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Posts Tagged ‘United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’

Managing the Influx of Vulnerable Ethiopian Migrants Returning from Saudi Arabia

Posted by African Press International on December 4, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 3, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Government of Ethiopia are working together to manage the influx of vulnerable Ethiopian migrants returning from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Ethiopia’s Bole International Airport receives an average of 7,000 migrants every day, as the Ethiopian government works around the clock to facilitate organized movement of its citizens from Saudi Arabia. Over 75,000 migrants have returned to Ethiopia since the operation began on 13 November 2013.

Out of the migrants that have arrived to date, 47,479 are men, 25,000 are women and 3,391 are children. 51,000 migrants are still expected to arrive in Addis Ababa in an exercise that the government estimates will be completed by 15 December.

IOM is facilitating airport reception, registration and transportation from the airport to the Transit Centres and onward to the bus station. For their transport home, IOM is providing $50 bus fare. Water and high energy biscuits are also given to the migrants at the airport reception and meals, water and high energy biscuits are provided at the Transit Centres. IOM has set up clinics at the airport where the arriving migrants can receive medical assistance. The arriving migrants have been treated for Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, Trauma, Urinary Tract Infections, pneumonia, dyspepsia and coughs. In collaboration with the Ethiopian Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ambulances are on standby to transfer patients that may need specialized medical attention.

The Ethiopian government has dedicated seven Transit Centres with a carrying capacity of 6,000 individuals in the capital Addis Ababa. In addition, the World Food Programme has provided seven tents that are used for accommodation. Migrants who arrive in the evening are hosted in these Transit Centres overnight and allowed to go home in the morning. Migrants who arrive during the day are allowed to get a bus home. This ensures that the Transit Centres have room to accommodate new arrivals.

Unaccompanied minors are temporarily hosted at the IOM Transit Centre in Addis Ababa as efforts are made to trace their families. In coordination with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), IOM is assisting in family tracing and re-unifying the minors with their families. The unaccompanied minors are transported to their areas of origin in the company of a social worker and handed over to their parents or guardians.

IOM has set up clinics within these reception centres and migrants who need medical attention are able to readily access it. The clinics are supported by five IOM doctors and 17 nurses including some medical personnel from the Ministry of Health. Psychosocial counselors have also been availed at the Transit Centres for migrants in need of counseling.

In support of the IOM and government initiatives, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has donated non-food items worth $100,000 for use at the Transit Centres. The IRC has also donated NFIs worth $60,000.

Thousands of irregular migrant workers have reportedly been arrested and deported after the expiry of an amnesty period during which the workers were allowed to legalize their status. The measure prompted an exodus of over 1 million foreigners.

 

SOURCE

International Office of Migration (IOM)

 

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Somali refugees to return home voluntarily from Kenya

Posted by African Press International on November 13, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 11, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Nearly half a million registered Somali refugees in Kenya will get support when they return to their homeland in an orderly fashion — if they choose to do so — under an agreement signed Sunday by the UN refugee agency and the governments of Kenya and Somalia.

“It’s very important to underline that no one is forcing Somalis to leave Kenya,” said Raouf Mazou, UNHCR’s representative in Kenya.

“The government and people of Kenya have tirelessly provided protection and assistance to Somali refugees for two decades. The agreement we signed on Sunday does not mean Kenya is no longer willing to do so.”

The agreement, known formally as a Tripartite Agreement, establishes a legal framework and other support for Somali refugees in Kenya who might eventually wish to return to their homeland. It defines the roles and responsibilities of the three parties in accordance with international standards.

“Among other things, this means any refugee has the right to choose whether to go home, after they have been given information about conditions on the ground in Somalia so they can make an informed decision,” Mazou added. “It also means returns should be conducted in safety and dignity.”

In the five camps that make up the Dadaab refugee camp complex in north-eastern Kenya, there are more than 388,000 Somali refugees. There are 54,000 Somali refugees in Kakuma camp in north-western Kenya and 32,500 living in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, for a precise total of 474,483.

UN High Commissioner António Guterres, on a visit to Somalia earlier this year, acknowledged that Somali refugees are already voting with their feet and returning home by themselves to areas they deem safe. He said it would be inconceivable for refugees themselves to decide to go home and UNHCR not be there to assist them. For this reason, the Tripartite Agreement adopted an incremental approach to repatriation, starting with the provision of support to refugees who return on their own, leading to formal returns organized by UNHCR whenever conditions are right.

“This also means the agreement acknowledges the need for continued protection of Somali refugees in Kenya, and the need for other durable solutions to their plight,” Mazou said.

Signing of this agreement became possible after formation of the Federal Government of the Republic of Somalia in August 2012 that allowed for open dialogue to gradually find solutions to Somali displacement. Consolidating peace in Somalia is challenging and the situation in parts of the country remains fragile. The process, however, is moving in the right direction and there are positive signs paving the way for solutions to displacement.

“We ask the international community to support efforts towards the creation of conditions conducive for safe and dignified voluntary return to Somalia,” said Alessandra Morelli, UNHCR representative for Somalia based in Mogadishu. “No one wants to see refugees go home and have to flee again, or become displaced inside Somalia” She added that:

“UNHCR will work closely with the donor community and development actors to ensure sustainable reintegration in areas of return.”

 

SOURCE

United NationsOffice of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

 

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Sri Lanka: Subair and his family call their home of more than 20 years “temporary”

Posted by African Press International on November 5, 2013

Subair and his family call their home of more than 20 years “temporary”

COLOMBO/BATTICALOA,  – Years after fighting ended in Sri Lanka – up to more than 20 years for some – tens of thousands of people are still unable to return to their homes, a situation researchers say is unlikely to change soon.

recent report by the Colombo-based advocacy body Centre for Policy Alternatives in 2013 estimated that at least 94,400 “protracted” internally displaced persons (IDPs) who come mostly from minority Tamil and Muslim communities displaced by conflict, have not been able to return in a “meaningful” and “sustainable” way to their home villages.

Report author Mirak Raheem said the number may be higher due to the complex nature of protracted displacement where family members born in displacement have swelled the numbers of original IDPs.

The northwestern district of Puttalam is home to some 75,000 Muslims forced out of the Northern Province in 1990 by ethnic Tamil rebels who feared their rising political power.

Despite their large numbers, long-term IDPs – and their families – have received less attention than more recent displacements, Raheem said.

“There were and still are strong perceptions that the issue of protracted IDPs was not urgent and that they had found a solution… through settling in their place of displacement,” he told IRIN.

According to Raheem and researchers who worked on a report about the expulsion of Muslims published in November 2011, despite years of living with host communities, protracted IDPs still find themselves marginalized and bereft of assistance.

“Most of us still find it difficult to get a proper job, a proper government document, even 25 years since coming here,” said Abdul Matheen, a community leader working with Muslim IDPs in Puttalam. He fled his native Jaffna in October 1990.

Empty villages

In the eastern town of Valechchenei, Batticaloa District, Nahoor Lebbe Subair, a 36-year-old day labourer, said he struggles to provide for his family of six, including four school-aged children.

Displaced from his village, Vakaneri, in 1990 – just 4km from where he now lives – Subair said he and 25 other families cannot return because of lack of infrastructure back home.

“There is no water, schools or electricity there. Here we eat once to twice daily. Sometimes we just go hungry,” Subair said. He makes US$4-$4.50 on days he can find work, but says he needs $4.50 for food alone. To make ends meet he has borrowed heavily from relatives and neighbours.

“The only collateral we have is trust,” he said.

The nearby village of Jabbar Thidaval (Vakaneri Division) is largely empty of the 1,500 families (Tamils and Muslims) who fled violence in the late 1990s.

Former resident Islama Lebbe Mohamed Musthafa, 50, told IRIN residents’ land deeds were not honoured.

“We went back in 2002 and by 2004 had eviction notices on our doors.” Two families have unofficially resettled.

Government response

Piencia Charles, the top government official in Batticaloa District, which includes the above villages, told IRIN she has instructed village level officials to collect all relevant data on the displaced who are still unable to return.

She acknowledged there have been “complications” in recognizing returnees’ land deeds. “Some don’t have deeds, but have voter registrations. In other cases there is a deed, but someone else is living on the land and registered as a voter,” Charles said.

“Once we collect the data [on the displaced], maybe by early next year, then we will decide what we can do to resettle these people. We might have to set up a special land unit to [examine and settle disagreements over] the deeds and other documentation,” she added.

