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Support Refugee Children

by International Rescue Committee
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children

Responding quickly to disasters is key to the IRC's mission, and the impact of our programs depends on this timeliness as well as quality of delivery. In Zimbabwe, this was recently demonstrated in the rapid response to Cyclone Idai, which hit Zimbabwe on the evening of March 15.

The cyclone has caused massive flooding and landslides, forcing many Zimbabweans to flee their homes and seek higher ground to survive. Some areas have been cut off due to roads and bridges being swept away, and many who need help are unreachable by rescue and evacuation teams. Most of Chimanimani district is only accessible by helicopter, but poor weather conditions have hindered access since the start of the week. The IRC deployed medical staff and supplies to Skyline in Chimanimani, where a mobile clinic has been set up to support those displaced by the disaster. The IRC is also supporting those displaced with food and kits for women.

“Our teams have been on the ground since Monday supporting the response in Chipinge, and are on standby with emergency supplies to immediately deliver assistance to the most affected district Chimanimani as soon as access is restored. While immediate life saving support is the most pressing need, the impact of this cyclone will continue to be severe in the coming weeks and months. We are expecting the situation to worsen and to see a surge in malaria and other water borne diseases," said Paolo Cernuschi , Zimbabwe Country Director.




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With the UN General Assembly vote in New York, an overwhelming majority of UN Member States affirmed a pact of international solidarity and cooperation for refugee protection and host community development.

Starting in 2019, significant progress can be achieved if States take immediate action to deliver on the promised changes to improve conditions for people fleeing war, persecution and environmental degradation, and address the concerns of the communities hosting them.

As key partners in achieving the objectives laid out in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) we see five key areas: equitable responsibility-sharing; holding ourselves and States accountable to progress; enhancing the leadership of affected communities in designing the response; strengthening protection and coping strategies for people of concern; and delivering real solutions to end their displacement. By focusing on the following five areas we can collectively achieve the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees.

Progress towards equitable responsibility-sharing is key. Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, calls for States to prepare concrete pledges at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum: “The responsibility for hosting refugees is now primarily shouldered by a few low- and middle-income countries close to war zones. The most affluent nations are neither receiving refugees nor supporting host nations in any significant way. We need real responsibility sharing from all rich nations, so that refugee crises can be managed. All countries must do their share,” says Egeland.

Accountability is necessary for a non-binding document and 2019 must be the year where ambitious benchmarks for the success of the Compact are defined: “It is shocking that we still have no systematic way to assess progress on refugee outcomes nor the billions provided to assist them. Three years after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, we know refugees are being left behind” says David Miliband, President of the International Rescue Committee. “Accountability and commitment to what works must be at the center of the Compact’s implementation. The establishment of the World Bank-UNHCR Joint Data Centre is a good first step, but it is critical that we agree clear metrics on outcomes and gather better data to drive real improvements in the lives of refugees and their hosts.”

Also, we expect to see real changes in the lives of refugees and hosting communities. We need to work collectively to realise the potential of the Compact to deliver better refugee protection in practice. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer for Save the Children International says: “This historic agreement offers us the chance to make a real difference to the lives of refugees. Refugee children make up half of all refugees, and they are always the most vulnerable. We hope this Compact will help protect these children and give them the future they have the right to. What refugee children tell us they want most of all is an education. So we are delighted that the Compact pledges that all refugee children will be in school and learning within a few months of crossing an international border and that funding should be provided to enable this, particularly support for host countries. There is no time to waste to make this promise a reality for refugee children.”

While we are disappointed that the US and Hungary have chosen not to affirm the Global Compact on Refugees, we remain optimistic and open to continued dialogue with them as the agreement is implemented.


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The horror of on-again off-again forced family separation at the United States-Mexico border is part of a global trend. In the midst of continued concern at the human cost, as well as bureaucratic confusion at the heart of Administration policy, it is vital that the bigger picture is not lost.

Children, who represent half of the worlds displaced, are particularly vulnerable. Globally there has been a recent surge, with over 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children crossing borders in 80 countries in 2015 and 2016—a five-fold increase from just five years earlier. As we learned in June, a small minority have fled to the U.S., arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border after a long journey fraught with shocking levels of abuse and sexual violence.

This is a dangerous time for children taken into custody at the border. Their stories have largely faded from the front pages, but over three months past the deadline of a federal court order to reunite families, nearly 200 children are still alone in federal custody.

