Refugees: The Resettlement Option

We have all been rightly horrified at the plight of refugees who are faced to confront the dangers of the sea in their journeys to Europe. These journeys are undertaken not only at great personal risk, the refugees who find themselves in this precarious predicament are victims of an exploitative multi-billion dollar trafficking industry.

After World War II thousands of displaced people within Europe are facilitated in finding a new home elsewhere in Europe or even in the United States. Some were assisted in relocating in countries as diverse as Ireland and Israel.

Resettlement involves the sponsoring of refugees and the provision of protection and the possibility of beginning a new life in another country. For many refugees, returning home ie not an option. As Somali refugee Warsaw Shire said in her now famous poem, No One Leaves Home, “you only run for the border when the whole city runs as well.” There is no going back. That is the situation in which many find themselves.

European Response

In 2015, as Europe confronted its migration crisis with thousands pouring over borders heading for Germany and Sweden, the Council of Europe sought to enter into agreements with European countries to establish a resettlement option for refugees. This would mean that vulnerable people seeking asylum in a European country could do so without risking their lives. Under the 1951 Geneva Convention on the right to asylum, a person at risk can seek asylum in another country. Europe never envisaged the combination of factors which would lead to the current tidal wave of migrant flows. It is now time to put in place a structured policy for resettlement.

The European Union has ac very promoted refugee rest element over the past ten years, including rest element as an essential part of the external dimension of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Coordination and resourcing of European resettlement has been further strengthened by the 2013 establishment of the Joint EU Resettlement Programme.

Fourteen countries, including Ireland and the United Kingdom, have signed up to the resettlement policy. This is involves a commitment to the provision of resettlement place. At the moment this number is so small as to be almost derisory. Why is this? It is partly because states have not begun to reflect on the benefits of such a policy and how it might be implemented. It remains still as a ‘nice to have’ option. But it is not taken seriously.

International Catholic Commission for Migration

Enter the NGO sector. The International Catholic Commission for Migration (ICMC) has taken resettlement seriously. Working with partners in a number of European countries, it has begun to establish a viable option for resettlement of refugees.

ICMC has established a project called the SHARE Network. This project calls for a network of European cities willing to offer resettlement places to migrants.ICMC is advocating for the provision annually of 20,000 resettlement places across Europe. Currently, some 7000 people have been resettled by ICMC through this scheme. Obviously there is room for further development of this initiative across Europe. Given the need, there is an urgent need for an expansion of the programme.

A feature of the SHARE European Resettlement Network is that it is focused on local civil society organisations, including municipalities and local NGOs. Local communities can engage with this programme to offer resettlement places.

In Ireland St Catherine’s Community Services Centre in Carlow is a partner with ICMC in resettling refugees. The Centre has worked with State agencies to ensure the provision of services for incoming families:

Our Resettlement Committee ensured that ‘arrival plans’ for the families were put in place before the families arrived. We have met every six weeks since then to oversee the development of the programme. At each committee meeting, the resettlement worker updates us on the work that has taken place. The meetings also provide a forum to discuss important matters such as mainstreaming, education and health and then to agree a co-ordinated response to any issues.

Carlow has successfully integrated members of the vulnerable Myanmar Rohingya community whose lives are often in danger in their own country. The 13 families accepted by Carlow has been living in refugee camps in Bangladesh since 1992.

If only this programme could be expanded on a European basis linking municipalities and communities in a common humanitarian effort.


Lessons “Sofia” can teach

Sofia, a virtual child created to give a face to refugee children, haunts Cork Life Centre’s deputy director, Rachel Lucey. Here, she explains why.

Sofia is a virtual child.

She was created by UNICEF Sweden using 500 images of real children in conflict to represent many millions of refugee children globally.

“I am not real I’m the face of all the children suffering from emergencies no one talks about,” the tagline of the campaign states.

But the issues Sofia has stirred up for me are so very real, and her image has haunted me ever since I first saw it.

Sofia not only represents children across the world, invisible in their plights, but those closer to home, the children whose stories are never heard, and who never get the opportunities they so deserve.

Every day in the course of my work, I am deeply privileged to work with children whose human challenges and struggles have left them on the edges of, and eventually outside, the mainstream education system.

