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Posts Tagged ‘Save the Children

Refugee death toll crossing the sea passes 1,073 in record 2017

Why charities attacked for conducting Mediterranean rescues?

NGOs are being blamed for our presence, when authorities should be blamed for their absence’

Lizzie Dearden@lizziedearden

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has recorded at least 1,073 people dead or missing on the treacherous passage between Libya and Italy – a grim benchmark that was not reached until the end of May last year.

At least 150 are children, Unicef said, while warning that the real figure is likely to be far higher because unaccompanied minors’ deaths frequently go unreported.

Such is the danger of death that asylum seekers embarking on flimsy dinghies have been known to write phone numbers in marker pen on life jackets, so loved ones can be notified if their body is recovered.

More than 8,300 migrants were rescued over the Easter weekend alone, with some of those taken to safety telling aid workers around 100 of their fellow passengers had died during the voyage.

Many dinghies have capsized, seeing up to 170 people crammed on board drown, while others have been found dead in boats after being suffocated, dying of hypothermia or starving while drifting at sea.

Smugglers are pushing more and more boats into the Mediterranean as the weather improves and amid rumours of a crackdown by the Libyan coastguard, which is being bolstered by Italian funding and equipment.

The unprecedented crisis has sparked intervention by several non-governmental organisations (NGOs), who have launched their own rescue ships equipped with medical staff and supplies to bolster efforts by the EU’s Operation Sophia.

Initially welcomed by European authorities, their growing role in the Mediterranean has been met with increasing suspicion by right-wing politicians and groups now accusing them of “colluding” with smugglers.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), whose staff work on two rescue ships, dismissed the claims as “baseless”.

Stefano Argenziano, the group’s operations manager for migration, said it rejects any accusation of cooperation with ruthless Libyan smugglers, who have turned a humanitarian crisis into a lucrative business helping fuel the country’s ongoing war.

“It’s a ludicrous accusation that’s diverting attention from the real problem,” he told The Independent.

“The real problem is that people are dying. There’s a gap in assistance and we’re starting to wonder whether this is part of a deliberate plan to step the migration flow…a deadly deterrent.”

Mr Argenziano said interventions by EU assets, excepting the Italian coastguard, were often “very little and very late” and condemned the continent’s refusal to provide other routes to safety.

“Search and rescue is not the problem, but it is not the solution either,” he added.

“It is a necessity to save lives unless politicians can produce a safe and legal alternative.”

Following the closure of the refugee route over the Aegean Sea using the controversial EU-Turkey deal last year, cooperation has been ramping up with the fragile Libyan Government of National Accord.

Italy signed an agreement backed by the EU to reduce boat crossings over the Central Mediterranean in February but it was later suspended by the justice ministry in Tripoli and remains in limbo.

Rome agreed to supply the country’s coastguard, which is itself accused of killing and abusing migrants, with 10 new boats alongside millions of euros in funding for migration initiatives.

International organisations believe the ultimate aim – transferring responsibility for rescues to Libya and holding migrants in detention centres there – is not viable amid the ongoing conflict and the widespread enslavement, capture, torture and extortion of asylum seekers.

Rob MacGillivray, the director of Save the Children’s search and rescue programme, said pushing boats back to shore from international waters would be illegal.

“It’s not going to stop crossings and even if it did, all that would happen and the routes would shift to Algeria, Tunisia or Egypt for example,” he added, rejecting accusations of NGOs colluding with smugglers.

“Safety is not the smugglers’ first priority and they will use whatever floats to send people across the Mediterranean.

“If search and rescue providers were to finish work tomorrow, would the people smugglers just fade into the background?”

In 2015, operations were mainly undertaken by Italian law-enforcement, EUNAVFOR Med or Frontex vessels.

NGO vessels were involved in less than 5% of incidents.

But they are now deployed to respond to around half of missions by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome, which also draws on military, coastguard and commercial ships.