Government officials in Northern Province said there are no “special” plans for protracted IDPs, but that anyone returning to their villages can apply for housing and other assistance once they prove displacement, said Rupvathi Ketheeswaran, the top government official in the northern district of Kilinochchi.

Up until late 2012 IDPs received $200 worth of supplies when they returned to their villages. This has been discontinued, since officially there are no more IDPs. For housing, the maximum grant financed by the Indian government is 550,000 rupees ($4,200) for full construction and Rs 225,000 for repair ($1,700).

With donor funding in the north and northeast dwindling, Raheem said, the situation for those like Subair may worsen.

“Donor financial support has played a crucial role in humanitarian work and now it will be incumbent on the government to fill the gap.”

Three successive appeals by the UN and Sri Lankan government for reconstruction work in the former conflict zone have run into shortfalls of over $430 million since 2010. The next appeal is expected in early 2014.

A survey by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in June conducted in six northern districts found that over a quarter of the 990 families interviewed said they were still not able to access their own land, primarily due to military occupation, a grievance the military has questioned.

“The Armed Forces are very sensitive to the issue of land as we understand very clearly that it is a matter that affects the population sentiments. We will not hold on to any land that is not required to safeguard national security interests,” military spokesperson Ruwan Wanigasooriya wrote in a recent note sent to journalists.

UNHCR also reported 32 percent of surveyed people living in their pre-war homes, 57 percent in transitional or emergency shelters, while the remainder were with host families.

Report author Raheem said the government can ease difficulties for the still-displaced by streamlining the issuance of new legal documents, to help them prove land ownership, for example.

The national government maintains there are no longer any IDPs since the country’s largest IDP camp closed in September 2012, a claim community workers – and the 1983-2009 war-affected themselves – strongly dispute.

“It’s a lie. Who are we?” asked Subair, speaking from Valechchenei.

ap/pt/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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A city in the making? Refugee governance presents ethical dilemmas

Posted by African Press International on November 4, 2013

A city in the making?

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Camp to be divided into 12 districts
  • Traditional leaders to take the helm
  • Opposition to UNHCR governance plans
  • Refugee governance presents ethical dilemmas

ZA’ATARI,  – “It has become very quiet”, says Kilian Kleinschmidt about recent months in Jordan’s Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees.

As the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) manager for the camp, which has now become the fourth largest population centre in Jordan, he has been tasked with bringing order to life here.

More than a year after the camp’s founding in July 2012, Kleinschmidt describes it as a settlement slowly transforming into something much more permanent.

But this transformation has consequences. One of the demands of an increasingly long-term operation is a greater focus by UNHCR on the camp’s governance – a sensitive area at the crossroads of politics and humanitarian relief.

Kleinschmidt has extensive plans for a governance structure: 12 districts with a variety of committees, assigned administration and humanitarian personnel per district, and a central administration headed by a Jordanian deputy governor.

“Traditional leaders” who have emerged from within the camp and are trusted by UNHCR and the Jordanian authorities may be integrated into some sort of representative camp committee.

But these plans have been met with fierce opposition by various self-appointed street leaders in Za’atari, who have long profited from the disorder and built their own power bases.

The clash highlights the challenge of trying to introduce governance structures to a refugee camp from above when there has already been something – unhealthy as it may be – forming at the grassroots.

Putting down roots

Size and time can present major challenges to UNHCR in managing camps, French anthropologist Michel Agier suggests in his critical book Managing the Undesirables: Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Government. As soon as the camps last beyond the emergency phase, they transform into spaces with which people begin to identify.

“In effect, while developing in material terms, and to a degree also economically, the refugee camps form themselves into social and political milieus,” Agier writes. He describes the “permanent paradox”, a life of refugees in camps “between an indefinite temporality and a space that is transformed because its occupants necessarily appropriate it in order to live in it.”

This is certainly the case in Za’atari.

“Some time ago, we had no idea who is who in the camp. There were protests and fights all the time,” Kleinschmidt explains, leaning back in his chair in the shadow of an awning between the containers of the so-called base camp, where humanitarian agencies have set up their offices. Now his focus is more on long-term administration and his plans to establish an all-encompassing electric grid in the camp, as well as a network of public transportation.

“In the end, what we see here is a temporary city in the making,” he says.

In the Sham-Élysées – the shopping street in the camp, named after the Champs-Élysées in Paris and a pun on the popular name for Syria: `al-Sham’ – businesses run into the wee hours of the night.

A young Syrian named Qassem proudly presents the construction site of his “shopping center”, comprising five white pre-fabricated containers, or “pre-fabs”. Soon it should be selling imported goods from Syria, he explains.

Some refugees have built themselves “mansions” by grouping together several pre-fabs, while one has even opened an improvised swimming pool to which he asks entry fees.

As Za’atari transforms from a hasty emergency response into a more permanent settlement, with no clear end on the horizon, many new challenges are surfacing for the camp’s management, among them politics and crime-control. The need for sustainable governance has become all the more clear.

Good and bad leaders

According to Liisa Malkki, an expert on refugee camps and an associate professor of anthropology at Stanford University, while old power structures often remain relevant, refugee settings also create opportunities for new people to become influential.

Some so-called street leaders have used the smuggling of humanitarian goods, and even amphetamines, to build their power base.

Some achieved authority as rebel leaders in the conflict in Syria, others established themselves by being among the first to arrive in Za’atari. “They came with their men and controlled local business and other things in the camp, often making a profit,” said Kleinschmidt.

Bulldozers are currently digging a deep ditch around the whole camp to clamp down on smuggling, which Kleinschmidt hopes will reduce the influence of some of the street leaders.

“The new leaders will be traditional Syrian authorities, sheikhs, who bring wisdom with them. They don’t need to scream in order to earn the people’s respect.”

Each of Za’tari’s planned 12 districts will accommodate around 10,000 residents. Leaders from each district should be represented in a yet-to-be finalized political structure. In addition, a new initiative funded by the US government will create a neighbourhood watch: out of 1,000 voluntary candidates, about 600 will be chosen in consultation with the “traditional” refugee leadership to patrol the streets, after background checks by the Jordanian police. They will work hand in hand with community police units, supported by Jordanian law, customary rules and camp rules.

These new security forces should “neutralize” and “isolate” the groups that have become instruments of corrupt and criminal structures dominating parts of the camp, whom Kleinschmidt accuses of extortion, theft and smuggling.

“The new leaders will be traditional Syrian authorities, sheikhs, who bring wisdom with them. They don’t need to scream in order to earn the people’s respect.”

One of them is an elderly man named Abu Wael, dressed in an ankle-long white garment, a `thawb’. “I don’t have time today; a delegation from the Jordanian prince is coming,” he said, passing by the base camp, rushing to the important meeting.

According to Kleinschmidt, just the day before, Abu Wael and some other elders sat together in one of the “mansions” in the camp and engaged in traditional conflict resolution, after an unmarried couple was caught sleeping together. They negotiated the matter between the families.

These new leaders should support UNHCR to build up a reliable structure of governance in the camp, while also helping to cut down on crime and delegitimizing the self-made leaders.

But the “old leaders” promise resistance. One of the more powerful leaders among them is Abu Hussein, 49, from the southern Syrian city of Dera’a and a former commander in the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). For most in the camp he is known simply as `Aqed’, the “Colonel”.

The Colonel

From a side street just off Sham-Élysées, a metal door leads to an improvised garden with patches of artificial lawn spread over the sandy ground. It is surrounded by several inter-connected pre-fabs that form the space where Abu Hussein lives with his wife and children.

“I am against everything going wrong here in the camp,” he says, as his wife serves a plate of self-cooked mlehi (meat with yogurt sauce and bread). “Nothing inside this dish is from UNHCR, that’s for sure,” he says. “We don’t want to put anything from them in our pocket.”

The Colonel

Abu Hussein is respected by many in the district he rules. He is often seen walking into the main street at night, where groups of young men are waiting for him. He sends them to patrol side streets in pairs, organizes female guards in community kitchens and keeps everyone “safe”, he boasts. One of his self-assigned duties is to organize workers in the camp. For the few positions available with humanitarian organizations for camp residents, he determines how shifts rotate and who is allowed to fill the positions.

However, Kleinschmidt says many of these “bosses” in the camp are already on their way down.

