Climate migrants might reach up to one billion by 2050

Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and/or floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation.

Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, this could be the scenario by 2050. If so, 1 in 9 human beings would be on the move by then.

For its part, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

Another warning comes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which estimates that some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification alone. Up to 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain, adds the Bonn-based Convention secretariat.

[All Africa]

The coming confrontation between Assad and jihadists in Syria

Once famous for its olive groves and archaeological ruins, Idlib is now the last redoubt of Islamist opposition to Assad. The capital, Idlib City, has been under Islamist control since 2015, and today the two million people living in the province — many of them refugees from other parts of the country – could be caught up in a disastrous final confrontation between jihadists and the Assad regime.

The prospects offered by life in Idlib remain dire, with unemployment, petty crime, and psychological trauma prevalent among the population.  Ahmad Awad, a civil society activist, laments “There is no real government here at all. All that people are thinking about is trying to make a living and their fears about what may come in the future.”

The main group currently in control of Idlib is the Al Qaeda-affiliated militant group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly the Nusra Front. Under HTS, Idlib has also become a haven for international jihadists who have migrated to Syria, transforming parts of the provincial territory into a strangely multicultural world of Uzbeks, Chechens, Europeans, and others.

A negotiated “deescalation” with the Syrian government and its allies has prevented a major external assault on the province, but this cold peace is unlikely to last forever. Eventually, Idlib will likely face a full-blown military attack by the Assad government and its Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies. In a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. last month, the U.S. special envoy for the coalition against the Islamic State described  Idlib as “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11,” signaling that the international community is also unlikely to tolerate a province under HTS’s control.

When the battle for Idlib does come, it may be the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in a civil war that has already claimed over 400,000 lives.

[The Intercept]

Saudi coalition to blame for half of Yemen child casualties

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition was responsible for an “unacceptably high” 51 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year, according to a draft United Nations report seen by Reuters.

The draft report on children and armed conflict, which still has to be approved by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and is subject to change, blamed the Saudi-led coalition for more than 680 child casualties and three-quarters of the attacks on schools and hospitals in Yemen.

It will be up to Guterres to decide whether to return the Saudi-led coalition to a child rights blacklist annexed to the report. The coalition was briefly added last year and then removed by then-U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. At the time, the Saudi-led coalition had been named on the blacklist after the U.N. report blamed it for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015, plus half the attacks on schools and hospital.

The Saudi-led coalition began an air campaign in Yemen in March 2015 to defeat Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

[Reuters]

Hello Neighbor – Up close and personal with a refugee family

It all started with a Thanksgiving dinner last November, when Sloane Davidson, a Pittsburgh native, hosted a family of Syrian refugees to share in the great American tradition of roast turkey, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie.

“They are such kind and sweet people,” Davidson said, recalling the November evening. “I would sit with them and drink Turkish coffee and they would tell me about their journey” from Turkey, where the family had spent two years after fleeing from Syria.

The two families kept in touch, and soon Davidson invited them to more of her family gatherings. The friendship has now grown into something bigger: Hello Neighbor, a mentorship program that matches American families with refugee and immigrant families who have recently arrived in the United States.

Refugees arriving in the United States are assisted by one of nine resettlement agencies, which help families with essential services like housing, employment, food, medical care, and counseling. But the agencies only provide assistance for the first 90 days, after which the refugees are basically on their own.

It is here that Hello Neighbor steps in, helping refugees with the long process of adjusting to a new culture and integrating into life in the United States. So far, twenty-five families from Bhutan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been matched with 25 American families through Hello Neighbor’s pilot program in Pittsburgh. Over a four-month period, the mentor families are encouraged to have “one quality interaction a week” with their assigned refugee family. Hello Neighbor also organizes regular get-togethers, like potluck dinners, picnics, and a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.

Hello Neighbor taps into “this feeling of neighborhood, of community, and this longing for how we used to support new people who moved into our neighborhood,” said Davidson. “We are social creatures, and we like to share, and we like to be there for each other,” she added.

While the program establishes mentor-mentee relationships between families, Davidson said that the goal is to educate and empower both sides. “There’s as much to learn on one side as there is on the other,” she said. The refugees “are people to look up to. These are people who have persevered,” she added.

[Washington Post]

August 19 celebrates World Humanitarian Day

Every year on August 19, the international community recognizes World Humanitarian Day—a day to celebrate the hard work of aid workers everywhere, to remember the friends and colleagues our community has lost, to advocate for stronger protections and better and safer access to people in need, and to demand accountability and justice for violations of international humanitarian law.