A cursory internet search reveals countless blogs accusing NGOs of colluding in illegal people smuggling, while numerous conspiracy theories have arisen over what far-right commentators label the “invasion of Europe”.

The latest politician to push for the Central Mediterranean route to be closed is Wolfgang Sobotka, the Austrian interior minister.

“A rescue in the open sea cannot be a ticket to Europe, because it hands organised traffickers every argument to persuade people to escape for economic reasons,” he told Germany’s DPA news agency.

“[Stopping crossings] is the only way to end the tragic and senseless deaths in the Mediterranean.”

Mr Sobotoka, from the right-wing Austrian People’s Party, claimed his country could put up borders in the event of any influx, saying the numbers seen in 2015 “must not be repeated”.

The government in Vienna is one of several to have implemented a limit on asylum seekers, with calls to halve the current annual cap of 17,000.

In Italy, the chief prosecutor in the Sicilian city of Catania has formed a task force on claims of links between NGOs and smugglers.

Carmelo Zuccaro admitted he had no proof and the public prosecutor decided not to investigate, but a fact finding mission was launched by the Italian parliament.

Frontex, the EU border agency, has also raised concern over smugglers’ alleged use of rescue vessels.

A confidential report leaked in December claimed migrants were given “clear indications before departure on the precise direction to be followed in order to reach the NGOs’ boats” and accused charities of warning rescued asylum seekers not to cooperate with Italian authorities.

Another report released by Frontex in February claimed search and rescue operations near the Libyan coast “unintentionally help criminals achieve their objectives at minimum cost, strengthen their business model by increasing the chances of success”.

It recognised that rescues were needed to comply with international legal obligations and said safe and legal routes were needed for refugees, but alleged sailing close to Libyan territorial waters acted as a “pull factor”.

The Malta-based charity Moas (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) pointed out that boat crossings increased even when Italy stopped its Mare Nostrum operation, while a recent Oxford University study found rescues have “little or no effect on the number of arrivals”.

A representative said migrants were being “increasingly used by politicians in Europe to fuel the rise of nationalism”, adding: “The migration phenomenon is not going away, and focusing only on patrolling the EU’s borders is definitely not the solution.”

With almost 37,000 asylum seekers arriving in Italy so far this year, mainly from Guinea, Nigeria and other African nations, the crisis shows no sign of slowing.

Sophie Beau, the co-founder of rescue charity SOS Mediterranée, said NGOs were being forced to act by the “failure of European states”, who should be increasing capacity themselves.

“NGOs are being blamed for our presence, when authorities should be blamed for their absence,” she added.

“There’s a humanitarian tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes at the door of Europe and we cannot just remain blind.”

Note: France wanted to depose Kaddafi because he declined to purchase French weapons: Italy is taking care of the problems that France  generated.  The USA got hold of $7 billion of gold in Libya central bank

Syria refused to have Qatar gas pipeline ending in Turkey instead of Syrian ports: Syria calamity is the problem of everyone, except Qatar…

And most horror stories in the Middle-East are of these kinds of irrational non-patient negotiations

Time of war: Clowning around  and Sabine

Clowning around in a time of war

JABINE, Lebanon

Does aid work always have to be serious? Do you have to be a doctor working on the frontline or an aid worker distributing food to refugees?

David Clay, a clown from Oregon, thinks not.

Once a construction worker, Clay now volunteers for Clowns Without Borders, an international non-profit organisation that uses laughter to relieve suffering among children in refugee camps, conflict zones and natural disaster areas.

On Monday, Clay dressed up in his navy blue suit, crooked black hat and a polka dot tie to entertain 200 Syrian refugee children who are now living in neighbouring Lebanon.

The tiny Mediterranean country hosts one million refugees, who have fled cluster bombs, chemical weapons and al Qaeda militants in a war that has killed more than 160,000 in three years.

