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September 03, 2015

Recall the Dáil to respond to the European refugee crisis

Trócaire call for the Dáil to be recalled early to "establish an immediate and effective response" from Ireland to the European refugee crisis.

by Éamonn Meehan, Trócaire Executive Director

A week has passed and there is still no concrete commitment from some EU members including Ireland to respond to the refugee crisis in a way that reflects its scale and severity.

Trócaire is calling on the Dáil to be recalled early to establish an immediate and effective response from Ireland. The people of Ireland have made it clear that they want to help distraught refugees arriving in Europe and are looking for leadership on how we as a nation can act.

Many have seen and are distressed by the tragic image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body washed ashore in Turkey, as he drowned trying to reach the island of Kos. How can we continue to turn our backs and close our borders to children like him?

As EU Member States continue to disagree over refugee quotas and a common position to this crisis, innocent lives are being lost. These people cannot wait any longer for the safety and security they hoped for on reaching Europe. Instead of facing militarised responses and razor wire fences, they should be treated with compassion and in a way that respects their rights and entitlements as refugees fleeing war.

 

Serbia Refugee Crisis

Photo caption: Syrian refugees shelter under a tree in Serbia. Trócaire is supporting Caritas Serbia to deliver hygiene kits, sleeping bags and raincoats, psychosocial support, and health services. Photo credit: Caritas Serbia

 

We ask that the Dáil be immediately recalled

In light of the forthcoming extraordinary EU Justice and Home Affairs meeting on the 14th September, we ask that the Dáil be immediately recalled to agree a firm plan of action on how Ireland intends to respond to this unprecedented crisis.

The Irish Government should show courage and leadership within the EU by making a definite commitment to increase the numbers of refugees it will receive. Across the country, Irish people are calling for this and the Government must listen.

Our own people have a long history of being welcomed into other countries during our toughest times and there are currently millions of people living overseas who are Irish by birth or descent. Given our own heritage, we have a responsibility to show solidarity.

EU Member States must agree a coordinated approach urgently, that respects the legal rights of refugees and responds to their plight. It must provide safe and regular channels of migration and accelerated resettlement processes.

Refugees should be provided with assistance and protection to which they are legally entitled including shelter, food, sanitation, protection from further conflict and clear information.

In the past year, 3,573 people have died attempting to reach Italy, Greece and Spain by sea, an average of ten people a day. This is both a humanitarian crisis and a crisis of humanity. The EU must apply humanitarian standards to save lives, protect those most vulnerable and reduce the scandalous suffering being met by refugees reaching European borders.

 

The coast of Chios, Greece. Syrians and other refugees are crossing the sea from Turkey in perishable plastic boats.

Photo caption: The coast of Chios, Greece. Syrians and other refugees are crossing the sea from Turkey in perishable plastic boats. Caritas Greece has provided sleeping bags and mats to children. Photo credit: Caritas Greece.

 

Trócaire's response

Trócaire is responding to the growing needs of extremely vulnerable refugees in partnership with Caritas Serbia and has allocated €50,000 so far to provide sleeping bags and raincoats, hygiene kits, health services and psychosocial support. Trócaire also works with partners in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Somalia, which are burdened by protracted conflicts and in Jordan and Lebanon, countries which are hosting 1.75 million Syrian refugees.

Donate to our refugee crisis appeal
 

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September 01, 2015

Back to school with a big thanks from Trócaire

School bags are packed, books are covered, school uniforms are cleaned and alarms are set. It can only mean one thing. It’s back to school week.

As a new school year begins, Trócaire would like to say a big thank you to schools all over Ireland, for all they have done to change lives in some of the poorest places on earth.

There's been baking, cycling, poetry writing and even rapping. Trócaire boxes taken home for Lent, the 24 Hour Fast, dress down days - so much fundraising and campaigning on behalf of people in the world’s poorest regions.  

Schools fundraisers
Caption: A selection of our amazing schools fundraisers from schools all around Ireland.

 

Donations making a difference

The creativity of students, guidance of their teachers and support from parents and families for all these activities are hugely appreciated and have made a massive difference. Last year, Trócaire brought vital aid to approximately 2.4 million people in some of the most vulnerable communities.

Within this, 110,000 people in Somalia were supported with health, nutrition and education; 288,811 people in Sudan were reached through a Trócaire-supported hospital and 47,050 people in Sierra Leone were provided with support during the Ebola outbreak.

 

Ireland’s students care

Ireland’s students care deeply about what is happening in the world around them and are making their mark on the world in a very positive way. They should be proud of their contribution to building a more just and equal global community, as they enter into an exciting new year.

Trócaire’s schools team runs a comprehensive development education programme that engages children, young people and educators to make connections between their own lives and international social justice issues and to be empowered to make a positive difference in their world.