Worldwide, attacks against aid workers have tripled in the past ten years. In 2016 alone, statistics on major attacks against aid workers are alarming:

  • Attacks against national aid workers in 2016 are almost triple the number of attacks against international humanitarian personnel, with 245 national victims and 43 international victims.
  • In 2016, 158 major attacks against aid operations were documented, in which 288 aid workers were victims: 101 aid workers were killed, 98 were wounded, and 89 were kidnapped.

This year, the global community is coming together for World Humanitarian Day to stand against attacks on aid workers and civilians: because the people who put their lives on the line to help those in need and the civilian men, women, and children who live in the midst of war and conflict are #NotATarget.

[Action Against Hunger]

Global warming and crop harvests

Each degree of global warming will cut into harvests of the world’s staple crops, according to a new study that takes a broad view of the agricultural research field. Twenty-nine researchers published the paper this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Wheat, corn, rice and soybeans make up two-thirds of humans’ caloric intake. Each crop reacts differently to rising temperatures, and the effects vary from place to place. On average, though, the world can expect 3.1 to 7.4 percent less yield per degree Celsius of warming, according to the research.

The Paris climate agreement, which the United States plans to quit, has committed the international community to less than 2 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

Rice, a main food source for developing countries, could decline an average of 3.2 percent. Some research pointed toward an even greater impact — as much as 6 percent. Soybeans, the world’s fourth-most important commodity crop, could yield 3.1 percent less per degree.

The researchers only studied the direct effect of rising average temperatures, but indirect effects could change things, too. Water stress and drier soils might drag down harvests. So could more frequent heat waves. Climate change could also affect pests, weeds and diseases.

The United Nations predicts the world’s population will grow to 9.8 billion by 2050 from 7.6 billion today. Warmer conditions could make it harder to grow enough food for so many mouths, and the crops that do grow could offer fewer nutrients.

[Climatewire]

3 things US medicine can learn from Doctors Without Borders

On any given day, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) stations up to 30,000 doctors, nurses and other volunteer personnel in more than 60 countries. In recognition of its pioneering efforts across several continents, the nonprofit was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.

Meanwhile the United States is suffering a major health crisis. Tens of millions of Americans live without health insurance while the uncertain future of healthcare policy threatens the coverage and well-being of millions more. Hundreds of thousands of patients die each year from avoidable medical errors, preventable diseases and unnecessary complications from chronic illness. Our medical technology is outdated, our drug prices continue to skyrocket, and our physicians have become so frustrated that most (58 percent) would discourage their children from pursuing a career in medicine.

I am optimistic that our problems can be solved. To that end, I believe Doctors Without Borders can teach us three valuable lessons.

  1. The Power of Mission. On volunteer trips, physicians work 14 to 16 hours each day, often in scorching heat and without pay. Upon returning home, they almost never mentioned the travails. Instead, they spoke of the camaraderie, their sense of purpose, and the memories they will cherish for the rest of their lives. Compared to working in hot, dirty and under-resourced environments, you’d think the American medical office – with its air conditioning and running water – would feel like a vacation. Surveys demonstrate the opposite. One-third of doctors are dissatisfied with their work. Many describe being depressed. They lament all the time spent filling out forms, the isolation of working alone, and their frequent battles with health plans over prior-approvals and reimbursements. Unless physicians can reconnect with the fundamental purpose of their profession – helping patients – the cynicism and “burnout” afflicting doctors today will only worsen. Understanding how Doctors Without Borders has revived and nurtured this sense of purpose in its physician volunteers would be a great place for our country to start.
  2. The Essentials of Organization. Inefficiencies in U.S. medical centers have become the norm. The failings of U.S. healthcare – namely, its high costs and under-performance – aren’t the result of flawed doctors, nurses and staff. They’re the consequences of a broken delivery system, one that lacks operational efficiency and clinical effectiveness. Relief organizations like Doctors Without Borders place great importance on getting the right support in the right place at the right time. If our nation did the same, we could raise clinical quality and make health coverage more affordable for all.
  3. The Importance of Clarity. During volunteer endeavors, all doctors understand what they are doing and why. To a person, the goal is clear: Save as many human lives as possible. It’s hard to imagine a clearer “metric.” We may want to believe the U.S. healthcare system is designed to maximize the lives saved. But if that were true, we would not trail the 10 other wealthiest nations in health outcomes – not when we spend 18 percent of our GDP ($3 trillion annually) on healthcare.

