Oxfam International Blogs - refugee crisis http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/tags/refugee-crisis en Why women refugees must be involved in the decisions that affect their lives http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/19-06-24-why-women-refugees-must-be-involved-decisions-affect-their-lives <div class="field field-name-body"><p><strong>My name is Susan Grace Duku. I am 33 years old and I have spent 21 of those years as refugee.</strong></p><p>Last week we learned that the number of people in situations like mine - forced from their homes because of violence or persecution – <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/press/2019/6/5d03b22b4/worldwide-displacement-tops-70-million-un-refugee-chief-urges-greater-solidarity.html" rel="nofollow">has passed 70 million worldwide</a>. In responding to this unprecedented challenge, it is paramount that refugees ourselves participate in the decisions that directly affect us and in efforts to find solutions.</p><p>Refugees are often victims of the conflicts they flee from. They also face challenges leaving their home countries, finding asylum in a new place, and in living alongside host communities.</p><p><span>Here in Uganda, many have sought refuge in the country for the second or even third time due to repeated conflicts in their home countries, including my native South Sudan. I first came here in 1992, when I was only seven years old. I came again in 2016.</span></p><p>Being repeatedly uprooted and seeking protection has given us years of experience in how to live harmoniously with host communities, how to find creative ways to make ends meet and how to support each other. The pain and sorrow we have endured also drive our commitment to peace - the most durable solution.</p><p><strong>Global Refugee Forum</strong></p><p>In December, world leaders will come together at the <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/uk/global-refugee-forum.html" rel="nofollow">Global Refugee Forum</a>&nbsp;and commit to concrete steps to improve the lives of refugees.</p><p>If I had the chance to address those delegates, I would urge them to ensure that refugee girls are able to realise their full potential.</p><p>I would use the example of the prominent women delegates in the room and ask whether these women would be seated among us if they had not been supported through education, reproductive health services and other related support.</p><p>I would advocate for peace and for governments to embrace tolerance, accountability and reconciliation to prevent conflicts that result in refugee situations.</p><p>I would ask them to support refugees to be agents of peace.</p><p><strong>Refugees must be able to&nbsp;<span>contribute to decision-making</span></strong></p><p>But refugees should not only participate in international discussions – they should also contribute to decision-making at the local level.</p><p>In Uganda, refugees have platforms through which they can express their challenges and ideas. They democratically elect members of community leadership committees, who raise their voices about any recommendations or grievances. There is also a forum of refugees that engages in debates with the Government. I have set up an organization, called Refugee Women and Youth Aid, that brings together 17 groups of women to share knowledge, skills and experience.</p><p>There are lessons here for other countries, but there are also challenges. It is still too rare for refugees to address leaders at the highest levels, who are in a position to change our lives.</p><p>As a woman refugee leader, I have often been left out of important meetings within the settlement. The male folk still hold women in low esteem due to long-standing cultural beliefs that discriminate against women. Because of such patriarchal beliefs, refugee women and girls need extra support to effectively participate in the design, implementation and review of refugee programs.</p><p><strong>Re<strong>fugees need e</strong>ducation and job opportunities</strong></p><p>As a leader, I call on the Ugandan Government and its humanitarian partners to prioritize proper education at all levels for refugees.</p><p>Having large numbers of displaced young people frustrated or bored because they can’t go to school is a recipe for continued conflict, violence and under development.</p><p>Refugees also yearn for work opportunities so they can supplement humanitarian aid and sustain themselves. Some women are forced to trek large distances to find safe water, firewood and construction materials, and sometimes there are conflicts with host communities over these resources. These problems could be solved through tree planting and proper use of natural resources such as land for agriculture and alternative sources of fuel like briquettes.</p><p>There should be more initiatives to bring refugees and host communities together, to help reduce tensions and suspicions that can trigger violence.</p><p><strong>Women must be included</strong></p><p>None of these challenges can be solved without the active participation of refugee, including women.</p><p>We refugees are not responsible for our displacement. We did not choose to become refugees and we face many difficulties.</p><p>We need to be included in spaces where our voices can be heard, and we must be equally represented in decision-making processes.</p><p><em><img alt="Photo: Susan Duku" title="Photo: Susan Duku" height="200" width="200" style="float: left; margin: 0px 20px 20px 20px" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="1" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/susan_duku-200.jpg" />This entry posted on 24 June 2019, by Susan Grace Duku, who is head of our partner agency Refugee Women and Youth Aid in Uganda, and is a refugee. She writes about the importance of refugees participating in decisions that affect their lives - one of Oxfam's key asks ahead of the Global Refugee Forum in December.</em></p><p><em>Top photo: Cousins Betty and Florence with their children at the reception center at the Imvepu refugee settlement, Uganda. Credit: Coco McCabe/Oxfam</em></p><p><em>Refugees from South Sudan have been fleeing conflict and hunger in their country, and seeking safety across the border in Uganda. Currently, Uganda is hosting more than 1 million refugees - 82 percent are women and children. Across four districts in settlements like Imvepi and Bidi Bidi, Oxfam and our local partners have reached more than 283,000 refugees with assistance that includes the provision of clean water, sanitation services such as the digging of pit latrines, hygiene promotion, emergency food and livelihoods support, and attention to gender and protection issues. In the last four years, Oxfam has also invested in helping more than 15 local and national organizations build their capacity to respond to humanitarian emergencies such as this one.</em></p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p><strong>Read more</strong></p><ul><li><a href="https://blogs.oxfam.org/en/search/node/refugees"><strong>Blogs on refugees and migration</strong></a></li><li><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/refugee-and-migrant-crisis" rel="nofollow"><strong>Oxfam's humanitarian work on the refugee/migrant crisis</strong></a></li></ul></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Why women refugees must be involved in the decisions that affect their lives</h2></div> Mon, 24 Jun 2019 14:29:43 +0000 Guest Blogger 82006 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/19-06-24-why-women-refugees-must-be-involved-decisions-affect-their-lives#comments Afghanistan: the tragedy of refugees returning http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/18-01-31-afghanistan-tragedy-refugees-returning <div class="field field-name-body"><p><strong>Afghanistan is not safe enough for all these millions of returnees. To claim the opposite is to ignore the reality and puts lives at risk.</strong></p><p>With headline news carrying stories about a string of bloody attacks in Afghanistan, it’s important to remember that there is another side to the Afghan tragedy that is not making the headlines. In addition to the Afghans fleeing war in their country, there are the massive numbers returning home – more than 2.3 million Afghans since the beginning of 2015. But they are are not just coming back to their country - they are <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/returning-fragility-exploring-link-between-conflict-and-returnees-afghanistan" rel="nofollow">coming back to conflict and fragility</a>.</p><p>Many have been forced to return home unwillingly and most of them have to live in precarious conditions that are often far away from their family lands in areas that are already highly unstable, unsafe and poor.