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Newsletter 3/25/16

Pope Francis washes and kisses the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees at a shelter outside Rome on Holy Thursday. This welcoming gesture comes at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has spiked throughout Europe following the Brussels and Paris attacks.

For more on the significance of this event click here.

PSA: Refugees and ISIS Are Not the Same Thing

On Tuesday March 22, 31 people were killed during an ISIS-claimed attack in Brussels, Belgium. The apparent rise in terror on the European continent has made a profound impact on the Western world: the U.S. State Department has updated its travel warnings to describe Europe as “vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations,” and right-wing politicians across the board are in uproar.

Anti-refugee sentiment is at an all time high as the EU moves to close its borders at an even more alarming rate. Poland, for instance, who was already coming up short when it came to accepting refugees, has recently issued a statement claiming that they are no longer willing to take in the mere 7000 refugees to which they had agreed.

In other words, this is the same sh*t that we saw in the wake of the Paris attacks: world powers are choosing to conflate terrorists with refugees, while willfully ignoring the fact that those seeking asylum in their “great nations” are fleeing the very terror they fear.

So here’s a reminder from your friendly neighborhood inFlux team: get your heads out of your asses. The attacks in Brussels were devastating. They are of the same nature as those that occur in refugees’ countries of origin on a regular basis. In the same way that we are willing to rally for the 31 who fell victim to terror in Brussels, so too should we move to offer equal respect and protection to the 19.5 million displaced worldwide as one’s nationality does not determine an individual’s worth as a human being.

Any questions?

MSF Leaves Greek Camp Over EU-Turkey Deal

Update: yet another great consequence of the EU-Turkey deal! With the deal now in effect, Doctors Without Borders, commonly known by its French name Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), announced Tuesday that it will no longer provide any services at the Moria “hotspot.” Moria is the main camp on the Greek island of Lesvos where new arrivals are identified, fingerprinted, and registered before being either relocated within Greece or returned to their home countries.

Since July 2015, MSF has provided transportation to the processing center, distributed aid throughout the camp, conducted water and sanitation activities, and provided physical and mental health support.
“We made the extremely difficult decision to end our activities in Moria because continuing to work inside would make us complicit in a system we consider to be both unfair and inhumane,” said Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF head of mission in Greece. “We refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.”Wow, that’s some serious shade thrown at the EU. But unfortunately it’s the refugees themselves who are likely to suffer. To read the official press release by MSF click here.

International Trial Forces Thailand to Acknowledge Rohingya

The largest human trafficking trial in Thai history began this week to shed light on the abhorrent conditions of Rohingya Muslims coming in to the country. Flashback to about a year ago: a mass grave with more than 30 bodies of Rohingya migrants was found at a trafficking camp in Southern Thailand. This prompted international outrage at the Thai government for not only overlooking the refugee Rohingya population but also for failing to crack down on the human trafficking ring. Oops.

Thai traffickers have been benefiting from the suffering of the displaced Rohingya for years now, enslaving them to work on commercial fishing boats and selling women and girls into the sex trade. What’s worse? Not only was the Thai government’s attempt to halt the violence against Rohingya ineffective, it also made the situation worse by pushing the traffickers to abandon the refugees out at sea. Oops again.

So this trial could be the exact push the Thai government needs to make  policy changes that will actually protect refugees within the country. Thailand is not currently a signatory of the 1951 Convention, which means they haven’t recognized the internationally agreed-upon rights of refugees. Let’s hope this trial will help them see the light. #getwokeThailand2016. 

For more on the Rohingya trafficking trial in Thailand click here.


 

inSight of the Week: Aziza, age 34, Syrian in Jordan

“Two years ago, my son was eight years old and he went to the shop to buy something. A tank exploded right next to him and injured his legs. The Syrian military wasn’t aiming at him. Sometimes they just shoot. They don’t know where it’s going to hit: a house, a street, or a car, no one knows. My son was the lucky one. Some people lost their legs or hands, some people were killed.e5927cea-75cd-4dd4-9e90-920d70909f46

“After the bomb, I moved with my family straight to Damascus so my son could go to the hospital there. I was the only one who could travel to the hospital from our house because the Syrian military set up many checkpoints throughout the city. It was unsafe for men to go through the checkpoints, so, as a woman, I had to go alone. My son stayed in the hospital for one week, and then after that I had to take him back once a week for a check-up. But his leg was not healing correctly. After seven months he still couldn’t walk. So we decided to come to Jordan.
“When we crossed the border into Jordan, we were taken in buses straight to Zaatari camp. They took all of our IDs, passports, everything. But we escaped from Zaatari that afternoon. My husband got papers to take my son to the hospital. Usually they make the rest of the family stay in the camp, or maybe they will let one person go with him, but I told them that if his father went, I would be lost in the camp, I didn’t know anything there. And I said if I went, I didn’t know anything in Amman so I would also be lost. So they let us go as a family. And we escaped this way. The only way to legally leave was to be sponsored by a Jordanian, but we didn’t have anyone. So we just escaped. But now we don’t have any ID papers.

“Once we left Zaatari we never thought to go back. If anyone leaves Zaatari they will not go back. People have to stay in a tent, they are worried for their daughters, there is harassment. But here in the city I feel safe, and I feel safe for my children. My kids are in school and I am very happy they are safe in Jordan.

