Solidarity Sessions: April Edition

Solidarity Sessions: April Edition

The latest Solidarity Session organised by RAMSI (Refugee and Migrant Solidarity Ireland) took place at 7pm on Saturday, April 14th in Jigsaw Dublin. The sessions are a way for musicians living in Direct Provision and from across Ireland to gather together, make music, chat and socialise.

Entry to the event was ten euro and seven euro for students which went towards the artists as well as MASI (Migrants of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) – entry for those living in Direct Provision was free. Though its aim is for asylum seekers to join together for unity, it also campaigns for an end to Direct Provision.

Live music was a big feature of the night, with performances from Real Kid Original, and Syf Khan. Harmony, an Ethiopian Jazz group living in Killarney opened with a brilliant performance.  

They were followed by pianist and singer-songwriter Farah Elle, who lit up the room with her set. The Libyan/Irish singer performed her debut album which will soon be released and features pieces that are bilingual; sung in English and Arabic.  Her original and unique sound is matched by a fabulous enthusiasm. After the set, the audience and performers came together to finish out the night.

The Solidarity Sessions are a great way to raise awareness on Direct Provision in Ireland and unite music-lovers from all walks of life. The next Solidarity event is a Community Dinner which will take place on Saturday, April 21st, at 3 pm in Jigsaw.

Solidarity dinners are a monthly family-friendly event where people are encouraged to bring along some food, relax and meet new people. This week the Dinner will be hosted by DCHA (Dublin Central Housing Action). The invitation is open to anyone but particularly those living in Direct Provision or emergency accommodation.

If you’re looking to have a great time, meet new people and want to make a difference you should be sure to check out RAMSI, MASI and the Jigsaw events on Facebook for more information!

 

Photo courtesy of RAMSI.

The resilience and courage of these women is humbling

The resilience and courage of these women is humbling

Emma O’Brien is currently volunteering with Samos Volunteers at a refugee camp near Vathy in Greece. This is the second in a series of pieces about her experience within the camp.

In addition to the inadequate shelter, lack of hygiene facilities, and basic hardships of life in a refugee camp, women face additional challenges.

The domestic burden of looking after a family involves a huge amount of time and effort. The majority of women are used to the machines and appliances associated with modern living, but here simple domestic tasks become ordeals which can occupy the entire day. Washing clothes, for example, is done by hand. The women must then wait with their clothes while they hang to dry on the barbed wire which surrounds the camp to prevent them being stolen. When you take into account the torrential rain, west-of-Ireland wind, and frequent thunderstorms, simply ensuring children have relatively clean clothes becomes a constant struggle.

The prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse in the camp means violence – including sexual assault and rape – is common. It is unsafe for women to venture anywhere alone, particularly after dark. One of the “stops” on the “camp tour” for new volunteers highlights the reality of the danger: a toilet facility in the extended area of camp has been decorated with feminine designs in bright colours in an effort to deter men from using the women’s facilities because of the rate of sexual assault. A lock which only women know the code to has been added for additional security but it is not enough. As we passed the facilities, we saw a woman escorting her young daughter to the toilet. Going alone is simply too much of a risk.

Although women make up 20-25% of the camp’s population, cultural norms mean Samos Volunteers’ Alpha Centre has become a largely male-dominated area and it is rare to see women enjoying the space or attending classes. To tackle this, Samos runs women-only English classes every morning in the basement. Every afternoon the basement provides a space for women to knit, crochet, and chat. Wool donated from all over the world is transformed into the most beautiful and innovative creations, including children’s clothes, baby blankets and nappy bags.

On Saturday afternoons, the centre is closed to men for Women’s Alpha. While the children are entertained in the basement, women enjoy activities such as baking, jewellery-making and make-up sessions. The highlight of Women’s Alpha is often a multicultural dancing session, with different groups of women vying for control of the speakers to play their dance music of choice.

I have met such interesting and inspiring women here, including the incredible Majida Ali, a former refugee who was awarded the Women’s Refugee Commission Voices of Courage Award 2018 just last week. The resilience and courage of these women is humbling, and with every story I hear I am more frustrated and ashamed by the EU’s reluctance to confront this crisis head-on.

To find out more about SV or to donate or volunteer, please go to https://samosvolunteers.org. You can read Emma’s previous update from Greece here

International migrants day

International migrants day

Today Monday December 18th marks, international migrants day. Throughout history people have migrated and it has been a brave act to overcome the troubles of where they are from and move elsewhere to better their lives.

Nowadays migration can come with a sense of emergency, due to troubled and war torn areas that people live in and want to get away from. In order to overcome the challenges of migration countries and regions need to co-operate and this is where the United Nations comes in to act as a mediator between countries and regions.

