This Week in Restoring Family Links News 11/29/2014-12/05/2014

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.

Syrian refugees protesting in Athens. About three hundred men, women and children have been on the same spot for over a week now, demanding that they be granted permission to move on to other European countries. Credit: Apostolis Fotiadis/IPS

Syrian refugees protesting in Athens. About three hundred men, women and children have been on the same spot for over a week now, demanding that they be granted permission to move on to other European countries. Credit: Apostolis Fotiadis/IPS

Syrian refugees: As the Syrian Civil War rages on, those displaced by the conflict continue to face a variety of experiences and obstacles in receiving the assistance and protection they deserve depending on the location to which they have fled. A few weeks ago, hundreds of refugees were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea and taken to Cyprus. Because many of the asylum seekers were hoping to reach Western Europe where they already have family members and economic conditions are better, most have not registered with the Cypriot government as refugees, effectively leaving them in limbo. Similar circumstances are faced by refugees in Greece, where hundreds of Syrians are protesting not being allowed to leave the country in order to avoid Greece's slow asylum processes and xenophobia. For those who have reached Western European nations, such as Germany, experiences have been mixed with some facing resistance from local communities and others being welcomed with open arms as they struggle through long (though expedited) asylum processes.

In Syria and its neighboring countries, humanitarian organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), continue to provide assistance to the displaced. In Jordan, the ICRC has started looking towards the future and began educating Syrians about the dangers of unexploded bombs and other remnants of war. In Syria itself, the ICRC continues to work across frontlines to provide lifesaving aid for civilians still living within conflict zones. Unfortunately, a lack of donor funding has left many organizations, such as the United Nations, to limit their humanitarian assistance programs. In Lebanon, the UN has been forced to suspend food aid because of the funding shortage.

A girl from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, rests at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, Aug. 13, 2014. Credit: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters

A girl from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, rests at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, Aug. 13, 2014. Credit: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters

Iraq: As the Syrian Civil War continues to have regional impacts, it is difficult to talk about Syria without also mentioning the conflict in Iraq. This week, the International Organization for Migration reported that Iraq’s displaced population has surpassed two million people. In a meeting with the Canadian Parliament, one of Iraq’s own Parliamentarians called on the international community to provide more humanitarian assistance for those affected by the conflict. The Red Cross Movement has been very active in helping Iraq's displaced populations, and even while addressing the humanitarian needs of its own people, the Iraqi Red Crescent continues to help Syrian refugees within its borders.

International Volunteer Day: As voluntary service is a fundamental principle of the Red Cross Movement, the work of Red Cross Red Crescent societies around the globe could not be done without the dedication of volunteers. Working at the National Headquarters for the American Red Cross, I am continually amazed by the commitment of our volunteers around the globe whether it is those putting their life on the line to provide aid to those affected by conflict in Syria and Iraq or the volunteers here in Washington, DC, dedicating hours and days of their time to help alleviate human suffering by reconnecting loved ones separated by conflict, disaster, and migration. For this year’s International Volunteer Day, the blog recognized several of the volunteers at American Red Cross National Headquarters. I would like to again, express my sincere gratitude for their voluntary service and all those around the globe who dedicate their time helping others whether it is with the Red Cross or another organization assisting local and global communities.