When families and children are brave enough to trust you with their stories and journeys and allow you to work with them, that knowledge and privilege drives you to understand, to try to make a positive impact – and to advocate on their behalf.

It is easy to be shocked and disillusioned with the lack of a response and lack of empathy to the refugee crisis and to the suffering of children in any circumstance or any part of the world. How can people not respond?

It is easy to depersonalise what we do not know, what we do not understand, what we have not experienced. But if you meet a Sofia then all this will change, and you will think and worry and feel not just for Sofia, but for all the children in similar circumstances that you have not had the opportunity to meet.

I have never met a child whose story, strength, unique personality and talents did not teach me something wonderful and hopeful about the world, albeit a confusing one that seems brutal at times.

And while I cannot always be certain of the impact we at the Cork Life Centre have made, and always feel we could have done more, I am at least assured these children were given opportunities, became part of a community where they were treasured, valued and where they mattered; where somebody missed them if they did not appear, where there was someone to not just listen but hear them, and where if there was a problem we were always ready to try and work on it together.

So regardless of the onward journey or direction these children’s lives took and even if there are further struggles waiting for them on the horizon, I can feel assured they know our red doors are always open to them.

But as referrals increase and resources remain the same, it is with a heavy heart that I think about all the children I will not meet- those we will not greet at the red door. And there are many. We receive calls almost daily seeking placements at a level of demand we cannot meet. This is one of the most difficult parts of the job.

There are many children in Cork alone –  over 4,000 annually that leave education early  – that we will not meet. Roughly 10% of children in this country do not complete senior cycle education and this figure doubles in DEIS schools. I do not know what all these children look like, and I do not have a Sofia to represent these many faces and stories. But I know without hesitation there is something good to be unlocked in each one, if only we work to find the key.

We need to move beyond statistics and stereotypes and recognise the individual needs, strengths and rights of all children to learning environments that meet their needs not just educational but social, personal and human.

Every child deserves a champion, deserves at they very least their ‘one good adult.’ But how are we going to achieve this if we do not recognise them individually? This for me is what Sofia represents. An attempt to recognise not just a collective story, but each individual one.

By corklifecentrein Children, UncategorizedApril 20, 2016708 WordsLeave a commentEdit

Refugees: Basic Information

Who is a refugee?

In plain English, a refugee is anyone who is forced to leave their country. This situation is dramatically illustrated by Warsaw Shire’s poem, No one Leaves Home. Refugees, according to the UN Convention on Refugees (1951) are people in danger of persecution for any of the following reasons:

  • Race: Including ethnicity e.g. Roma people.
  • Religion: In some countries not belonging to a religion (e.g. agnostics or atheists) is viewed as badly as belonging to the ‘wrong’ religion
  • Nationality: And not just nationality. Membership of a particular social group, for example, a trade union can be an issue. It is also unfortunately the case that gender (i.e. male or female), sexual orientation, age (i.e. if children are in danger of persecution) can be a consideration.
  • Political opinion: This applies not only in relation to membership of political parties but also arises because of political opinions held. Sometimes things can go wrong even if people think you do. For some people who are refugees their only ‘crime’ is thinking differently from the mainstream.

Who is eligible for subsidiary protection under the Convention?

A third country national, not a refugee, who if returned to his/her country of origin, faces a real risk of suffering serious harm is entitled to protection. Many such persons often face potential dangers such as: execution for political reasons, torture, degrading treatment or punishment.

A person can also qualify for refugee status if it is determined that a serious threat to an individual’s life exists because of situations where indiscriminate violence exists. This often arises in situations involving armed conflict, whether international or internal (e.g. in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Burundi, South Sudan, and many other countries where civil unrest exists).

Who is an asylum seeker?

An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking to be recognised as a refugee. If they are granted this recognition they are declared a refugee.

Where do refugees typically come from?

The top three countries of origin globally for refugees are Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

How do asylum seekers live in Ireland?

