This week in Restoring Family Links: 08/08/2016 - 08/12/2016

Members of the Refugee Olympic Team have their picture taken with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and UNHCR staff inside the Olympic Village. For the first time in Olympic history, the International Olympic Committee has created a team comprised of refugees competing as the Refugee Olympic Team. Photo Credit: Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Members of the Refugee Olympic Team have their picture taken with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and UNHCR staff inside the Olympic Village. For the first time in Olympic history, the International Olympic Committee has created a team comprised of refugees competing as the Refugee Olympic Team. Photo Credit: Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Olympics: The 2016 Olympics started in Rio on August 5, with over 200 country participants. For the first time in Olympic history, there is a refugee team competing under the Olympics’ official flag. Coming from Syria, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia, these athletes are refugees fleeing from their home countries to escape violence, persecutions, and wars. The decision to have a refugee team to compete in the Olympics was praised as it would help raising awareness of the current refugee plight as well as giving hopes to the displaced populations. 

During the opening night, when the refugee team entered the stadium, they received standing ovation. Their presence was also celebrated over Twitter, and other forms of social media. They were also supported and cheered for by world leaders, such as U.S. President Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. The Olympics team is said to have encourage other refugees that anything could be done. With half of the athletes lived or passed through the Kakuma camp in Kenya, FilmAid, Amnesty International, and International Olympics Committee set up live screenings of the Olympics so that the refugees living there could cheer for the team.

However, there are also fears that after the Olympics team disbanded as the games come to an end, the praise and cheer for the refugees will soon be forgotten. The plight of refugees still continues and will continue after the Olympics. Instead, many have raised their voices demanding wealthy nations, such as South Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, to offer more resettlement places to refugees, and to assist monetary and psychological assistance to over sixty million refugees. Whether the refugee team wins medals at all in the Olympics, the cheer and support for them should continue on and focus on the everyday refugees, whose stories were not told but familiar to those of the competing athletes.

Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration over what they say is unfair distribution of wealth in the country at Meskel Square in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Photo Credit: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters.

Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration over what they say is unfair distribution of wealth in the country at Meskel Square in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Photo Credit: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters.

Ethiopia: Over the weekend, the Ethiopian security forces killed 97 people and injured hundreds more when they fired live bullets at “peaceful protestors” that called for political reform, justice and the rule of law. This incident continues to killing of protestors that has started in this country since January. According to the Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director of East Africa, the Ethiopian security forces “have systematically used excessive force in their mistaken attempts to silence dissenting voices.”

It is reported that after the killing of protestors, the government had imposed an internet block. However, videos slowly reached social media through special software that could get around the block. The protestors, mostly the Oromo and the Amhara, raise their grievances against the Tigrayans – which is the currently ruling minority ethnic group in Ethiopia.

As the result from such violence, the UN human rights chief has been urging Ethiopia to let international observers to investigate the killings of protestors as he and his office have not seen any “genuine attempt at investigation and accountability.”