by sharpening our understanding of it, hearing directly from those affected by it and thinking collectively through what we must do to overcome it.
We all agreed, acting on a renewed understanding of fragility and what it means to vulnerable communities represents an urgent and collective responsibility. We’ve all seen the suffering. In places like Syria, Myanmar, Yemen and South Sudan, the loss of life, dignity and economic prosperity is rife.
Syrian Arab Republic
Around 250 million migrants currently live outside their countries of birth, making up approximately 3.5 percent of the world population. Despite the widespread perception of a global migration crisis, this ratio has stayed remarkably stable since the end of the Second World War and lags well behind other major metrics of globalization – international trade, capital flows, tourism etc. A more remarkable statistic is that refugees, at around 15 million, account for 6 percent of the migrant population and only 0.2 percent of world population. In other words, we can fit all refugees in the world in a city with an area of 5000 square kilometers – roughly the size of metropolitan Istanbul or London or Paris – and still have some space left over.
The Syrian conflict has reached the grim milestone of becoming the largest displacement crisis since World War II, with over half of the country’s pre-war population having left their homes since 2011—a particularly sobering statistic as we observe International Migrants Day on December 18, 2017 today.
For many of us, the Syrian crisis brings to mind images of refugee families blocked at European borders and sprawling humanitarian camps. Yet the majority of those fleeing the violence have remained in cities inside Syria and in neighboring countries, in the hopes of reaching safety, and accessing better services and jobs.
—and it is not confined to Syria, but a reality across many countries affected by conflict in the Middle East and beyond.
The viral image of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose dead body was quietly lying on the beach captivated us. Kurdi’s loss of the chance to flee to a safer life invigorated us to act. We decided to help refugee children adapt to their new lives when arriving in a new country.
And so, our team from the World Bank Youth Innovation Fund (YIF) partnered with Small Projects Istanbul (SPI), a Turkish non-profit organization, to help 20 Syrian children find some happiness and joy in Turkey after fleeing their war-torn country.
YIF provides an opportunity for young employees of the World Bank Group to design, implement and evaluate development projects in client countries focusing on innovation, efficiency and impact on development.
After submitting a proposal to the YIF Proposal Competition, and winning, our journey began. Our project, Turkish Language, Mentorship and Psychological Counseling Program, aimed to support these children to effectively integrate with the local society, develop self-confidence, and have access to education while living in Turkey.
Amir Awaad was dreaming of gold. The 18-time national wrestling champion trained all his life to represent his native Syria at the Olympics. His dream turned into fantasy when Amir had to fight outside the arena—this time for his life. A year after the war broke out in Syria, Amir, his wife, and three young children fled to Egypt. They settled in Alexandria, where Amir opened the Sports Academy Syria in 2016. Its purpose is to bring together refugee and asylum-seeker youth from 12 different countries to cope pyscho-socially with the traumas they left back home. The method? Intense and proactive training in contact and ball sports.
Those of you who have visited Dubai in recent years may relate to what I am going to say: Dubai is in the middle of the desert, and its land, not that long ago, was really worth nothing. Now it is one of the most vibrant international cities in the world. All this happened in a relatively short time span.
There are currently 66 million people forcibly displaced across the globe, 26 million fleeing their countries as refugees and 40 million internally displaced - the worst such crisis since World War II. The Middle East is among the most affected regions with over half the Syrian population forcibly displaced...
Oxfam Humanitarian Policy Adviser Ed Cairns reflects on using evidence to influence the treatment of refugees.
Who thinks that governments decide what to do on refugees after carefully considering the evidence? Not many, I suspect. So it was an interesting to be asked to talk about that at the ‘Evidence for Influencing’conference Duncan wrote about last week.
When I think what influences refugee policy, I’m reminded of a meeting I had in Whitehall on Friday 4 September, two days after the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, had drowned. Oxfam and other NGOs had been invited in to talk about refugees. The UK officials found out what their policy was by watching Prime Minister David Cameron on their phones, as he overturned the UK’s refusal to resettle thousands of Syrians in a press conference in Lisbon. Even then, he and his officials refused to promise how many Syrians would be allowed. By Monday, that line had crumbled as well, and a promise of 20,000 by 2020 was announced.
The evidence of course had shown that children and other refugees had been tragically drowning in the Mediterranean for months. But it was the sheer human emotion, the public interest, and no doubt Cameron’s own compassion that made the change. Evidence and the evidence-informed discussion between officials and NGOs had nothing to do with it. More important was that a single image of a drowned boy spread to 20 million screens within 12 hours as #refugeeswelcome began trending worldwide. As research by the Visual Social Media Lab at the University of Sheffield set out, “a single image transformed the debate”.
Two years later, a new Observatory of Public Attitudes to Migration has just been launched by the Florence-based Migration Policy Centreand its partners, including IPSOS Mori in the UK. It aims to be the ‘go-to centre for researchers and practitioners’, and has sobering news for anyone who thinks that evidence has a huge influence on this issue. Anti-migrant views, it shows, are far more driven by the values of tradition, conformity and security, and within the UK in particular, according to an IPSOS Mori study, by a distrust of experts, alongside suspicion of diversity, human rights and “political correctness”.