to move against its longstanding habitual passivity in the face of similar aid scandals, which was outlined in a scathing report by the U.N.’s own watchdog Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) in mid-2016.

The 133-page report summarized a nine-month investigation that covered “fraud detection, prevention and response” across 28 U.N. organizations and discovered that the world body was only marginally engaged on all three topics.  

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Straits Times: Trump nominee for UN migration post called out over tweets on Islam

WASHINGTON • The Trump administration's nominee to coordinate billions of dollars in assistance to migrants around the world has suggested in social media posts that Islam is an inherently violent religion and has said Christians in some cases should receive preferential treatment when resettling from hostile areas.

In tweets, social media posts and radio appearances reviewed by The Washington Post, Mr Ken Isaacs, a vice-president of the Christian relief organisation Samaritan's Purse, made disparaging remarks about Muslims and denied climate change - a driving force behind migration, according to the agency the State Department has nominated him to lead.

In June, after a terrorist attack in London, Mr Isaacs reposted and commented on a CNN International story that quoted a Catholic bishop saying: "This isn't in the name of God, this isn't what the Muslim faith asks people to do."

Mr Isaacs responded: "CNN, Bishop if you read the Quran you will know 'this' is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do."

Mr Isaacs was announced last week as the Trump administration's pick to become director-general of the United Nations' International Organisation for Migration, or IOM.

The 169-member organisation has a nearly US$1 billion (S$1.32 billion) annual operating budget and for decades has deferred to the United States, one of its top benefactors, to lead the organisation.

Mr Trump's pick could be at risk of being the first US nominee since the late 1960s to lose an election by the group's voting members, according to several people involved in international relief coordination.

"I don't know the nominee, but I've seen some of his statements and they reflect a troubling prejudice that is really incompatible with a position of leadership for the world's most important international migration agency," said Mr Eric Schwartz, president of the non-profit Refugees International.

"The person who leads this needs to be a symbol of the international community's support for humanity. And that means that dark-skinned people and Muslim people have the same inherent worth as any other people."

For the full article, click here. 


Donald Trump’s UN Migration nominee uses social-media to give his true feelings about Muslims.

Ken Isaacs, the vice president of the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, has made many controversial statements through twitter, radio appearances, and various other media outlets.  Not only has he denied climate change, which is a lead factor in migration, he has made many Islamophobic statements.

After a terrorist attack in London, a Catholic bishop said, “This isn’t in the name of God, this isn’t what the Muslim faith asks people to do,” in an attempt to defend the Islamic faith from blanket statements of “radicalism.”

Isaacs disagreed with the bishop and retorted, “Bishop if you read the Quran you will know ‘this’ is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do.”

Isaacs’ nomination was announced on Thursday.  His official position would be director general of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM).  The budget of IOM is nearly one billion dollars.  This organization has commonly had a United States leader for many years because the United States gives very high contributions to IOM.

After Obama said he wanted to accept more Syrian refugees, Isaacs said that this was a “foolish and delusional [attempt to] show cultural enlightenment.”  According to Isaacs, after a measly two hours in a refugee camp, he saw people that he assumed to be “real security risks” because he “knows what a fighter looks like.”

Isaacs also said that Christian Syrian refugees “must be 1st priority” because “Christians can never return” to Syria.

After the State Department was sent evidence of Isaacs social media, his Twitter was made private and Isaacs issued an apology, saying he regrets that the comments “have caused hurt and have undermined my professional record.”

Noticeably, Isaacs did not say in the statement that he did not mean what he said.  Based on his inability to condemn his past claims and a look at his previous posts, one can assume that Isaacs holds a serious prejudice against Muslims.

Eric Schwartz, the president of Refugees International (who used to be an assistant secretary of state for President Obama), spoke of the nomination saying, “I don’t know the nominee, but I’ve seen some of his statements and they reflect a troubling prejudice that is really incompatible with a position of leadership for the world’s most important international migration agency.”

Schwartz went further, adding, “The person who leads this needs to be a symbol of the international community’s support for humanity.  And that means that dark-skin people and Muslim people have the same inherent worth as any other people.”

For more information, click here.

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Pass Blue: Why Turkey’s Model Work Permits for Refugees Don’t Actually Work

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A major problem with Turkey for the millions of refugees there, it has a model work permit system for the newcomers, but it still bars them from the country’s labor market. Such problems can be overcome, experts contend, so that the refugees can work for decent wages in Turkey.

Izza Leghtas, a Refugees International senior advocate, and Kirsten Schuettler, a senior program officer at the World Bank, discussed these challenges for refugees in Turkey at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University on Jan. 22. Leghtas, noting that Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world, at 3.5 million, of whom 3.2 million are Syrians, shared her recent report, “I Am Only Looking for My Rights; Legal Employment Still Inaccessible for Refugees in Turkey.”

Many outsiders think that refugees live mostly in camps, which is hardly true in Turkey, Leghtas explained. In fact, Istanbul, despite being an expensive city of 14 million residents, is a metropolis that attracted many refugees at first or who gravitated to it eventually. About 530,000 officially registered Syrian refugees live in Istanbul, although the total number may well be more than 700,000.

Article 17 of the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, Schuettler pointed out in a policy brief that she wrote with two others, gives refugees “the most favorable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country in the same circumstances, as regards the right to engagement in wage-earning employment.”

However, the brief, titled “Refugees’ Right to Work and Access to Labor Markets,” also says “some countries completely legally bar refugees from work, be it as an employee or starting a business.”

For the full article, click here.