Record number of people forcibly displaced in 2017

Every two seconds, someone in the world was forcibly displaced in 2017, according to a new report by the U.N. Refugee Agency.

Due to wars, violence and persecution, 68.5 million people were forced to flee their homes by the end of 2017 — a record high and a trend that has continued for five years.

More than half of those displaced, which included refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people, were children, many unaccompanied or separated from their parents, the UNHCR’s Global Trends report found.

The crisis in Democratic Republic of the Congo, war in South Sudan and the plight of 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh, were big contributors.

UNHCR dispelled several incorrect “perceptions” of the global refugee crisis. “Among these is the notion that the world’s displaced are mainly in countries of the Global North. The data shows the opposite to be true — with fully 85 per cent of refugees in developing countries.”

In 2017, Turkey remained the largest host nation, with a population of 3.5 million refugees, while Lebanon had the greatest number in comparison to its population.


Immigrants founded more than half of America’s billion-dollar startups

Immigrants helped found more than half of the U.S.’s 87 startup companies valued at more than a billion dollars in 2016, according to a study by the National Foundation for American Policy, with the 11 biggest of those companies employing more than 17,000 people.

Another study from late last year found that 43% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

Why it matters: The Trump administration recently proposed to cancel an Obama-era visa aimed at helping foreign entrepreneurs start new businesses in the U.S. The president and other advocates for cutting immigration levels argue that immigrants are taking jobs from U.S. workers, but in many instances, immigrants not only contribute to the U.S. economy, but create more jobs for Americans.

The big picture: Of the 44 immigrants who helped found billion dollar startup in the U.S, 20 first came to the U.S. as international students.

Why that matters: There was a 17% drop in international students in the U.S. last year, in large part due to the 28% decline in Indian students receiving visas. (The Trump administration has also called for increased scrutiny toward certain H-1B work-based visas, which were often acquired by India-based companies who then send high-skilled tech workers to U.S. companies.)


Israeli Supreme Court fully adopts Israeli army’s position

The Israeli Supreme Court rejected two petitions filed by human rights groups and fully adopted the Israeli military’s position, giving a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip.

Three Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected the two petitions, fully accepting the military’s claims related to the use of live fire on protesters. The court ruled that the Israeli military’s firing of live ammunition at protesters was in accordance with the law because, according to the court, the protest participants constituted a real danger to Israeli soldiers and citizens.

Human rights group Adalah and Al Mezan responded late Thursday night to the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling: “The Israeli Supreme Court completely ignored the broad factual basis presented to it by the petitioners, which includes multiple testimonies of wounded and reports of international organizations involved in documenting the killing and wounding of unarmed protesters in Gaza.

“It is worth noting that the Israeli Supreme Court refused to watch video clips documenting Israeli shootings of demonstrators and, rather than actually examining the case, fully accepted the claims presented to it by the state. [The petition included 12 video clips documenting Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed protesters – including women and children – who did not endanger any lives.] The extreme nature of the ruling is also highlighted by the striking absence of any mention of the casualty figures that had been presented to the court.”

Since 30 March 2018, 115 Palestinian residents of Gaza – including 15 children – have been killed by the Israeli military. At least 86 were killed during the protests themselves. Approximately 3,000 more were wounded by live fire during this same period. Those who were killed were mostly shot in the upper part of the body.


Israel will not co-operate with UN human rights inquiry

Israel says it won’t co-operate with the inquiry called for by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) on Friday into recent violence on the Israel-Gaza border.

The body approved a commission of inquiry to investigate Israel’s handling of clashes on the Gaza border and alleged human rights violations in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem. The meeting was called after 60 Palestinian protesters were shot and killed by Israeli troops on Monday, the day the US transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Twenty-nine countries voted to approve the probe, while 14 abstained. Only the United States and Australia voted against the resolution.

The United Nations human rights chief said Israel used “wholly disproportionate” force. Zeid Raad al -Hussein told the Geneva meeting that Gaza residents were effectively “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death”.

Kuwait has circulated a draft resolution at the UN Security Council condemning Israel’s actions and calling for the deployment of an international force to protect civilians. Kuwait is urging the Security Council to condemn Israel’s use of force against Palestinian civilians “in the strongest terms”, especially in the Gaza Strip.

[The Irish Times]

Will climate change cause more migrants than wars?

Climate change is one of the main drivers of migration and will be increasingly so. It will even have a more significant role in the displacement of people than armed conflicts, which today cause major refugee crises.

This was the warning sounded by Ovais Sarmad, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Sarmad is a specialist in commerce and financial management, and has worked for 27 years at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

While the Syrian conflict resulted in a million migrants seeking refuge in Europe, “the climate change impact will make one million look like a small number. Because a hundred or four hundred million people live in developing countries in low-lying areas, in cities which are very close to the sea. If sea level rises, then people will have to move.”

Can one speak in a strict sense of climate refugees? The international community has not yet validated that definition, but Sarmad believes that the issue must be considered, due to realities such as the sea level rise, increasingly destructive hurricanes or persistent droughts.