“They have a chance if they cooperate. Otherwise the Jordanian authorities will deal with them accordingly,” he said.

The new system of governance should decrease the influence of people like Abu Hussein by giving other people in the camp a stronger voice.

Street politics

Abu Hussein oversees an entire district. One notch below him are “street-leaders” who deal with the everyday problems in the camp.

One of them is Abu Asim from the Syrian village of al-Sanamen, in Dera’a Governorate, from where he fled with his family after what he says was a massacre last May. His own house was destroyed by a bomb, he recalls.

Sitting on cushions between two containers, Abu Asim pours sticky tea into his cup and lights a cigarette.

“To be respected in this camp,” he said, “you need to be wise and politically strong.” Via phone calls and personal visits, he solves “all kinds of problems”, like quarrels, water disputes, distribution issues, or broken toilets.

He too has heard about the newly planned committees in the camp. “I think UNHCR has to keep its hands away from politics,” he cautioned.

Humanitarian governance

The power struggles in Za’atari reflect the ethical dilemmas involved in the transformation from humanitarian emergency response to long-term refugee crisis. In his book, Agier writes that refugee camps – and humanitarianism more broadly – have become part of a global system to “manage” what are often seen as “undesirable” refugee populations and separate them from the general public.

“Humanitarian intervention borders on policing,” he writes. “There is no care without control.” This “humanitarian government”, as he calls it, deprives refugees of the practice of citizenship.

Although refugee self-governance always occurs when people live in settlements long enough, the official position of the humanitarian community has long been that such politics do not take place, Malkki, the Stanford researcher, told IRIN.

But Kleinschmidt is different. He has long advocated treating Za’atari like any other city in Jordan. “The humanitarian practice has long been to manage a camp for 20-30 years in more or less the same [short-term] way, instead of building up sustainable service delivery and governance.”

The Ministry of Interior’s Syrian Refugee Camp Directorate did not respond to IRIN’s request for an interview.

However, according to Oraib Rantwai, head of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies in the capital Amman, the Jordanian government has been cautious in accepting any permanent structures being built in Za’atari for fear of angering its local population, which is suffering from strained services as a result of the refugee presence.

“People in Jordan ask themselves: how long will these refugees stay?”

ah/ha/cb/oa  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Legal migration options needed – Migrants have been losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels for years

Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

A boat carrying migrants arrives at the Lampedusa port, escorted by the coastguard (file photo)

JOHANNESBURG,  – Migrants have been losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels for years, but until two weeks ago, their deaths rarely generated headlines. The sheer scale of the tragedy that occurred off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa on 3 October, however, was hard to ignore.

A boat, which disembarked from Libya carrying an estimated 500 Eritrean asylum seekers, was only half a mile from Lampedusa’s coast when it caught fire and capsized. So far, Italian authorities have pulled over 350 bodies from the water.

The disaster has precipitated much discussion about what the European Union (EU) and its members states should be doing to prevent further loss of migrant lives at sea, even as the death toll in the Mediterranean continues to mount, with dozens of Syrian and Palestinian refugees losing their lives on 11 October when another boat capsized between Malta and Lampedusa.

Compared to last year, 2013 has seen a marked increase in the numbers of migrants attempting sea crossings to Italy and Malta. While some 15,000 migrants and asylum seekers reached the two southern Mediterranean countries in 2012, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 32,000 have arrived so far this year. The spike in numbers of migrants using the so-called Central Mediterranean route – which usually involves departures from Libya, but also includes those from Egypt and the Turkish coast – is not unprecedented. Following the collapse of the governments in Tunisia and Libya in 2011, 60,000 migrants used the route, with most of them arriving inLampedusa.

The Italian website Fortress Europe, which tracks migrant deaths, estimates that since 1988, nearly 20,000 people have died trying to penetrate Europe’s borders, the vast majority of them at sea.

Responsibilities unclear

Most of the discussion since the recent tragedies has focused on increasing search-and-rescue capacity. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom proposed that the role of EU border agency Frontex be expanded from the patrols it currently coordinates off the Italian coast to span the entire Mediterranean. Such a move could address the current lack of clarity surrounding which countries are responsible for rescuing boats in distress and where their occupants should disembark. But the six member states with Mediterranean coastlines have already voiced their opposition to a proposed regulation that would govern Frontex-coordinated operations, arguing that international laws already deal with such matters.

“Prospects for it to be adopted soon are quite low,” said Kris Pollet, a senior legal and policy officer with the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). “There’s no real sign that this is going to be a decisive moment.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has just approved a new state-of-the-art border surveillance programme called Eurosur, which will implement a system for monitoring the EU’s external borders and sharing information between various national border security agencies. Eurosur will launch in December and, according to Malmstrom, could also be used to more quickly identify migrant boats in distress.

However, Philip Amaral of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe pointed out that Eurosur has been in the pipeline for several years, long before the recent tragedy in Lampedusa. “The real basis is to tighten borders and prevent irregular migration; there’s a heavy emphasis on the use of satellite imagery and drones,” he told IRIN.

“A byproduct could be that more lives would be saved at sea, but it doesn’t establish clear lines in terms of which countries are responsible for migrant boats in distress. We think it’s a missed opportunity,” he said.

Amaral also lamented the fact that the Eurosur regulation does not include language that would absolve ship masters from criminal responsibility when rescuing migrant boats. “In Italy, they’re very reluctant to rescue ships in distress because they fear, rightly so, that they’ll be prosecuted” for aiding irregular migration, he said.

Ensuring that shipmasters cannot be prosecuted for facilitating the smuggling of migrants is among a list of 10 urgent measures that UNHCR is calling for to prevent further loss of life and increase burden sharing across the EU.

“It is shameful to witness hundreds of unwitting migrants and refugees drowning on Europe’s borders,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in a 12 October statement. He expressed particular concern that Syrian asylum seekers were among the casualties of recent boat tragedies. “They escaped bullets and bombs only to perish before they could ever claim asylum,” he said.

In the absence of any EU-wide agreement on how to handle irregular migration across the Mediterranean, Italy announced on 14 October that it would triple its air and sea presence in the southern Mediterranean to better respond to potential shipwrecks. The following day, Italian authorities reported that 370 migrants had been rescued from three boats in the waters between Libya and Sicily.

Amaral welcomed the move by Italy but emphasized that the responsibility for search and rescue should be shared with other member states. “The EU is all about solidarity, so it can’t just be left to Italy and Malta. Other countries need to pitch in and help out,” he said.

Legal migration options needed

EU Commissioner Malmstrom has joined migrant rights organizations in pointing out that, in the longer term, the only way to discourage migrants and asylum seekers from paying smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean in rickety vessels is to provide them with more legal channels for entering Europe.

“Currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far from that”

However, Pollet of ECRE said there was little willingness among member states to even engage in a debate about opening up legal channels for low-skilled migrants and asylum seekers to enter Europe. “At the moment, it’s a very hypocritical approach,” he said.

“The whole discussion is focusing now on increased search and rescue capacity and trying to prevent irregular migration; it’s really focused on the symptoms of the problem rather than the root causes. There’s very little talk about how are these people supposed to get into Europe.”

Amaral agreed. “There is definitely a needed [legal] channel, especially for asylum seekers,” he said. “But currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far away from that.”

ks/rz sourcce http://www.irinnews.org

 

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The dangers faced by immigrants are many

Posted by African Press International on October 5, 2013

The dangers faced by migrants such as these, near the Italian island of Lampedusa, were highlighted by the deaths on 4 October of more than 100 people when their boat capsized barely a kilometer from the island (file photo)

NEW YORK,  – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development at the UN General Assembly on Thursday by outlining an eight-point agenda to “make migration work” for the world’s 232 million migrants, as well as their countries of origin and destination.

The meeting brings together migration experts and delegates from 150 countries to discuss ways to support the developmental benefits of international migration while reducing its economic and social costs.

Ban described migration as “a fundamental part of our globalized world” and “an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future”. His eight-point agenda included ending the exploitation of migrants, addressing the plight of stranded migrants, improving public perceptions of migrants and protecting their human rights.

The opening of the meeting coincided with news that more than 100 migrants had lost their lives after the boat they were travelling on caught fire and sank just off the coast of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa. The boat was carrying an estimated 500 passengers, many of them believed to be Eritreans, from Libya. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that 150 migrants had so far been rescued, leaving some 250 of the passengers still missing. Earlier this week, another 13 migrants drowned while trying to reach Sicily. UNHCR estimates that in 2011 alone, 1,500 migrants died trying to reach Europe from Libya.