Throughout the world today events will be happening to celebrate International Migrants Day. Today the second global migration film festival will culminate. This festival showcases films that capture the promise and challenge of migration. More than 30 films will be shown in over 100 countries.

To find out more visit http://www.un.org/en/events/migrantsday

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Climate change: The future humanitarian crisis

Climate change: The future humanitarian crisis

Climate change is real.

These are only four words but they pack a punch. If that sounds ominous, wait until you realise the harsh truth; climate change is already happening. Despite the delusions of the President of America and his band of climate change-deniers, the world is now facing one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in history. If anyone still has doubts, the events of the last week should be a sobering dose of reality.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas last weekend, bringing with it one of the largest amounts of rainfall (51.88 inches) the US has ever experienced as a result of a tropical storm. While the initial first-day impact of the hurricane was limited, the rainfall over the next few days has left Houston, Texas devastated. The tropical storm resulted in mass floodings across the city and its surrounding suburbs. The US National Weather Service reported that in some areas, the water levels were 25ft above flood level. Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate as flood waters submerged their homes, leaving many without food, money or shelter. As it stands, the death total from Hurricane Harvey is 18, with an estimated 30,000 now displaced and potentially homeless. The aftermath of the storm will be long-lasting; buildings and houses will need to be rebuilt, thousands will require new homes and the economy will take a massive hit as millions of dollars will go towards the relief effort. Similar to New Orleans after the catastrophic Hurricane Katrine, Houston will be forever altered.

While some may argue that the area itself is prone to tropical storms/hurricanes, given its location, it’s important to note that both Hurricane Katrina and Sandy had near identical results for the cities that they hit. All three of these of these storms were categorised as an ‘every 200-year event’ or ‘every 500-year event’ yet they all occurred within the last 12 years. The increase in severe tropical storms is not isolated to North America; while the media’s attention was directed towards Texas, South Asia was experiencing some of the worst floodings in its history. Flooding in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh has killed 1,200 and affected 16 million. The BBC reports that Bangladesh, which has been hit with its fourth flood this year, is now half underwater. Just like evacuees from Houston, families in Bangladesh have been forced to take shelter on any free patches of land until aid reaches them or temporary accommodation is built.

These incidents are only the start of future natural disasters as global temperatures continue to rise. According to temperature statistics overseen by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature has increased by about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880. Even more worrying, GISS has revealed that two-thirds of this increase has occurred since 1975 at a rate of 0.15-0.20 degrees Celsius per decade. While scientists are reluctant to outright say that global warming was the cause of Hurricane Harvey, George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian, lambasted the public/media for not asking the obvious questions about the storm;

“We know that the severity and impact of hurricanes on coastal cities are exacerbated by at least two factors: higher sea levels, caused primarily by the thermal expansion of seawater; and greater storm intensity, caused by higher sea temperatures and the ability of warm air to hold more water than cold air. We were warned about this. In June, for instance, Robert Kopp, a professor of Earth sciences, predicted: “In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit. Its exposure to sea-level rise – made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes – poses a major risk to its communities.”

Along with the huge structural and monetary damages, future storms could result in major loss of life. If these storms become more widespread and frequent, countries may not have the capacity to deal with them. As seen with Hurricane Katrina, it is the poorest who will bear the brunt of climate change first. Those without the means to effectively protect their homes or the monetary capital to flee will be the early casualties of climate change. Additionally, one common thread of each natural disaster is displacement. Based on statistics from the UN Refugee Agency, an annual average of 21.5 million people are displaced due to extreme weather-floods, storms, increased temperatures. This figure will only go up if the world continues to ignore the stark reality of global warming. Countries will be filled with ‘climate change refugees’ and their governments will not have the means nor the money to provide the basic necessities to care for these people, creating an economic and societal crisis.

Extreme temperatures and rising sea levels are not a ‘possibiity, they are a reality. If the world stands any chance against future disasters, we all need to limit and minimise the damage that has already been done. We must pressure governments to commit to reduce CO2 emissions and find other sources of renewable energy. The Paris Agreement was a step in the right direction for the world but with the news that President Trump will pull America out and disband with the country’s obligations, it signals that time is running out to stop the impending global catastrophe. Please write to the Irish government, Ministers and TDs. They aren’t taking action, so we have to.

Photo Credit: Texas National Guard Soldiers respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tim Pruitt)

 

Emily is a journalism graduate from DCU. Her work has appeared in the Irish Independent, Sunday World Online and Hot Press Magazine. She is passionate about equality and a fair society for all citizens.

 

Africa Day 2016: vox pop

Africa Day 2016: vox pop

Cian Doherty reports from conversations about migration at Africa Day 2016.