While their application is being processed, asylum seekers are housed by the Irish government’s Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) in direct provision accommodation centres around the country. This means that they live in hostel-like accommodation, where families are often housed in one room, and singles usually share a room with others of the same sex. Shower and toilet facilities are often shared. Televisions are provided in each room and some centres have a games room. Meals are cooked for the residents, and served at a set time each day. There are no facilities for preparing meals in the vast majority of centres.

What kind of welfare entitlements exist for asylum seekers?

Do asylum seekers get social welfare or children’s allowance?

Asylum seekers receive a weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child. This must cover any additional school expenses, clothing, footwear, toiletries, phone credit, internet access, etc.

Can asylum seekers work?

Asylum seekers are not permitted to work in Ireland, therefore they are forced to depend on the state.

Can children who are asylum seekers or refugees go to school?

All children that have been given refugee status are entitled to the same rights as Irish children including the same access to education.

Children that are waiting for a decision on their asylum application can attend primary and secondary school, but they are not entitled to free fees for college and must pay non-EU fees which they usually cannot afford. Remember, asylum seekers receive only €19.10 per week per adult and €9.60 per child. It would take a long time to save enough for college fees!

Note: See this RTE special RTE Investigates programme on Asylum Seekers in Ireland Click here

Ireland’s Reception Rate

This is from the RTE Investigates TV programme Information Graphic.

  • Sweden: 318 per 100,000 of the population
  • Germany: 50 per 100.000 of the population
  • Bulgaria: 96 per 100,000 of the population
  • United Kingdom: 15 per 100, 000 of the population
  • Ireland: 9 per 100, 000 of the population

Irish Attitudes to Refugees

Irish attitudes to refugees are represented in the following Infographic from Newstalk radio based on data research by RED C in a poll conducted with 1038 Irish people. The Newstalk radio poll was commissioned in late 2015 to assess public response to the Irish Government proposal to accept 4,000 refugees into the country as Ireland’s contribution to the EU refugee intake plan.

Newsalk RED C Poll Graphic

Homelessness in Manchester

Could you take a little time out to view the YouTube below. It is a powerful BBC documentary on the experience of being homeless in Manchester.

Manchester could be anywhere. It could be Dublin, Belfast, Salford, Washington or London.

No one seeks to be homelessness. Many people in our society are only one pay cheque away from being homeless.

One of the points made in the video is that family breakdown is (in Western countries) one of the major contributory factors to homelessness. Yet no one speaks about this.

Since the 1970s there has been a shift in public policy away from supporting families to supporting individuals. Both dimensions of support are essential. Blame the poet Philip Larkin. He was one of the first to articulate the view that families are ‘bad news’. Ever since, a suspicion of the family as an institution had become endemic among shapers of public polity.

Read the following review of Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis in First Things. It is highly instructive on the correlation between family breakdown and social breakdown.

Two solutions are needed for homelessness:

  • More social housing for all who need it
  • Support for families in all their expressions

Creating Signs of Hope for Syria

Global Call for Acts of Solidarity and Days of Prayer and Fasting for Syria
In solidarity of all victims of this brutal war
15 March 2016: 5 years since the start of the protests

Pax Christi International is calling all people of good will to organise acts of solidarity and days of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria between 15 and 20 March 2016. We call on individuals and organisations to show solidarity with refugees and victims of war and violence and create signs of hope that peace can come again in Syria.

In March 2011, Syrian civilians started non-violent demonstrations to demand basic freedoms and rights. The regime’s extreme repression led to the militarisation of the protests, evolving to a systemic war that has affected the whole region.

In the five years since, more than 250.000 people have been killed, more than 13.5 million people inside Syria are in need of emergency relief and 6.5 million civilians are internally displaced, including hundreds of thousands in besieged cities, deprived of food and basic services. Moreover, more than 4.6 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighbouring countries and the wider region.

The conflict in Syria has also worsened the situation of the Palestinian refugees in Syria and Iraqi refugees living in the region. Their plight must not be forgotten. We are also in solidarity with the thousands of civil society activists in Syria. Despite scarce resources and limited solidarity, they continue their struggle for justice and are intensely engaged in humanitarian relief efforts.

This war has lasted too long and there is no perspective that it will end soon. The destruction of human lives and of a whole country must come to an end. We urge for the respect for human lives. The attacks against civilians and the bombardments need to stop, and the sieges should be lifted. The protection of civilians is at the forefront. Talks need to be intensified!

