This Week in Restoring Family Links News 06/29/15 - 07/03/15

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

Burundi: Nearly two months has passed since thousands of Burundians began to flee from their homes to escape pre-election violence. The uprising was in response to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third consecutive five-year term, which violates Burundi’s peace accord set in 2000 – stating a president may only serve two terms. Elections concluded on Monday–despite calls by the UN to postpone it to mid-July–and as grenades flew over polling stations and guns rattled through the streets, citizens fled. As of the elections, 10,000 additional refugees left Burundi, and the UNHCR reported that over 140,000 Burundians were declared displaced in four main neighboring countries: almost half are seeking refuge in Tanzania, 40% in Rwanda, and the remaining in DRC and Uganda. While these are staggering numbers, the realities hit home: 80% of these individuals were refugees before, and over 60% are children. Children often come unaccompanied, and are vulnerable to disease, malnutrition, and trauma.

Burundian family in Tanzania camp (British Red Cross)

Burundian family in Tanzania camp (British Red Cross)

With the highest number of refugees, most of the weight has fallen on Tanzania: Nygaragusu camp in Tanzania is home to 120,000 refugees, and before Burundians arrived, Nygaragusu was the home to 65,000 Congolese refugees. Combined, the population equals the size of Cambridge, England. The Red Cross is hard at work at Nygaragusu treating cases of cholera, improving access to clean drinkable water, providing medical care and psychological support, and reuniting families. However, resources are dwindling. The camp urges for more aid in order to accommodate newly arriving refugees, and aspire to build schools, hospitals, and new residences. The British Red Cross has pledged £50,000 from its Disaster Fund to help with the relief effort in Tanzania, and urges for more donations. 

Ukraine: Since 2013, war has raged across Ukraine due to political tensions between Ukraine and the EU council. Over the past two years, protests, violence, and political instability have uprooted millions from their homes into other parts of Ukraine, and in some cases, to other countries. As of last month, the UN reported that 1.3 million Ukrainians are internally displaced, (with many of them children), 6,500 civilians have been killed, and over 16,000 wounded. UN estimates demonstrate that more than 5 million people in Ukraine are in need of humanitarian support – a figure that sprung the EU into action.

Ukrainian refugees at a playground in Russia (AFP)

Ukrainian refugees at a playground in Russia (AFP)

This week, the EU pledged to increase humanitarian aid to Ukraine to €15 million, with a focus on the Eastern region as well as to aid children. EU leaders hold, “too many children are being left behind.” These sobering realities along with migrant influxes across the Mediterranean, especially in Italy, France, Hungary, and now Greece, will require the EU to tackle refugee and migrant issues head on. 

South Sudan: Looking back over the last 18 months, close to 2 million people have been forced from their homes since South Sudan descended into civil war due to conflict between nation’s leaders that rehashed old ethnic tensions. Yesterday, the UN mission in South Sudan declared that anti-government rebels opened fire on a peacekeeping base sheltering thousands of civilians, killing at least one person and wounding six others. In response, The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on six military commanders from South Sudan for perpetuating the conflict, and hope to continue to protect citizens. As of now, there is no word to who committed the crimes. 

This Week in Restoring Family Links News 06/15/2015 - 06/19/2015

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

Syria: Over the weekend, Kurdish fighters in Tel Abyad, Syria disrupted a major ISIS supply line at the Turkish border, and though considered a victory for the ISIS opposition, the fighting created a flood of new Syrian refugees in Turkey. On Tuesday, over 23,000 refugees piled at the Akcakale border crossing into Turkey, with 70% of them women and children. Initially, Turkish authorities resisted entry into the country, but the pressure proved too overwhelming. As of this week, Turkey now hosts 1.7 million Syrian refugees, while Lebanon and Jordan stand close behind with just under 1.3 million between the two. In a report entitled, “Global Refugee Crisis: A Conspiracy of Neglect” by Amnesty International, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, after having taken in more than four million Syrians since the conflict started in 2011, are now reportedly closing their borders.

BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

In light of these events, Amnesty International called for the international community to reorient refugee strategies, claiming global response has been “dismal” to the crisis. Since 2011, Turkey has spent over $6 billion on aid for refugees, and along with Lebanon and Jordan, stated that the refugees have severely burdened its economy.

For Syria, the conflict rages on as numbers continue to escalate – perhaps most alarming is that 50% of Syria’s population is currently displaced. However, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, a part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, holds it won’t give up. Despite disaster, it still fights on. 

JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/Getty Images

Migration to Europe: Last week, we covered the eye-opening realities of the thousands of migrants who have journeyed from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to seek refuge in Europe. This week, the EU faces several new risks and decisions, as many migrants have been on the ground for several days. Talks in Luxembourg failed to produce a plan to divide refugees evenly between the 28 nations in the EU. The UK is due to withdrawal its Navy Ship that has patrolled the waters of the Mediterranean for weeks to rescue migrants in danger, and the pressure is on Italy to respond quickly, as they have received 54,000 migrants so far this month, especially along the Italian-French border of Ventimiglia. For some Italian authorities, the pressure proved to be extensive, as reports of violence, excessive force, and separated families circulated in the news.