Visit trocaire.org/education for further information or to find out about raising funds for Trócaire in your school call Katie Bolger on 01-6549122.

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August 31, 2015

Supporting orphaned children and caretakers in Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola recovery

By  Michael Solis, Programme Manager; Mustapha Abu, Sustainable Livelihoods and Resource Rights Officer, Trócaire Sierra Leona

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak began in Sierra Leone in May 2014. Since that time, there have been over 8,600 cases of Ebola and 3,500 deaths. The crisis has had a devastating affect on the families, communities, and economy of Sierra Leone, all of which must be rebuilt in the aftermath of Ebola.

Thousands of children have been left with either one or no parents. This coupled with the stigma attached to people who became affected by Ebola has rendered survivors, particularly orphans, more exposed to relational difficulties, grief and stress. Many orphans have had to move away from their communities of origin to live with relatives in other parts of the country, which has uprooted them from the places they once called home.     

Having maintained its presence in Sierra Leone even during the darkest days of the virus, Trócaire committed itself to working in three of the districts that were most impacted by Ebola: Bombali, Port Loko and Kambia. In addition to responding to the immediate needs of Ebola-affected communities and quarantined households, Trócaire targeted the caretakers of orphans, providing them with livelihoods resources they needed to address the pressing food needs in their households.

Change is possible

Recently we visited the families of caregivers and orphans who are receiving support from our local partner, the Kambia District Development and Rehabilitation Organization (KADDRO). One of the villages we visited was Gberika, where over 20 people lost their lives to Ebola. Walking through the village, which was busy with neighbours chatting with one another and children playing on the dirt roads, it was difficult to imagine what exactly these people had experienced when Ebola had gotten out of control and all of their lives were threatened and forever changed. 

Gberika is now home to a large population of orphans. Fortunately, guardians within the community took a heroic stand by taking in the children who had lost their parents. 

According to Zainab, one of the women who has benefitted from Trócaire’s livelihoods support, the help has made a significant difference in her life: “It hasn’t been easy dealing with so much loss. Ebola took my husband and my sister, and now I’m taking care of her children. There are more people to take care of, more mouths to feed. I am grateful for the support because I have been able to start anew. Before we were only eating rice but now we have more. The kids don’t have to go hungry.” 

Zainab Sierra Leone

Zainab lost her husband and sister to Ebola one year ago and is taking care of her sister’s three orphaned children, in addition to her own children. 

 

Kadiatu, an 18 year-old orphan, shared how she and her three siblings lost both of their parents to Ebola and how she has had to give “courage” to her sister and two brothers. “We miss our parents. Now our aunt is taking care of us. She works very hard. We are planting and eating new kinds of food. We help my aunt out with the planting and the picking. It makes me feel peaceful.”

 

The Kamara children

Kadiatu (18), Asatu (15), Nasiru (12), and Hassan (10) lost their mother and father to Ebola. They are now under the care of their aunt, and their family is producing okra, millet and maize.

 

Bryam Kamara, another recipient of Trócaire’s support, spoke about how Ebola claimed over 20 lives in Gberika, including those of his brother and sister-in-law. He has taken on responsibility of raising their three children, in addition to his own kids. His family has received seeds and tools to plant peppers, maize, okra and cassava. “I work hard, and now I am taking care of my brother’s children. I love them and want to see them grow up and have happy lives. Ebola took so much away from them, and I feel like it is my job to help give something back to them.”  

Bryan Sierra Leone

Bryam Kamara lost his brother and sister-in-law and is now taking care of his three orphaned nieces and nephews, in addition to his own three children. 

 

The Future of Ebola

Slowly but surely, Ebola is getting under control in Sierra Leone. For the first time since the beginning of the outbreak in Sierra Leone, a full week passed with no confirmed cases reported in the country. Overall case incidence has held at three confirmed cases per week for three consecutive weeks. While this is good news, there is still a risk of further transmission, as key individuals have been lost to follow-up in the capitals of Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Trócaire will remain committed to the recovery, responding to the needs of the families that continue to grapple with the new and trying reality that Ebola has left them. By supporting the livelihoods of poor families, Trócaire hopes to restore the confidence and dignity of those who lost so much to the virus.        

August 28, 2015

Fleeing ISIS in Sinjar, Iraq

When the city of Sinjar, Iraq, was captured by ISIS in August 2014, many Yazidi families fled for safety.  

Among them were Khalil Sadoon and Lela Dawod, from a village close to the city, whose family unit consists of 15 people, including children and grandchildren.  

Hearing that ISIS were forcing Yazidis to convert to Islam or face death, the whole family left their home in the middle of the night, crossing the mountains into Syria and back again to get to safety in the Kurdish Region of Iraq .  

The journey took them nine days.  

