migrants

Charity turns old blankets into winter coats for refugees

By COSTAS KANTOURIS

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THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — It’s been a miserable winter in Greece, especially for the many thousands of refugees staying in tents in old factories and warehouses. At a tiny workshop in the northern city of Thessaloniki, they’re trying to make a little bit of a difference.

Volunteers are working long hours to try to keep the refugees warm, with bursts of noise from sewing machines revealing their mission: To turn discarded blankets into jackets, overcoats and other winter wearables.

There’s an almost endless supply: The blankets — mostly army issue, gray with red stitching — came from the sprawling refugee and migrant encampment at Idomeni on the Macedonian border that is now closed.

As many as 14,000 people lived in tents at the site last year after European countries closed borders to refugees streaming into the continent. Greek police cleared the camp last May, leaving hundreds of tents and thousands of blankets behind. A Greek-German charity called Naomi collected them by the vanload to be washed and reused.

Project organizer Elke Wollschlaeger helps make and even model the coats, which have the label “Remember Idomeni” stitched inside.

“We’re trying to keep it in people’s minds what happened in Idomeni last year, and what Europe did to refugees and the Greek people, just leaving the borders closed and thousands of people stranded,” she said.

Greece’s government says more than 60,000 refugees and migrants remain stuck in the county following the border closures. It has struggled to shelter camp dwellers from freezing overnight temperatures. Authorities on the island of Lesbos are investigating three recent deaths at a refugee camp there, possibly caused by fumes from makeshift heaters.

For Syrian refugee Hasan Al Kodsy, helping out at the coat workshop in Thessaloniki was a natural fit. The 30-year-old used to run a family textile business in Damascus that employed about 100 workers. His journey to Europe stopped at Idomeni but he’s still hoping to join his wife and 2-year-old daughter in Munich, Germany, through the European Union’s slow-moving relocation scheme.

“I saw women (in Idomeni) shivering in blankets and that was not a nice thing to see,” he said. “So we started making clothes with the blankets.”

The charity doesn’t distribute the jackets directly but passes them on to other aid groups in return for donations, using any money raised for skills-training programs for refugees and projects to take them out of camps and place them in apartments. It also sells the coats to walk-ins, like resident Katerina Tsolakidou.

“We really liked the idea of re-using the blankets from Idomeni,” she said after picking up a coat. “It gives the refugees something to do. So instead of spending the money somewhere else, it’ll be put to good use here.”

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Article from: https://apnews.com/6d5e1d5a89a840a88c6b5c8cca19e89b

 

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Six wealthiest countries host less than 9% of world’s refugees

US, China, Japan, Germany, France and UK accommodate just 2.1 million refugees, according to Oxfam report
By Kate Lyons
Sunday 17 July 2016

The six wealthiest countries in the world, which between them account for almost 60% of the global economy, host less than 9% of the world’s refugees, while poorer countries shoulder most of the burden, Oxfam has said.

According to a report released by the charity on Monday, the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and the UK, which together make up 56.6% of global GDP, between them host just 2.1 million refugees: 8.9% of the world’s total.

Of these 2.1 million people, roughly a third are hosted by Germany (736,740), while the remaining 1.4 million are split between the other five countries. The UK hosts 168,937 refugees, a figure Oxfam GB chief executive, Mark Goldring, has called shameful.

In contrast, more than half of the world’s refugees – almost 12 million people – live in Jordan, Turkey, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon and South Africa, despite the fact these places make up less than 2% of the world’s economy.

Oxfam is calling on governments to host more refugees and to do more to help poorer countries which provide shelter to the majority of the world’s refugees. “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time yet poorer countries, and poorer people, are left to shoulder the responsibility,” said Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB. “It is a complex crisis that requires a coordinated, global response with the richest countries doing their fair share by welcoming more refugees and doing more to help and protect them wherever they are.

“Now more than ever, the UK needs to show that it is an open, tolerant society that is prepared to play its part in solving this crisis. It is shameful that as one of the richest economies the UK has provided shelter for less than 1% of refugees.”