Africa Day returned to Dublin’s Farmleigh Estate on Sunday 29th May for a celebration of all things Africa. An estimated 30,000 people came to enjoy the blissful sunshine at the family-friendly event, and the annual line-up of African music, food and culture was as special as ever. Now in its ninth year, the festive event marks the linkages between Ireland and Africa, as well as giving Ireland’s African community a day to celebrate together.

Much has happened in the international arena since last year’s outing, the refugee crisis particularly touching a nerve in Ireland. With all this in mind, I spoke to a number of the attendees about the day itself, migration and related issues.

What do you think of the celebration of Africa Day?

It’s very good, very exciting with the different cultures. I don’t know much because I was born in Ireland so seeing all this is pretty new – Anisho Namugere, Uganda.

Amazing! I think it’s very important for people not from Africa to get to know the beauty and the heritage and the amazing food – NC Grey, Nigeria

I think it’s amazing because there’s a lot of people in Ireland who are African. And there’s a lot of Irish people who’ve never been to Africa so it’s good for them to get a taste for African culture – Tina Nsubuga, Uganda.

8. Marang Letshabo, Botswana & Mags Lacy, Dublin cropped

Marang Letshabo & Mags Lacy

How do you think Ireland could be more welcoming to newcomers to the country?

Be more understanding. Everyone has a different story so they should learn other people’s and be open to other cultures – Anisho Namugere, Uganda

We need to engage with the newcomers more, like at events like this one. It would help integration a lot – Catalina Suarez, Chile

I think Irish people just need to be educated a little bit more; a bit more understanding and a bit more open – Gareth Sharkey, Blanchardstown

Through things like this. Getting to learn about us and know what we’re about so they can relate to us – NC Grey, Nigeria

Encourage Irish people to learn foreign languages – Oliver Plunk, Cork

In the past 10 to 20 years when the country opened its doors there’s been a very good reception. Ireland is on the right path and I think they’re doing a good job so far – Marang Letshabo & Mags Lacy, Botswana

We need to tackle direct provision and how we even do asylum in this country. Hopefully the single procedure will deal with that. I think it’s an absolute scandal that we still have people in DP centres up to 14 years. We have children growing up in institutions and it’s just not right  – Eithne Lynch, Dublin

More sessions or ceremonies like this one to get people to get to know each other – Vivian Mabuya, South Africa (winner of best dressed African woman)

Let them work! Give them the dignity of work. Direct provision is a disgusting way to treat anybody. And we’re all turning a blind eye – Pearl Whelan, Clondalkin

9. Saheed Ibrahim, Nigeria

Saheed Ibrahim

Can you tell me something interesting about your home country?

We have something called a new yam festival. It’s celebrated at the beginning of the yam season because we tend to see new yam as new life – NC Grey, Nigeria.

The people are very loving, very open. You can see that we were oppressed for years but there’s a lot of resilience there – Catalina Suarez, Chile.

Botswana is the number one capital of safari in the world. If you want to do safari, Botswana is the place to go – Marang Letshabo.

In Nigeria we dress a lot like this. We dress in the form of our culture and make sure we follow the tradition – Saheed Ibrahim, Nigeria.

Brazil is very diverse and we are in an important moment for the black community there. People are understanding how they can be stronger and are reconnecting with their African ancestry. Before people were trying to be similar with European people but now they’re prouder of their roots – Thais Muniz, Brazil.

Thais Muniz, Brazil

Thais Muniz

A way to go

Maybe it was something to do with the stunning whether, but most people I talked to seemed to think Ireland is on the right track and festivals like Africa Day is the way to integrate newcomers into Irish society.

The fact remains though that Ireland has recognised much fewer asylum claims than many smaller or similarly-sized countries, since 2012 (it’s 20 times fewer than Norway’s). Although if the suggestions from the contributors to this vox pop were taken on board, Ireland could proudly reclaim our reputation of the ‘land of 1,000 welcomes’.

Author: Cian Doherty

Cian is a Dubliner working for GOAL as a Donations Officer. He studied Arts in UCD and completed an MA in International Relations in DCU. Cian has worked overseas with UNAIDS in Malawi and has volunteered in Mexico and Mozambique.

Photo credits: Cian Doherty

Vox pop: Dublin refugee solidarity rally

Vox pop: Dublin refugee solidarity rally

Cian Doherty conducted a vox pop at the refugee solidarity rally last week, asking the public what should the Irish government do about the conflict in Syria.

It’s clear the refugee crisis has touched a nerve in Ireland. Maybe it’s our own troubled history with emigration dating back to the famine. Maybe it’s our reputation as the land of a 1,000 welcomes. Or maybe it’s reservations related to austerity measures and fears to do with the extent of the homelessness problem here.