Organising an act of solidarity or day of fasting or prayer is also an occasion to meet with refugees in your own community. Please share your events and stories and photos with us via Facebook or Twitter (#HopeforSyria). In the course of the coming weeks we will provide you with update information so that you can prepare your actions.

Whatever resources you may have are welcome. Please share them with us. We will add them to that will be created on 18 February, 2016.

Angela Merkel

In the early months of 2015 the situation of migrants and refugees seeking to enter Europe by land and sea had become increasingly precarious. Since the abandonment of the EU Mare Nostrum programme in 2014, a programme which the Italian Navy believed had saved over 120, 000 lives, the number of people drowning in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea was increasing week on week. In May 2015, in response to public opinion, the Irish Naval Service became involved in a new EU initiative to rescue migrants and refugees, mainly those travelling from the Libyan coastal route. Later, it became evident that even larger numbers were seeking to enter Europe by way of the short sea route from Turkey. In total, 137,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in the first six months of 2015.Throughout the Summer months this mass-migration of people had become a major issue for European public opinion.

Death of Aylan Kurdi

The death of the Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, whose body was found on a beach at Bodrum, Turkey, following the capsizing of their boat on September 2nd, 2015, shocked public opinion across Europe. From that point on the plight of migrants and refugees seeking a new life in Europe became a major issue for public opinion, leading eventually to pressure on governments to participate in measures to alleviate the situation, including the free-flow of migrants to their desired destination. This mean, in practice, the virtual abandonment of the Dublin regulations applying to asylum seekers.

Angela Merkel, a Courageous Woman

As the nightly news broadcasts focused on the thousands massed on the borders of Macedonia, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia, there was a dramatic intervention from Germany, the preferred destination for the majority of the migrants and refugees.
Angela Merkel in a speech to the Bundestag on September 24th, 2015 spoke in favour of welcoming refugees to Germany in large numbers.

What was particularly influential in the Merkel speech was her enlarging of the issue beyond the Syrian crisis to the wider global context:

Speech to the Bundestag

At the moment almost 60 million refugees can be counted around the globe – this figure alone clearly illustrates the fact that we are not facing a German challenge, nor a European challenge, but a global challenge, that every region, every country, every political level, and every institution will have to help to resolve

When we speak of the ‘current refugee crisis’, it is this new and unprecedented mass migration of people that we have in mind. While at the moment our focus is on refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and the Middle East, the ‘old crisis’ of African migration to Europe will continue with ever larger numbers seeking access to a better life elsewhere.

Angela Merkel is one of those rare politicians, one who is prepared to take a principled position, even at the risk of the position being unpopular. She richly deserves to be Time magazine’s Person of the Year. We learn from her the difference between being a person of character whose moral judgments are based on principles rather than on a calculation on the basis of ‘what can I get away with her’. Angela Merkel has a deep sense of her own vocation to public life and to the promotion of the common good. As the daughter of a Lutheran pastor and someone who knew the emptiness of materialistic socialism, she has allowed her deep Christian convictions to inform her public actions.

On a related note, the TIME magazine cover shows a painting of Angela Merkel by Irish artist Colin Davidson from Northern Ireland. The story of the painting makes for interesting reading. See it here.

We can learn a lot from her.

Children’s Human Rights Campaign

Nine is Mine Campaign Takes to the Streets

An Indian Christian Brother, Steve Rocha, leads a children’s human rights campaigning group called Nine is Mine. The title is based on the idea that nine per cent of Indian GDP should be spent on children if India is to meet its Millennium Goals commitments. The campaign has captured the imagination of Indian children. Currently, 60, 000 young people have signed up as members of the campaign.

The campaign is focused on the post–2015 UN Agenda, End Poverty and Exclusion, which seeks acceptance by the international community that six per cent for Education and five per cent for Health be established as the global minimum human development standard (as recommended by UNESCO and WHO.