</p><p>In Europe, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/23/europe-sends-people-home-to-afghanistan-where-they-have-never-been" rel="nofollow">we read about Afghan families</a> that are sent back, but we never read about the life that awaits them – and how this affects the situation in Afghanistan which, according to the UN, is still a country in conflict. To make matters worse, the <a href="https://www.voanews.com/a/pakistan-extends-afghan-refugees-stay-for-month/4191029.html" rel="nofollow">current situation in Pakistan</a> may mean that more Afghans could be forced back.</p><p>One 22-year-old woman, Sahar, told Oxfam she left Afghanistan when she was 6 months old and was deported from Iran last year, arriving back to a country she did had never known. When we met her, she was living in a transit camp with her brother and cousins. With the rest of her family still living in Iran, Sahar was very worried about her future: “I can stay here for a little while, but I do not know what to do next. Here in Afghanistan everything is new and unfamiliar to me. I do have anyone here and do not see any future prospects for myself. I am really scared because of the conflict and insecurity in Afghanistan.”</p><h3>Linking returnees and conflict</h3><p>Reports by <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/02/13/pakistan-coercion-un-complicity/mass-forced-return-afghan-refugees" rel="nofollow">Human Rights Watch</a>, <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/es/documents/asa11/6866/2017/en/" rel="nofollow">Amnesty International</a> and others have described the impact on individuals, so Oxfam in Afghanistan took a look at the bigger picture and asked: What is the link between those people returning and the ongoing conflict? More importantly, what could happen in Afghanistan if people continue to return at the current rate.</p><p>Our report, “<a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/returning-fragility-exploring-link-between-conflict-and-returnees-afghanistan" rel="nofollow">Returning to Fragility</a>”, sheds much-needed light on the risks that many Afghans face when they return to the country. Our research in four provinces found that high numbers of returnees are putting pressure on scarce resources, heightening increasing friction and distrust within local communities.</p><p>But while there are tensions between local communities and returnees, we have also found a surprising level of resilience with some communities extending a welcoming hand to offer food, shelter and sometimes even jobs, even if only on a temporary basis. Tthat is astonishing in the current fragile context. However this should not be misinterpreted by policy makers as a green light for returns to continue as many returnees cannot count on the safety net of extended family networks, local community hospitality and international support.</p><h3>A double tragedy</h3><p>There is no silver lining to this sad story. The Afghanistan is already well capacity tobeyond its capacity to&nbsp; absorb returnees and meet humanitarian needs has reached its limit and more Afghans return every day to a situation of conflict compounded by growing poverty and instability. If these fragile conditions continue, forced returns remain a dangerous option, and the safety and dignity of those returning cannot be guaranteedcontinue to be undermined. People who are unable to return to areas in which they own land or can be supported by their family or community, often end up internally displaced. It is an avoidable double tragedy. This fragile situation will remain unchanged unless the root causes of conflict are addressed in a sustainable way.</p><p>Governments hosting Afghan nationals must therefore immediately stop forcing people to return home. The Afghan government should not promote returns until they can happen safely and with access to land and basic social services.</p><h3>Fueling fragility</h3><p>The writing has been on the wall for years: political instability with no formal peace process; a Taliban able to control and dispute large parts of territory; and the surge of Islamic State after 2014, have all led to an increase in attacks and violence, including an increase in attacks on Shia Afghans. Meanwhile, NATO countries are again sending more troops to the country. This huge number of returnees being sent back to Afghanistan is could only fueling the fire of an already highly fragile situation.</p><p>Afghanistan is not safe enough for all these millions of returnees. To claim the opposite is to ignore the reality and puts lives at risk.</p><p>But not sending back Afghans will only solve alleviate part of the problem. The international community should honor current financial pledges, expand long-term assistance programs to offer more longer-term assistance and stop putting conditions on its funding that force the Afghan government to accept more returnees. Many Afghans have already returned and there are no signs that return policies will be reversed. To make matters worse, the current situation in Pakistan may mean that more Afghans could be forced back.</p><p><strong>Read the report: <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/returning-fragility-exploring-link-between-conflict-and-returnees-afghanistan" rel="nofollow">Returning to fragility: exploring the link between conflict and returnees in Afghanistan</a></strong></p><p><em>This entry posted by Dr. Jorrit Kamminga, Strategic Influencing Advisor of Oxfam in Afghanistan, on 31 Januar 2018.&nbsp;Dr. Kamminga has been working in the country since 2005, covering various issues within the nexus of security and development. In addition to his work for Oxfam, Jorrit is a senior fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael and a consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).</em></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Afghanistan: the tragedy of refugees returning</h2></div> Wed, 31 Jan 2018 18:19:33 +0000 Dr. Jorrit Kamminga 81387 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/18-01-31-afghanistan-tragedy-refugees-returning#comments We must not fail the Rohingya people again http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-12-18-we-must-not-fail-rohingya-people-again <div class="field field-name-body"><p>It took the tug of a shirt. A history revisited.</p><p>One of Oxfam’s most experienced water engineers, Zulfiquar Ali Haider, was recently approached by a man in his sixties, who was living in the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh. Extraordinarily the refugee recognized Haider – as the man who helped to save his life by providing emergency water two decades before.</p><p>It was a reunion tinged with sadness. For the third time in 40 years the world watches Rohingya people forced to flee after being attacked and driven from their homes. Aid workers like Haider are deployed yet again. The international community watches, again, having collectively failed to find a lasting solution to the decades-long oppression of Rohingya in their own country.</p><p>I feel a personal sense of déjà vu: it brings back painful memories of the Rwandan genocide and exodus that took place on my doorstep in East Africa in 1994.</p><p><img alt="Refugees carry Oxfam food parcels through Thengkhali Camp in Bangladesh. Photo: Bekki Frost/Oxfam" title="Refugees carry Oxfam food parcels through Thengkhali Camp in Bangladesh. Photo: Bekki Frost/Oxfam" height="930" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="1" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/unchiprang-camp-bangladesh-bekki-frost-3oct2017-man-looking-1240.jpg" /></p><p><em>Refugees carry Oxfam food parcels through Thengkhali Camp in Bangladesh. Oxfam's local partner Coast Trust helped to pack and load the food kits at Oxfam's warehouse in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Bekki Frost/Oxfam</em></p><p><strong>More than 620,000 refugees</strong> have arrived in Bangladesh in the last few months – at a speed not seen since the Rwandan crisis. It’s the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world today. In an age of ugly intolerance to refugees, an extraordinary Bangladesh has kept its borders open to provide safe refuge.</p><p>A crisis of this scale would overwhelm any government’s capacity to provide aid, not least a poor country where one in four people live in poverty and which has experienced a year of devastating floods. Bangladesh and aid agencies are struggling to provide enough support to the huge numbers of people in need.