Lebanon has not allowed official refugee camps, so many families live in unfinished buildings and wooden shacks.

Clay, along with three other clowns – another American, a Chilean and Lebanese – juggled, played instruments and acted like buffoons for the children, who first appeared withdrawn but started to cheer and clap as the performance unfolded.

Describing himself a humanitarian, Clay has worked in Indonesia, the Philippines and Haiti.

In Haiti, where a 2010 earthquake killed more than 250,000 people, Clay said other aid groups were originally suspicious of his work, dubious of the results in a high stress situation with limited resources.

Doctors were cold to us. But their attitude changed distinctly,” he said, preparing for the show at a school in central Lebanon, multi-coloured handkerchiefs hanging out of his back pocket.

“When the doctors heard those people laughing, especially in the children’s ward, they saw that it was the first time some of the children had reacted to anything at all after the earthquake.”

This trip is sponsored by Layan, a Kuwait-based aid group, and the team will take their stilts, Hula Hoops and blue trombone to camps over Lebanon during the next two weeks.

One million Syrian refugee children live in the region, millions are trapped by conflict inside Syria and public health researchers and aid workers say they are displaying symptoms of psychological trauma.

Aid group Save the Children says one in three children it surveyed last year had seen a close friend or relative killed.

During the singing and the dancing on Monday, Clay pulled a young boy, Ahmed, from the audience up from the crowd and gave him a wooden mop to ride like a horse around the dusty playground.

The boy’s teacher said Ahmed was exceptionally shy in class and had fled from the Syrian city of Raqqa to get to Lebanon.

Raqqa has been repeatedly bombed by Syrian air force jets and is also a focal point of fighting between Islamic insurgent groups. Al Qaeda-linked fighters have carried out public executions in Raqqa’s main square.

Ahmed did not appear to like the attention as he followed Clay around the audience, but the other clowns asked the children to encourage him.

A broad smile slowly filled his face and he picked up speed as his friends shouted: “Ahmed! Ahmed! Ahmed!”

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Members of Clowns Without Borders entertain Syrian refugee children in Jab Janine, West Bekaa June 2, 2014.  REUTERS-Sharif Karim
Members of Clowns Without Borders entertain Syrian refugee children in Jab Janine, West Bekaa June 2, 2014.  REUTERS-Sharif Karim
Clay, one of the members of Clowns Without Borders, entertains Syrian refugee children in Jab Janine, West Bekaa June 2, 2014.       REUTERS-Sharif Karim

1 of 6. Members of Clowns Without Borders entertain Syrian refugee children in Jab Janine, West Bekaa June 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Sharif Karim

Related Topics

JABINE Lebanon (Reuters) – Does aid work always have to be serious? Do you have to be a doctor working on the frontline or an aid worker distributing food to refugees? David Clay, a clown from Oregon, thinks not.

Once a construction worker, Clay now volunteers for Clowns Without Borders, an international non-profit organisation that uses laughter to relieve suffering among children in refugee camps, conflict zones and natural disaster areas.

On Monday, Clay dressed up in his navy blue suit, crooked black hat and a polka dot tie to entertain 200 Syrian refugee children who are now living in neighbouring Lebanon.

The tiny Mediterranean country hosts one million refugees, who have fled cluster bombs, chemical weapons and al Qaeda militants in a war that has killed more than 160,000 in three years. Lebanon has not allowed official refugee camps, so many families live in unfinished buildings and wooden shacks.

Clay, along with three other clowns – another American, a Chilean and Lebanese – juggled, played instruments and acted like buffoons for the children, who first appeared withdrawn but started to cheer and clap as the performance unfolded.

Describing himself a humanitarian, Clay has worked in Indonesia, the Philippines and Haiti. In Haiti, where a 2010 earthquake killed more than 250,000 people, Clay said other aid groups were originally suspicious of his work, dubious of the results in a high stress situation with limited resources.

