The escalation of conflict in northern Syria risks causing more human suffering and adding new displacement to what is already the largest displacement crisis in the world.
Tens of thousands of civilians are on the move to escape the fighting and seek safety. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling on parties to adhere to International Humanitarian Law, including providing access for aid agencies.
“Hundreds of thousands of civilians in northern Syria are now in harm’s way. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be a target,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
The situation of those caught in the fighting is worsened by lower temperatures across the region as colder weather is setting in. UNHCR stresses the urgency of having unfettered humanitarian access in order to be able to reach those newly displaced and assist them wherever this is required. Humanitarian organisations must be able to continue to carry out their critical work in Syria.
UNHCR also reiterates its position that any return of refugees to Syria has to be voluntary, dignified and at a time when it is safe to return. It is up to refugees to decide if and when they wish to return.
After eight years of conflict, Syria remains the largest refugee crisis in the world, with 5.6 million Syrians living as refugees in the region. Turkey is hosting more than 3.6 million, which makes it the top refugee hosting country in the world. Over 6.2 million more are displaced inside Syria according to UN estimates.
UNHCR has been supporting Syrian refugees, internally displaced people and host countries since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, and will continue to provide life-saving protection and assistance to those in need, mostly women and children.
In a development welcomed by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, more than 60,000 stateless students in Thailand could benefit from the recent revision of a government guideline which will create a pathway to Thai nationality for those who are eligible.
Under the revised guideline issued by the Ministry of Interior on 30 September 2019, the Ministry will coordinate with the Ministry of Education and relevant educational institutions to accelerate the registration of all non-Thai students into the national civil registration system.
Those benefitting include students who are eligible for Thai nationality but were never registered or have an existing incorrect record in the system. By being recorded correctly, these students will now be able to apply for Thai nationality.
“Thailand continues to take courageous steps to identify the challenges encountered by stateless people in obtaining nationality as well as improving their access to rights,” said Mr. Giuseppe De Vincentiis, UNHCR’s Representative in Thailand.
“The revision of this guideline represents the Royal Thai Government’s strong political will to provide nationality solutions for stateless persons and it will be important to maintain this level of ambition in the coming years.”
This development is in line with the pledges made by the Royal Thai Government this week at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness convened by UNHCR in Geneva, which marks the mid-point of the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness.
The event aimed to assess achievements to date, showcase good practices, and encourage concrete pledges by States and others to take action to address statelessness in the remaining five years of the Campaign.
Thailand has endorsed UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024 and has become a leader among the “Group of Friends” of the Campaign.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned today that recent advances in the battle to end statelessness – a leading cause of human rights deprivation for millions of people worldwide – were being imperiled by a rise in damaging forms of nationalism.
In Geneva ahead of the opening on Monday of UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting, Grandi said that the growing number of countries taking action against statelessness meant the international community was nearing a point of critical mass in its efforts to stamp out statelessness for good.
“As recently as five years ago, public awareness of statelessness, and the harm it causes, was still negligible. That is changing, and today the prospect of ending statelessness entirely has never been closer,” said Grandi.
“And yet the progress is far from assured: damaging forms of nationalism, and the manipulation of anti-refugee and migrant sentiment – these are powerful currents internationally that risk putting progress into reverse. Solutions are urgently needed for millions without citizenship or at risk of statelessness around the world - including Myanmar’s Rohingya, and minority populations at risk of statelessness in India’s Assam. Without these, we risk a deepening of the exclusion that already affects the lives of millions of people. This is why a redoubling of efforts has become crucially needed.”
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, launched a global ‘#IBelong’ Campaign in 2014 aimed at ending statelessness by 2024. Since then some 15 countries have newly acceded to the two major treaties on statelessness, the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. With additional accessions and other commitments expected this week, total accessions to the first of these treaties, the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, could soon exceed the notable threshold of 100 countries.
In the first five years of the Campaign, more than 220,000 stateless people have now acquired a nationality, including as as a result of concerted national efforts that have been motivated by the Campaign, in places as diverse as Kyrgyzstan and Kenya, Tajikistan and Thailand. In July of this year Kyrgyzstan became the first country in the world to announce the complete resolution of all known cases of statelessness.