Ban and several other speakers at the meeting referred to the latest tragedy as further evidence of the need to commit to addressing the challenges arising from migration, particularly as the political climate in many countries remains hostile to migrants.

Research needed

“Too often, migrants live in fear,” Ban told delegates. “We need to create more channels for safe and orderly migration.”

Ian Goldin, professor of globalization and development at Oxford University, referred to the meeting as “a ray of light… in what is otherwise an extremely cloudy environment for migration and development.”

Goldin cited a World Bank study that found that changes in national migration policies that increase the flow of migrants even minimally bring significant economic benefits to sending and receiving countries, in addition to transforming the lives of individual migrants and their families.

Photo: IOM
Syrian refugees on a flight to Germany

But both Goldin and Ban, in his list of recommendations, highlighted the need to strengthen the evidence-base on the positive benefits of migration as one way to combat the political rhetoric that fuels negative perceptions of migrants.

“Migrants contribute greatly to host societies…They are doctors, nurses and domestic workers and often the unheralded heart of many service industries,” said Ban. “Yet far too often they are viewed negatively. Too many politicians seek electoral advantage by demonizing migrants.”

Fuelling development

Much of the discussion on the first day of the meeting made a case for incorporating migration into whatever new set of goals replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are due to expire in 2015.

One compelling reason why migration matters for development is the estimated US$550 billion that migrants remit to their families back home annually, according to the World Bank. The figure is more than three times higher than global aid budgets but could be larger still if transaction fees, which are often exorbitant, were lowered.

However, at a side meeting devoted to how to incorporate migration into the post-2015 agenda, speakers warned against framing migration and development as a purely economic issue.

“Migrants are not just commodities or conduits for financial remittances,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. “We must look beyond the dollar value of global remittance flows and pay more attention to the conditions in which this money is being earned. Development won’t work where it’s accompanied by inequality, injustice and repression.”

While there is a greater understanding of the role migration plays in contributing to development now than in 2000, when the original MDGs were formulated, several speakers also pointed out that many people still view migration as a threat rather than a boon to development.

“From a political point of view, it’s a very hard sell,” said a delegate from the Bahamas. “What do you do when people feel the economy is being under-cut and their identity swamped?”

The migration community has come late to the debate over the post-2015 development agenda, and there is unlikely to be a stand-alone goal associated with migration. Deputy Director General of the International Organization for Migration Laura Thompson advocated instead for trying to incorporate migration and the rights of migrants into a series of existing goals. “This would reflect the reality of migration as a cross-cutting issue,” she said.

ks/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Norway to take in 1 000 Syrian refugees

Posted by African Press International on September 23, 2013

 

“The Government decided today to accept 1 000 Syrian refugees for resettlement to Norway. The war in Syria has led to an acute refugee situation. Syria’s neighbouring countries have taken in close to two million refugees. The capacity of these countries is at breaking point and the UNHCR has appealed to other countries to help,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

There is no immediate solution to the conflict in Syria in sight. So far the conflict has led to massive flows of refugees to Syria’s neighbouring countries. In mid-September some 730 000 Syrian refugees were registered in Lebanon, 520 000 were registered in Jordan, 464 000 in Turkey, 117 000 in Iraq and 117 000 in Egypt. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Syria’s neighbouring countries have appealed to countries outside the region to resettle some of the refugees currently living in Syria’s neighbouring countries as a matter of urgency.

“Syria’s neighbouring countries have displayed an enormous sense of responsibility for the refugees from Syria. One in every four people in Lebanon is now a Syrian refugee. Syria’s neighbouring countries, in particular Lebanon and Jordan, are reaching the limit of what they can cope with. If nothing is done, they may choose to close their borders. It is therefore crucial that Norway and other like-minded countries show solidarity and take in Syrian refugees,” Mr Eide said.

Following calls from UNHCR, Norway has provided substantial aid to help Syrian refugees in Syria’s neighbouring countries. Since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011, Norway has provided a total of NOK 850 million in humanitarian aid.

The further quota of 1 000 refugees from Syria will come in addition to Norway’s annual UNHCR resettlement quota of approximately 1 200 refugees.

“Norway has a tradition of doing what it can in response to major international refugee crises and of providing a safe haven for refugees. This time is no exception. We know that Norwegian municipalities will make every effort to take in and integrate these refugees. As a country we can be proud of this and we will do everything we can to support the municipalities in this process,” said Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion Inga Marte Thorkildsen.

The additional resettlement quota that the Government has decided to establish is reserved for refugees from Syria who are recognised by UNHCR, preferably those living in Lebanon and Jordan. The total cost of the quota is estimated to be approximately NOK 770 million.

 

 

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“Urgent” needs widely ignored

Posted by African Press International on September 20, 2013

TAALABAYA, 6 September 2013 (IRIN) – One August morning, Khadijeh Sayyid Ahmad, 65, sits in a rooftop room of a half-constructed building in Lebanon while she waits for her husband to return from prayers. The sun filters through the pink tarpaulin that serves as a ceiling, creating a glow over her wizened face. 

She shifts from side to side on a mattress as her relatives try to console her. Reports of an alleged chemical attack in her Syrian hometown of Muadhamiya have just spread to her refugee gathering, and she is barely able to control her tears.“The problem is that when she gets distressed, her blood pressure starts to rise. This makes us very afraid for her heart condition,” says her son Ahmad.

Khadijeh is one of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon who are over 60 and quietly suffering from a host of health and psychological problems. Elderly Syrian refugees elsewhere in the region face similar challenges. The humanitarian community has struggled to cater for the special needs of the age group, which is disproportionately affected by the violence and displacement.

“Older refugees have so many needs, which are not yet a priority to the humanitarian aid actors responding to this crisis,” the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center (CLMC) wrote in a 27 August report, which described the elderly as an “often forgotten population of refugees… whose needs have been widely ignored in this crisis…

“We know from experience,” the report went on, “that older persons suffer in silence, quietly stepping aside so that younger members of their families can access services and aid.”

While according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), 6 percent of the Syrian population was above the age of 60 before the conflict, only 2.5 percent of refugees in Lebanon are that age. Elderly people struggle to register with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) because they cannot reach the registration centres easily.

That was one of the findings of a quick assessment of 70 elderly refugees in May by Claire Catherinet, an inclusion advisor with HelpAge, on secondment to Handicap International in Lebanon. It echoed the findings of CMLC: Many elderly cannot afford their medication, and most are dependent on humanitarian assistance for things as basic as food because they have no livelihood opportunities, said Catherinet

“They benefit from all the humanitarian assistance, but there is no special attention [given to elderly people], as there is for women and children,” she told IRIN. “As among the most vulnerable people in times of emergencies, older persons are neglected.”

In a statement to IRIN, UNHCR said it would like to “do more than we currently do” for refugees with special needs, “but because of lack of funds and capacity, we are not able to meet all the needs and give the assistance they would deserve.”

Khadijeh Sayyid Ahmad tells of family members killed in Syria.

Limited mobility

In its study, conducted in coordination with Johns Hopkins University, CLMC interviewed 175 elderly Syrian refugees (in addition to 45 elderly Palestinian refugees from Syria) and drew on 10 years of experience working with older people at Palestinian refugee camps.

The impetus of the study came during a visit to one of the tented settlements in eastern Lebanon. One of CLMC’s staff members was shocked to find an elderly woman staring at him from under a blanket in the mud. Her family said they had grown tired of moving her frail body from her mattress to the home-made latrine outside. So they decided to leave her lying next to her toilet, to answer calls of nature without their help.

CLMC has since purchased a wheelchair for the family and secured a tent for them near a concrete toilet, but there are many other families with elderly people that do not receive this kind of assistance.

Akram al-Kilani, 63, who sought refuge in Lebanon’s eastern Beka’a Valley, said the biggest problem he has faced since arriving in Taalabaya several weeks ago is the public bathroom. He must walk for nearly five minutes to reach it.

“We’re very grateful to the people providing for us here. But tap water in the tents and nearby toilets are absolute necessities for us,” said al-Kilani.

“Urgent” needs

According to CLMC’s findings, the elderly’s needs are widespread and urgent. Sixty-six percent of the elderly surveyed described their overall health status as bad or very bad, with most respondents having multiple chronic illnesses.

