Jihan Sheikh Mohammed, center, with some of her children, including Mariya bint Loqman Abdlkarim, 9, at a refugee camp in Oraiokastro, Greece. They fled from Syria. Photo Credit: Angelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times

Plan to Let Migrant Children Attend School Enrages Many Greeks

Article in the NY Times
25 September, 2016

“But as with many aspects of Europe’s effort to cope with the huge numbers of migrants who have come to its shores, the plan quickly ran into intense opposition, in this case from parents in a number of communities near camps in northern Greece. The refugee children, the parents said, might have contagious diseases. Cultural differences, they said, might disrupt learning.

Last week, an association representing the parents of schoolchildren in the small town of Filippiada in western Greece sent a letter to local officials and the Education Ministry, saying “explicitly and categorically that we will not accept, under any circumstance and without any compromise, that the children of so-called irregular immigrants” attend local schools, referring to migrants entering the country illegally.”

Children have a right to education and the best system is to integrate them in the normal school stream. Reactions are foreseeable, although there is a steady part of the Greek population which remains welcoming of refugees and migrants and continues to support and help and donate. This is where countries like Greece – which bears the brunt of arrivals from Turkey, without much help from other EU countries – need help. All Greek schools which receive refugee children should be funded by the European Union to do so, including for the hiring of “cultural interpreters” who would be the go-to person in helping smooth out the transition. Unfortunately, integration strategies are still in their infancy in Europe.

To read more about this issue in the NY Times, please click on the following link.

  Life in limbo at the Azraq Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Photo credit: Jamal Nasrallah/EPA

World leaders lack the political courage to agree a fair global share of migration

Article in The Conversation by Rosa Freedman
25 September, 2016

“On September 19 the UN General Assembly held a summit at which top UN staff in the field on refugees, human rights, migration and human trafficking emphasised the need for a better and more coordinated response to global migration. Discussions were planned during roundtable sessions focused on issues such as the causes and consequences of large movements of refugees and migrants, as well as sharing responsibility and protection for those people.

These are all crucial matters, but the UN is already known for providing a forum for discussions of key issues. The real test is whether these discussions produce any concrete changes. Judging by the negotiations on the draft declaration on migrants and refugees since it was published in early August, few real changes are likely to be implemented.

The draft declaration affirms humanitarian principles, but does little to go beyond existing words and phrases. There are legitimate concerns that the declaration may undermine countries’ existing human rights obligations towards migrants and refugees. By highlighting some obligations regarding water, sanitation, housing, food and health, and by stressing the need to protect vulnerable groups such as women and children, the text may be used by states as a tool for avoiding other human rights commitments to individuals within their countries. And by emphasising the role of non-state actors and the private sector, some countries may use the declaration as a method to shirk or pass on their human rights obligations.”Read Post

  A boy rides his bicycle in the Calais migrant camp. Photo Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

New fears for 1,000 lone children in Calais refugee camp

Article in The Guardian
24 September, 2016

“In May, David Cameron announced that Britain would accept as many as 3,000 unaccompanied minors. James Brokenshire, immigration minister at the time, said Britain had “a moral duty to help”.  

However, Home Office figures reveal that by mid-September, only 30 children had arrived under the scheme. The Home Office did not respond to queries over whether it intended to help lone child refugees once the Calais camp was destroyed.

On Monday President François Hollande is expected to visit Calais and confirm that the refugee camp will be demolished. Details emerged last week when refugee organisations were told that alternative accommodation elsewhere in France would be supplied for 9,000 adults and families.

However, because of a supposed lack of emergency capacity for unaccompanied minors, at least 850 children will be made homeless.”

The UK government being so reluctant to help children reunite with family in the UK and the French government using the misery of hundreds of children to force the hand of another government are disgraceful political behaviour. Housing isolated children and reuniting them with family members should be a priority of the first order for any politician concerned. And it should be done quickly.

To read the full article in The Guardian, please click here.

  Lifejackets on display Monday in London represented refugees who died trying to reach Europe. Photo Credit Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Our Immigrants, Our Strength

Op-Ed in the NY Times
20 September, 2016

“As the mayors of three great global cities — New York, Paris and London — we urge the world leaders assembling at the United Nations to take decisive action to provide relief and safe haven to refugees fleeing conflict and migrants fleeing economic hardship, and to support those who are already doing this work.

We will do our part, too. Our cities pledge to continue to stand for inclusivity, and that is why our cities support services and programs that help all residents, including our diverse immigrant communities, feel welcome, so that every resident feels part of our great cities.”

Cities are open to migrants. Cities have borders, yet do not use them to prevent people from coming and going. No one is prevented from entering a city. Staying will depend on finding a job and being able to pay the rent. But cities are magnets for migrants because this is where the jobs are. And cities have been good to migrants. There’s much less bigotry in cities than in smaller towns or rural areas where migrants are scarce: daily encounters with migrant communities help everyone see how differences are less important than commonalities. Cities have had the experience of finding themselves in need to welcome and accommodate millions of newcomers: rural exodus was one example, international migration another. In both cases, cities had to create new infrastructures such as roads, suburbs, schools and hospitals, put in place programmes to help them find jobs and learn the language and navigate a new environment, hire many new social workers, teachers, policemen and firefighters to service this new population. States should learn from cities how to manage population growth and welcome newcomers, working at better integrating them rather than fueling populist sentiment, knowing full well that this is where our collective wealth will come from. States should celebrate AND emulate the attractiveness of cities’ dynamic diversity.

To read the full article in the NY Times, please click here.

Race-baiting bigots must be confronted, Zeid tells UN Summit

Statement by the UN High Commissionner for Human Rights
18 September, 2016

Today, at the Summit on large movements of refugees and migrants, in the UN General Assembly, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein again delivered a strong statement of resistance to the nationalist populist politicians who speak ill of migrants and refugees. Although it is not sure he is making many friends among official State delegations, he is to be commended for his consistency.

See the full statement here.