In addition, since the Campaign was launched two countries, Madagascar and Sierra Leone, reformed their nationality laws to allow mothers to confer citizenship on their children on an equal footing with fathers. However, 25 countries continue to make it difficult or impossible for mothers to confer citizenship on their children, one of the leading causes of statelessness globally. As not all nationality laws contain safeguards that ensure that no child is born stateless, statelessness can also be passed down from generation to generation.
Ending all forms of discrimination in nationality laws would help the international community live up to the commitment all States made when adopting the Sustainable Development Agenda to “leave no one behind.”
Today, leading figures in the media, human rights, refugee and statelessness worlds are joining member state representatives in Geneva in a special session of UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting known as the High-Level Segment on Statelessness, to take stock of progress half way through the Campaign and to commit to take more action to end statelessness by 2024.
Among those attending are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett, British TV journalist and presenter Anita Rani, formerly stateless refugee and activist Maha Mamo, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Lamberto Zannier and others.
Some countries will be putting pledges into action, by formally lodging instruments of accession to the statelessness treaties.
A lawyer, whose work has supported the efforts of the Kyrgyz Republic in becoming the first country in the world to end statelessness, has been selected as the 2019 winner of the UN Refugee Agency’s Nansen Refugee Award.
Azizbek Ashurov, through his organization Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders (FVLWB), has helped well over 10,000 people to gain Kyrgyz nationality after they became stateless following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Among them, some 2,000 children will now have the right to an education and a future with the freedom to travel, marry and work.
Statelessness affects millions of people worldwide, depriving them of legal rights or basic services and leaving them politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against and particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
“Azizbek Ashurov’s story is one of great personal resolve and tenacity,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“His commitment to the cause of eradicating statelessness in Kyrgyzstan – an achievement secured in partnership with the Kyrgyz government and others across the country – is a compelling example of the power of an individual to inspire and mobilise collective action.”
As part of the Soviet Union, with no internal borders in place, people moved across Central Asia with internal documentation, acquiring residency and getting married. After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 and the formation of new states, many people became stranded across newly established borders, often with now invalid Soviet passports or no means to prove where they were born. This left hundreds of thousands of people stateless throughout the region, including in Kyrgyzstan.
Women were disproportionately affected, often left without citizenship after marrying and settling outside of their own state before the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of new borders. As a result of hereditary citizenship laws, their statelessness was passed onto their children.
Motivated by his own family’s difficult experience of achieving citizenship after arriving from Uzbekistan in the aftermath of the dissolution, Ashurov helped to found FVLWB in 2003 to offer free legal advice and assistance to vulnerable displaced, stateless and undocumented people in the southern part of Krygyzstan.
“I cannot stand still when I see an injustice,” said Ashurov. “Statelessness is injustice. A stateless person is not recognized by any state. They are like ghosts. They exist physically, but they don’t exist on paper.”
“Our role in reducing statelessness is to help people do what they cannot do themselves. We don’t give them citizenship, we give them back a right that they should have had from birth.”
“I realised that if it was this difficult for me, with my education, and as a lawyer, then imagine how hard it must be for an ordinary person,” he said.
As more and more people approached FVLWB for help with citizenship issues, he turned the organization’s focus onto statelessness, working with others to map cases across the country for the first time and setting out to tackle the devastating problem once and for all.
Ashurov and FVLWB formed mobile legal teams which travelled to remote areas of the south of the country to find vulnerable and socially marginalized groups. In their mountainous country, the mobile legal teams relied on a battered four-wheel drive or travelled on horseback.
His close work with the Kyrgyz authorities, including on the launch of a temporary ‘amnesty’ for those without crucial papers, helped large numbers of stateless people to gain citizenship.
“Our main method was to work with the government,” said Ashurov. “We managed to get their attention and make them our friends. We were little warriors – but behind us was a big tank.”
“Similarly to Kyrgyzstan, a number of states in the wider region have initiated campaigns through which some 46,000 stateless people have so far been identified and over 34,500 cases have been successfully resolved to date.”
UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced. Recent winners include South Sudanese surgeon Dr. Evan Atar Adaha, Sister Angelique Namaika from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zannah Mustapha, a lawyer and mediator from Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria.
The award includes a commemorative medal and a US$150,000 monetary prize generously donated by the governments of Switzerland and Norway. In close consultation with UNHCR, the laureate uses the monetary prize to fund a project that complements their existing work.
The Nansen Refugee Award program is funded in partnership with the Swiss Government, The Norwegian Government, the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the Administrative Council of the City of Geneva and the IKEA Foundation.
The 2019 Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony
The 2019 Award ceremony will take place on October 7 at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva.
It will feature a performance by Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean and a keynote address by Nadine Labaki, the Lebanese director of the Cannes Jury Prize winner, and Oscar-nominated film, Capernaum. It will be hosted by award-winning South African TV presenter Leanne Manas. Other performers joining them on the night will be Swiss musician Flèche Love and German poets and stage performers Babak Ghassim and Usama Elyas.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance such as shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. We also work to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality.
UNHCR is already on the ground to help families forced to flee as the numbers continue to increase. We are working to ensure the most vulnerable are protected with shelter, health care and documents which will allow them to access services so they are not exposed and at risk. But we can’t do this alone.
The number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million globally last year. This is the highest level that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has seen in its almost 70 years. Overall growth in displacement continued to exceed the rate at which solutions are being found for people who become displaced and this complex situation requires support from all areas of society.
For the first time in Thailand, UNHCR is partnering with LIFEiS Group, a business enterprise, to organize the lifestyle event “LIFEiS BEAUTiFUL - No boundaries for sharing” to raise funds to support the response to the current global refugee crisis. The event aims to create a fulfilling experience through the contributions of individuals with different interests, who come together to instill creativity, sharing and giving through different generations.
“This year UNHCR has already received a high level of support from various new businesses in Thailand who have raised their voices for refugees,” said Pia Carmela Paguio, Deputy Representative of UNHCR Thailand. “This event sets another outstanding example of how business enterprises in Thailand and young generations can creatively use their expertise to help refugees.”
The event will bring together several Thai leading artists and new generations of fresh talent who will lead a culture of sharing within the community.
“I believe there are many people in every corner of the community who want to make a difference and just need some support to connect with one another,” said Nop Ponchamni, CEO of LIFEiS Group. “I hope this event will be a place for everyone, regardless of age, interest or nationality to enjoy and contribute what they can to provide kindness and compassion to as many people as possible.”
LIFEiS BEAUTiFUL - No boundaries for sharing will be held on 09 and 10 November 2019 at Lido Connect, where attendees will be able to enjoy social activities, a food and flea market, street art, a visual art performance, charity concert and DJ performance and explore an actual Refugee Housing Unit, as well as participate in a range of creative activities.
There will be special art performance by street art talents; Kob Kor Bor Vor (Pongpassakorn Kulthirathum) and NEV3R (Mongkol Rattanapakdee) and special edition tote bags designed by illustrator talents; An Officer Dies (Golf-Thitipoom Phetsangkhat), Benzilla (Benz-Parinya Pichetsiriporn), Happy Pomme Studio (Pomme-Tachamapan Chanchamrassang), Phannapast Taychamaythakool (Yoon) and Rukkit (Rukkit Kuanhawate) available to purchase for a good cause. For every purchase of a LIFEiS BEAUTiFUL tote bag, a stationery set will be distributed to refugee children in Thailand. A charity concert on 10 November will be led by Thai famous singer Nop Ponchamni and his special guests; YKPB, 2 Days Ago Kids and Triumps Kingdom.
During the following weeks from 17 November - 08 December 2019 at Lido Connect, UNHCR, LIFEiS Group and Documentary Club are preparing a line-up of feel good and refugee documentaries and movies for all ages, featuring Lost & Found, a National Geographic Documentary Film from Oscar-winning director Orlando von Einsiedel which provides an in-depth focus into one man’s life mission to reunite separated Rohingya children with their parents in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh and many more.