The issue of climate change is particularly controversial in the G20, because last year, under the German presidency, the United States did not adhere to the Action Plan on Climate and Energy Growth, which was endorsed by the rest of the member countries, leading many to conclude that the G20 had become the Group of 19+1.

 [Read full IPS article]

Rising mental health issues among humanitarian workers

Post-graduates from King’s College London, Laura Samira Naude and Esther ten Zitjhoff, left Britain and headed to Greece’s refugee camps. Armed with compassion and educational books in Arabic, English and Farsi, the duo travelled from camp to camp in their library on wheels, attempting to bring the hope and resources to the refugees as they prepared for their future in Europe. But as winter came, facing the many pressure that all NGOs in Greece face, Laura and Esther began to lose hope themselves: “Everything you try and do is met with obstacles, we didn’t have a huge support group and so after a while we just couldn’t cope, physically or mentally”.

Aid workers and volunteers in the humanitarian sector face traumatizing situations that have been proven to cause them to experience anxiety, burnout, secondary traumatic stress, depression or PTSD, explains Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

A report conducted by the Antares foundation in 2013, found that 30% of aid workers had experienced PTSD, compared to 11% of US veterans who participated in the war in Afghanistan according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Brendan McDonald, former aid worker at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), recalls how when asking his staff councilor for advice after a particularly traumatic experience in Syria, he was only sent a pamphlet on yoga. At the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, McDonald, along with other colleagues, attempted to petition the summit, calling on the UN to “prioritize staff well-being”. He said, “I was told by UNOCHA senior management not to pursue the matter; it was basically not seen as an issue”.


Impact on Iranian people from Trump sanctions

In the years prior to the nuclear deal, when Iran was under broad international sanctions, the country saw shortages in key foodstuffs and life-saving medicines.

According to Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, during that sanctions period, the list of medicines subject to shortages in Iran extended to 350 drugs. After the lifting of international sanctions as part of the Iran nuclear deal, the situation improved dramatically.

With U.S. sanctions poised to return, much suffering for Iranians seems to be on the horizon. In fact, what the Trump administration is seeking to do could prove much more dangerous than anything Iran has been subjected to before.

[Bourse & Bazaar]

UN calls for ‘immediate end to use of disproportionate force’ in Israel

Dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured on Monday amid reports of Israeli forces firing live ammunition at protesters protesting against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Israeli forces faced accusations of using “disproportionate force” against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said “those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.” In an earlier statement, the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “gravely concerned” that many of those killed or injured during weeks of protests were reportedly posing no imminent threat when they were shot.

The statement also called on Israel to “fully respect the norms of humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to lift the blockade of the Gaza strip”, and to “put an immediate end to the disproportionate use of force against Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza strip, refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and ensure prompt and unimpeded access to medical treatment to injured Palestinians”.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s executive director for the Middle East and North Africa, said Israeli authorities’ policy of firing at protesters irrespective of whether there was an immediate threat to life had resulted in a “bloodbath that anyone could have foreseen”.

Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said: “This is another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes.”

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that firing live ammunition at protesters showed “appalling indifference to human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials” and called for an immediate halt to the killing of protesters.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry fell in love while doing humanitarian work

With just days to go before the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, one of her closest friends spills the details of how the couple fell in love.

“Harry invited Meghan to Botswana,” Janina Gavankar said. “They were staying in a tent with nothing and just had each other.” The two had a shared passion for philanthropy work, according to Gavanker, which she thinks cemented their romance.

“I remember when Meghan told me about Botswana,” Gavanker said. “I loved how she was … pleasantly surprised. Like, this boy is actually just doing this for real. This is not some flouncy trip … he really means it.”

“Even with Meghan’s crazy schedule as an actor, she’s always made time for philanthropic endeavors,” her friend recalled. “It could be one day helping at a charity event and it could be an entire trip that she’s told nobody about to go help people in India.”

“One of the things I love about both of them is that they don’t tell anyone,” she added. “They just go do good work in countries with nobody watching.”

Gavankar added that Markle, who is known for her ever-glamorous appearance, is “incredibly low maintenance.” She thinks it was Harry’s down-to-earth side that stole Markle’s heart, which the bride-to-be got to witness in Botswana.

[ABC News]

Aid workers freed in South Sudan

Ten aid workers, who were detained while on an assessment mission, and then were held by an armed opposition group for more than five days, have been freed.

The humanitarian staff, all nationals, included one from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), two from UNICEF, one from the South Sudanese Development Organization, two from ACROSS, three from Plan International and one from Action Africa Help.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Alain Noudehou, confirmed that the workers were returned safely and in good health. He commended the tireless work of those who secured their release, particularly the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to facilitate their return to Juba.

He expressed outrage at what he described as a deteriorating environment for humanitarian work in South Sudan. Earlier the same week, a humanitarian worker was shot and killed while returning to check on a health clinic that had been looted in Leer County. This most recent death brings to 100 the total number of aid workers killed since the conflict began in December 2013.