Lela with grandchild Musafer

Lela with her grandchild Musafer 

Almost 200,000 civilians, mostly Yazidis along with Shia Muslims and some Kurds, fled from the fighting in Sinjar city and surrounding areas.    In all, more than three million people are now displaced in Iraq.

It is almost a year since Khalil and Lela fled their village.  They believe the home which took them many years to complete is now destroyed.  They now live close to Dohuk city where they have been given permission to occupy an unfinished house.  

In November 2014, the family received support from Trócaire to help them purchase basic items like clothes, blankets, mattresses, a stove and a heater.  This assistance was much appreciated with the harsh winter season approaching.  

Sadoon Children Iraq

Aziz (13) with baby Musafer (8 months), Marlin (8), Maher (7), Suher (5), and Obama (2)

Since that time, one of Khalil’s sons has managed to find work with a building contractor.  He gets about 10 days work a month and takes home about USD $170.  This is the only source of income for this large family.  

Since leaving their home, Khalil and Lela’s children of school-going age have not attended any lessons.  The local school is a distance away and cannot cope with the huge influx of internally displaced people.  

If they are unable to return to Sinjar under protection from the international community, Khalil fears the only other option available to them is to leave the country to try to find refuge in Europe.  

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August 27, 2015

EU needs to treat the unprecedented European migration crisis as a humanitarian emergency

Trócaire has called on the EU to treat the unprecedented European migration crisis as a humanitarian emergency and commit to providing an urgent response that is legal, dignified and compassionate.

Speaking today (Thursday 27th August 2015), Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire said:

“The failure to adequately respond to the current mass movement of people into Europe represents the most serious displacement crisis the European Union has faced in recent times. If this crisis was happening in another part of the world, it would have been officially declared a humanitarian emergency by the UN, ensuring that humanitarian standards to save lives, protect those most vulnerable and reduce suffering were applied and resources made available to meet their needs.

 “EU Member States must honour their legal responsibility to protect refugees coming into Europe, who are risking their lives to escape the worst forms of war and oppression. EU Member States continue to disagree on coordinated action and are responding to this crisis in terms of security and border control. Hungary, for example, is constructing a 13-foot high fence along its 109-mile border with Serbia to keep people out.

 “Increasingly desperate refugees and asylum seekers are facing heavy-handed responses in France, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia and innocent lives are being lost at sea. With no agreed coordinated approach among Member States, Trócaire regards this delay as deliberate, disregarding the suffering of people essentially in legal limbo. It is totally inhumane and unacceptable.

Refugee Camp in Lebanon's Bekka ValleyCaption: The Qab Elials camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon's Bekka Valley. Fifty families currently live in tents in the informal camp. (Photo: Patrick Nicholson / Caritas Internationalis)

 

 “EU Member States must ensure special protection for women and children and prioritise keeping families together. We must remind ourselves that behind the statistics, there are extremely vulnerable people who have already been through war, loss and devastation.”

Éamonn Meehan continued: “Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. EU Member States have a legal responsibility to grant protection for refugees, ensuring safe passage and resettlement with full respect for their basic human rights.

“EU Member States must commit to collective legal action to protect the rights of those who require protection, either as refugees or asylum seekers. Detention, violence and withholding access to basic assistance will not stop desperate people from trying to seek refuge in Europe.

“Safe passage and regular channels of migration are needed as a matter of urgency. Within EU member states, refugees should be provided with assistance and protection to which they are legally entitled including shelter, food, sanitation, protection from further conflict and violence and clear information on entitlements and procedures.

“Policies must not focus on criminalising those who have the right to seek asylum from persecution.

 “At the heart of its response, the EU must remember the treacherous, life-threatening conditions these people are fleeing and provide sanctuary. In Syria over 7m people have been forced to abandon their homes and a further 4m Syrian people have become refugees in neighbouring countries. The EU should take its example from countries like Lebanon, a country half the size of Munster, which has taken in 1.5 million refugees.”

Éamonn Meehan concluded: “Ireland, as a country with a strong track record in human rights and humanitarian response, should do a lot more to respond to this crisis. I commend the work of the Irish Naval Service. However, in isolation, this contribution is not enough. Ireland must take action and be a strong advocate for comprehensive responses from European Union Member States. Ireland has recently agreed to take up to 600 refugees. Trócaire believes that this figure is wholly inadequate and that Ireland should not wait until the EU proposes a final allocation in December. We should show leadership through accepting a greater share of people seeking refuge without further delay.”

Trócaire is supporting Caritas partners in Europe in response to the growing needs of extremely vulnerable people and has offered support to Caritas Serbia, which is responding on the ground to the needs of refugees arriving in Serbia. Trócaire also works with partners in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Somalia, which are burdened by protracted conflicts and in Jordan and Lebanon, countries which are hosting 1.75 million Syrian refugees.

Read our full policy briefing paper on this issue: European Migration Crisis: Failing Policies, Fatal Journeys
 

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