Tickets for charity concert and movies and special edition tote bags are available for purchase on www.ticketmelon.com from 01 October 2019 onwards. Net proceeds from the event will be donated to UNHCR to support refugee families fleeing war, persecution and conflict around the world.
With your help, we can help more families forced to flee and give them hope of a future. Join the UNHCR Family and make a difference with monthly gifts at www.unhcr.or.th.
LIFEiS BEAUTiFUL - No boundaries for sharingat Lido Connect
Refugee education in crisis: More than half of the world’s school-age refugee children do not get an education
Submitted by webmaster on 30 August 2019
Of the 7.1 million refugee children of school age, 3.7 million - more than half - do not go to school, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, says in a report released today.
The report, Stepping Up: Refugee Education in Crisis, shows that as refugee children grow older, the barriers preventing them from accessing education become harder to overcome: only 63 per cent of refugee children go to primary school, compared to 91 per cent globall
‘Stepping Up: Refugee Education in Crisis’ is the fourth annual education report from UNHCR. The first, ‘Missing Out’, was released in 2016 in advance of the UN General Assembly’s Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016. It called for donors to provide multi-year and predictable funding for refugee education. The second, ‘Left Behind’, was released in 2017. It highlighted the gap in opportunity between refugee children and their non-refugee peers and called for education to be considered fundamental to the response to refugee emergencies. The third, ‘Turn the Tide’, was released in 2018 and highlighted that, by the end of 2017, four million refugee children did not attend school – an increase of half a million of out-of-school refugee children in just one year.
This year’s report includes a preface by Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as final remarks by Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
As a group of boisterous children played in the rising waters of a reservoir in Nayapara refugee camp while monsoon rains fell relentlessly, Rohingya refugee volunteer Hossain Mubarak kept a watchful eye on them.
All of a sudden, he noticed amidst the joyous shouts of excitable youngsters, someone apparently in trouble. “When I looked out, it seemed like someone was sinking in the reservoir. I immediately shouted for other volunteers on duty to come and help,” says Hossain.
Four colleagues sped to his aid. They ordered the swimmers out of the reservoir and used a “throw bag” and a flotation device to reach the child and pull him to safety. Clearing his airways, they resuscitated him and packed him off to hospital for treatment.
It was a dramatic real-life test of an emergency scenario that 21-year-old Hossain and his colleagues had been trained for just three days earlier, thanks to a programme supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and two of its partners: the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International, or ADRA, and MOAS, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station.
“I never thought I would have to deal with a real-life incident within such a short time.”
“We were in a training where we staged a rescue like this for a demonstration. I never thought I would have to deal with a real-life incident within such a short time,” says Hossain.
The settlements in south-east Bangladesh, which are home to nearly one million refugees, are studded with reservoirs and ponds that quickly fill up during the monsoon. More than 230 refugees have already received training as lifeguards to help save those who get into difficulties during the wet season, which continues through October.
The rescued teen, Mohammad Nur, had just finished a game of football in one downpour when he decided to join other boys to wash off mud in the reservoir. It is the biggest of four in the camps in Teknaf Sub-District, and is 17 feet deep – more than three times the teenager’s height.
“I did not expect the water to be very deep … I was so excited that day so I jumped into water and suddenly I ran out of breath. That’s when I started to sink and became unconscious,” said Nur, who sheepishly acknowledged that he was unable to swim.
He and his mother, Shonchita, have yet to assimilate the experience fully. “My son is still frightened and so am I. He is my only son and I cannot think of any harm coming to him,” she said with tears in her eyes.
She was quick to praise the rapid action of Mohammad Nur’s rescuers. “The volunteers found my boy unconscious and gave him resuscitation and first aid. They helped save my son’s life. I’m so indebted to them”
“The volunteers found my boy unconscious and gave him resuscitation and first aid.”
Refugee volunteers, trained by UNHCR and partners, are at the forefront of efforts to protect residents of the sprawling refugee settlements during the monsoon season and spread awareness of the risks the weather brings and how families can better protect themselves.
Despite their love of playing in the rain, many youngsters in the camp like Nur do not know how to swim nor are they aware of some of the dangers.