Of the elderly refugees surveyed by Caritas:
87 percent could not afford the medication they require
74 percent depended on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs
60 percent had hypertension
47 percent had diabetes
30 percent had some form of heart disease
10 percent were physically unable to leave their homes
4 percent were bedridden
“Significant proportions” sensed they were a burden to their families

Catherinet said the inability to afford their medication had resulted in swollen limbs, difficulty breathing and walking, and in some cases, an inability to leave their beds. Many people resorted to returning to Syria to get medication for elderly members of their family, she said.

The health status of the elderly is often linked to their state of mind, said Hessen Sayah, coordinator for Syrian refugee projects at CLMC, who has extensive experience with elderly Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. When CLMC’s psychosocial programmes in the Palestinian camps had run their course, she said, the elderly community saw a sharp increase in diabetes.

Prioritizing younger people

Undergirding the issues faced by elderly refugees is an expectation that they must suffer in silence so that younger people may fulfil their needs first.

The CLMC survey found that malnutrition among the elderly was prevalent due to reductions in meal sizes and insufficient intake of fruit, vegetables and meat, with the intention of leaving more to younger people.

Khadijeh serves as a case in point. She refuses to seek treatment for her heart palpitations, preferring to use the family’s limited money on healthcare for her son, who recently broke his arm.

“There’s just no point in me going to the hospital,” she told IRIN. “There is nothing left for me but death.”

Um Lateef*, 63, is unsure about whether to replenish her dwindling medical supplies because she does not want to endure “the humiliation” of asking humanitarian groups for help.

Elderly can play a role

But CLMC is now hard at work to prove that there is indeed a point to keeping the elderly healthy. CLMC espouses alleviating the problem by changing the way we view the elderly, who tend to be more effective negotiators with host communities because of the respect garnered by their age. They can also offer stability to a household overwrought by the stress of displacement.

“When we give the elderly their value, they are able to intervene in problems, domestic or otherwise… and this in turn improves their health,” Sayah said.

With over 722,000 refugees in Lebanon, there are widespread reports of growing resentment between the refugees and their Lebanese hosts. The presence of refugees in some 1,400 localities around the country has chipped away at government-funded pharmaceutical stocks, as well as increased competition in the job market and raised housing prices.

CLMC says older people can provide a calm and sagacious face for the refugee community, helping to soothe tensions with their hosts. However, refugees and humanitarian workers must recognize the elderly’s capacity to fill this role.

“We try as much as possible to involve [the] elderly in [the] community center’s activities, also to use their advisory role with youth and other community members,” UNHCR said in its statement. “The challenge is sometimes the fact that [the] elderly need special logistics assistance for transportation to the centers and unfortunately we do not have enough funds and capacity to transport many of them.”

Ahmad Dattouf wishes he could go fight in Syria, even at his age.

Ahmad Dattouf, 63, breaks into sobs as he talks about the alleged chemical attacks on eastern Damascus suburbs that morning. “What is happening these days has never been seen before. The situation is still very bad,” he says.

He is racked with guilt about whiling away his days between four grey concrete walls in Lebanon.

“Even at this age, my body urges me to go fight with those heroes [in Syria].”

HelpAge and Handicap International will be conducting a more detailed assessment of elderly Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey in the coming weeks, with findings to be ready in the fall.

*not a real name

tq/ha/cb/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

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The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) needs to constantly innovate to respond to new and ongoing refugee crises around the world

Posted by African Press International on September 11, 2013

UNHCR has struggled to deliver services to urban refugees

JOHANNESBURG,  – When an organization has thousands of staff based in offices all over the world, sharing new ideas – let alone implementing them – is no small task.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – an organization with nearly 8,000 staff members working in 126 countries – needs to constantly innovate to respond to new and ongoing refugee crises around the world, but the extensive knowledge of its field-based staff members often goes untapped.

In August, the agency launched UNHCR Ideas, an initiative that uses crowd-sourcing technology to connect employees, partners and beneficiaries using a platform that allows them to share and discuss ideas for tackling some of the organization’s most pressing problems.

Rocco Nuri, communications officer with UNHCR Innovation, a recently launched unit within the agency, told IRIN that the crowd-sourcing tool, developed by California-based software developer Spigit, “allows us to take a bottom-up approach to identifying, validating and implementing refugee-centred solutions”.

The initial step involves issuing a “challenge” to participants, who include UNHCR staff, partners, refugee experts and a handful of refugees – an issue of concern for some rights advocates. The participants submit ideas, which can be viewed, commented on and voted for by other participants.

After four weeks, the top 20 ideas are evaluated by a panel of experts, who provide feedback on how participants might tweak or strengthen their proposals. A final review stage will then select the best idea for research or piloting by UNHCR Innovation.

Assisting urban refugees

The first challenge to be debated on the new crowd-sourcing platform is how to improve access to information and services for refugees living in urban areas. Connecting and communicating with urban refugees presents a major challenge, said Nuri, “not only because they are scattered across sprawling cities, but also because poverty and unstable tenancy arrangements force them to move frequently.”

Three weeks into the process, over 100 ideas have been submitted and voted on. The most popular so far include: the development of a comic-book series aimed at young refugees that could tackle issues such as child abuse; country-focused online portals aimed at providing essential information to refugees; and the use of university students to deliver legal aid services.

“There’s definitely trends,” observed Anahi Ayala Iacucci, a senior innovation advisor with international non-profit media organization Internews, who is one of 10 experts reviewing the ideas. “There are a lot of ideas focusing on providing information through web sites or mobile technology. But there are also some ideas that are very out-of-the-box.”

Crowd-sourcing humanitarian solutions

Internews is another large organization that has made use of crowd-sourcing to solicit ideas from its employees for projects it can pilot.

“It allows people to interact with each other, to have a conversation; it’s not just like sending an email”

“We did it because when you have a large organization and a lot of people working in different contexts and sometimes very focused on their daily jobs, you don’t have time to connect with people working for the same organization,” said Iacucci. “It allows people to interact with each other, to have a conversation; it’s not just like sending out an email.”

Crowd-sourcing is being used in other humanitarian contexts, and within other UN agencies, including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), to map and respond to emergencies, but there are concerns about the volume and integrity of information generated in this way.

“Crowd-sourcing for ideas rather than as part of a response to an emergency is probably considered less risky and a good place to start,” said Iacucci, who, in addition to her role at Internews, is co-founder of the Standby Task Force, which makes use of digital volunteers to do crisis mapping.

She added that customized platforms such as the one UNHCR was using were not always necessary, depending on the scale and complexity of the project. “We’ve used a free blogging site; it’s much less fancy but it has exactly the same functionality. In terms of crowd-sourcing, there are lots of options.”

Hearing refugee voices

The issue of how to reach out to and assist urban refugees, who now make up 58 percent of refugees worldwide, had been the subject of much debate both within and outside of UNHCR for some time before the launch of UNHCR Ideas.

The adoption of a new urban refugee policy by UNHCR in 2009 was widely welcomed as a move away from a bias towards assisting primarily camp-based refugees. However, in recent months, a number of commentators have used an online forum, launched by the NGO Urban Refugees earlier this year, to express disappointment about the degree to which the policy has been implemented.
One of the biggest disappointments, according to Tim Morris, an expert on refugee affairs who co-authored one of the posts on Urban Refugees, has been “the lack of the voice of refugees in urban environments”.

“There was much talk of enabling this when the new policy was launched, but hardly anything seems to have happened. It seems to me this is a huge gap,” he wrote in an email to IRIN in July.

Of the 300 people participating in the current UNHCR Ideas challenge, only 10 are refugees. Nuri explained that the number of users, both staff and refugees, would increase for future challenges, after the new platform had been thoroughly tested and evaluated.

“I am happy to see UNHCR getting involved in innovation and trying to use new tools to find solutions,” commented Sonia Ben Ali, founder and chairperson of Urban Refugees. “Intervention in urban contexts requires creative thinking, and this is an interesting attempt to do so.

“As a complement to that, in-depth discussions also need to happen within UNHCR (at the field and HQ levels) and between UNHCR and other stakeholders on certain issues requiring more than just technical innovations to be solved.”

ks/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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– Countries around the world are increasingly responding to influxes of irregular migrants and asylum seekers by simply locking them up

Posted by African Press International on September 2, 2013

– Countries around the world are increasingly responding to influxes of irregular migrants and asylum seekers by simply locking them up. States cite national security concerns and suggest that such punitive measures will make undocumented migrants and asylum seekers think twice before entering their territory.