Whatever the reason, mainstream press and radio as well as social media have been swamped with reaction.  A public demonstration was also organised by United Against Racism on O’Connell  Street for Saturday 12th September. Organisers estimate over 2,000 people turned out to demand a greater humanitarian response from the government. I took the opportunity to canvas some opinions on the crisis and Ireland’s role in it.

How many refugees should Ireland take in?  

We should take as many as we can provide for. We have many ghost estates and they could be filled with refugees. We have the space and could make it available. Jennifer Grundulis (the US, via Crumlin)

Sophie Grundulis at the Dublin Demo for the Refugee Crisis

We need to work on a quota system dependent on the totals involved. We need to do more to provide safe haven for people escaping terror and destruction in their own homes. They’re not coming here because they want to. They’re coming here because of the mess that was created by the wars that we’ve supported through the use of Shannon that have forced these people to flee. Therefore we should pay the cost for our actions. (Ronan O’Dowd, Swords)

They need to take in as many as need to be taken in. If we have the resources that we do, then we can. (Dominique Twomey, Co Galway)

Well they’re announcing 4,000 now. But a few months ago they announced they’d take 600 and said they didn’t have the resources to take any more. Then 2 weeks ago they announced they could take 1800 and they didn’t have the resources to take anymore and now the number’s changed to 4000. If you look at countries like Germany and Sweden and the way they are dealing with the situation you can tell Ireland does have the resources to take in more than 4000. (Diego Castillo, Brazil, Irish Refugee Council)

Certainly a lot more than the 4,000 they’re saying at the moment. It would be better if Ireland could take a lead instead of following other countries on this. We might not be in the best position but we have a history of emigration ourselves. People took us in during the famine and with the things we’ve done for other countries – like America – I think migrants could do a lot for our country. (Rebecca Evans, Dublin)

What should the Irish government be doing about the conflict in Syria?

Our government should focus on the traffickers. I’m not sure in the greater scale with Isis we could do a lot from here. But the gangs who are bringing people across the sea should definitely be targeted. If we had a safer way for people to get across into Europe we’d be taking a lot of money out of these gangs that are profiting from peoples lives. (Rebecca Evans, Dublin)

As a pacifist I don’t believe violence will be the answer to this. We have a long, rich history as peacekeepers so we should find a way to incorporate that ability to help in Syria. Jennifer Grundulis (the US, via Crumlin)

Mehmet Uludag (Organiser) addressing protesters at the Dublin Refugee Demo

We’re supposed to be a neutral country so we should be making some kind of petition for Western powers – namely the US – to stop funding the weaponry that goes to these places. Instead we’re helping them refuel in Shannon which of course is totally at variance with a neutral stand. Pat Blake (Dublin)

Well I pay tax and I’d be very happy for my taxes to go towards helping innocent people who are fleeing for their lives. I also have a free bedroom in my house and I’d be happy to make that available. (Dominique Twomey, Co Galway)

As part of the EU, Ireland should do everything the EU and UN decide. You have military that you barely use so you should put it to good use there. And instead of using Shannon for America it could be used for other things. (Patricia Gonzalez, Spain)

The Irish government should look after its human rights obligations to the people already here (in direct provision) before helping to sort out the crisis in Syria. It’s strange to talk about what Ireland can do to solve the crisis there when the people that have been in the system for years don’t have any support from the government. People are still stranded and being institutionalised after being in Ireland for 5, 6, 12 years so it’s time for them to think about the people already here. (Diego Castillo, Brazil, Irish Refugee Council)

Going forward

Despite the consensus shown here, it must be remembered that a rally like this is always going to be pro-refugee. That said, Ireland is still a rich country, austerity measures or not. And if a comparatively poor country like Lebanon can host over 1 million refugees –  making up 25% of the total Lebanese population – surely Ireland can do a bit better than a mere 4,000?

Find out how you can donate clothes and other items to Syria and to the Dublin Calais Refugee Solidarity Campaign

You can also do your bit by pledging a bed through Uplift’s campaign.

Author: Cian Doherty

Cian is a Dubliner working for GOAL as a Donations Officer. He studied Arts in UCD and completed an MA in International Relations in DCU. Cian has worked overseas with UNAIDS in Malawi and has volunteered in Mexico and Mozambique.

Photo credits: Cian Doherty

Feature image: Jahnavi Rynhart, Kavi Rynhart, Jackie Rynhart, Deirdre Blake & Radha Rynhart at the Dublin Refugee Demonstration
Image 2: Sophie Grundulis, Image 3: Mehmet Uludag, organiser of the demonstration