Many are also unable to read or write. Recognizing some of these gaps, UNHCR Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist, Marina Drazba, set about devising a fun way of spreading awareness and information about the risks, by creating a board game.
“The game has helped us to reach and engage large audiences. It’s colourful and visually compelling. You don’t need to be able to read.
“It’s also quite a competitive game. It shows you the risks and teaches you how to recognize the hazards and survive as you play. Every day we see more and more people, young and old, coming to play the board games. It’s become a big hit,” she says.
Monsoon downpours can be harsh in Bangladesh. In July, storms dumped a whopping 14 inches (350 millimetres) on the settlements in just one 72-hour period, destroying more than 270 shelters and injuring 11 people.
In addition to instruction in rescue and first-aid techniques, the volunteers also receive safety equipment including lifebelts and throwlines to allow them to swing into action fast At the same time, UNHCR and its partners are working to fence off many open reservoirs and ponds to keep youngsters from playing in them.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Phramedhivajirodom, UNHCR Patron for Peace and Compassion and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA BANGKOK) are organizing “Art for Refugees Exhibition 2” to continue raising funds to shelter refugees and displaced people in need under UNHCR’s global campaign “Nobody Left Outside”.
With more than 70 million refugees and displaced people globally, we are witnessing the highest level of displacement in almost 70 years. When entire families are forced to flee from war, persecution and conflict, they have no choice but to leave everything behind. Provision of a safe shelter is the first critical step to assist them to rebuild their lives.
UNHCR research shows that millions of people are suffering in desperate living conditions that leave them exposed to both physical and emotional risks. “Nobody Left Outside” calls on individuals, corporations, foundations and philanthropists to help raise the funds needed to shelter at least two million of the most vulnerable refugees around the world.
“We are grateful for the support of Phramedhivajirodom and leading Thai artists to the Nobody Left Outside campaign for the second time,” said Pia Carmela Paguio, UNHCR’s Deputy Representative in Thailand. “This is a great example of the type of collective response which is needed more than ever given the current scale and complexity of the global refugee crisis.”
Phramedhivajirodom, a prominent Buddhist monk in Thailand, has been supporting UNHCR since 2016 with his personal commitment, empathy and dedication in promoting peace and compassion to make a difference to the lives of fellow human beings. Donations received during the “Art for Refugees Exhibition 1” and from UNHCR partners around the world have helped UNHCR to distribute over 70,000 tents and around 2 million pieces of plastic sheeting to support refugee families.
This month, UNHCR, Phramedhivajirodom and MOCA BANGKOK continue the Art for Refugees Exhibition for a second year with support from 30 leading Thai artists including Decha Warashoon and Preecha Thaothong, the national artist as well as Sompop Budtarad, Prateep Kochabua and Thongchai Srisukprasert who will showcase their work at the exhibition with highlights from two special guests, Tanawat “Pope” Wattanaputi and Jirayu “Got” Tantrakul, Thai famous actors, who create artwork to be auctioned at the exhibition’s opening ceremony to raise funds for the campaign.
“In light of the global crisis, compassion becomes more important. For me, people who are forced to flee from home deserve to live with dignity and need our empathy and support without discrimination,” said Phramedhivajirodom, UNHCR Patron for Peace and Compassion. “Every person needs a safe place to live and your support in providing one of the basic needs to the less fortunate is considered meaningful.”
The “Art for Refugees Exhibition 2” is open for public viewing from 03 to 31 August 2019 at the Temporary Exhibition Room, G Floor, MOCA BANGKOK with free admission. Net proceeds from the event will be donated to UNHCR to support the Nobody Left Outside campaign providing shelter to 2 million refugees in 12 countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Rwanda and Chad.
Your efforts can provide refugee families with a warm, safe place to recover and rebuild their lives. Join the UNHCR family and help us to shelter two million people, ensuring there is Nobody Left Outside via www.unhcr.or.th.
UNHCR's work is humanitarian, social and non-political. Its Statute and subsequent UN resolutions mandate the agency to provide international protection and seek durable solutions for refugees and other people of concern.