Doctors Without Borders, and its tens of thousands of volunteers, has much to teach American medicine. … I hope my donations to Doctors Without Borders will serve as an investment in the health and medical education of both our country and our planet.

[Excerpts of Forbes article by Dr. Robert Pearl, a clinical professor of surgery at Stanford University]

The human agenda to remove greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere

The Drawdown project, led by Paul Hawken, details 80 ways we can take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

The project groups the 80 interventions into 7 clusters, and the cluster that can generate the highest reduction – 31 percent – is “food”! (Between 2020 and 2050, food initiatives that are already underway can reduce greenhouse gases by 321.9 gigatonnes.) Food is followed by “energy” at 23 percent.

Surprisingly, “efficiencies in refrigeration management” is the single biggest item in the top ten CO2-equivalent reducers. “Reduced food waste” comes in at number three, with a “plant-rich diet” coming in fourth. At number six and seven on the list is “educating girls” and “family planning.”

For those who feel like climate change is too big for them to have impact, this provides lots of options for action.

What is also encouraging is the optimistic tone of the New York Times Bestseller book, “Drawdown – The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming”. Paul Hawken writes: “If we change the preposition, and consider that global warming is happening for us – an atmospheric transformation that inspires us to change and re-imagine everything we make and do – we begin to live in a different world.

“We take 100 percent responsibility and stop blaming others. We see global warming not as an inevitability but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change, a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion, and genius. This is not a liberal agenda, nor is it a conservative one. This is a human agenda.”

Let compassion heal us and others

As part of my ServiceSpace summer internship, I interviewed various people about their relationship to pain and suffering. The individuals I talked to were willing to reflect on pain and suffering, unfold decades of their lives and share insights with a young stranger whom they had never met before.

In a conversation with John Malloy, he said, “Sharing is our nature. When we share, we heal suffering.” John’s life is dedicated to tending to people who suffer. After working as a counselor for prisoners and troubled youth, to leading The American Indian Spiritual Marathon for nearly four decades, John said, “None of the kids had criminal minds. I was never fooled by the personality of the kid — it’s a veil to the soul. I always went for the soul.”

Towards the end of our conversation, I asked John how he faces his own sufferings while always serving others. John revealed that he had experienced a great deal of loss in his life, including the passing of his only son and the loss of sight in his left eye. However, “we have an innate capacity to heal”. After two years of grieving, he grew stronger through his losses, not weaker. “As we face our pain and suffering, we see what we are supposed to do is to care for others,” said John.

When we hurt others, we are not only responsible for ourselves or the ones we hurt, but also for the ones they are going to hurt. If instead we choose compassion, this world turns brighter. As Audrey Lin beautifully puts it, “In the end there is only kindness. At the end of the day we are all going to go, but what stays behind are those small acts; those are acts maybe paid forward by so many others. […It’s] what inspires me to keep living.”

Sharing makes us more human; becoming more human leads us towards the compassion that is inherent in our nature.

[Daily Good]

Why refugee doctors end up driving taxis in the US

Layla Sulaiman served as a primary care OB/GYN for 17 years before she left Iraq in 2007. But in this country, her medical license is no longer valid. Sulaiman is one of many refugees — though no one knows exactly how many — who practiced medicine in their home countries, who are now working in low-skilled jobs, driving taxis and working in grocery stores.

“The brain waste is appalling,” said Dr. José Ramón Fernandez-Peña, an associate professor of health education at San Francisco State University who studied medicine in his native Mexico. He is also the founder and director of the Welcome Back Initiative, which has helped foreign-trained providers get health care jobs in the United States since 2001. “These are individuals who could be taking care of children with asthma, and instead are working at a car wash,” he said.

Sulaiman had originally hoped to be relocated to Australia, where her sister-in-law lives and where there are accelerated paths for foreign doctors. Had she gone to a country like Canada, she could have practiced with some restrictions while obtaining a full license.

But she ended up in the United States, where she must start her training from scratch. Refugees may have additional struggles, advocates say. For example, many must leave their home countries on short notice, making it difficult for longtime doctors to track down old transcripts and records.

Within the United States, there are more residency slots than medical students to fill them. This year, more than 22,000 American-educated students vied for nearly 29,000 first-year residency slots, according to the National Resident Matching Program.  The rest of these positions were filled largely by foreign graduates.