In reality, there is no evidence that the threat of detention is a deterrent against irregular migration or that it discourages people from seeking asylum. But there is plenty of evidence that it is detrimental to the physical and mental health of nearly everyone who experiences it.

Civil society groups have been particularly vocal about the negative consequences of detention on children and other vulnerable groups, while the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has pointed out that under the 1951 Refugee Convention, it is unlawful to penalize asylum seekers for illegal entry or stay provided they present themselves to the authorities without delay.

But in the current economic climate, it is the mounting cost of detention that is giving many governments pause. Grant Mitchell, director of the International Detention Coalition (IDC), an umbrella organization with 300 member groups in 50 countries, said that while there continues to be “massive growth” in detention in a number of countries, “equally, we’re seeing a lot of states that have been using detention for 15 or 20 years finding it to be increasingly expensive and hard to manage and not working as a way to deter people.”

Changes in thinking

A recent report by the National Immigration Forum found that the US will spend over US$5 million a day on immigration detention during the fiscal year 2013/14, based on its current capacity of 31,800 detention beds. But the approximately $159 per day that it costs to detain a migrant in the US is relatively low compared to the $210 per day that the Canadian Border Services Agency pays for a bed in a provincial jail or the incredible $540 per day that Sweden spends on keeping someone in one of its detention centres.

Alternatives to detention, even those that include the provision of housing and various kinds of support, come in at a fraction of the cost.

“There’s potentially huge savings,” said Philip Amarel of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe, who authored a 2011 report examining alternatives to detention. “Before the recession, the economic argument wasn’t so compelling because [detention] was seen as a necessary cost to bear. Now states are becoming more interested in the cost argument,” he told IRIN.

“We’re seeing a lot of states that have been using detention for 15 or 20 years finding it increasingly expensive and hard to manage”

States are also increasingly legally bound to use detention only as a last resort, particularly in the case of asylum seekers and children. Last year, UNHCR released new guidelines relating to the detention of asylum seekers that emphasized the unlawfulness of “arbitrary” detention in which less coercive alternatives have not been considered. The European Union Return Directive also stipulates that member states should not use detention if “other sufficient but less coercive measures can be applied”. Still, Amarel noted that while many EU states have since written alternatives to detention into their laws, most are not implementing them in practice.

“They fear that migrants will abscond given the chance, despite the evidence that if you have alternatives to detention that provide comprehensive services and legal assistance and inform them of all the possible outcomes that might come of their case, then compliance rates really jump up,” he said. “Member states are also not at a place yet where they can provide good alternatives to detention, largely because they don’t know how or aren’t willing to invest resources. It’s not good enough to just release people onto the streets into destitution.”

JRS defines alternatives to migration as “any policy, practice or legislation that allows asylum seekers and migrants to live in the community with freedom of movement… while they undertake to resolve their migration status and/or while awaiting removal from the territory.”

New models

Various models are being tried in different countries, with varying levels of efficacy. “We didn’t find one country with the perfect model, but we found a lot of good practices that can be combined to make effective programmes,” said Mitchell of the IDC, which has produced a handbook on preventing unnecessary immigration detention.

He added that all of the most successful programmes shared common elements, such as the provision of adequate material support, early access to free legal advice and a case management system that keeps migrants informed at every stage. “A lot of governments think that legal advice can bog down a claim, when in fact our research found that early legal advice and intervention reduces the time to complete a case and increases chances of voluntary return.”

“Treating people humanely and fairly at the very beginning means they’ll engage properly with the process,” agreed Alice Edwards, chief of UNHCR’s protection policy and legal advice section, who wrote a 2011 paper on alternatives to detention.

Both Edwards and Mitchell cited a model used in Belgium as an example of a best practice. The programme houses irregular migrants and asylum seekers with children in government-owned apartments pending the outcome of their cases. Each family is assigned a “coach” who explains the immigration process, ensures their basic needs are met and makes appointments with doctors, lawyers and the immigration authorities.

“The primary goal is to persuade families to return voluntarily, but it’s not the only goal,” explained Geert Verbauwhede, an advisor with Belgium’s Immigration Office. “For us, it’s also a positive outcome if they obtain a staying permit.”

The programme, which started in 2008, remains fairly small, with only 25 family units, but Verbauwhede said that in the future, the coaching or case management element of the programme could also be used for migrants living in their own housing.

In Sweden, a similar alternative to detention is used for asylum seekers, around 24,000 of whom are housed in apartments managed by the Swedish Migration Board and another 13,000 of whom live with relatives or in their own accommodation. Upon arrival, they are assigned a case officer who handles their asylum application and a reception officer who helps them with everyday needs, such as finding schools for their children and making sure they receive a subsistence allowance.

“If people feel they’ve been taken care of and their case has been properly scrutinized, they’re more likely to accept the outcome,” Niclas Axelsson, a specialist in detention issues with the Swedish Migration Board, told IRIN. “It’s about good behaviour management and treating people with respect and having good communication with them.”

Sweden still maintains nine small detention units in five cities, but detention is primarily used for asylum seekers who refuse to accept a negative decision and return home voluntarily. “We don’t want to use detention unless it’s necessary,” said Axelsson.

A Toronto-based non-profit called the Toronto Bail Programme (TBP) makes uses of a slightly different model. In Canada, over 90 percent of asylum seekers are released into the community with minimal conditions that may include payment of bail. For those unable to afford the bail amount or considered to be a flight risk, a request may be sent to the TBP asking the programme to take them on as a client. As a substitute for bail, TBP provides professional supervision at a cost of just over $9 a day to about 312 clients. The clients, who include irregular migrants as well as asylum seekers, are initially required to report to the TBP office twice a week.

“If they prove to us they’re doing something constructive with their time, then we can minimize reporting,” said Dave Scott, TBP’s founder and executive director.

Most of the asylum seekers qualify for work permits, but TBP also helps them apply for welfare benefits and social services. Clients with mental health or addiction problems receive additional supervision from qualified staff. TBP’s lost client ratio for the 2012/13 fiscal year was just under 5 percent, well below the 10 percent stipulated by the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Scott’s pragmatic approach includes careful screening of potential clients. “I ask, ‘Should this person be released without conditions?’ Also, I don’t want to get involved with people who are about to be removed or serious criminality cases,” he told IRIN. “I’m not the Catholic Church or the Salvation Army.”

Humane approaches

According to Amarel of JRS, alternatives to detention programmes that have been less successful are those that are only used when detention centres reach capacity or when a refused asylum seeker faces imminent removal.

“This has been a failure of a programme in the UK, where they start at the end stage when the outcome has already been decided,” he said. “It doesn’t work when the authorities don’t give migrants the chance to explore all possible outcomes from the start.”

Successful alternatives to detention programmes share almost identical outcomes, according to the IDC’s research. These include an average cost savings of around 80 percent compared to detention and an average compliance rate of 95 percent, meaning that very few of the migrants fail to comply with reporting requirements or do not show up for court appearances.

For Axelsson of the Swedish Migration Board, replicating successful programmes in other countries depends on having not only the appropriate policies and resources, but also the political will. “If you look at [asylum seekers] as criminals, I think perhaps you’ll have a problem,” he said.

“It’s important that you try to change perspectives and ask yourself, ‘If I was in the applicant’s shoes, how would I like to be treated?’”

ks/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013

Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equation altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

lr/jl/aj/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2013

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equa tion altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

lr/jl/aj/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Trauma risk for unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents

Posted by African Press International on August 21, 2013

Many Afghan children face deportation when caught overseas

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Thousands of Afghan minors seek EU asylum
  • Unemployment risk as international troops pull out
  • Trauma risk for unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents
  • Conflict, displacement could affect next generation

NANGARHAR,  – Six years ago, when Najib* was 15, Taliban fighters came to his home in Shinwar District* in the eastern province of Nangarhar telling him to join them. After repeated visits, his family sought a way for Najib to escape, and paid a smuggler to take him to the UK.

Six years on, he has just arrived back in his village, having been deported from the UK, but the threats to get him to join the Taliban are now greater than ever, he says.