Working with Edmund Rice International in Geneva, the young people are mobilising to bring their campaign before the United Nations in New York. They have already begun lobbying with the international diplomatic community in Delhi. Groups of nine children each have so far visited the Irish, Australian, Austrian, Swedish, Columbian, Slovenian, Mexican, US, Canadian and the Belgian embassies. They are hopting to expand their campaign in advance of the UN General Assembly which meets this September in New York.

At the moment, they are actively raising funds to have a group of young people speak at the General Assembly. Iona College in New Rochelle is assisting the group by coordinating accommodation and hospitality arrangements. Brother Kevin Cawley from Edmund Rice International, New York, is actively engaged in facilitating UN accesss. Let’s hope that the group succeeds.

First Eleven Campaign

Letter from Vijay Kumar

My name is Vijay Kumar. I belong to the Dalit (untouchable) community of India. I am a young activist and have been involved with the NINEISMINE campaign for a couple of years now. I seek your help on behalf of millions of Indian children and young people who live in abject poverty.

In the year 2000, world’s leaders from 189 countries met in New York to sign the historic Millennium Declaration Goals document that aimed at halving poverty and hunger by 2015.

The target of reducing extreme poverty by half has been reached five years ahead of the 2015 deadline…but, this is not a reason to relax. Projections indicate that in 2015…almost one billion will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day…and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases. Hunger remains a global challenge, and ensuring that all children are able to complete primary education remains a fundamental, but unfulfilled, target that has an impact on all the other Goals. [1]

The NINEISMINE campaign is a children’s advocacy campaign that seeks the fulfillment of MDG 2, education for all, MDG 3, end gender discrimination and MDG 4, reduce child mortality (2+3+4 = NINEISMINE). It is an initiative of children, by children and for children to claim their right to be heard and their right to participation even in governance. This campaign began in India in response to Nelson Mandela’s call to every ordinary citizen to hold the government accountable to their commitment “to end poverty and social exclusion". [2]

In India, 5000 infants die each day due to common curable childhood diseases. Forty-eight per cent of its children are malnourished. Every third malnourished child in the world is Indian. Even with its historic Right to Education India still has 8 million children out of school and about 12.6 million child labourers.

It is in this scenario that we the children of India took it upon ourselves to demand that India allocates six per cent of GDP on Education and three per cent on Health, as was promised by our Government in its Election Manifesto of 2004. [3] Even now, our government spends around one per cent of the GDP on the health and about 3.7% of the GDP on Education. We at NINEISMINE demand 6%+3%=9% for the children.

In September 2013, all the world leaders will assemble in New York to draft the way forward beyond 2015 in framing a new set of Millennium/ Sustainable Development Goals (MDG/SDG). This therefore is an opportune advocacy moment for children worldwide.

Recognizing the importance of investing in people (and children in particular) the NINEISMINE campaign seeks the support from the world community of children to rally their voices in support of the recommendation of UNESCO (Oslo Declaration 2008 and Confintea VI Belem 2009) that 6% (though of GNP) be dedicated to Education. The WHO in 1981 on the other hand suggested that at least 5% of GNP [5] on health be accepted globally as a positive bench mark. (Global Strategy for Health for All by the Year 2000)

The NINEISMINE campaign recommends that – as a proportion of each country’s GDP – 6% for Education (in which at least half goes towards elementary education) and 5% for Health is adopted as the minimum global standard in relation to each country’s public spending for the same.

I along with the other children of the NINEISMINE campaign therefore appeal to you, our peers across the world to write to your respective governments and seek their support in demanding the inclusion of this as an indicator for the Education and Health Goals in the Post 2015 framework.

We also recommend that you send postcards or go in delegation to the relevant government offices and even other Ambassadors and High Commissioners to advocate that these standards of 6% for Education and 5% for Health be included into the new Millennium Development framework.

The idea is to have young people like me demand adequate investment into our future. Remember, child-rights abuses anywhere are a concern for children everywhere.

“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.” [3]

[1] Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, UN MDG Report 2012
[2] Wada Na Todo Abhiyan
[3] GDP or Gross Domestic Product is the total value of products and services produced within the territorial boundary of a country.
[4] Mohammed Ali
[5] GNP or Gross National Product is the total value of goods and services produced by all nationals of a country, whether within or outside the country.