</p><p><strong>Conditions in the overcrowded camps are woefully inadequate</strong> and refugees – especially women and children – are at risk of disease and exploitation. Water is contaminated, latrines are overflowing, and there are reports of vulnerable people being trafficked and abused.</p><p><strong>The international community urgently needs to plug the $280 million gap</strong> in funding required to provide emergency food, water and other essentials, and to keep people safe. It also needs to work with the Bangladesh government to develop a longer-term plan to support both the refugees and the local communities in this deprived area.</p><p>Yet emergency aid can only ever be a sticking plaster. To end the suffering of the Rohingya, it is necessary to tackle the ongoing violence and discrimination that has boiled over into a crisis, sending hundreds of thousands fleeing for their lives.</p><p><img alt="Fatiema*, 46, photographed in Balukhali camp after her tent was flooded by heavy rainfall. Credit: Aurélie Marrier d&#039;Unienville/Oxfam" title="Fatiema*, 46, photographed in Balukhali camp after her tent was flooded by heavy rainfall. Credit: Aurélie Marrier d&#039;Unienville/Oxfam" height="680" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="2" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/ogb_109152-woman-portrait-1240.jpg" /></p><p><em>Fatiema*, 46, photographed in Balukhali camp after her tent was flooded by heavy rainfall. Credit: Aurélie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam</em></p><p><strong>There is mounting evidence that crimes against humanity</strong> have taken place with impunity, including massacres, systematic rape and burning of Rohingya villages. The UN has described the situation as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Rohingya people are denied citizenship and basic rights such as the freedom to travel and work – summed up by Amnesty as “state-sponsored apartheid”.</p><p><strong>The Rohingya are the world’s largest stateless group of people.</strong> Oxfam spoke to refugees in Bangladesh who had fled Myanmar three times since the 1970s. Although conditions in the refugee camps are woefully inadequate and many people said they felt unsafe, they were clear that they would like to return but only when guaranteed protection and equal rights.</p><p><strong>Many women, deeply traumatized</strong> by their experiences, said they would prefer suicide to being forcibly returned. “If we are forced to go back we will set ourselves on fire,” said Sanjida Sajjad*. Sixty-year old Younis Kadir* added: “The Government promised Bangladesh so many times that Rohingya can live peacefully. We cannot believe them, after everything that has happened.”</p><p><img alt="Food distribution queues, Balukhali Camp, Bangladesh. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam" title="Food distribution queues, Balukhali Camp, Bangladesh. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam" height="826" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="3" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/109711lpr-food-distribution1240.jpg" /></p><p><em>Food distribution queues, Balukhali Camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam, October 2017</em></p><p><strong>I am angry that the international community</strong> has failed to find a permanent solution to the plight of the Rohingya. I am also ashamed that in not speaking out loudly enough, we, humanitarians, have been complicit. International political leaders are still failing to put the human rights of all – especially the Rohingya – at the heart of their diplomatic efforts.</p><p>In August, a commission led by Kofi Annan urged the Government to reform laws that deny full citizenship to the Rohingya. It called for action to address the underlying causes of chronic under-development, poverty and landlessness for all people in Rakhine State. It called for integration, not segregation.</p><p>The report was backed by Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the democratic leader of Myanmar. It must be implemented. Democracy in Myanmar cannot be achieved with discrimination and gross violations of human rights. What kind of democracy flowers within soils that have seen such violence?</p><p><strong>Today, we face yet another eruption of the Rohingya crisis</strong>, this time on an unprecedented scale. Our international leaders must act to ensure the same patterns are not repeated, with strong diplomatic pressure that ensures the rights of the Rohingya – and all in Myanmar – are fully protected. We must see justice and accountability for the atrocities committed against them.</p><p>Despite everything, the Rohingya refugees repeated a dignified, clear request to us: Equal rights for all. As full citizens. Their call must now be answered.</p><p><em>The entry posted by Winnie Bynayima, Executive Director, Oxfam International, on 18 December 2017.</em></p><p><em>*Names changed to protect identity.</em></p><p><em>Top photo: A father carries his son across a broken bamboo bridge on the edge of Balhukali camp, Bangladesh. Photo: Aurélie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam</em></p><ul><li><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/bangladesh-rohingya-crisis" rel="nofollow"><strong></strong></a><strong>Read the latest Oxfam report: <a href="//www.oxfam.org/en/research/i-still-dont-feel-safe-go-home-voices-rohingya-refugees" rel="nofollow">‘I still don’t feel safe to go home’: voices of Rohingya refugees</a></strong></li></ul><ul><li><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/bangladesh-rohingya-crisis" rel="nofollow"><strong>Please support Oxfam's response to the Rohingya crisis</strong></a></li></ul></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>We must not fail the Rohingya people again</h2></div> Mon, 18 Dec 2017 11:57:59 +0000 Winnie Byanyima 81331 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-12-18-we-must-not-fail-rohingya-people-again#comments "We just want a life" - Protecting the rights of refugees in Greece http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-12-01-we-just-want-life-protecting-rights-refugees-greece <div class="field field-name-body"><p>Meryem* is 13, legally a child, but she has experienced far more than me or most adults my age. She fled Afghanistan after her father was killed by the Taliban, and traveled with her mother and two brothers through Iran to Turkey, where they paid a smuggler to reach Greece by boat. They arrived in September 2017, and are now stuck in Moria, a so-called ‘EU hotspot’ - a notorious asylum processing center on the island of Lesvos in Greece.</p><p>‘<a href="https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/european-agenda-migration/background-information/docs/2_hotspots_en.pdf" rel="nofollow">Hotspots</a>’ are centers set up by the Greek and Italian governments with the help of the European Union in response to an increase in the number of arrivals on Europe’s shores. In Moria and the other hotspots, people are fingerprinted, receive a medical check and go through legal procedures.</p><p>However, those procedures are so flawed that they <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2017-03-17/eu-turkey-deal-makes-seeking-refuge-europe-mission-impossible" rel="nofollow">violate people’s fundamental rights</a>. Instead of carefully examining who is in genuine need of international protection, the system is designed to send people back as quickly as possible.</p><p>It’s not just NGOs like Oxfam that say so. Even the audit agency of the EU, the <a href="http://oxfameu.blogactiv.eu/2017/05/09/five-findings-of-the-eu-auditors-on-the-migration-hotspots-that-must-not-go-unnoticed/" rel="nofollow">EU Court of Auditors, has found</a> that the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/apr/24/eu-urgent-protection-23000-unaccompanied-child-refugees-squalid-camps-greece-italy" rel="nofollow">hotspots place people at risk</a>.</p><h3>Barbed wire, but no security</h3><p><img alt="Moria refugee camp, Lesbos, Greece. Photo: Oxfam" title="Moria refugee camp, Lesbos, Greece. Photo: Oxfam" height="930" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="1" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/image-2-barbed-wire.jpg" /></p><p><em>Outside Moria refugee camp, Lesbos, Greece. Photo: Oxfam</em></p><p>It’s easy to see why. The Moria camp was designed to host a maximum of 1,500 people, but today more than 4,000 men, women and children are forced to stay here. Next to container houses, tents are erected in every open space that can be found. In these tents, 10 to 20 people sleep, eat, and go about their business without any privacy whatsoever.</p><p>“There are too many people in the camp,” says Meryem. “Men sometimes come to our tent and demolish things. It’s very intimidating.”