PEOPLE ON THE MOVE: WORLD REFUGEE DAY

Each year, millions of people are forced to flee their homes to escape violent conflict, 6persecution, or natural disaster. Some of the people cross the borders of their countries, while many end up in camps within their countries. Whether displaced within or outside one’s country, people on the move face untold hardships.

The United Nations observes 20 June as World Day for Refugees. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), World Refugee Day celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. It is also an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives. The UNHCR estimates the number of refugees globally to be 79.5 million in 2019, with about 10 million people fleeing in the past one year.

While acknowledging refugees to be among the most vulnerable population around the world, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, also commended the efforts of refugees in stepping up on the frontlines of response to the coronavirus pandemic in their host communities.  In his video message to mark the 2020 World Refugee Day, Mr. Guterres noted that from camps in Bangladesh to hospitals in Europe, refugees are working as nurses, doctors, scientists, teachers, and in other essential roles, protecting themselves and giving back to their communities.

7The Office of the UNHCR was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes. And in 1951, the UN Member States adopted the Convention on Refugees. The Convention is the key legal document that informs the work of the UNHCR. The core principle of the Convention on Refugees is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

 ***Some basic rights contained in the 1951 Convention include:

  • The right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions;
  • The right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State;
  • The right to work;
  • The right to housing;
  • The right to education;
  • The right to public relief and assistance;
  • The right to freedom of religion;
  • The right to access the courts;
  • The right to freedom of movement within the territory;
  • The right to be issued identity and travel documents.

Some basic rights, including the right to be protected from refoulement, apply to all refugees. A refugee becomes entitled to other rights, the longer they remain in the host country, which is based on the recognition that the longer they remain as refugees, the more rights they need.  (The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees)

Read more:

UN World Refugee Day: https://bit.ly/2Z1Xnm1

The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol: https://bit.ly/3hTVLTJ

 

 

 

INTREPID PEOPLE OF COURAGE AMONG US: REFLECTIONS OF SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME DE NAMUR WELCOMING MIGRANTS AT THE US TEXAS BORDER

7The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur of the East-West Province initiated a Ministry at the Texas Border offering opportunities for our Sisters to volunteer.   By the end of this year, 41 sisters will have served in McAllen, Texas in a Respite Center run by Catholic Charities of the Brownsville Diocese. Collectively, they welcomed thousands of Central Americans during their unforgettable time there. Some of these Sisters share their reflections with us.

Sister Claire Pierz: My trip to McAllen was filled with many moving opportunities to8 experience the plight of people coming to our country—the kindest most patient people you could want to meet and so grateful for everything. At one point, I held a baby for a mother so she could eat her breakfast. One man even offered to pay for his soup. They were so grateful… even for a smiling welcoming face.

Sister Denise Rajotte: Over the last two months, two experiences have stayed in my mind and heart: a stream of faces of asylees runs in my head numerous times during each day and a sense of singlemindedness, communion with all the asylees and a clear focus on the needs of the present day. Indeed, a blessing!

9Sister Mary Friel: A beautiful Mayan mother Maria, with her teenage son had walked to the Mexican/US border in 15 days, fleeing violence and fear of forced membership in gangs… a young Honduran father said how his parents, aunt, uncle and two cousins had been shot dead. I was in tears, and he was too…

Sister Betsy Flynn: …we could hear the cries of small children… screams of troubled children, hungry children, and babies… I listened to the cries of the poor, and these cries opened my heart to the hope and courage of their mothers and fathers…risking their lives for the hope of a better life and future for their families.

Sister Mary Alice McCabe: …we have met an army of volunteers, St. Joseph Sisters of Philly, Anglican Deacons-Trinity on the Border, Rabbis, pastors, groups of Presbyterians and Methodists and many local folks like Marcia who dedicated her week off to the respite center. …the clinic gave over the counter meds …the Doctor pulled out her wallet and gave personal money to Sr. Maryann to run to the drugstore for more boxes of medicine.

Sister Ginny Scally: The gentle father I met was from Nicaragua. Gangs had murdered

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Sr. Denis Raiotte & Mary Friel

his aunt, uncle, and two cousins. He had a job, but it paid next to nothing. He made a choice with his wife, to flee with his family, to the United States. He desired only to work hard to earn decent money so they could have “a future full of hope” … and a semblance of dignity and honor.

