This Week in Restoring Family Links 1/25/16 - 1/29/16

This Week in Restoring Family Links 1/25/16 - 1/29/16

On Wednesday, the world came together to remember and reflect upon the Holocaust and all of its victims. The United Nations General Assembly declared on November 1, 2005 that this annual day of remembrance would occur ever January 27, the day that Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1945. The United Nations urges member states to observe this day every year, to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future such genocides from ever occurring again. President Obama marked the day by stating "we are all Jews", a quote told by Sergeant Roddie Edmonds to his German captors during the war; the president also encouraged the world to fight remaining antisemitism across the world, and affirmed the United States' support for the Jewish state of Israel. 

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This Week in Restoring Family Links News 07/06/15 - 07/10/15

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.

Syria: Yesterday, the international community learned of a sobering reality: The UN declared that the number of Syrian refugees has officially climbed to 4 million, over half of Syria's population. In a statement, U.N. High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said, "This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation.”

Bryan Denton / NYT

Bryan Denton / NYT

Though many choose to flee to bordering countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, 7 million are displaced within Syria, and in its 5th year, conflict still rages on – over the past few weeks, rebels have attacked the city of Aleppo by bombing government buildings, universities, and community centers. Aleppo was once named the city of scholars, as well as a secure home for Syrians. Now, Aleppo is marked as a city of war.

Though refugees are separated from violence, they face a life with poorer conditions than before. Families driven by deepened poverty and desperation turn to extreme survival strategies, such as marrying off their young children or forcing them to work. Guterres stated, "Worsening conditions are driving growing numbers towards Europe and further afield, but the overwhelming majority remain in the region. We cannot afford to let them and the communities hosting them slide further into desperation." UNHCR appealed for $5.5 billion to support the Syrian refugees in 2015, but the plan is only 24% funded. Humanitarian organizations have cut rations due to a lack of funds. Help is desperately needed, but the growing numbers carry a heavy weight on aid moving forward. 

South Sudan: On July 9, 2011, South Sudan gained independence as an individual nation in Africa. 4 years later, South Sudan is not participating in celebrations, and the world’s newest nation is one of the world’s worst humanitarian situations. Conflict began in December 2013, and since, 2.25 million South Sudanese are displaced, including more than 600,000 refugees who have fled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan. As many frail parents struggle to make the journey out of their homes–life expectancy in South Sudan is only 55 years–the crisis has majorly impacted the next generation of South Sudanese: 70% of those displaced are children.

UN / Martine Perret

UN / Martine Perret

Last week, we reported about the ruthless attack on a peacekeeping base that killed one and injured many others. This week, in anticipation for the rainy season in South Sudan, world health organizations are concerned about the possibility of cholera infecting those internally displaced. The Red Cross has resulted to air drops to deliver food, water, and health supplies, due to the remote locations of displaced persons, and along with other humanitarian organizations, are calling for action. Watch these two videos from the British Red Cross and UNHCR for more information about South Sudan since their independence.

Yemen: Last Saturday, a rocket attack struck a kindergarten shelter in Aden, Yemen, killing 12 refugees. Among them were 11 Somalis, 1 Ethiopian, and 5 being children. 12 others were also injured. Supported by the UNHCR and Solidarity Association for Development, (SAD), Al Tadamon Kindergarten is home to hundreds of displaced families. UNHCR reported that the shelter was well-known for hosting refugees, and called for members of the conflict to respect and protect all civilian lives. Currently, over 1 million are internally displaced people in Yemen, 250,000 are refugees and millions more are in need.

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. 

The Restoring Family Links Public Inquiry: A Year in Review

Story by Liz Corrigan, Public Inquiry Associate, Washington, DC

Over the past year, the Restoring Family Links public inquiry received more than 450 messages.  These inquiries came from here in the United States and around the world.  Many of these messages were from family members looking for loved ones. Below is a glimpse into some of the most popular inquiries we received. 

Inquiries from the Ukrainian Conflict

Over the past year, Restoring Family Links (RFL) received several inquiries related to armed conflict and political unrest in Ukraine.  For example, we received an inquiry from a daughter whose mother lives in Ukraine. She had not been able to contact her for over a month.  The last contact they had was when her mother called her from a root cellar to avoid gunfire.  Following this phone call, the daughter was not able to reach her by cell phone or other means of communication. 