“My husband works as a carpenter here, but this is illegal. Sometimes he has to escape from his job because police come to check about his ID. The kids, too, have stress. They don’t have friends here but in Syria they used to play with other children, with their cousins. They ask me when we will go back to Syria. I can only say we will go when Bashar is gone, or when the war stops.”

-Aziza, age 34, Syrian in
Amman, Jordan

Newsletter 2/16/2016

Tempelhof Airport in Berlin is currently being converted to house up to 7,000 refugees, making it Germany’s largest refugee project. Each cubicle contains beds, a toilet, a sink, and a shower.
For more images of this airport-turned-hotel, click here.


 

“I believe women should be celebrated. We must speak up.”

Bishnu on female empowerment in Nepali refugee camps


 

Ley Powers Talk (And Only Talk) Peace in Syria

This month 50,000 Syrians fled from Aleppo after the Syrian government (backed by Russia) launched an offensive on the northern city. While the Syrian government ramps up the violence on its own people, major powers–including Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Iran–are planning on meeting at a crucial peace talk in Germany on March 1st.

Russia has agreed to discuss a possible ceasefire at the peace talks. Meanwhile, however, they have backed airstrikes that have killed hundreds, displaced thousands, and ravaged cities in northern Syria. Yes, they seem very sincere about peace.

Some skeptics (aka me) are concerned that Russia’s agreement (to maybe discuss possible ceasefires which could perhaps put a potential end to the conflict) is simply a way for the offensive to buy more time to push the rebels back. “Yes, yes, let’s talk peace!” say the Russians as they plan to blow up Aleppo.

For more on violence in Aleppo and the forthcoming peace talks, click here.

NATO Moves to Curb Human Trafficking* in the Aegean

*Read: the flow of refugees crossing into Europe

As a means to aid Greece and Turkey with their “migrant problem,” NATO has deployed a fleet to end the flow of refugees crossing the Aegean. Greece had already declared Turkey a “safe third country,” giving it the legal framework to deny entry to asylum-seekers and deport those who had previously arrived, but this development takes the don’t-pass-go policies to a whole new level.

Officials are claiming that the intention is to crack down on the “criminal syndicate that is exploiting these poor people” which, while true to an extent, mainly means that migrants will now be met by warships as opposed to coastguards. Looks like the Refugee Welcome Wagon has become even less welcoming.

For more about NATO’s involvement in the Aegean, click here.

Boko Haram Strikes Again, and Again, and Again

On Monday, three girls were taken in at the Dikwa IDP camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, where 50,000 people have sought sanctuary from Boko Haram. On Tuesday, two of them carried out a suicide bomb mission that killed 58, wounded another 70, and effectively let the world know they’d woken up on the wrong side of the beds they had been given the night before.

Attacks such as these have become somewhat routine in Northern Nigeria. Although President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to defeat Boko Haram have been doubled, the militant group continues to torch homes, abduct children, and massacre civilians. They’ve even begun targeting camps that house the people they have internally displaced.
Fear not, friends! The UN issued the call for a global response to stop the Boko Haram terror threat…last April. I know that was a while ago, but I’m sure they’ll pull it together. After all, look at how smoothly the Syrian peace talks have been going.
For more, click here.


 

inSight of the Week: Bishnu, age 48, Bhutanese in Nepal

“I moved from Bhutan 18 years ago, when I was 30 years old, but to this day I do not remember much about it. All I remember was the transition to these camps, and how hard it was. More than anything–I remember the food and how different. Suddenly, I could not eat any milk or yogurt. All I could manage was rice and curry. This made me ill. It was not healthy, but we had no choice. Looking back, I realize how lucky I was to have what we did.

“My favorite day of the year is International Women’s Day. I am one of the leaders at the Bhutanese Refugee Women’s Forum (BRWF), you see, and I believe women should be celebrated. We must speak up. Many of the women here suffer from domestic violence. They are stuck within their huts, and are afraid to leave. I go to visit these women and I ask them why they allow themselves to be dominated. Why? I encourage them to explore their emotions and dig deeply because this is how they can get better. Domestic violence used to be much worse in the camps, but now it is better. I think this is because male domination is an old cultural tradition; now people are gaining new understanding.
“Women are respected in the camp. In Bhutan, it was not tradition to go to school. Here that it is different. We can also do work outside of our home. I ran my own store for a while. I got a grant from the BRWF. After I had my store, people trusted me more. They would offer to lend me money whenever I needed it for my sick husband. I felt cared for.
“I smile whenever I think of my work with the BRWF and my old store. At the BRWF, I was nominated by my friends, and then elected to the position that I have held for a few years. Most people know me here; I am always saying hello.
“Relocation worries me. I already moved from to an unknown place and an unknown community when I came to Nepal. I don’t want to do it again. Everyone talks about resettlement as the solution, but I am not sure this is the answer for me. My children and I, when we introduce ourselves, we say we are refugees from Khadunabari camp. This is my identity. It is what I say when I greet people. It is what is implied when I always say hello.”
-Bishnu, age 48, Bhutanese in

Khadunabari Refugee Camp