This Week in Restoring Family Links News 10/4/2014-10/10/2014

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.

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Unaccompanied Children: This week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spoke about border security and the unaccompanied child migrant crisis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He discussed improvements made to security along the southern border as well as the decline of children traveling unaccompanied across the border. The Secretary said, however, that this should not be a reason to claim “victory” as the lower numbers reflect general migration patterns in the region caused in part by weather conditions. In discussing issues of border security and child migrants, the Secretary cautioned everyone to engage in “informed, careful, and responsible dialogue, not overheated rhetoric that is certain to feed flames of fear, anxiety and suspicion.” This is especially pertinent advice given the number of reports arising about supposed diseases carried into the US by migrants.

As media coverage concerning unaccompanied child migrants moves from the US-Mexico border to the states and cities hosting the minors, many stories have focused on the work of schools and communities to provide assistance. This ranges from English as a Second Language training to game-based learning educating about the US immigration system. A lack of legal representation for these children when going before immigration courts has also been a focus. Many pro bono legal services have been made available, but the immense needs have left gaps in representation for some children. Studies have found that child migrants without a lawyer are far less likely to be granted asylum.

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Migration and Europe: In today’s globalized world, migration in all its forms is a topic that touches every nation. While the US continues to grapple with migration issues ranging from unaccompanied children to migrant families, Europe is facing its own crisis. One year after the Lampedusa shipwreck tragedy in which over 360 migrants died, a report was released naming Europe as the deadliest border in the world. Organizations such as the UN Refugee Agency have asked European nations to overhaul refugee policies and take in more refugees from Syria to help ease the crisis. While many reports focus on the work of organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to these migrants and advocate on their behalf, little attention is paid to life on the other side of the “border.” Those living along the Libyan coast have found their towns turned to graveyards as the dead from shipwrecks wash ashore. A lack of security in the nation also leaves them vulnerable to smugglers, who many call “vampires.” As with any migration crisis, finding a solution will require addressing issues on both sides of the border.

Red Cross and Reconnecting Families: This week, we were able to share a number of successful family reconnection stories from around the globe. From South Sudan where the ICRC and South Sudanese Red Cross were able to reunite Grace with her mother to the UK where British Red Cross workers were able to reconnect a family separated by conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Red Cross remains dedicated to restoring communication between loved ones separated by conflict, disaster, migration, and other humanitarian emergencies. Other stories came from Australia and Cambodia/Vietnam where acute vulnerabilities made the family reconnection all the more urgent. Also, at the American Red Cross, a volunteer with national headquarters shares her experience conducting tracing work for the Restoring Family Links program for over twenty years.