Some experts predict a doctor shortage of 40,800 to 104,900 by 2030, according to an analysis commissioned by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Fernandez-Peña said that putting foreign-trained doctors to work in America is a no-brainer. “Why not invest in this freebie?” he asked. “They’ve already been trained. We would be reaping the benefits that (another) country has spent money in training their work force.”

[CNN]

Build on Africa’s informal economy

In many cities in sub-Saharan Africa, the informal economy is larger and more dynamic than the formal economy. In Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso, for example, the informal sector accounts for over 80% of non-agricultural employment.

Yet, in many African cities, government policies discriminate against these workers. For example, street vendors and waste collectors are often banned from using public spaces. They may even suffer harassment from government officials.

Yet they play a central role in increasing the resilience of the city. Waste pickers recycle large amount of material, reducing pollution and maintain city cleanliness. This helps prevent diseases, particularly those spread by bacteria, insects and vermin that might otherwise feed or breed on garbage. Street vendors play a critical role in providing and producing food, particularly to poor people living in urban areas.

The informal economy is not perfect. Informality creates risks for consumers and workers. A lack of state oversight makes it difficult to enforce regulation, such as water treatment standards. Waste pickers in particular face severe health risks due to their work. Informal housing is often in hazard prone parts of the city.

But there can be little doubt that informal service provision or informal livelihoods are better than none at all.

Successful strategies to reduce risk therefore need to be developed in collaboration with informal workers in sectors such as food, water, housing and solid waste management. Similarly, partnerships with communities living in informal settlements can ensure that the voices of vulnerable urban residents are heard, and their needs are addressed.

[PreventionWeb]

Industrialization could help Africa’s cities

Cities in sub-Saharan Africa are growing fast. Yet urban economies across the region are markedly different from those of other cities around the world: they are more expensive to live in and less industrial.

One estimate suggests that food and drink cost 35% more in real terms in sub-Saharan African cities than in other countries, while housing is 55% more expensive. The average urban household in sub-Saharan Africa spends 39% to 59% of its budget on food alone.

The high price of basic goods and services means that people living in African cities have little money to spend on reducing risk, such as upgrading their homes, preventative health care or buying insurance.

Urbanization has historically been closely linked to industrialization. In sub-Saharan Africa, urbanization is taking place without industrialization. This means that jobs and livelihoods too often remain low-skilled and poorly paid. Without the opportunity to develop skills and organize collectively, workers exert little influence over working conditions.

There are ways around these problems. Manufacturing jobs offer income security and skill development. Local employers in the public and private sector benefit from new knowledge and skills, while workers can accumulate capital. This offers a path out of poverty. 

 [PreventionWeb]

PowerMyLearning educational tool

Elisabeth Stock has always been driven to work toward a more just world. It was what led her to volunteer as a teacher for the Peace Corps in West Africa in her early 20s, and it’s what ultimately motivated her to found PowerMyLearning, an educational technology nonprofit, in 1999.

“I wanted to join the Peace Corps because I felt like there was this deep unfairness in society,” she says. “Is it just and fair that where you are born predicts whether you can reach your human potential?”

The key to providing equal opportunity for everyone, says Stock, is through education. To that end, PowerMyLearning uses technology to improve the relationships that are crucial to the learning process — namely, the impact that teachers and parents have on a student’s promise to excel. “What we’re really about is empowering all of them — the kids and the adults — to learn together,” she says. That empowerment is translating to real, measurable results.

Technology is a crucial part of this process, but the company approaches it in a decidedly different way than most ed-tech outfits do. We realize that what you really need to do with technology is focus on the learning relationships.”

PowerMyLearning uses a combination of services and tools to reach everyone involved in a child’s education. The organization’s online platform, called PowerMyLearning Connect, curates the best available videos, interactive games and other online resources to help students master complex topics. PowerMyLearning also provides coaching to teachers, especially those who are early in their careers, and conducts workshops where families can learn about what their kids are doing.

[Daily Good]

137 million people’s lives are at risk from flooding

“In the next 30 years, it is projected that heavy rainfall events will be increasing … in Asia, by about 20% for sure,” climate scientist Dewi Kirono at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) told CNN.

Southern Asia is already the wettest area on the continent and one of the wettest regions in the world, receiving an average of at least 1000mm of rainfall a year.