“Doctors were cold to us. But their attitude changed distinctly,” he said, preparing for the show at a school in central Lebanon, multi-coloured handkerchiefs hanging out of his back pocket.

 

 

 

Syrian Refugees Education Program?

Syrians Forward Together (JUSOOR, Bridges)

We are writing to report back on a trip several members of the Jusoor Team made to Lebanon over the past few days in order to explore ways in which the global Syrian community could work with Syrian refugees.

Our primary focus during the visit was exploring ways to work with children and youth among the refugee population, and particularly around education programs

On March 17, 2013, Jusoor posted

Refugee Education Program Background

.
This week’s heartbreaking UNICEF report, regarding the plight of Syrian refugee children which warns of  a “lost generation” of Syrian children, reiterates the urgency of pursuing such a program (pressfull report).  Take the time to read the full report.

What is Jusoor Looking to do? 

We would like to find opportunities for Syrians from around the world  to work with Syrian refugee children and youth.

Programs like these are core to Jusoor’s mission of engaging the global Syrian population in initiatives that will support the country’s development.

What we learned while in Lebanon?

During our visit, we met with 10 organizations working with Syrian children refugees in Lebanon, including international humanitarian organizations (Save the Children, War Child, UNICEF, USAID), local Lebanese philanthropic organizations and NGOs and Syrian refugee NGOs.

Here is what we learned around the challenges facing Syrian children and youth in Lebanon:

The government and multinational NGOs are trying to integrate the Syrian refugees into the Lebanese educational system.  This effort is fraught with challenges, including:

1. Language barriers:  Starting in middle school, the Lebanese curriculum is taught primarily in French or English, unlike the Syrian system which is taught in Arabic.

This is causing a huge challenge for middle school aged students to integrate. The global NGO community is working on providing language classes to as many Syrian students as possible to help integrate them into the system, but even with language support, there are high drop-out rates among Syrians in the Lebanese system and the international programs are only to support a very small proportion of the refugees.

2. Numbers:  Tragically, there are now an estimated 1 million Syrians in Lebanon which could mean more than 400,000 school aged children.  Meanwhile, there are only 300,000 Lebanese students in the school system.  As you can imagine, these numbers are going to overwhelm the Lebanese education system.

Meanwhile, there are several grassroots efforts springing up to set up Syrian curriculum schools for the refugees.

This effort is largely being led by the Syrian refugees themselves, though there is some assistance from Lebanese philanthropic organizations and some global NGOs.  The rationale for these schools is that they may have a better chance of getting students educated given the challenges of getting absorbed into the Lebanese system.

3. Overall, we were very impressed by the operations of these schools. They have hired former teachers from within the Syrian refugee population and have established partnerships with Lebanese private schools to use buildings in the afternoon.

  • The mere act of attending school is incredibly beneficial to these young Syrians; we observed them in the classroom and it was clear that having the chance to go to school allowed the children to begin to be children again.
  • The primary challenges these schools face are around funding.  The biggest challenge is transportation as many of the refugees live very far away from the schools.
  • There is great controversy over whether setting up these schools is the right thing to do.  On the one hand, they are not accredited by anyone and will likely not get accreditation. On the other hand, they are at least ensuring that our Syrian children remain literate and learn basic arithmetic.

There are several critical gaps and challenges facing Syrian youngsters in Lebanon including:

1. There is a real danger of illiteracy.

Given the high number of refugees cited above, many are not being reached by the education efforts that are being set up.  Anecdotally, several people we mentioned that children are forgetting how to read.

2. Older children are not being addressed in the solutions being put in place.

In particular, the global programs such as UNICEF are designed to support children up until 12 years of age.  That leaves the age group of 15 to 25 very underserved. In addition to a need for continued education among this group, there is also need for support with job placement.

3. Need for vocational training:  Several refugees are much better suited for vocational training than traditional education.  There are limited such opportunities in place.  Almost all of the refugee education funding is going to towards supporting traditional schooling.