</p><p>The camp is surrounded by barbed wire and fences, but there is little security for the people inside. Meryem and her mom told me that they are afraid, especially during the evenings and nights, when brawls break out and they are harassed by strangers.</p><h3>Vulnerable people falling through the cracks</h3><p>There is a lack of everything in the camp: proper food, proper places to go to the toilet and shower, activities that will keep them busy.</p><p>There aren’t even enough people qualified to carry out medical examinations. That means that many vulnerable people are falling through the cracks and do not get the help they need. Only those with visible disabilities are likely to be selected to be moved to the Greek mainland, where more facilities are available, while they wait for their asylum applications to be processed.</p><p>Meanwhile, people with severe trauma, victims of sexual violence, people with illnesses that do not show up immediately, or those struggling with mental health: they are likely to be kept trapped in Moria for months and months, without any essential aid or support.</p><h3>A sanctuary outside of the official system</h3><p><strong><img alt="The Bashira Women&#039;s Center, in Moria refugee camp, offers a sanctuary to women and girls. Photo: Oxfam" title="The Bashira Women&#039;s Center, in Moria refugee camp, offers a sanctuary to women and girls. Photo: Oxfam" height="930" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="3" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/image-5-bashira-center-1240_0.jpg" /></strong></p><p>The <a href="https://www.sao-english.ngo/bashira-centre" rel="nofollow">Bashira Women Center</a> is one of the very few escapes on the island for girls like Meryem and her mother. It offers a sanctuary to women. The Center, set up with the help of Oxfam, its interior brightly painted and with orange trees in the little courtyard, is where they can take a much needed shower, where they can knit, talk to social workers or study. “We come to Bashira to be in a safe place,” says Meryem.</p><p>When asked what she would wish for most now, Meryem answers without hesitation: she wants to continue her education, as she has set her heart on becoming a doctor. However, none of the children in Moria – who make up more than fifty percent of the total population of the camp – go to school.</p><p>The work of the dedicated professionals and volunteers at the Bashira Women Center and other similar projects is essential in supporting people who are suffering in Moria. But the work they do can only address the symptoms of the problem, not the cause. Those causes can be traced back to the European Union, it does not need to be this way, there can be <a href="https://medium.com/@Oxfam/the-eu-needs-a-new-migration-policy-heres-how-to-make-it-work-for-people-bb9b72302add" rel="nofollow">a humane migration policy that protects people</a>.</p><h3>Instead of detention: dignity</h3><p>It’s mind-boggling that this is happening in our own European Union. And even more so, that the European Commission has recently proposed that Moria should be a blue-print for other hotspots.</p><p>What is needed most is not more prison-like centers like Moria, but an asylum procedure that safeguards the rights of those seeking protection; that treats people in a dignified manner; that offers education to children and medical help to all those in dire need.</p><p>So that children like Meryem can go to school to become doctors and teachers and technicians. So they can have a future.</p><p>“We just want a life,” says Meryem. Her mother nods in consent.</p><p><em>This entry posted by Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam Policy Lead Displacement, on 1 December 2017. All photos <em>Evelien van Roemburg/Oxfam.</em><br></em></p><h3>What you can do now</h3><p><a href="https://actions.oxfam.org/international/winteriscoming/email-target/" rel="nofollow"><strong>Sign the petition asking Greece's Prime Minister Tsipras to keep asylum-seekers safe this winter</strong></a></p><p><strong>Read the blog: <a href="https://blogs.oxfam.org/en/blogs/16-12-21-female-migrants-need-safe-peaceful-space">Female migrants need a safe and peaceful space</a></strong><em><br></em></p><p><strong>Read more about how <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/refugee-and-migrant-crisis/greece" rel="nofollow">Oxfam is helping refugees and migrants in Greece</a></strong><em><br></em></p><p><em>&nbsp;</em></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>&quot;We just want a life&quot; - Protecting the rights of refugees in Greece</h2></div> Fri, 01 Dec 2017 12:50:49 +0000 Guest Blogger 81329 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-12-01-we-just-want-life-protecting-rights-refugees-greece#comments Museum Without a Home, but with a Hope! http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-10-26-museum-without-home-but-with-hope <div class="field field-name-body"><p><em>This entry posted by Martha Roussou, Advocacy Officer in <a href="https://www.facebook.com/OxfamInGreece/" rel="nofollow">Oxfam in Greece</a>, on 26 October 2017.</em></p><p>As an advocacy officer, I have written various reports on the situation of migrants and refugees in Greece. I know the numbers, statistics and legislation by heart. But the people and the human stories behind the numbers and statistics are my driving force.</p><p>When I started looking for stories of items Greek people had given to migrants and refugees, I thought people would talk about functional things: clothes, food, water. And this is indeed what many Greek people said they had offered.</p><h3>A compelling solidarity</h3><p>I was very surprised though, to see that people on the receiving end talked about a hairbrush, a face cream or a cup of coffee as the most important things they had received! These were the things that made them feel human. These were the things that NGOs and government distributions did not cover. These were the things that showed them that they were accepted, not as poor helpless people, but as dignified human beings.</p><p>The campaign, designed and run by Oxfam and Amnesty International to celebrate the solidarity showed by the ordinary people towards migrants and refugees, was a success.</p><p>The compelling and moving video stories of the original items-exhibits of the <a href="http://www.museumwithoutahome.gr/en/ekthemata" rel="nofollow">Museum Without a Home</a> received thousands of views, the exhibits received <a href="http://www.greeknewsagenda.gr/index.php/topics/culture-society/6205-the-museum-without-a-home-an-exhibition-of-hospitality" rel="nofollow">extensive media coverage</a> when they were displayed in museums across Athens, including the Acropolis Museum, and people from all the ages and around the world offered enthusiastic comments on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pg/OxfamInGreece" rel="nofollow">social media</a>!</p><h3>Dignity and safety for migrants and refugees</h3><p>But nothing prepared me for the pride and joy I would feel from the overwhelming emotion the campaign brought the very people that it was about.</p><p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PxURAlgDNJc?rel=0" allowfullscreen="" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><p>I remember showing little Ali in Filippiada his video and giving him a campaign poster of his 'touberleki.' He was so happy and proud of himself! <em>(photo below.)</em></p><p>It was only 2 months after interviewing him and he could speak Greek fluently! He insisted I take pictures of his Greek notebooks to show the film crew.</p><p><img alt="Ali sees the poster with his touberleki. Photo: Oxfam" title="Ali sees the poster with his touberleki. Photo: Oxfam" height="827" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="1" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/ali-watching-the-poster-with-his-touberleki-1240.jpg" /></p><p>Or Spyros from Konitsa who saw via his mobile phone the video with Nassouh speaking about the jacket Spyros had given him. His eyes watered and he remained speechless for some time. He lit a cigarette and after a few minutes of silence he spoke: "Thank you for this. I hadn’t realized a jacket can be so meaningful and mainly I didn’t know Nassouh felt this way about me."</p><p>A year after the launch, the Museum Without A Home, An Exhibition of Hospitality has received the <a href="https://eu-pa.excellence-awards.com/winnerlist-2017-2/" rel="nofollow">European Excellence award for best NGO campaign</a> in 2016 and has travelled from <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ragg6uFFDc" rel="nofollow">Serbia</a> to <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/127510857888948/" rel="nofollow">Ireland</a>, from the <a href="http://www.nvtv.co.uk/shows/focal-point-thursday-5-october-2017/" rel="nofollow">UK</a> to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHy8bOO7Ct4" rel="nofollow">New York</a>, while there are more plans for this unique Museum to be hosted in Canada, and beyond. It has made a lot of people proud to be part of it and has showcased and celebrated the solidarity of the Greek people.