According to the UNHCR Globals Trends 2015 report, more than 65 million people have left their homes due to violence, war and human rights violations, the highest number since records began. Most of these (40.8 million) are displaced within their own country, with 21.3 million as refugees and 3.2 million awaiting asylum decisions in industrialised countries. The conflict in Syria has played a large role in this displacement, as have conflicts in Burundi, Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

Many people flee to neighbouring countries, such as from Syria to Jordan and Turkey, which host the most refugees in the world: 2.8 million in Jordan and 2.75 million in Turkey.

The Oxfam report says some wealthy countries are making it harder for refugees to arrive and not easier, citing the refugee deal struck between the EU and Turkey in March as evidence.

Article from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/18/refugees-us-china-japan-germany-france-uk-host-9-per-cent?CMP=share_btn_tw

Refugees brave rain surging river to flee teeming Idomeni camp

Defying E.U., Hundreds of Migrants Enter Macedonia From Greece

SKOPJE, Macedonia — Hundreds of migrants braved a fast-moving river to cross from Greece into Macedonia on Monday, defying efforts by European officials to stop people fleeing war and desperation from traveling through the Balkans to Germany and other destinations.

At least three people — two women and a man, all around 20 — drowned when trying to cross the border, and four people traveling with them were hospitalized, according to humanitarian groups in the area.

The border had been effectively sealed since last week, when Macedonia, along with Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia, said it would no longer allow migrants to pass through on their way north.

The result has been growing pressure at the Greek-Macedonian border, where an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 migrants have been stuck in increasingly desperate conditions, including an outbreak of hepatitis A.

On Monday, the border finally gave way, at least temporarily. Hundreds of asylum seekers marched west from a squalid camp near the Greek village of Idomeni and waded into the Suva Reka, forming human chains to pass infants and toddlers over the rushing river to Macedonia.

The three people who drowned were Afghans, humanitarian groups working in the area said. Although Afghanistan is a poor and war-ravaged country, many Afghans are considered to have only a slim chance of being granted asylum after the European Union categorized them last month as economic migrants. Syrians and many Iraqis who are fleeing civil war and the threat of Islamic extremists have an easier case for asylum in Europe.

European Union officials, determined to avoid a repeat of last year, when the asylum system all but collapsed, agreed to a political deal with Turkey last week to stop migrants from pouring into southeastern Europe.

Under the deal, Turkey would receive financial aid and political consideration in exchange for preventing migrants, mostly Syrian, from risking their lives to cross the Aegean Sea. European officials would assess the asylum applications of Syrian refugees — and directly resettle those whose applications are approved — from refugee camps in Turkey.

The terms of the deal are to be hashed out in Brussels this week.

The authorities in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, did not provide an official comment on the situation Monday, but they were said to be considering forcing the migrants back to Idomeni, across the Greek border. Doing so could be politically damaging for Macedonia, a tiny country that was part of the former Yugoslavia and that has been trying since 2005 to join the European Union.

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Article from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/15/world/europe/european-refugee-crisis.html?smid=tw-nytimesworld&smtyp=cur&_r=0

Refugee crisis: In Serbia, every shoe has a story

By Masuma Ahuja, CNN
Fri October 23, 2015

Footwear -- or lack thereof -- tells the refugee story in Berkasovo, Serbia, on Tuesday, October 20.

Footwear — or lack thereof — tells the refugee story in Berkasovo, Serbia, on Tuesday, October 20.

New York (CNN)About 10,000 refugees are in Serbia, according to recent reports. They face harsh conditions — freezing temperatures and a shortage of aid and shelter.

Marko Risovic, a photographer from the capital of Belgrade, has been at the border between Croatia and Serbia to capture a piece of the long journey that thousands of migrants from the war-torn Middle East are making.

“This kind of story is very hard to show. It’s a very big story,” Risovic said. The “simple details,” he said, ” can tell you a lot about the condition, the emotional message.”

The details he focused his lens on were the shoes — sneakers, trash bags, improvised footwear — that refugees wore.

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“All the shoes have a different story,” Risovic said, “Shoes were torn apart by long walking or by the circumstances or conditions at the border crossing.”