“They’re not like the Taliban that were in the area before,” Najib told IRIN. “They are all foreign fighters who have come from the mountains. These guys will just kill you for no reason.”

Najib is not the only one on the move or considering his options: Growing insecurity ahead of the pull-out of international forces is driving thousands of Afghanistan’s children to seek new lives outside the country.

Of the 893,700 claims submitted in 2012, around 21,300 were for “unaccompanied or separated” children, most from Afghanistan and Somalia, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). That is the highest figure recorded since the UN started counting (in 2006).

According to a European Commission memo, Afghan unaccompanied minors, particularly boys, have become the largest group of unaccompanied minors from outside the European Union (EU) in Europe over the past few years. Of the 12,225 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers recorded by European national governments in 2011, 5,655 (46 percent) were from Afghanistan.

Mohammad Akram’s son, Mohammad Yahya, from Qarghayo District in Nangarhar Province, left Afghanistan when he was 15.

Refugee info (2012)
10.5 million Refugees worldwide
893,700 Asylum claims
21,300 Claims by “unaccompanied or separated” children
2.6 million Afghanistan refugees overseas
5.7 million Afghan migrant and refugee returns since 2001
Source: UNHCR

“Some of his classmates left Afghanistan and then when they arrived in Belgium they called him, pressuring him to come,” Akram told IRIN. “Finally my son left.”

In Turkey’s port city of Izmir, the 15-year-old found smugglers to take him to an island off Greece. The cost was US$2,000, to be paid upon arrival. Yahya never arrived; on the way the boat capsized killing all but two of its 30 passengers. His body was never found.

“We have been waiting for two months. One or two bodies turn up every day, but not my son’s,” said Akram, crying.

“It is extremely sad to see the kind of dangers these people are getting into when they are crossing waters,” the UNHCR representative in Afghanistan, Bo Schack, told IRIN. “There are major issues that they face along the journey. And, when they arrive there are sometimes issues of violence and sexual abuse against them at the asylum centres.”

Major refugee source

Afghanistan has 2.6 million refugees overseas, according to UNHCR, making it the leading source of refugees in the world, a position it has held for the past 32 years.

On average one in four refugees are from Afghanistan; 95 percent of them live in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. Germany hosts the largest population of Afghans outside the region.

Insecurity and unemployment back home remain high; according to the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and the Disabled (MOLSAMD), four million Afghans are officially unemployed countrywide, and the real number is almost certainly far higher.

Thirty-six percent of the country’s population cannot meet their basic needs, with many more Afghans “highly susceptible” to poverty, according to a World Bank report.

And as international troops and organizations downsize, they take with them jobs that currently employ many of the country’s young people.

Mohammad Yahya’s siblings remember their brother, 15, who drowned, on his way to seek asylum in Greece

“Around 40,000-50,000 young Afghans who speak English and are good at computers work with NATO troops. When the troops leave, they will be jobless and it’s risky for them to stay in the country because they worked for foreigners,” the head of Interpol in Afghanistan, Gen Aminullah Armarkhel, told IRIN.

“The most capable young Afghans with university degrees can’t find jobs… then you have unqualified people filling positions. This is why we are seeing an increase of young people leaving the country.”

Afghans told IRIN human smugglers ask anywhere from $10,000-20,000 for a passage to Europe. However, as in Yahya’s case, there is no guarantee anyone will make it alive.

Upon arrival

Last year in the UK, a Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) reportfound that hundreds of children travelling unaccompanied to the UK received inadequate support from the state.

Upon arrival, children faced intensive interviews. The report criticized the lack of interpreters to help with translation, inappropriate accommodation, staff ill-equipped to care for traumatized children, and concerns over educational services.

Also, earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) found Italy summarily sending unaccompanied children (and adult asylum seekers) back to Greece – a country in which asylum system and detention conditions have led several EU states to suspend their transfers to the country.

According to the HRW report, most of the asylum seekers interviewed were Afghan boys “fleeing danger, conflict, and poverty”.

Unaccompanied Afghan asylum-seeking adolescents living in the UK are a high-risk group for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with many having been exposed to extreme violence, physical and sexual abuse, and rape.
Teenage migrants “trapped” in Greece

By early evening, Alexandra Park in central Athens starts to fill up with young, male migrants. They gather on benches, and some even kick a ball around, but they are not here for recreation – this is where they sleep, hoping their numbers will provide some protection from sexual predation and racist attacks. full report

The children experience significantly greater symptoms of PTSD and depression compared to accompanied asylum-seeking children, found a new study which looked at the sleeping patterns of unaccompanied Afghan asylum-seeking children.

Returnees at risk

Many returning Afghan child migrants and refugees face the risk of rejection by their families, kidnapping threats, beatings and exploitation, often resulting in them trying to escape the country again, according to a Maastricht University report.

“I’m scared to go back to my village in Shinwar,” Najib told IRIN just prior to returning to his village. “Of course all the villagers know I was in London. My life is in danger. Kidnappers will think my family has money and because I speak English the Taliban will suspect me.”

Najib said that when his asylum application was denied in the UK, the immigration authorities told him Shinwar District was peaceful and it was safe for him to return.

Hostel idea

A new initiative to improve reintegration prospects for deported, unaccompanied children in Afghanistan is being considered by the governments of Sweden, Norway, Holland and the UK.

It involves the setting up of a hostel for such children in Kabul, where they can stay until either they are picked up by their families, or where they can stay until they turn 18.

Nearly all Afghans – 96 percent, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross – have been affected in some way by the ongoing armed conflict, with 76 percent having experienced displacement.

Around 43 percent of the population is under 15: the ill-effects of conflict and displacement will have a strong impact on the next generation of adults.

*not a real name

bm/jj/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Tents have long played an essential role

Posted by African Press International on August 7, 2013

 – Tents have long played an essential role in the emergency phase of humanitarian responses to refugee influxes. They are relatively light and cheap, and they can be stockpi led, flown in and erected in a short timeframe. But as anyone who has slept in one can attest, tents also have major shortcomings – they provide minimal protection from climatic extremes, offer little space or comfort, and deteriorate quickly.

The average stay in a refugee camp is now 12 years, but at the beginning of a refugee crisis there is no way of knowing how soon refugees will be able to return home, and host governments are wary of shelters that suggest permanence. This presents a conundrum for the humanitarian sector, which has been trying for years to come up with a shelter that ticks off all the necessary boxes, including logistical concerns such as cost and ease of transport and assembly, as well as cultural, environmental and political considerations that vary from one country and refugee context to another.“There is no one solution to [refugee] shelter; there’s no single tent or shelter that can answer all the needs,” said Tom Corsellis, who is the president and co-founder of the Geneva-based Shelter Centre and a pioneer in the field of developing shelter solutions for disasters and displacement.

While there has been no shortage of alternative refugee shelter designs, few have made it to the field-testing stage, and even fewer have had the financial and institutional backing to be brought to market.

It is not surprising then, that the launch of a prototype shelter resulting from a partnership between the IKEA Foundation, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Refugee Housing Unit (RHU), a subsidiary of the non-profit Swedish Industrial Design Foundation, has been met with intense interest.

Housing kit

The collaboration brings together UNHCR’s long experience in and access to the refugee sector, with the Swedish furnishing giant’s funding and management support and RHU’s design and manufacturing expertise. The result resembles a large garden shed; RHU project manager Johan Karlsson describes it as a modular design consisting of a light-weight steel frame onto which polymer panels can be attached to form vertical walls and a pitched roof. Karlsson explained that in an emergency situation, the steel frames could be distributed separately and used with plastic sheeting or locally available materials.

“One great challenge is the assembly. Basically it’s like an IKEA product, but it’s quite complex”

“It was very much a requirement from UNHCR that we start with a self-supporting frame that other materials could be added on to,” Karlsson told IRIN. “The panels would come into place when you have protracted situations and you know there’s a great chance the refugees will be staying for a longer period of time and you’re not allowed to build anything more permanent.”

The “full kit” also includes a shade net to reflect the sun during the day and to retain heat at night and a solar panel that provides the shelter with power. While the panels last up to three years, the steel frame can last for 10, if correctly assembled. This is an important caveat, according to Karlsson, and something that is about to be assessed as the prototype begins six months of field testing at Dollo Ado refugee camp in Ethiopia and at sites in northern Iraq and Lebanon.

