This Week in Restoring Family Links News 10/19/2015 - 10/23/2015

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.

Red Cross Neutrality: This week the Restoring Family Links Blog highlighted the Red Cross Red Crescent Fundamental Principle of Neutrality. This Principle ensures that the Movement will not “take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.” This stance has generated many myths about what the Red Cross can and cannot do, first and foremost, that if an issue, for instance migration, is politicized, the Movement cannot take action. Yet, neutrality is not meant to dictate what the Red Cross does, but how it does it.

Around the globe, the Red Cross puts politics aside to meet the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable. From providing medical aid in Syria, to helping migrants and refugees in Europe, to providing phone calls for children separated from their families along the US-Mexico border, the Movement is there to protect humanity, no matter how an issue may be politicized.

Refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos island, Greece. Photo: AP

Refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos island, Greece. Photo: AP

Migration in Europe: Migration in Europe continued to dominate the news this week, from criticisms of inaction and wrong-doing, to meetings on how to move forward, to looking at what governments and organizations are doing right. This week the UN slammed the Czech Republic for their treatment of migrants and refugees in detention. Several reports showed that dehumanizing treatment wasn't coincidental or an unfortunate consequence of an overwhelmed system, but systematic. The Czech government has been urged to reform their detention policies. Meanwhile, the recent closure of Hungary’s border has once more altered migration routes to go through Slovenia. Human Rights Watch researcher has criticized many EU nations for passing off responsibility for protecting refugees and migrants, and essentially, “playing a game of hot potato with human beings.”

Meanwhile, many organizations and governments across Europe continue to address the crisis. Red Cross Societies met this week to find humanitarian solutions as well as discuss how humanitarian policy should be shaped to better serve the needs of those in the midst of the population movement. Following last week’s EU summit, European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, this week called for another meeting of heads of state to push humanitarian solutions to the crisis.

And not everything is doom and gloom in Europe. The work of humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration continues to ensure migrants and refugees have access to medical care, shelter, and communication with their families. As winter fast approaches, many organizations and governments are also working to address the seasonal needs of these displaced populations. The role private companies have taken in funding the response was also highlighted this week, as well as a call for the sector to take a greater role, at least monetarily.

One story that doesn't really fit in with the other topics, but I think is worth highlighting, is the number of Eritrean migrants that make up Europe’s current crisis. For years, thousands have been fleeing the corruption, poverty, and human rights abuses of Eritrea. For the nation’s size, it is playing an extremely large role, with 1 in 50 Eritreans seeking protection in Europe. This is important to highlight because it emphasizes the global nature of addressing the root causes of the situation. We can’t work to just end the war in Syria, but must fix global systems of injustice, inequality, and human rights abuses.

North Korean Son Kwon Geun, center, weeps with his South Korean relatives as he says goodbye to them on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. Photo: AP

North Korean Son Kwon Geun, center, weeps with his South Korean relatives as he says goodbye to them on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. Photo: AP

Korean Family Reunions: Finally, the first of two waves of reunions for families separated by the Korean War in the 1950s took place in a North Korean resort at Mount Kumgang. The reunions are a triumph in humanitarian diplomacy as they are the first reunions to take place in over a year-and-a-half and were threatened to be cancelled on a number of occasions by North Korea. The emotional meetings allow families that have been separated for six decades to meet once again. As the majority of this population is aging, this is most likely the last time they will see one another. Questions about these reunions? A great article was published providing answers to some of the most common questions.