What programs might make sense for Jusoor to pursue?

During our visit, we explored several potential programs for Jusoor to pursue.   In the short-term, we will most likely focus on the Community Center and the summer camps.  Stay tuned for details on how to get involved in these programs.

A. Community centers:  The leading program idea for Jusoor is to establish a community center to support youth between the ages of 15 and 25.  The idea would be to support them towards two specific objectives:

(1) job placement (we would particularly focus on finding them jobs with the global NGO organizations that are doing work with Syrian refugees) and

(2) reintegration into the education system by providing mentorship around scholarships and programs available to these students.  These community centers would be located nearby areas with high refugee concentrations.

B. Summer camps:  The idea would be to host a series of one week long camps for Syrian refugee children that would give them a chance to play and have fun as well as indirectly work on some of the social challenges we need to address (e.g., football / soccer matches that have children of different sects and religions playing together, theater, volunteer programs to encourage active citizenship).

C. Supporting one of the Syrian curriculum schools: The idea would be to send in volunteers to teach the English classes and to facilitate sports and recreational activities with the students. There is also important financial support that could benefit these schools, such as supporting transportation, buying books, and teacher (refugee) salaries.

What’s next? 

Next, Jusoor will focus on making one or a few of these programs a reality by establishing a business plan, entering into local partnerships, and launching some fundraising.  We’ll then open up the effort to volunteers among all of you.

Stay tuned for details on how you can get involved.  In the meantime, if you’d like to help us develop these programs please let us know.

We will also be sending our members a list of several programs they can volunteer with on their own if they are visiting Lebanon for the summer that support refugees in various ways.
We urgently need to find volunteers on the ground in Lebanon to play a key role in helping us build and execute these programs.  If you are based in Lebanon and would like to help us build these programs, please let us know.

Needless to say, our hearts were broken over the past week to see the state of Syrian refugee plight and especially those of our children and our hope for the country and its future.  We are working very hard to create programs for us each to get involved in supporting the education of young Syrians.
Sincerely,
The Jusoor Leadership Team

Warning: International correspondents in Africa

It is a dangerous job covering a war zone as foreign correspondents: Regimes fear public display of pictures, videos and detailed articles.

It is even more dangerous to play the free-lance correspondent, having no background knowledge of the country and the people…and not even knowing the Capital of the State or its boundary countries…There are advantages of being very naive about the social and political structure of a country:

1. You tend to ask plenty of questions: You have got no choice if you want to relay the story as accurately as you intend to…

2. You take opportunity of a wide spectrum of citizens…anyone willing to volunteer his piece of the story and his view of the conditions…

3. Since you are not a professional correspondent, you have no direct connections with the main leaders and personalities who regurgitate ad nauseam their proper stories of their positions…

“The booming African continent is ripe for new partnerships, but with those who address us as equals not in aid bullet points” wrote  in guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 June 2012, under “How not to write about Africa in 2012 – a beginner’s guide

Save the Children Africa

Photograph: Colin Crowley/Save the Children/PA.  Save the Children’s handout photo of Aftin, a 12-year-old boy who lives in the community of Bulla Al-Tabi in Kenya.

“Nairobi is a good place to be an international correspondent. There are regular flights to the nearest genocide (locations), and there are green lawns, tennis courts, good fawning service.

You can get pork belly, and you can hire an OK pastry chef called Elijah (surname forgotten) to work in your kitchen for $300 a month.

If you work for one of the major newspapers, television or radio services, chances are you live in Nairobi or Johannesburg. To make your work easier, you need, in your phone, the numbers of the country directors of every European aid agency: Oxfam, Save the Children.

To find these numbers is not difficult: chances are these guys are your neighbours, your tennis partners.