</p><p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xHy8bOO7Ct4?rel=0" allowfullscreen="" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><p></p><h3>Protecting human rights</h3><p></p><p>At Oxfam we believe that this campaign was so successful because when you take away the politics and the negative images and rhetoric used to frighten people about refugees and migrants - they know in their core opening our communities to people is search of safety and dignity is not only the right thing to do but also enriching.</p><p>As Oxfam, we are calling on governments around the world to stand up to their obligations and commitments under human rights and refugee law and follow the example of the Greek people. We hope and do know that it is not too much to ask…</p><p><em>This entry posted by Martha Roussou, Advocacy Officer in <a href="https://www.facebook.com/OxfamInGreece/" rel="nofollow">Oxfam in Greece</a>, on 26 October 2017.</em></p><p><em><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/refugee-and-migrant-crisis/oxfams-humanitarian-response-greece" rel="nofollow"><strong>Support Oxfam's response to the refugee and migrant crisis in Greece</strong></a><br></em></p><p><em><a href="https://actions.oxfam.org/international/protect-refugees-and-migrants/take-action-now/" rel="nofollow"><strong>Protect the lives of refugees and migrants now</strong></a> <br></em></p><p></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Museum Without a Home, but with a Hope! </h2></div> Thu, 26 Oct 2017 15:36:52 +0000 Guest Blogger 81289 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-10-26-museum-without-home-but-with-hope#comments Searching for safety: lessons from Syria's refugees http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-06-21-searching-safety-lessons-syrias-refugees <div class="field field-name-body"><p><strong>What is life like for Syrian refugees in Lebanon? Oxfam conducted research to find out how safe refugees feel and to understand the challenges they face. For Oxfam researcher Nour Shawaf, it was a humbling process.</strong></p><p><strong></strong>I thought I knew it all, I thought I had seen it, I thought I had read about it, I thought I had heard all their stories… After all, I am Lebanese, I have Syrian and Palestinian friends, I have been interacting with refugees on a regular basis for the past four years, I speak their language and I follow the news closely! Why would I not know it all?</p><p>Well I was definitely wrong. I knew nothing at all.</p><p><strong>"Every time we went to a place the war would follow us."</strong> She personified war and it scared me. My imagination took me beyond the discussion. I dropped my papers and just listened to her. The young woman sitting in front of me was my age. She had experienced multiple displacements and the war was following her. This was not just another research exercise, and this young woman talking to me was not just another story.</p><p>While carrying out Participatory Protection Research for Oxfam in Lebanon to explore <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/still-looking-safety-voices-refugees-syria-solutions-present-and-future" rel="nofollow">the perceptions and expectations of refugees from Syria</a> over the past, present and future, my own perceptions and expectations were altered. The stories refugees from Syria told left me completely shocked.</p><p><strong>Reality struck me hard</strong>, especially when people started describing their routes from Syria to Lebanon. I had heard about the "mountain." It is the word all refugees from Syria use to indicate they have come into the country through unofficial borders. But never had it occurred to me that the ‘mountain’ was a "death plateau." People talked about walking for hours and days, being left by smugglers in the middle of nowhere, walking in the snow or under the sweltering sun, and having to leave their belongings en route to carry children and elderly on their backs when they could no longer walk.</p><p><img alt="Bekaa Valley informal refugee settlement in winter. Credit: Sam Tarling/Oxfam, January 2016" title="Bekaa Valley informal refugee settlement in winter. Credit: Sam Tarling/Oxfam, January 2016" height="826" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/96374lpr-camp-bekaa-valley-snow-1240.jpg" /></p><p><strong>They went through the "mountain" looking for safety</strong> from the bombings, the shelling and the airstrikes. There are neither bombings nor shelling nor airstrikes where they are now… but they have still not found safety!</p><p>The rampant fear and the deteriorating living conditions are obstacles that prevent them from feeling safe. Their inability to meet their basic needs, obtain legal statuses and avoid arrests, deprive them from the sense of safety they are longing for.</p><p><strong>Though this came as no surprise to me</strong>, experiencing it along with the refugees who volunteered to participate in the research shifted my perspective. They explained to me the range of factors they had to worry about. If they leave home, they have to worry about the checkpoints. If they stay home they have to worry about raids. If they find a job they have to worry about inspectors along with different forms of exploitation. If they don’t find a job they have to worry about meeting their families’ basic needs.<br><br><strong>In their own words, their quest to find safety</strong> is costing them their dignity: ‘When you are displaced you start ignoring your dignity to find safety’. When an older Lebanese woman made the aforementioned statement, she summarized everything the refugees were trying to tell me in one sentence. The times may have changed, but the experience of displacement remains the same.<br><br>Despite the dire conditions and the lack of better prospects, Ahmad told me ‘We won’t lose hope’. Ahmad is a 22 year old Syrian refugee from Homs. He fled his hometown at the very beginning of the war. He had always dreamt of becoming a Computer Engineer. Although his dreams have not unfolded so far, he is striving to achieve the best given the current circumstances. He says: "Even if you are a refugee, you must have a message, a mission. I want to serve my country, my people. I hope I can spread a positive message."</p><p>People like Ahmad are what keeps me going, that much I know!</p><p><img alt="Ahmed&#039;s house in Syria." title="Ahmed&#039;s house in Syria." height="472" width="627" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/ahmad-house.jpg" /><br><br>As part of our research we invited participants to take photos. This photo was taken by Ahmad (of his former home), as it reminds him of his past. I sometimes tend to forget that Ahmad was not a refugee before 2013 and that he led a different life.</p><p>This photo is my constant reminder.<br><br><em>This entry posted by Nour Shawaf, Protection Research and Policy Advisor for Oxfam in Lebanon, on 21 June 2017. Originally published <a href="https://views-voices.oxfam.org.uk/humanitarian/refugees-idps/2017/06/listening-refugees-i-know-nothing/" rel="nofollow">here</a>.<br></em></p><p><em>Photos:</em></p><ul><li><em><em>A portrait of Jemaa Al Halayal and his two-year-old daughter, Lebanon. Credit: Sam Tarling/Oxfam, September 2015</em></em></li><li><em><em>Bekaa Valley informal refugee settlement in winter. Credit: Sam Tarling/Oxfam, January 2016</em></em></li></ul><h3>What you can do now<em><br></em></h3><p><strong>Download <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp-still-looking-for-safety-refugees-syria-200617-en.pdf" rel="nofollow">Still Looking for Safety: Voices of refugees from Syria on solutions for the present and future</a></strong><br><strong>Read more about <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/crisis-syria" rel="nofollow">Oxfam's Syria crisis response</a></strong><br><strong>Join the movement to <a href="https://actions.oxfam.org/international/stand-as-one/petition/" rel="nofollow">Stand As One with those fleeing conflict and violence</a></strong></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Searching for safety: lessons from Syria&#039;s refugees</h2></div> Wed, 21 Jun 2017 10:54:31 +0000 Guest Blogger 81119 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-06-21-searching-safety-lessons-syrias-refugees#comments Dear Family: Refugees in Greece write to their loved ones http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-06-19-world-refugee-day-love-letters-people-stranded-greece <div class="field field-name-body"><p><strong>Forced migration separates families</strong>. It wrenches children from their parents and grandparents, separates siblings, forces partners to live apart, and destroys extended family networks. During the past months Oxfam has interviewed people that have been stranded in Greece and asked them to share their experiences during their perilous journeys to Europe and the separation from their family.