We thank each sister for her profound and touching reflections.  There will be a continuation of these reflections in August. We extend our gratitude to Sisters Ellen Dabrieo, Judith Flahavan, Betsy Flynn, and Mary Alice McCabe for their initiative, planning, organization and on-going vision of this much-needed ministry. Prayers and donations for supplies at the Center will always be appreciated.

My warmest appreciation too, to Sister Rita Raboin, who generously edited and organized these reflections.

 

 

 

GLOBAL COMPACT FOR SAFE, ORDERLY AND REGULAR MIGRATION: UPDATE ON THE ADOPTION

2I was very grateful to be in Morocco for the adoption of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in December 2018. I was very touched by the warmth and hospitality shown to us by many people we met on the streets of Marakkech. We also had the wonderful pleasure of trying out some Moroccan cuisine!

The GCM was adopted by the UN General Assembly (GA) on 10th December 2018. Unfortunately, not all the 193 Member States of the UN were present in Morocco for the adoption. Nevertheless, many of the delegates who were in Morocco expressed optimism in the UN migration pact which they consider a milestone in the global governance on migration, despite pushbacks from far-right nationalists in some countries.

Back at the UN Headquarters in New York, on 19 December, the UN GA formally voted to3 endorse the Draft Resolution A/73/L.66 regarding the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The votes went thus: 152 countries voted in favour, 12 countries (Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Italy, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Romania, Singapore, and Switzerland) abstained from voting, 5 countries (Cech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, and the USA) voted against, and 24 countries were absent. Below are votes by countries (calculated in percentage) in relation to the total world’s population:

  • 152 countries that voted yes for the GCM represent 90 percent of the world’s population
  • 12 countries that abstained from voting represent 3 percent of the world’s population
  • 5 countries that voted against the GCM represent 5 percent of the world’s population
  • 24 countries that were absent during the proceeding represent 2 percent of the world’s population

Note: Brazil has since withdrawn its support for the GCM.

Read more:

Watch the UN GA 19 December proceedings: https://bit.ly/2QYMbAy

MARAKKECH, MOROCCO, 2018: INTERGOVERNMENTAL CONFERENCE TO ADOPT THE GLOBAL COMPACT FOR SAFE, ORDERLY AND REGULAR MIGRATION

5The Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be held in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 10 – 11 December 2018. This unprecedented event which is convened under the auspices of the UN General Assembly will also attract thousands of stakeholders from civil society organizations, academia, the private sector, and numerous other groups. Sister Amarachi Grace Ezeonu will be in Marrakesh to represent SNDatUN NGO Office at the conference. The Sisters of Notre-Dame de Namur will collaborate with five other non-governmental organizations and the Government of Nigeria to co-sponsor a parallel event on the sidelines of the conference. Our parallel event will focus on the importance of strengthening non-state actors’ cooperation and partnership in the implementation of the global compact for migration.

Read more:

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at a glance: https://bit.ly/2O5xY3X

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE: “IS MIGRATION A FEMINIST ISSUE?”

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Refugee women with babies.  UN Photo

The fourth round of negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration took place from 14 – 18 May.  Members of civil society organizations have consistently pushed for mainstreaming gender perspective in all sections of the compact. This is because many believe that migration is necessarily a feminist issue. The United Nations Population Funds (UNPF) also acknowledges migration as a feminist issue and suggests that gender perspective is taken into consideration when formulating policies on              migration. Below are some of the reasons given by   the UNPF for the above assertion:

  • There are about 250 million international migrants. Almost half of these are women and girls. And women are increasingly migrating alone or as heads of their family.
  • Female migrants face major risks, including sexual exploitation, trafficking, and violence
  • Migrant women face double discrimination – as women and as migrants
  • Women do not stop getting pregnant when they are on the move
  • Women and girls’ migrant are more likely to face health problems – both in transit and at their destination.