On September 30th the New York Times published a report, stating that migrant children have been relocated in the middle of the night—loading them onto buses to prepare for a cross country journey to new shelter: a barren tent city on a patch of desert in West Texas. In the past year, the average length of time that migrant children spend is custody has nearly doubled, and this poses as a solution for the federal government who is struggling to house this growing population of detainees.

At the IRC, we responded directly to the crisis at the border, working with separated children and providing medical, legal, and financial assistance. Today, we are still present on the front lines of this crisis, as we work to reunite children with their families, address the longevity this trauma will have on their lives.


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Mother and child crossing the boder
Mother and child crossing the boder

Crossing an international border to seek asylum is legal and enshrined in domestic and international law. International refugee protection law—which the U.S. led efforts to develop in the wake of World War II—recognizes the reality that refugees fleeing persecution are often not in a position to pursue regular channels of immigration, and therefore prohibits states from penalizing asylum seekers for their manner of entry. The U.S. is bound by these international treaty obligations.

The Executive Order signed on June 20th, World Refugee Day, is not a solution for families seeking much-needed asylum and does nothing to reunite the thousands of children who have already been separated from their parents at the border. The administration is replacing one form of cruelty with another.

The executive order continues the disturbing criminalization of asylum, in a break with the very treaty obligations the United States helped craft after WWII. It proposes detaining children and their families for the length of their proceedings—which can often take many months or over a year—despite obligations to release children promptly.

Those fleeing severe domestic violence, gang-related violence, or other forms of persecution perpetrated by non-state actors in Central America have the legal right to have their asylum cases heard without being criminalized or separated from their children.

IRC continues to urge the Administration and Congress to reverse course on numerous, troubling erosions to long-standing, bi-partisan protections. Central American children, and their families, have suffered enough.

IRC staff in El Salvador have witnessed first-hand the acute vulnerabilities and protection needs of those who are forced to flee and seek safety in the United States. Families seeking asylum in the U.S. from the Northern Triangle are doing so because they have exhausted all other safe options and are in need of protection. The Administration’s family separation policy won’t change that fact.

In response to tremendous levels of violence and critical protection needs, IRC returned to El Salvador last year. The International Rescue Committee works with the government to improve quality of and access programs and services for people in need; the IRC provides emergency cash relief and lifesaving information services to people in El Salvador who have been uprooted by growing violence. 


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When conflict strikes, its children who tend to suffer the most. We at the IRC recognize this, and acknowledge that for a vast majority of youth, school is seen as that safe space to escape the surrounding conflict, and build skills needed to thrive and survive. Today, we wish to share with you the story of Mahmoud, a boy who risked his life to attend school.

For years, Mahmoud, a serious-minded 13-year-old student from the start, made the daily trip to his school in Homs, Syria without hesitation, despite bullets and bombs dropping around him. “I was scared to be killed, but it’s school…I had to go,” he says. “I had no desire to stay in the dark, even if there’s war around me.” It broke Mahmoud’s heart when one of those bombs destroyed his school four years ago. For him, the classroom was a refuge and a challenge.

“It’s the first step in becoming something great,” he says. Mahmoud was fortunate in that both his parents are teachers. They taught him for several months until yet another bomb hit their home. After fleeing from one city to the next, they finally left Syria for Lebanon. “My parents said in Lebanon I could go to school,” he recalls. “I just want to be safe and learn.”

Mahmoud is one of a half-million school-aged Syrian children living in Lebanon. The pressure to educate these youngsters has been immense, but 250,000 of them still have no opportunity to study. Cities and towns lack resources and physical space, even with the government mandating “second shifts” at public schools so Syrian children may attend classes. Mahmoud preferred to enroll in first shift courses, so that he could make friends with Lebanese children and learn how to speak the local dialect.

He had some luck when he was recommended to enroll in supportive classes run by the International Rescue Committee for Syrian children struggling to adjust in public school. The IRC program builds core competencies in math, Arabic and a second language (English as well as French), with structured tutoring and child-centered learning activities. To date, the IRC has reached more than 4,300 Syrian refugee children across the Bekka and Akkar.

The Syrian war has exposed children like Mahmoud to unspeakable atrocities and hardships, but many hold onto to their hopes and dreams.  “I want to study biology and become a doctor,” says Mahmoud. “I don’t like to see sick people. I saw a lot of sick people in Syria. I want to do my part and make people feel better.” Now one of the top students in his public school, Mahmoud gives credit for his progress to the IRC class.

We at the IRC will continue to work to provide opportunities, and safe havens, to more youth like Mahmoud, and provide the foundation towards a conflict free future.


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International Rescue Committee

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @theIRC
Project Leader:
Caitlin Golub
New York, NY United States

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