As the rains fall harder, more than 137 million people in India, Bangladesh and China will be put at risk of coastal or inland flooding, more people than in the rest of the Asia-Pacific combined, a study in 2012 found. The majority of flood-related deaths and injuries worldwide since 1950 have been in three countries. According to statistics from Belgium’s Universite Catholique de Louvain’s Emergency Events Database, since 1950, more than 2.2 million people in these countries have been killed by flooding.

The problem centers around three of the great Himalayan rivers of South and East Asia: The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Yangtze. About 500 million people, or 50% of the population in India and Bangladesh, and about 300 million people, or about 25% of the population of China, live within the flood basins of these three rivers. Taken together, the three waterways support an estimated 14% of the world’s total population. When the heavy rains higher up in the flood plains flow into these rivers, water levels rise dramatically — and floodwaters pour into the surrounding cities and towns.

Still, these factors have been here for years. Why is the danger growing now?

“A lot of the urbanization … has happened in a largely unplanned matter.” Abhas Jha, the World Bank sector manager for Transport, Urban and Disaster Risk Management for East Asia and the Pacific, said. As natural drainage, such as open green spaces and wetlands, are covered in cityscapes…, heavy rain has nowhere to go. And the rains are getting heavier.

[CNN]

Wealth distribution inequality

While Americans and much of the world fixate on such things as Donald Trump’s latest tweets, the plague of inequality continues to grow.

An analysis of 2016 data found that the poorest five deciles of the world population own about $410 billion in total wealth.

As of June 8, 2017, the world’s richest five* men owned over $400 billion in wealth. (* Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg.)

Thus, on average, each of these men own nearly as much as 750 million people.

Line up of 1,000 musical artists to play refugee solidarity concerts

Amnesty International and Sofar Sounds are producing a global concert series Give a Home, taking place in cities all over the world on 20 September 2017.

After joining the lineup of artists performing, Ed Sheeran said, “We all deserve a home, not just the memory of one. That’s why I’m proud to join Amnesty International and Sofar’s Give a Home campaign in raising awareness for the global refugee crisis and funds for Amnesty’s important work.”

Sheeran will play a Give a Home gig in Washington D.C., USA.   Playing alongside him will be Jean-Jean Bashengezi (‘JAJA’) a guitarist, singer and refugee who now lives in Washington. Bashengezi’s music draws influence from his roots in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was forced to flee in 1994 when his country descended into deadly conflict following the Rwandan genocide.

With more than 22 million people now forced to flee their home country, the aim of the ambitious concert series is to unite people in showing solidarity with refugees. The funds raised by the project will support Amnesty International’s work in documenting human rights abuses and violations against refugees and pushing governments to find a sustainable solution to the refugee crisis.

Give a Home will see music fans around the world open up their homes to host intimate concerts in more than 60 countries worldwide.

[Amnesty International]

The uncertain fate of Christians in Iraq

When Saddam Hussein was in charge, some 1.3 million Christians lived in Iraq. Today that figure is believed to be only 200,000.

Located some 35 kilometers southeast of Mosul along the Nineveh plains,  Qaraqosh was once considered the cradle of Christianity in Iraq, its history stretching back to biblical times. Before Islamic State invaded, Qaraqosh was home to Iraq’s largest Christian community.  40,000 people lived here until three years ago –no other city in the country was home to so many Christians. Now liberated after three years of occupation, little remains and former residents are considering whether it’s worth rebuilding in a country with an unclear future.

A local priest, Father Roni, has made it his task to resuscitate Qaraqosh. “We have to bury the dead so life can return,” he says. The bodies of 11 murdered people lie unburied at the cemetery. Some have been here so long that their faces are no longer recognizable.

Around half of the residents of Qaraqosh have left Iraq, with about 40 Christian families heading abroad each week to places like France, Jordan, Australia–anywhere but here, a region that doesn’t hold much of a future for them.

Under Saddam Hussein’s rule, they were at least halfway safe. As a Sunni Muslim, Hussein was himself part of a minority in the country and he formally incorporated the Christians into the state apparatus as part of his efforts to consolidate power. But their situation deteriorated after the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq. Despite the Americans’ claims of being liberators, the chaos they created further fomented the hatred many Iraqis had for Christians.

The province of Nineveh, where the Christians found refuge, is one of the most ethnically diverse in Iraq. In addition to Christians, it is also home to Yazidis, Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds. As such, it is considered a test case for how the divided country might coalesce once again after the fall of Islamic State. It would cost $10 million (€9 million) to rebuild Qaraqosh, but no one knows where the money might come from. And coexistence is little more than a vision.