</p><p><strong>The right to family life</strong> and the <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp-greece-family-unity-190617-en.pdf" rel="nofollow">protection of the family</a> is a shared value that cuts across cultures.</p><p>People who were separated from their family told us about the severe implications of separation in their lives, and wrote letters to their loved ones in other EU member states.</p><p></p><h3><img alt="Abdul from Herat, Afghanistan. Credit: Felipe Jacome/Oxfam" title="Abdul from Herat, Afghanistan. Credit: Felipe Jacome/Oxfam" height="412" width="300" style="float: right;" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/abdul-300.jpg" />Abdul from Afghanistan</h3><p>Abdul from Herat, Afghanistan hopes to reunite with his wife and son in Germany. He wrote a heart-warming letter to them, while he waits for his family reunification request to be processed in Epirus.<br><br>“Greetings to my wife Zahra Ahmadi and to my dear son Mohamad Taha Jan that are now in the city of Hamburg, Germany.</p><p>"I hope both of you are in good health and spirit. I hope one day I will be next to you and once again we live together. May God protect both of you.<br><br>With respect,<br>Abdul Algafar Ahmadi”</p><p></p><hr><p></p><h3><img alt="Afrin, from Northern Syria. Credit: Felipe Jacome/Oxfam" title="Afrin, from Northern Syria. Credit: Felipe Jacome/Oxfam" height="414" width="300" style="float: left;" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/najat-300.jpg" />Najat from Syria</h3><p>Najat fled with only a few members of her family from the town of Afrin, Northern Syria and she now lives in Epirus, in Greece.</p><p>She hopes to reunite with her oldest son who arrived in Germany in 2016. Her letter reads:</p><p>“My dear son Mohannad, how are you? How is your health?</p><p>"I am your mother in Greece. Thank God that we are OK, nothing is missing, except seeing you and your brothers.</p><p>"How’s your health, and everything else? Let me know about yourself."</p><p></p><hr><h3><br><img alt="Hazem, a 20-year-old Syrian asylum seeker who lives in Greece. Credit: Felipe Jacome/Oxfam " title="Hazem, a 20-year-old Syrian asylum seeker who lives in Greece. Credit: Felipe Jacome/Oxfam " height="450" width="300" style="float: right; margin: 0px 0px 10px 10px;" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/img_9566-hazem-300.jpg" />Hazem from Syria</h3><p>“Hi, I am Hazem, I hope you haven’t forgotten me yet.”</p><p>Hazem, a 20-year-old Syrian asylum seeker who lives in Greece, shared his feelings about the separation of his family, and sends a powerful message to European governments:<br><br>“I am almost 20 and I live in an apartment in Ioannina, working as an interpreter/cultural mediator for an NGO called Terre des Hommes. My main work is in the community center of Ioannina.&nbsp; […] I am in touch with my family, my mum, who has stayed with my little brother back in Syria, my brothers, who are in Germany, and my sister, who lives in a camp in Konitsa. I haven’t seen my brothers for two years and my mum for almost 1 year and a half. […] My mum and my brother are still in Syria. We couldn’t find a way for them to join us in Europe or even to be in a safe site [in Syria]. Now, they are a bit safe because of the ceasefire in Idlib […] But anyway, this is not a permanent solution, it is a painkiller!!</p><p>"Honestly, I miss my mum the most, I miss her hugs, her presence inside our home, her delicious food, and everything related to her. I am still stuck in Greece having a sharp desire to continue my studies in medicine which were interrupted due to conflict and study also about cultures and religions, how they affect each other, and how to approach people from different backgrounds. […] I want to take the next step and learn a new language and integrate with the society. […] It is still hard to feel stable. I am worried about the rest of my family and this is a sharp challenge. Regarding that, I have something to say to the European governments: We are still human, please, support the family reunification more and give it more importance […]. Because people are suffering from family dispersion and I am one of them. […]”</p><hr><p>The EU, and its member states, are failing to protect the right to family life for migrants, including refugees, as Oxfam’s new policy brief ‘<a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/dear-family-how-european-migration-policies-are-keeping-families-apart" rel="nofollow">Dear Family</a>’ showcases. Their policies and practices are tearing families apart, forcing them to continue living apart after being separated during displacement and exposing people to risks.</p><p><strong>How will the EU respond to Hazem and so many others like him?</strong></p><p><em>Since January 2015 more than 1 million women and men fleeing war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty entered or passed through Greece in search of safety and a better life in Europe. Oxfam is working in Athens, Lesbos Island and the Epirus region of North-West Greece, responding to the urgent needs of people arriving.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/refugee-and-migrant-crisis/greece%20" rel="nofollow">Please support our work</a>.</em><br><br><em>This entry posted by Angeliki-Nika, Advocacy Officer, Oxfam in Greece, on 19 June 2017.</em></p><ul><li><em>All b&amp;w photos: credit <em>Felipe Jacome/Oxfam</em></em></li><li><em><em></em></em><em>Top photo: Samia lives with her husband and three of her children in Filippiada site, and her husband is very sick. She is hoping to be reunited with her other two children who are in Germany. She hasn’t seen her son now for two years and her daughter for 6 months. Credit: Felipe Jacome/Oxfam</em></li><li><em>Hazem was <a href="https://www.oxfamnovib.nl/dit-doen-wij/over-oxfam-novib/ambassadeurs/ariane-schluter" rel="nofollow">interviewed previously by Oxfam Novib</a> (in Dutch). Photo credit: Angelos Sioulas/Oxfam<br></em></li></ul><h3>What you can do now</h3><p><strong>Read the Oxfam report: <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp-greece-family-unity-190617-en.pdf" rel="nofollow">Dear Family: How European migration policies are keeping families apart</a></strong></p><p><strong>Learn more about <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/refugee-and-migrant-crisis/greece%20" rel="nofollow">Oxfam’s response in Greece</a></strong></p><p><strong>Join the global movement to <a href="https://actions.oxfam.org/international/stand-as-one/petition/" rel="nofollow">push Governments on helping refugees and migrants</a><br></strong></p><p><strong>Read more blogs on <a href="https://blogs.oxfam.org/en/tags/greece">Oxfam helping refugees and migrants in Greece</a></strong></p><p><br><br><br></p><p></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Dear Family: Refugees in Greece write to their loved ones</h2></div> Mon, 19 Jun 2017 13:21:33 +0000 Angeliki Nika 81106 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-06-19-world-refugee-day-love-letters-people-stranded-greece#comments Helping migrants adjust to a new life in Greece http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-06-05-helping-migrants-adjust-new-life-greece <div class="field field-name-body"><p><strong>The story of a “stone soup” helps children open their hearts and accept their differences.</strong></p><p>Sunday morning: A cafeteria in the center of Ioannina - in the north-western region of Greece - is open and the tables are already set in a circle in the yard. The first people to arrive are a storyteller – with a suitcase full of materials, colors, and stories - an Arabic speaking cultural mediator, and some ARSIS staff.</p><h3>Who is ARSIS? And why the storyteller?</h3><p><a href="http://arsis.gr/en/" rel="nofollow">ARSIS</a>, is one of Oxfam’s partners working with refugees and migrants in Epirus. We provide safe spaces for men, women and children, as well as psychosocial activities.