The daughter was very concerned that they had limited electricity, food, water and other resources.  At this point the daughter turned to the American Red Cross for help.  She found our international reconnecting family services online and submitted a public inquiry.  Upon receiving the public inquiry, Restoring Family Links National Headquarters staff immediately referred her to a local chapter caseworker to open an international tracing case.

Refugees searching for lost family members

The public inquiry frequently receives questions related to family members separated while fleeing armed conflict.  One inquirer wrote to us after he had fled from South Sudan to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.  In 2000, he was given the opportunity to come to the United States as a refugee.  He wanted to give back to the country that allowed him a new beginning and joined the US Army.  After serving on multiple deployments he was recently asked to deploy once again overseas.

Before deployment he reached out to the American Red Cross through the RFL public inquiry to ask if we could help locate his mother.  He wanted to insure her safety before leaving the country once again.  It had been more than a year since he had spoken to his mother who was living at a UN compound in South Sudan.  He was referred to a chapter caseworker so that he could hopefully find his mother and know that she is safe.    

Family separation during war in Syria

The Syrian Civil War has forced many families to flee their homes, many times, resulting in separation from their loved ones.  The RFL public inquiry has provided these families access to contact the American Red Cross in search of loved ones living in Syria and its neighboring countries.  One son wrote to us in search of his father and paternal family.  Others wrote in search of family who they believe to have fled to Turkey or Jordan. The Red Cross works quickly to connect each client with the appropriate caseworker in their community so that they can begin a tracing case. 

Collaboration with Restoring Family Links

We also received inquiries asking to collaborate with American Red Cross' Reconnecting Family Services.  One inquirer in Ohio asked to coordinate on local outreach efforts to the refugee community in Dayton to increase awareness around RFL services.  Another asked to use RFL as a referral service for some of her youth refugee clients looking for family overseas.  The public inquiry is a great tool for partner agencies to contact Restoring Family Links staff at national headquarters for partnership and collaboration opportunities.

Every year, the American Red Cross helps reconnect thousands of families separated by conflict, disaster, migration, and other humanitarian emergencies. The public inquiry serves as an easy way to learn more about and access these services. To start your search today, please visit redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies.

This Week in Restoring Family Links News 05/16/2016 – 05/22/2015

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.

Burundi: Over 110,000 persons have fled Burundi due to violence in the lead up to elections expected in May/June of this year. The majority (approximately 70,000) have fled to Tanzania, arriving in Kagunga and Kigoma as they await transport to the Nyarugusu refugee camp. The sheer number of people has led to a humanitarian crisis, but is being compounded by the rising threat of cholera, with between 300 and 400 new cases being reported daily.

Numerous organizations are responding to the needs of these refugees. Oxfam in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency and the government of Tanzania has focused its relief efforts on water and sanitary equipment. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been supporting Red Cross National Societies in the region to meet the humanitarian needs of the displaced, including reconnecting families separated by the conflict.

(Christophe Archambault/AFP)

(Christophe Archambault/AFP)

Rohingya: Last week, we covered the refugee crisis emerging in the Andaman Sea as Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants were denied entry into Malaysia and Indonesia, forcing them to remain stranded in the sea without food, water, or medical attention. This week, progress was made in addressing the emergency as both Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to provide temporary protection for the thousands of refugees. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has pledged to assist these migrants. The Philippines has also offered to accept 300 of the boat people.

The willingness of these nations to address the crisis is an important step forward; however, other regional players continue to refuse to help and refute responsibility. Australia has completely refused to help address the crisis by resettling refugees. And Myanmar, where many of the refugees are fleeing from says it has no responsibility for the refugees. The nation’s continued denial of recognition and rights for the Rohingya is seen by many as the main driver of the current crisis.

South Sudan: This week, many agencies warned of increased violence in South Sudan ahead of the rainy season. The conflict is increasingly disrupting humanitarian assistance, and even targeting UN compounds where many displaced South Sudanese have sought refuge. The conflict has frustrated the international community whose continued attempts at peace negotiations have resulted in eight failed ceasefires, testing the limits and applicability of current conflict resolution practices.