Taking photos of shoes allowed Risovic to tell the stories of migrants while overcoming communication barriers and hesitations of his subjects.

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“It’s hard to communicate with many of them because they speak Arabic,” Risovic said, “Some of them are afraid of showing their faces and being photographed.”

But no one had anything against him taking photographs of their muddy and worn shoes.

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October 20, 2015. Long lines have formed on Croatia’s border with Serbia. Photo by Marko Risovic for CNN.

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Follow CNN on Instagram to see the full series of Risovic’s photos.

How you can help in the migrant crisis:
Catholic Relief Services
Concern Worldwide
International Federation of the Red Cross Europe
International Medical Corps
International Rescue Committee
Medical Teams International (MTI)
Mercy Corps
Migrant Offshore Aid Station
Samaritan’s Purse

Why Syrians are fleeing to Europe


15 Syrian refugees, including 18 months old baby, rescued by Turkish fishermen in the Aegean Files. Published on Oct 23, 2015

Why are so many more refugees undertaking the long journey to Europe? UNHCR’s Melissa Fleming explains

1. The war in Syria shows no signs of ending. People continue to flee, and refugees in neighbouring countries are now losing hope that they can return

Inside Syria, the situation has continued to worsen, with fighting intensifying in all regions and the economy and services in a state of general collapse. This is driving yet more people to leave, but is also having a profound impact on those who have already escaped to neighbouring countries.

When people flee from war, they usually do so hoping to return soon. So they move nearby, perhaps to family or friends in a nearby town, or just across the border, where they can keep an eye on their homes and livelihoods. But after more than five years of conflict, many Syrians have now abandoned that hope. Their homes have been devastated, their families torn apart, and there is little prospect for peace. With nothing left, and their places of exile under increasing strain, hundreds of thousands of people are now ready to travel much further to find the security they so desperately need.

2. Living as a refugee in neighbouring countries is untenable for many refugees, who are not permitted to work and are sliding deeper into poverty

For millions of Syrians, their first place of safety was a neighbouring country – like Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. But few refugees can continue to pay rents at all, even on tiny and crowded rooms. Many refugees face eviction from their places of shelter.

In most countries, refugees are not allowed to enter the labour market formally and face sanctions if caught. In Jordan, for example, they risk being returned to the camps; in Lebanon, they are forced to sign a pledge not to work if they wish to renew their residency status.

Without income, people are forced, first, to spend their savings, and then to take on debt. Even worse options may then lie in store. After years of gruelling costs, many are simply no longer able to pay for rent, food or basic items.

3. There is not enough international aid to help refugees in the region

Normally, refugees might turn to aid agencies like UNHCR, which are running many programmes to help them survive. But the scale of the problem is so large, and it has been going on for so long, that donors are struggling to find the money to pay for these schemes. When the numbers of Syrian refugees arriving in Europe surged last month, UNHCR began to receive new donor pledges to increase aid in neighbouring countries. Even so, this year’s international appeal for Syrian refugees is just over half funded. Recently, World Food Programme vouchers were cut for thousands of refugees, forcing many into “negative coping strategies”, including begging and child labour.

In Jordan, many refugees have also lost free access to healthcare. Almost 60% of adults with chronic conditions are now forced to survive without medicine – up from 23% in 2014. Refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt say cuts like these are the last straw, leaving them little choice but to leave.

4. Children are going too long without an education

Syrians prize education highly. But in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey there are simply not enough opportunities for Syrian children to be educated. In Jordan, 90,000 Syrian children are going without a formal education, and 20% of refugee children have abandoned school in order to work. Many girls are losing out after being forced into early marriage, another survival mechanism. Even in Lebanon, where education is free for Syrian children, transportation costs are prohibitive and many have to miss classes in order to support their families; 200,000 will be out of school this year, and young people looking for a university education have almost no options at all. If they are to get the skills to live a productive life, to go back home and rebuild after the war, parents of Syria’s refugee children arriving in Europe say education is crucial.