“One great challenge is the assembly. Basically it’s like an IKEA product, but it’s quite complex. The idea is that we’ll provide training to a group of beneficiaries and then they’ll build the other houses… The ultimate goal is that a refugee family can do it themselves,” Karlsson said.

Using local materials, skill

Although the prototype has undergone extensive technical testing in Holland, it remains to be seen how the design will be received by refugees themselves. Karlsson anticipates that, following the field testing, modifications will have to be made before the shelter is ready for market.

The next step will be to find a company or companies willing to finance the shelter’s production and to secure sizeable orders from UNHCR or other agencies involved in the provision of temporary shelters. For now, the cost of the full kit comes in at around US$1,000, with the steel frame alone costing about $250.

“It is cost effective, especially if you just start with the frame and upgrade with local materials,” said Karlsson. “Even if you ship in the full kit, this will last three years, and a tent will only last for six months to one year” and then have to be replaced.

Corsellis of the Shelter Centre said that in every refugee shelter operation, the goal is to build shelters using traditional designs and methods, using local materials, local skills and local tools in order to contribute to the local economy and minimize potential tensions with host communities.

“The only reason we ever use tents is if the refugee influx is so high or access to local materials is so poor that we’re unable to use them. When we do have to use tentage, it’s to buy time to be able to use local skills and resources, [but] the length of time existing tentage lasts for is often not long enough to return there and offer better shelter. The cost of those tents, as they degrade, is lost completely,” Corsellis said.

The Shelter Centre has developed its own shelter prototype, with support from the UK and US governments. It also makes use of a metal frame in a rectangular plan, but without the semi-rigid panels. The frame could be flown in, together with a fly-sheet and covering liner, and eventually the shelter could be upgraded with mud or timber walls and corrugated iron roofing.

“This additional generation of shelters [is] far more suitable for winterization,” said Corsellis, adding that the shelters would also fare better in environments such as Dadaab in northern Kenya, the largest refugee complex in the world, where high winds and intense sun shorten a tent’s lifespan.

Sensitivities

An initiative by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and UNHCR to use a technology called Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSB) to build more durable shelters for refugees at Dadaab, many of whom have lived there for decades, was stopped by the Kenyan government in 2012 because it was viewed as too permanent.

In the context of such political sensitivities, shelters such the IKEA and Shelter Centre prototypes – which could be taken down, moved or even taken with refugees when they return home for use while they rebuild permanent shelters – have obvious benefits.

Corsellis emphasized that tents or tent-like shelters are used for only a small proportion of refugees – about 10 percent of the total 10.4 million refugees of concern to UNHCR at the beginning of 2012. The majority of refugees make use of other options, such as staying with host families, renting in urban areas or self-settling in rural areas.

“We need to broaden our vocabulary of shelter options, and this IKEA prototype is a positive direction. And hopefully the final result will be a range of different options, understanding that any stockpiled shelter should be used for only a small percentage of people affected by conflicts and disasters, as part of humanitarian operations,” he said.

Endks/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees costs $500,000 a day to run

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2013

Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees, seen here in the foreground of Jordanian villages and towns, costs $500,000 a day to run

ZA’ATARI,  – Just on the other side of Jordan’s Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees, now one of the world’s most notorious camps, lies another Za’atari: a poor village inhabited by some 12,000 Jordanians.

“If I were given a tent like this, I would cherish it and protect it,” said villager Hamda Masaeed, while pointing at the ever-growing mass of tents with the logo of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stretching from the Syrian camp into the heart of the village of Za’atari, from which the camp got its name.

The seventy-year-old lives with two sons and seven grandchildren, also in a tent – but she built hers herself using pipes, blankets and the remains of wheat bags. It is old and tattered; one side was recently burned; and she does not own the land it sits on.

What she does own are three worn-out mattresses, a one-ring stove, and an old fridge that works only when there is electricity. Masaeed siphons electricity from her neighbour for six Jordanian dinars (US$8.50) a month, but if often cuts out.

She and other residents of the village have watched as the Syrian camp has grown over the past year to become home to some 120,000 refugees.

“It is a massive city in the heart of our little village now,” she told IRIN.

According to the social council of the municipality, the village itself has so far taken in 3,000 Syrian refugees.

Refugees do not by any means live lives of luxury: camp life is harsh and unlike the locals, they have had to endure the long journey of displacement and the psychological trauma of losing loved ones.

But only one main road divides the two Za’ataris; and while trucks carry food, blankets, clothes and medicine to Syrian refugees in the camp, the other Za’atari remains “forgotten”.

“Don’t they realize that we need help too?” Masaeed asked.

It is not only donations that pass by Masaeed’s tent, but also international journalists, aid workers, diplomats, and the world’s top officials.

One taxi driver told IRIN he deliberately drives visiting journalists through Za’atari village before dropping them at the camp, to show them that poverty also exists on the other side of the camp.

“People come from all parts of the world to write about the conditions of Syrian refugees, but these people [villagers] are also living in miserable conditions,” said Iyad Salhi, a driver from the capital Amman.

In the village, there is one mosque, two schools, and a small charity – the Za’atari Charitable Society – that “operates occasionally in Ramadan”. Its office doors were shut when IRIN passed by and no one answered the phone.

While complaints about a perceived shortage of water by residents of the Syrian camp have made it to local and international media, residents of the other Za’atari have to beg truck drivers to stop to sell them water. As in many other parts of Jordan, government-supplied water is not regular.

“They drive past us every day. Although we are paying for water, they do not sell it to us. They prefer to [sign contracts with] the camp,” said Mohammad Masaeed, Hamda’s son.

“Some promise us to come back, but they never do,” he added.

Protest in Za’atari village

This month, local media reported that gendarmerie forces quelled a protest by residents of Za’atari village when they went to demand jobs inside the camp.

Hamda Masaeed sits in her makeshift tent in Za’atari village

UNHCR says the local community has benefited, if insufficiently, from the camp economy: some people have been hired as contractors and workers in the camp.

But Nadia Salameh says she was recently laid off from a cleaner’s job at the camp to be replaced by refugees.

“They recruited us on a temporary basis, but then they gave the jobs to Syrians,” she said.

“It is so unfair when they [Syrians] receive everything for free, but we have to pay for food, gas, clothes, and rent,” she told IRIN.

Aid agencies working with poor Jordanians say they struggle to help them now.

“Donors’ attention has been focused on Syrians. They ignored the locals, who have always lived in poverty,” said Abdullah Zubi, programme coordinator at the Hashemite Fund for Human Development. “Keep in mind numbers of needy Jordanian families are increasing.”

He said his organization, a semi-governmental development organization, has been gradually reducing the number of needy families they are helping during Ramadan, when Muslims usually increase their charitable giving.

“We were able to help some 1,800 Jordanian families with packages of food every Ramadan, but as donors have been reducing their donations, we can only help 500 families this year,” he told IRIN.

International aid agencies are increasingly looking to provide assistance to local communities to avoid tensions with Syrian refugees.

UNHCR, through International Relief and Development (IRD), has provided services in the community, including improved public transport facilities and sanitation equipment. UNHCR has also supported the Ministry of Health in providing health services there.

The NGO Mercy Corps has set up community dialogues to try to address social cohesion and peaceful coexistence. It is also implementing a $20 million project – funded by the US Agency for International Development – to improve water delivery in northern Jordan, including Za’atari village.

But the needs are large – the most cited are a waste water network, a new school and better health facilities. Humanitarian agencies responding to the Syrian crisis are already having to prioritize due to rising refugee needs and insufficient funding and aid workers says donor funding for host communities is always hardest to come by.

Sad twist

In a sad twist, some Syrian refugees are now donating to poor Jordanians, or selling them extra food they receive from aid agencies at a discounted price. In Mafraq, the governorate in which the two Za’ataris are located, food blankets, tents, and other items with UNHCR logos are publicly for sale.

That is how Um Saleem, a Jordanian resident of Mafraq, has coped over the last two years, as previous donations from generous Jordanians have slowed.

Um Saleem’s kitchen

IRIN visited her as she was cooking a chicken given her by a Syrian woman living in her neighbourhood. It was the first time she had eaten meat in a month.

When Hajjar Ahmad, a Syrian refugee who lives in Za’atari camp, visited her sister in a village in Mafraq, she was “astonished” how much poverty she saw. She gave her sister extra food and blankets to distribute to Jordanians.

“We are living better than them,” Ahmad said.

aa/ha/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

end

 

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