Read more:

United Nations Population Fund: https://bit.ly/2GL1gkU

Global Compact on Refugees and Migrants: https://bit.ly/2ATrj5o

MAKING MIGRATION WORK FOR ALL: THE GLOBAL COMPACT FOR SAFE, REGULAR AND ORDERLY MIGRATION

5In her opening remarks during the first multi-stakeholders dialogue held at the margin of the first intergovernmental negotiations on the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Migration, Ms. Louise Arbour, made the following plea: “Over the long-term the evidence is clear: the benefits of migration vastly outweigh the challenges. And without a clear understanding of migration, negative narratives surround migrants. “We must not allow xenophobic political narratives about migration distort our objective to enhance international cooperation on migration.” She further stressed that “it is only with facts and context that we can have a respectful and realistic discussion about migration, one that pushes back on the many inaccurate and negative narratives being touted for short-term political gains and misguided policies.”

The large influx of refugees/migrants from some middle east and African countries into Europe between 2014 – 2016, following the escalation of conflicts and the socio-political and economic challenges in these regions raised a huge global concern, as well as socio-political backlash from some European countries. The UN General Assembly (UNGA) responded to the situation by convening a high-level summit to address the large movements of refugees and migrants in September 2016. At the end of the summit, UNGA adopted a resolution 71/1, also known as the New York Declaration (NYD). According to the UNGA, the New York Declaration “expresses the political will of world leaders to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale.” Explicit in the NYD was a commitment by the Member States to negotiate and adopt separate global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration and refugees by 2018.

While work on the Global Compact for refugees was largely coordinated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, the process for negotiating the

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UN General Assembly

global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration was strictly state-led, and facilitated by the Permanent Representative of Switzerland and Mexico to the United Nations. After an extensive multi-stakeholder consultations and six intense months of intergovernmental negotiations, Member States came up with an agreed document on 13th July 2018. The agreed negotiated documents for both the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration and refugees, will be adopted by the UN General Assembly in early December 2018, in Marrakech, Morocco. When adopted, the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration will be the first-ever global framework on migration governance.

In her remarks at the end of the negotiations, the UN Deputy Secretary General, Ms. Amina Mohammed, commended Member States for staying in the process despite as she noted, “some profound issues that migration raises such as sovereignty of states and human rights; what constitutes voluntary movement; the relationship between development and mobility; and how to support social cohesion.” Ms. Mohammed pointed out that, “this compact demonstrates the potential of multilateralism: our ability to come together on issues that demand global collaboration – however complicated and contentious they may be.” All Member States of the UN was part of the intergovernmental negotiations for safe, orderly and regular migration except for the United States of America and Hungary.

Read more:  Intergovernmental negotiated and agreed outcome document of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration; https://bit.ly/2LP0ycL

The UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants 2016: https://bit.ly/2bqPpvC

The New York Declaration: https://bit.ly/2o9ItXe

 

 

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE: “IS MIGRATION A FEMINIST ISSUE?”

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Refugee women with babies.  UN Photo

The fourth round of negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration took place from 14 – 18 May.  Members of civil society organizations have consistently pushed for mainstreaming gender perspective in all sections of the compact. This is because many believe that migration is necessarily a feminist issue. The United Nations Population Funds (UNPF) also acknowledges migration as a feminist issue and suggests that gender perspective is taken into consideration when formulating policies on              migration. Below are some of the reasons given by   the UNPF for the above assertion:

  • There are about 250 million international migrants. Almost half of these are women and girls. And women are increasingly migrating alone or as heads of their family.
  • Female migrants face major risks, including sexual exploitation, trafficking, and violence
  • Migrant women face double discrimination – as women and as migrants
  • Women do not stop getting pregnant when they are on the move
  • Women and girls’ migrant are more likely to face health problems – both in transit and at their destination.

Read more:

United Nations Population Fund: https://bit.ly/2GL1gkU

Global Compact on Refugees and Migrants: https://bit.ly/2ATrj5o

GLOBAL COMPACT ON MIGRATION: MAKING MIGRATION SAFE, ORDERLY AND REGULAR

3Migration is a human experience. People have always migrated, and will continue to migrate. The large movements of refugees and migrants from some Middle East and African countries into Europe over the past few years, as the result of conflict, socio-economic, and political instability in some parts of these regions, gave rise to a widespread global refugee/migrant crisis. While a few countries, individuals, and organizations responded positively by offering hospitality and the needed humanitarian assistance, others were not as forthcoming. Furthermore, some hard-liners in few countries manipulated the situation, presenting migrants as security threats and spreading hate and xenophobic sentiments, often for political gains.