</p><p>Over the past several months ARSIS has expanded its programs to focus on the engagement between the different migrant communities and the local communities, including through activities for children. These activities are aimed at empowering both communities, cultivating autonomy and socialization, as well as building familiarity for migrants with the societies they live in.</p><p>Although migrants face many challenges, such as the language barrier or the different cultural background, feedback that ARSIS and Oxfam receive is that these activities have a positive impact on both the migrant and local Greek community. On the one hand, refugees and migrants are keen on participating and sometimes they even propose different activities and, on the other hand, local people tend to be open-minded and curious to meet and interact with different people. Of course, our experience with children of different nationalities shows that in childhood, using different kinds of communication (e.g. body language) is best-suited.</p><h3>A 'soup' of stones</h3><p>Back to the cafeteria…</p><p>Time goes by, the sun is brighter and everybody stops talking and starts getting together to listen to children laughing. More time goes by and the yard is full of children and adults, including parents and caregivers, and of course a lot of smiles!`</p><p><strong>The storyteller starts narrating</strong> with a warm and theatrical voice. Although she is Greek, the narration is not only in Greek, but also in Arabic and English, as the listeners are Greek, Syrian, Kurdish, Spanish and English. The fairytale gets livelier and the storyteller asks the audience for help and all of them – independent of their nationality - are more than eager to help.</p><p>First, the story indicates that the audience has to make a “soup of stones” so people really try to find stones! Then, the story indicates that the soup needs vegetables. Everyone tries to remember the different kinds of vegetables that exist and find suitable vegetables for the soup.&nbsp; They then put the imaginary ingredients in the pot, independently of how they call it, for example “carrot”, ” جزر“ or “καρότο” etc. And after that, the story indicates that everyone has to help in stirring, as the pot is big and full of imaginary soup! And everyone stirs!</p><h3>Accepting our differences</h3><p>When the soup is ready, the participants call everyone to “taste” it. The story now indicates that everyone is able to open their heart and accept differences, just like the soup “accepted” every ingredient, every stir and everyone’s help.</p><p>On that day, before the yard got empty again, the children got colors and drew on stones, which they offered to each other. Observing the whole procedure, the interaction process was the best part. The image of children of different nationalities interacting with each other, using words in English or Greek or even body language, was the most valuable experience of the day, teaching us that language is not a barrier if you do not allow it to be.</p><p>The image of children drawing all together, expressing themselves and exchanging their art was a reminder that playing is a right of every child, independently of their characteristics and background. And of course, the confirmation of a successful day, filled with loads of creativity and fun, was the children’s smiley faces on their way out! Oh, those big smiles!</p><p><em>Oxfam’s program in Epirus is funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (<a href="http://ec.europa.eu/echo/" rel="nofollow">ECHO</a>).</em></p><p><em>This entry contributed on 5 June 2017, by:</em></p><ul><li><em>Eleftheria Mitrogiorgou, Educator/CFS facilitator, ARSIS-Association for the Social Support of Youth</em></li><li><em>Panoraia Grimpavioti, Educator/CFS facilitator, ARSIS-Association for the Social Support of Youth</em></li><li><em>Vassilis Ladias, Educator/CFS facilitator, ARSIS-Association for the Social Support of Youth</em></li></ul><p><em>Photos:</em></p><ul><li><em>Storytelling helps migrants adjust to a new life in Greece. Credit: ARSIS/Oxfam</em></li><li><em></em><em>The "soup of stones" story. Credit: ARSIS/Oxfam</em></li></ul><h3>Read more:</h3><p><strong>More on <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/refugee-and-migrant-crisis/greece" rel="nofollow">Oxfam's humanitarian response in Greece</a></strong></p><p><strong>More blogs on <a href="https://blogs.oxfam.org/en/search/node/migrants">migrants</a> and <a href="https://blogs.oxfam.org/en/search/node/refugees">refugees</a></strong></p><p><strong>More than 65 million people around the world are now officially displaced from their homes by conflict, violence and persecution - donate now to help</strong></p><p></p><p></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Helping migrants adjust to a new life in Greece</h2></div> Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:47:09 +0000 Guest Blogger 81096 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-06-05-helping-migrants-adjust-new-life-greece#comments Three ways cash is king for asylum seekers in Greece http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-04-10-three-ways-cash-helps-asylum-seekers-greece <div class="field field-name-body"><p><em>This entry posted by Stefania Imperia, Cash Program Officer, Oxfam in Greece, on 10 April 2017.</em></p><p>With tens of thousands of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece for an undefined period, providing cash grants to asylum seekers living in the Epirus region of north-west Greece may represent not only an efficient and dignified means to provide humanitarian assistance – but also an outlet to flexibility, empowerment and autonomy. I asked myself if this idea of an opportunity for a ‘normal life’ was equally felt by asylum seekers or was mainly a perception of humanitarians. What would cash assistance mean in practice for asylum seekers looking to rebuild their lives?</p><p>Since December 2016 Oxfam has been distributing pre-paid cards to hundreds of asylum seekers by implementing a Cash program funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (<a href="http://ec.europa.eu/echo/" rel="nofollow">ECHO</a>).</p><p>Although the program has been running across 15 sites in Epirus, common aspects quickly emerged allowing me to establish at least three true facts:</p><p><strong>1) Cash assistance can be a learning experience and an example of cooperation.</strong></p><p>In the previous months most beneficiaries, supported by Oxfam or other humanitarian aid agencies, had already experienced the cash distribution process either in Epirus or in other areas of Greece. Instructions and guidance material by Oxfam staff on how to use the pre-paid cards on the ATMs were important, but the exchange of information and support between asylum seekers who had learned to navigate the system and the newly arrived ones was equally essential.</p><p>As some of the most critical aspects started to emerge, cooperation and solidarity among the beneficiaries proved to be vital: from being physically present on the days that Oxfam was carrying out registration, verification and distribution processes, to being able to read the pin of the pre-paid cards correctly. The community would often help to ensure that everyone was present in the site so they wouldn’t miss the distribution or support staff in the process by asking others to queue in line so distributions could be safe and orderly. Many of the beneficiaries trusted each other for advice or support in taking money out, making cash assistance a tangible example of mutual help and cooperation when responding to a humanitarian crisis.</p><p><strong>2) Cash allows people to ‘help themselves’</strong></p><p>On the receiving end, cash assistance proved to be one concrete way for people to become more resilient. Having access to a monthly income allows people to prioritise urgent needs and make dignified choices and decisions, while offering some reassurance about their capacity to face possible emergencies. This has positive repercussions on their physical and mental health, and it is not difficult to imagine why. Having access to money means that people can buy their own food and clothes for example, as opposed to receiving handouts which can create negative dependencies on aid, and it also helps people move around by enabling them to use public transport, buy calling cards to call their loved ones in other European countries or access doctors to address their medical needs, such as dental care or physiotherapy.</p><p><strong>3) Cash assistance is a first step to ‘integration’</strong></p><p>Receiving cash assistance also means being able to go out into the centre of towns and villages and into shops, meeting locals and interacting with them. This is the first step to the integration process, offering an opportunity for exchange and interaction between asylum seekers and local communities on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.