 [Der Spiegel]

Smugglers abandon migrants in a desert the size of Texas

The 22-year-old Nigerian woman knew that traveling to Europe along the Sahara desert’s smuggling routes would be the most arduous experience of her life. If she had known how close it would bring her to death, she would never have left home at all.

Adoara and roughly 50 others spent 10 days wandering the Tenere section of the vast desert in Niger (West Africa) after being abandoned by their smugglers in an utterly barren expanse of land the size of Texas.

There is sand and only sand for hundreds of miles in the Tenere. As it shifts in the wind, it covers the rutted tracks of vehicles, and any sense of direction is lost. Slowly dying of thirst, Adoara resorted to drinking her own urine. She and the others buried the dead under the shifting sands until they were too exhausted to perform those last rites. Six survived, including Adoara.

Hundreds of thousands of mostly West African migrants fleeing war, poverty and persecution have crossed this stretch of the Sahara over the past few years. They scrounge together life savings and bet them all on a treacherous journey–first across the Tenere; then farther into the Sahara, into Libya; then the choppy seas of the Mediterranean–in hopes of a better life in Europe.

Once migrants are in Libya, many are bought and sold as slaves, and housed in fetid, disease-ridden cells while they work toward earning passage on boats crossing the Mediterranean.

The world has looked on in horror at the thousands who have died when their overloaded boats capsize at sea. And while more do perish on that final leg, so close to European shores, the sandy graveyard of the Tenere has claimed hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

“I think we’ve overtalked the sea and undertalked the deserts,” said Tuesday Reitano, deputy director at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.

[Washington Post]

Refugees bring huge benefits to the nations in which they settle

Lost in the debate over the Trump travel ban, which has now partially gone into effect, is a vital fact about refugees. Many of them bring huge benefits to the nations in which they settle — because time and again, starting up businesses is a part of starting over for those finding a new home.

In Canada, one of the country’s most talked-about — and sought-after — sweets companies is the product of Assam Hadhad who launched Peace by Chocolate out of his kitchen in his adopted home in Nova Scotia after a missile struck his factory in Syria and his family finally decided to flee the danger.

The Canadian catering company Syrian Cuisine Made With Love has a similar story of a family thrown out of its own country by the conflict’s violence and now creating growth and opportunity for others by feeding Canadians — and hiring other Syrians.

Likewise, in the United Kingdom, one cheese company is winning fans — including among the country’s royal family and the nation’s prime minister — as it provides a living to Syrians who’ve lost everything to the war.

Turkey is now home to roughly three million Syrian refugees. Only 10% of this group lives in refugee camps; nearly all are working to find homes in cities and battling high rents and stiff competition for work in a very tight labor market full of people seeking to make a living. Today, Syrians are leading the list of foreign nationals launching businesses there.

A recent report from the non-profit organization Building Markets finds that since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, Syrians in Turkey have started more than 6,000 new companies. If you add in informal businesses that aren’t registered with the government, that number would top 10,000. This year alone Syrians are on track to start 2,000 new enterprises. On average, the companies in the Building Markets study offer jobs to nine people — with close to a third of the companies saying they plan to expand.

[Read full CNN article]

Refugee entrepreneurship in the United States

Near Washington DC, Syrian refugee Nader Briman is sewing wedding dresses. And his wife is cooking shawarma and meat pies. The Brimans’ new community stands to gain from their arrival.

One study out of Cleveland in 2013 noted that “in advanced economies, once refugees have adjusted to their new life after resettlement, they can provide substantial contributions to the workforce and economic development in the long run at the regional level.”

Other American entrepreneurs have tread a path reminiscent of the Brimans and made a difference not just for their neighborhoods, but their new nation. Hamdi Ulukaya came to the United States in 1994 to escape escalating political tensions in Turkey, where his status as a politically active Kurd — albeit one who disavowed violence — earned him the attention of Turkish police.  Just over a decade later, he launched Chobani, a category-creating Greek yoghurt company that today is America’s biggest-selling yogurt brand, earning $2 billion in annual revenues.

Today close to a third of Ulukaya’s workers at Chobani’s Idaho plant are refugees. Or newly arrived Americans. As Ulukaya has said, “the minute a refugee has a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”

The same is true of former refugees like Google (GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin, Intel (INTC, Tech30) co-founder Andy Grove, or WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum — some of the world’s most innovative and successful businesses simply wouldn’t exist if they had been turned away in their time of need.

[CNN]