Given the growing crisis, the United Nations responded to the large movements of people by convening a High-Level meeting in which the General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration on Migrants and Refugees (NYD). This meeting took place on September 26, 2016. The purpose of the NYD was to garner the political will of world leaders to commit to share responsibility at the global level to save lives and protect the human rights of migrants and refugees. The NYD also called for two global compacts: Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees. Both of the compacts will have a distinct framework to address issues relating to migration and refugees at the global level through international cooperation and responsibility sharing.

The Global Compact on Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration will focus largely on achieving a more equitable allocation of the burdens and responsibilities of hosting displaced individuals and providing safety and support for people on the move. The goal of the global compact on migration is to make migration secure, systematic, consistent, and ultimately voluntary.

Intergovernmental negotiations on the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) commenced this month and will continue subsequently in the coming five months. Five days in each month will be dedicated to the intergovernmental negotiations, at the UN Headquarters in New York. Member States will adopt the final negotiated document in early December 2018, in Morocco. The task for developing the Global Compact on Refugees has been assigned to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in consultation with governments and other stakeholders. The compact on refugees will also be adopted along with the compact on migration.

Speaking with members of the NGO Committee on Migration, one of the co-facilitators4 for the intergovernmental negotiations on the Global Compact on Migration described the compact as the “spine” for addressing the current migration issues. He also added that success of the compacts would lie largely on the political will of national governments to implement the compacts’ directives. This support from national governments is particularly vital, as the compacts are not intended to be legally binding. Members of Civil Society Organizations have since begun rigorous advocacy with governments to ensure that the two compacts meet the needs of the 258 million migrants and 22.5 refugees around the world.

Read More:

Franciscan International 2018 Lenten Reflection on Global Migration:    http://bit.ly/2HvLdrV

Video of Pope Francis on Migrants and Refugees: http://bit.ly/2BFL8kO

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: http://bit.ly/2dsnVEq

 

CONFERENCE ON WOMEN AND MIGRATION IN THE AFRICAN CONTEXT: AN INFORMATIVE AND CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE

4By Elizabeth Chinamo, SNDdeN: I was privileged to have participated in a two-day conference on women and migration in Africa, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 6-8 June. The conference was sponsored by six Catholic Religious Congregations, accredited as non-governmental organizations to the United Nations. Over 90 participants from about 10 African countries attended the conference. Some of the participants were currently engaged in work with migrants, some were migrants, while others were interested in learning more about migration issues. Seven Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa and Zimbabwe/South Africa provinces participated in the conference. Sister Joan Burke (Kenya) was among the local organizing team. I personally found this conference both informative and challenging.

We had input from representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, Kenyan Government, Kenyan Bishop Conference, and other organizations and individuals (including refugees and migrants). It was moving to hear from refugees who are now volunteers. I was also very impressed to hear the delegate from the Kenyan Government commend the efforts of Catholic Religious women and men in providing services to migrants and refugees, and their work against human trafficking. He expressed the interest of the government collaborating with them in future.

Input from the different presenters stimulated discussions among participants on issues 5such as providing adequate protection to migrants and refugees, victims of human trafficking, as well as addressing some of those factors that force people to migrate. During the conference, we went into working groups and worked on different topics for example: environment and migration, migration and public health, human trafficking, and advocacy. I joined 24 other participants to form a group centered on “Countering Trafficking in Person.” The group came up with a 7-Point Action Plan through which we were challenged to continue to work on, within our networks, as we return to our respective countries or regions.

Read more: About the Nairobi Conference; http://nairobi2017.weebly.com/

WORLD REFUGEE DAY: WHEN WE STAND WITH REFUGEES, WE ALSO STAND FOR RESPECT AND DIVERSITY FOR ALL

#5June 20, was World Refugee Day.  A recent report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated the following: “The number of people forced to flee their homes by war and persecution has risen to record high for the third year running, with 65.6 million people displaced around the world – more than the population of Britain. The latest annual global trends study from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that one person was forced to leave their home every three seconds in 2016. The number of people displaced last year was 3,000,000 higher than 2015. According to the report, refugee numbers were the highest ever in 2016, at 22.5 million, with the majority of people coming from Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan. Half of all refugees were children.”

On this Day, “we reflect on the courage of those who fled and the compassion of those who welcome them,” as quoted by the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Antonio Guterres.

Click HERE to sign the UNHCR “StandwithRefugee” Petition to show your solidarity with Refugees