In response to the migrant influx, Italian Red Cross is providing services at central train stations of Milan, Rome and Ventimiglia where hundreds of migrants congregate each day. The Red Cross is providing emergency health services in each station, as well as assisting through interpreters. Also, this week, the Red Cross established a ‘tent city’ in Rome, which can provide shelter for over 200 people. For weeks, the Italian Red Cross urged for aid from France, however, on Wednesday, France announced plans to construct over 10,000 housing units for migrants. 

Father's Day: Every year, the Red Cross helps thousands reconnect with their loved ones after separation due to conflict. Father’s Day is just around the corner, and the Red Cross has helped families and individuals from all over the world reconnect with their fathers. Here are a few stories to keep in mind this Sunday:

April: During the onset of World War II, Michael Chudik left his hometown in Poland for the United States, leaving his entire family behind. When battles erupted close to Michael’s family’s town, his family was forced to relocate to Ukraine, and the family lost contact with each other for over 60 years. Finally, Michael’s daughter, Dorothy, reached out to the American Red Cross in hopes of discovering what happened to her father and the rest of her family. With the help of the Red Cross, Dorothy and her cousin John were able to reconnect with their family in Ukraine, and Dorothy held her father’s legacy close to her heart. Read the full story here.

May: Cuban native Nelson Perez was hopeful to make a new life for himself in Tampa, Florida, but he had to do it alone. When Perez attempted to bring his daughters over from Cuba, it turned unsuccessful, and as the years went by, they lost contact. A few years ago, one of his daughters, Mercedes, reached out to the Cuban Red Cross in hopes to finally be reunited with her father. Within time, the Red Cross found Perez in Tennessee, and he was thrilled to hear his daughters’ voices again after so many years. Now, Perez and his two daughters are in constant contact, with a family reunion in the works. Read the full story here.

May: Thu-Thuy Truong, Board Secretary for the Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter and Restoring Family Links Advocate, was 13 at the time when she and thousands of other Vietnamese fled during the fall of Saigon. The Red Cross chapter in Denver, Colorado welcomed Thu-Thuy Truong as a guest speaker to talk about her experience and how the Red Cross helped reconnect her family with their father, from whom they were separated during the incident. Check out her beautiful story here.

Everyone deserves to celebrate Father’s Day this year with loved ones. If you or someone you know has lost contact with a father, the Red Cross can help you reconnect. For more information on the reconnecting families services of the Red Cross or to start your search today, please visit redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies.

This Week in Restoring Family Links News 06/08/2015 – 06/12/2015

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

Rescued migrants head to safety (AFP/Getty Images)

Rescued migrants head to safety (AFP/Getty Images)

Mediterranean migrant rescues: Over the past several months, the European Union has continued to face a staggering increase in migration. As conflict intensifies between Libyan rival governments and armed forces, smugglers have actively forced thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean to mainland Europe. British officials estimate that over 500,000 migrants will attempt to sail into Europe over the course of this summer, a highly dangerous journey that has left 1,300 dead and many others at risk. Over the weekend, Italian navy ships rescued almost 6000 migrants just 80 kilometers off the coast of Libya, and the number of rescues continue to rise. On Wednesday, Tunisia rescued 350 Syrian and Libyan migrants sailing to Italy and the search is ongoing for hundreds more.

Since February, the Italian Red Cross has been stationed along major migrant entry coastlines to provide humanitarian assistance, and recently, the European Union has increased its presence along the entire Mediterranean to aid refugees. However, the EU is still struggling to better address the issue as it is projected to increase throughout the summer. 

Burundi: Last week, we covered the ongoing refugee crisis in Tanzania, as hundreds of thousands of individuals continue to flee from Burundi to Kagunga and Kigoma with a final destination of Nyarugusu refugee camp. In addition to overcrowding, poor conditions, and high stress due to the violence back home, refugees are faced with the risk of cholera, a highly-contagious stomach disease that continues to spread to more victims each day. However, several nurses working in cholera clinics throughout the camp have stated most cases have a positive outcome. 

A Burundian teenager at Mahama (Zoe Flood/Guardian)

A Burundian teenager at Mahama (Zoe Flood/Guardian)

This week, an unusually high amount of Burundian unaccompanied minors arrived at Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda. As one of the more popular camps, Mahama is a central location for children under 18, especially young boys, and the high volume continues to strain humanitarian response to this region. Though the crisis is extensive and continuing to rise, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been supporting Cross National Societies in the region to meet migrant needs, as well as helping to reconnect families separated by the violence. On Monday, the UNHCR (alongside other UN agencies) made progress on the Burundi Refugee Response Plan for Rwanda (RRP) by briefing members of the donor and diplomatic community. 

Global Refugee Struggle: This week, the New York Times reported that the world is dealing with its worst migration crisis since World War II. According to the UN, by 2014, the amount of persons displaced inside their countries rose to an all-time high of 38 million, while the number of refugees in foreign countries climbed to 16.7 million. Most of the conflict exists in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, while the poverty trap adds sub-Sahara Africa and Southeast Asia into the mix. According to the New York Times, the problem in many parts of the world is conflicting opinions on how to respond, and little progress despite strong humanitarian aid. View the full story, including detailed graphs, maps, and pictures here