</p><p>“I am looking to merge with the community and to be well-integrated … cash helps us have to a normal life”. Hazem, Syrian, 19 years old.</p><p>Asylum seekers often feel like their lives are on hold until they receive a decision on their asylum claims. This means waiting to know they will be safe, waiting to be able to support themselves and their families with a job, waiting to invest in friendships that will last. Cash assistance is one empowering way for them to live their lives now, today, giving people a chance to choose what they need, to use their own voice to ask for it and to be part of the society they live in. This all happens by simply changing the way people are being supported during an emergency, and although it is not a long term ‘solution’ to their state of limbo, it is much closer to an outlet to a more ‘normal life’ for thousands of people in need of protection today.</p><p><img alt="Cash assistance allows people to rebuild their lives. Photo: Angelos Sioulas" title="Cash assistance allows people to rebuild their lives. Photo: Angelos Sioulas" height="680" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/credits-angelos-sioulas-cash-3-1240.jpg" /></p><p><strong>Oxfam is there</strong></p><p>Since December 2016 Oxfam provides Cash grants (pre-paid cards) to asylum seekers living in the Epirus region of north-west Greece, to help them cover some of their basic needs with greater flexibility, dignity and autonomy.</p><p>In general, provision of Cash transfers provides an opportunity for the beneficiaries to choose what they need and want, instead of pre-defined handouts of items or food defined by humanitarian organizations. Such rightful return of meal consumption control enables independence and increased self-respect. The availability of Cash gives households a sense of restored power over their immediate situation. In addition, there is evidence that receiving Cash may empower women within the household. Families or households are able to plan and prioritise, and in particular meet the needs of children.</p><p>In parallel, the injection of Cash through the distribution of financial assistance has a multiplier effect on the local economy in comparison to in-kind distributions. Through the provision of financial assistance, humanitarian organizations, like Oxfam, can support asylum seekers in Greece, while enabling a secondary outcome of improving the economic situation of the host community.</p><p><em>This Cash program is funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (<a href="http://ec.europa.eu/echo/" rel="nofollow">ECHO</a>).</em></p><p><strong>What you can do now</strong></p><p><strong><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/refugee-and-migrant-crisis" rel="nofollow">Support Oxfam's humanitarian response to the migrant/refugee crisis</a><br></strong></p><p><em>This entry posted by Stefania Imperia, Cash Program Officer, Oxfam in Greece, on 10 April 2017.</em></p><p><em>All photos:&nbsp;Oxfam/ECHO cash assistance allows people to rebuild their lives. Credit: Angelos Sioulas</em> <br><br></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Three ways cash is king for asylum seekers in Greece</h2></div> Mon, 10 Apr 2017 17:41:09 +0000 Stefania Imperia 81012 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-04-10-three-ways-cash-helps-asylum-seekers-greece#comments Kenya ruling against the closure of Daadab refugee camp is a strike for humanity http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-02-17-kenya-ruling-against-closure-daadab-refugee-camp-strike-humanity <div class="field field-name-body"><p>Last week Kenya’s High Court <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-38917681" rel="nofollow">upheld refugee rights</a> rooted in regional and international law and declared null and void the government's bid to close Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world. <br><br>At a time when the number of refugees and displaced people has reached the <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/latest/2016/6/5763b65a4/global-forced-displacement-hits-record-high.html" rel="nofollow">highest levels ever recorded in history</a>, and many governments seem to be turning their backs to people fleeing conflict and disaster, this decision of the Kenyan High Court is all the more an act of courage, bravery and humanity; it is also a victory for the people of Dadaab and all refugees – although a temporary one, since the Government of Kenya may appeal against the ruling. <br><br>However, we need to look beyond Dadaab at the root causes of displacement in the East Africa region which is currently home to a number of humanitarian crisis: <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/crisis-south-sudan" rel="nofollow">3 million South Sudanese</a> have been forced to leave their homes by war and many are refugees in Kenya; 15 million people in Somalia and Ethiopia are suffering through <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/ethiopia-food-crisis" rel="nofollow">one of the most devastating droughts</a> in recent years; and over <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/burundi/burundian-refugees-find-safety-tanzania-also-new-challenges" rel="nofollow">300,000 Burundians</a> have had to flee their country because of violence and persecution.</p><p><img alt="Aerial view of the world&#039;s largest refugee settlement, Dadaab. Credit: Andy Hall/Oxfam" title="Aerial view of the world&#039;s largest refugee settlement, Dadaab. Credit: Andy Hall/Oxfam" height="680" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/dadaab-andy-hall-1240x680_0.jpg" /></p><p>In Kenya, we can't afford to ignore these crises or shy away from them - nor can the international community. The only realistic approach to closing Dadaab and other refugee camps is to tackle the root causes of the crises that force people to flee their homes, and to support refugees so that they can achieve the safe, dignified and healthy future that they are prepared, quite literally, to die for.</p><p><strong>Kenya is geographically placed right at the centre of these crises.</strong> As the biggest economic and political player in the region, it has a responsibility, as well as an opportunity for leadership, in the development of 21st century responses for refugees. Refugees residing in Dadaab camp and other host communities around the world often desire nothing more than to return home, and they should be seen as partners in the development of innovative plans affecting their futures.</p><p><strong><img alt="Brick buildings in IFO2, built to replace plastic sheeting shelters which had worn out. Credit: Jo Harrison/Oxfam" title="Brick buildings in IFO2, built to replace plastic sheeting shelters which had worn out. Credit: Jo Harrison/Oxfam" height="680" width="1240" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/72958lpr-brick-buildings-1240_0.jpg" /></strong></p><p>For decades the government and people of Kenya have provided refuge to hundreds of thousands of people. They should be proud of their generosity and hospitality. And now, as unprecedented numbers of people continue to run from conflict, disasters, and persecution amid a rising tide of backlash against them, it is critical that traditional stalwarts of refugee rights, including Kenya, maintain policies that protect them.</p><p>The High Court’s land mark decision provides an opportunity to renew this commitment.</p><p><em>This entry posted by Serena Tremonti, Oxfam Media Officer, on 17 February 2017.</em></p><p><em>Photos:</em></p><ul><li><em>Men building latrine slabs for family toilets, paid by Oxfam. Credit: Jo Harrison/Oxfam, June 2012</em></li><li><em>An aerial view of the world's largest refugee settlement, Dadaab. Credit: Andy Hall/Oxfam, November 2011</em></li><li><em>Brick buildings in IFO2, built to replace plastic sheeting shelters which had worn out. Credit: Jo Harrison/Oxfam, June 2012</em></li></ul><h3>What you can do now</h3><ul><li><a href="http://oxf.am/ZBsN" rel="nofollow"><strong>Stand with families forced to flee their homes from conflict</strong></a></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/emergency-response/burundi-refugee-crisis" rel="nofollow">Support Oxfam's humanitarian response to the Burundi refugee crisis</a><br></strong></li></ul></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Kenya ruling against the closure of Daadab refugee camp is a strike for humanity</h2></div> Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:43:40 +0000 Guest Blogger 80939 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/17-02-17-kenya-ruling-against-closure-daadab-refugee-camp-strike-humanity#comments