If your spouse has arrived in Kenya and does not have a job, soon he or she will be fully networked and earning lots of pounds/euros/dollars, making sure the babies of Africa are safe, making sure the animals of Africa are kept safely away from Africans, making sure the African woman is kept well-shielded from the African man, making sure the genitals of Africa are swabbed, “rubbered” and raised into a place called awareness.

Because you are a good person, who believes in multiculturalism, and that politicians are evil.

You are a child of the human rights age. A post-cold war child.

In this age, which has no ideology, brown and black places are flat issues: how far from gay freedom is (fill in African country)?

In this age, all local knowledge is carried by aid organisations. These organisations speak human rights, and because they do so, we know that they are good, objective and truthful. So, if a foreign correspondent needs to know what exactly is going on in Sudan, their weekly lunch with the Oxfamy guy will identify the most urgent issues.

Since, in your world, big history died with the Berlin Wall, there is only little history left to report on Africa.

Little history is full of many small flares of “wonderfulness” and many small flares of utter “horribleness” that occasionally rise in a flat and benign world: a little boy in Malawi made his own radio. An actual radio. He has a good smile.

Osama bin Laden or one of his peeps bombed trains, planes and innocent civilians – and you slept safe that night, all of the flat world slept safe that night.

There are five or six places that have not been fully pacified inside the vision of the world as run by the victors of the cold war: North Korea, Gaddafi (that has been dealt with), Somalia, Afghanistan, the women of Africa, and the poor people of China, slaving away under the most terrible conditions doing confusing things like refusing to evolve into Europe.

Big places where history is still alive – like Russia, China, the Middle East – are to be feared and demonized. Why shouldn’t the Egyptians vote for a nice, safe, British-trained economist who once worked for the World Bank, as in most current European States?

In the 80s, your newspaper probably had correspondents in many African countries. Now there are two: west Africa, and east Africa (Horn). Or one: Africa, based in Johannesburg.

In the 80s, the world’s future was not secure. Some African countries were on one side of power, some on the other side of power. They could not be ignored. As nobody had won, the big powers had to fight for the hearts, minds and minerals of all.

All an African President needed to do was suggest that he was crossing over and have love and “Smarties” dropped over his house by Nato planes. Margaret Thatcher visited Zimbabwe. Robert loved her.

In 1991, Africa ceased to exist. The world was safe, and the winners could now concentrate on being caring, speaking in aid language bullet points.

If there was a new map, Africa would be divided into three:

1) Tiny flares of horribleness – Mugabe, undemocratic regimes, war, Somalia, Congo…

2) Tiny flares of wonderfulness. Mandela, World Cup, safari. Baby4Africa! A little NGO that does amazing things with black babies who squirm happily in white saviours’ hands because they were saved from an African war. My favourites are clitoraid.com and Knickers 4 Africa – which collects used panties for African women;

3) The remaining “vast grassroots“. This part of Africa is run by nameless warlords. When the warlords fall, these places are run by grassroots organisations that are funded by the EU and provide a good place to send gap year kids to help and see giraffes at the same time.

Grassroots Africa is good for backpacking because it is the real Africa (no AK47s to bother you, no German package tourists).

The vast grassroots exists to sit and wait for agents of sustainability (Europeans) to come and empower them.

But what cannot be said is that history came surging to the present: Market capitalism is shaking, and all of a sudden the vast grassroots has oil and copper, and willing, driven and ambitious hands.

The continent is ripe for new partnerships, new capital – new strong handshakes.

China is no angel – but we are, for them, an essential part of the way the world will be. They are in it for their future, not ours; we are in with them for our future. We are real to them, and we have a platform to talk.

It is not a surprise that, in these days, there is a vast and growing new middle class across the continent: the British, American and European media houses have lost us.

Our own are booming, and we are finding deals with CCTV (China) and al-Jazeera. We fly Emirates and Kenya Airways. We make deals with those who see a common and vibrant future being a platform for engagement.

Note: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/africa-is-targeted-to-be-exclusively-the-worlds-food-basket/


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