5. Countries in the region hosting four million refugees, without commensurate international support, have imposed new restrictions

Neighbouring countries have not been compensated for welcoming huge refugee populations, which has put an enormous strain on their infrastructures. In tiny Lebanon, host to well over one million Syrian refugees, the government has resorted to imposing new regulations making it harder for Syrian refugees to gain asylum. Most people fleeing Syria can only enter Lebanon if they show border guards an air or ferry ticket to Turkey. Refugees already in Lebanon must pay the equivalent of £130 per year to stay, as well as pledging not to work. In Jordan, the government requires all Syrians living outside of camps to get new identity documents to access services, but their cost (£27) is simply too high for many to afford.

6. The portrayal of a welcoming Europe on television and social media

Syrians inside and outside the country avidly follow the news. News stories of difficult journeys across the Mediterranean and through the Balkans end in Austria and Germany with scenes of refugees greeted with applause, flowers and teddy bears. For Syrians, the idea that they could seek asylum in a country offering the combination of safety, work prospects and education was worth the steep smugglers’ fees and the danger of getting there. Many also fear the gates will close soon and the only time to travel is now.

So what is the solution? Obviously, all countries with influence must step up efforts to end to the Syrian war. But until there is peace, the countries hosting four million refugees must receive the infrastructure and development support they need while fully funding UNHCR and partner organisations to provide for the basic needs for refugees. We continue to advocate for employment schemes to allow refugees to earn and contribute to local labour markets.

At the same time, refugees must be offered more legal avenues to reach safety in the world’s richer countries through increased resettlement quotas, more flexible family reunification schemes and humanitarian and student visas. Syrian refugees would certainly then think twice before leaving their region and risking their lives on a journey to Europe.

For more information:
http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

Angelina Jolie- Everyone must help Syrian refugees

UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt with Foreign Secretary William Hague at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Angelina Jolie Pitt, one of the world’s best actresses and a humanitarian, is using her celebrity status for a good cause, and that is to urge everyone to help Syrian refugees. She is using her place, as a special envoy, at the United Nations’ refugee agency to influence people to help the displaced war victims.

In her heartfelt and emotional op-Ed in The Times UK written with Arminka Helic, a former refugee and now a member of the House of Lords, she pleaded to help families that are fleeing the war first, over economic migrants.

“At no time in recent history has there been a greater need for leadership to deal with the consequences and causes of the global refugee crisis,” the actress wrote in the piece last Monday.

Jolie Pitt has spent some time with a Syrian refugee family earlier this year during a humanitarian trip. She said that the war in Syria has made a lot of people suffer. “Syrians are fleeing barrel bombs, chemical weapons, rape and massacres. Their country has become a killing field,” the award-winning actress said.

The actress has worked with the UNHCR since early 2000s, and urged political leaders to take responsibility, even if it’s not part of their nation’s geography. Jolie Pitt said that it doesn’t matter what culture, ethnicity, or religion a person believes in, but what is important is humanity’s core values and rights.

The 40-year-old actress added that the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude is just unacceptable now, especially with what is happening in Syria. She asked other countries in the world, not just those in Europe, to take part in finally resolving the Syrian crisis. Jolie Pitt also encourages people not to stigmatize the refugees, especially those countries who have taken migrants in.

Finally, the actress also suggested that the United Nations Security Council should go and visit the region and come up with a long-term resolution to these conflicts.

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Article from: http://www.christianpost.com/news/angelina-jolie-everyone-must-help-syrian-refugees-144933/

Death at sea: Syrian migrants film their perilous voyage to Europe

Syrian refugee fleeing by the sea
https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/world/video/2014/oct/20/death-sea-syrian-migrants-film-europe-video

This is the story of five friends – Moaaz, Majd, Rasha, Kinan and Khalid – who fled war-torn Syria to embark on a perilous trip to reach Europe. So far this year an estimated 3,000 migrants have died attempting this same journey. On 16 August 2014 they set off from Syria to Lebanon, where they caught a flight to Algeria, to begin their journey. This film was filmed by Majd.

I feel for those who were with me. They got asylum in the sea!

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