A blog by Grant Montgomery, co-founder of Family Care Foundation, a 501c3 that provides emergency services and sustained development for communities, families and children on 5 continents. Articles and commentary on Philanthropy, Global Aid and Development.
In recent months across Europe, a dramatic spike in refugee arrivals to Greece and 39 dead bodies of Vietnamese citizens discovered in an abandoned lorry in Essex provoked a return of “the migration crisis” in news coverage. When the almost five-year-long “migration crisis” in Europe began, publications and politicians were tentative about referring to it as such.
The differences between the ways we describe emergencies are incredibly
important. Declaring a “humanitarian crisis” shifts responsibility and focus to
states and their leaders, whereas placing “migrant” before the crisis, suggests
that the fault of the crisis is, at least in part, theirs.
Between 2014 and 2019, at least 17,428 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe. Still, people continue to reach Europe, though European policies have radically exacerbated the risks to their lives and health: – Italy has pursued a series of policies of shutting down ports and arresting those who operate rescue missions. In 2018, less people crossed the Mediterranean than the year before but of those who did, six drowned every day. – The Greek islands have essentially become open-air holding prisons, as well as collectively being nearly five times over capacity. – Even prior to the recent Turkish incursion in Northern Syria, the numbers arriving in Greece had spiked where conditions are infamously inhumane: Fires regularly destroy areas of camps and remaining belongings; coupled with self-harm and suicide attempts, increasingly by children too.
The number of people arriving may have reduced but their suffering has multiplied. And the fact that arrivals have suddenly increased proves this crisis is far from over.
As many critics posit, Europe may
not be responsible for the conflicts that force people from their homes.
However, there should absolutely be no doubt as to who is responsible for
destroying key humanitarian protections; a Draconian border regime; criminalizing
rescue ships; refusing to create safe routes to asylum and in many cases
deliberately making life unliveable for vulnerable people.
Labeling it a “refugee” or “migration crisis”, however, indicates that refugees and migrants are different to those we associate with traditional humanitarian emergencies and less deserving of the assumed response.
Noting that victims had come under fire from airstrikes and ground-based
strikes, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said people are increasingly being
targeted by the “indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in
populated areas, including in local markets”.
On Thursday, Najat Rochdi, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the United Nations
Special Envoy for Syria, warned that hundreds of thousands of people in
northeast Syria have been left vulnerable following the Turkish military
incursion. “Of the more than 200,000 people who fled the fighting in recent
weeks, close to 100,000 people have not yet been able to return home and are
dispersed across improvised camps and collective shelters,” she said in a
statement. These recent displacements have compounded an already dire situation in
which 710,000 people were already displaced, and approximately 1.8 million
people are in need of humanitarian assistance, Ms. Rochdi’s statement
In a related warning, Mr. Colville said that people recently displaced
during the military offensive have been “subsequently…subjected to arbitrary
detention, in addition to enforced disappearances, after returning to their
homes. This is occurring both in areas controlled by Turkish forces and
Turkish-affiliated armed groups and in areas controlled by Kurdish armed
The OHCHR spokesperson added that attacks using improvised explosive devices
in the formerly Kurdish-controlled north-east “have noticeably escalated in
recent days, mainly in areas under the control of Turkish-affiliated armed
groups, which suggests they have most likely been carried out by groups
opposing the Turkish military offensive”.
UN humanitarians meanwhile warned that a serious funding crisis risks
leaving hundreds of thousands of Syrians vulnerable to deteriorating weather
Dr Scott Warren, a geography professor and volunteer with the humanitarian group No More Deaths, is charged with “harboring” two migrants after providing them with food, water and clean clothing in his hometown of Ajo, 43 miles from the Mexican border.
Warren, who faces a possible ten-year jail sentence, is being prosecuted for a second time after an earlier trial was declared a mistrial in July.
Amnesty International is calling on the US Department of Justice to drop the spurious criminal charges. Amnesty believes the volunteer activities of Warren and No More Deaths provide vital humanitarian aid directed at upholding the right to life and preventing the deaths of migrants and people seeking asylum in the highly-dangerous Sonoran Desert. Last week, Amnesty wrote to Arizona’s Attorney, Michael Bailey, calling on him to do this.
Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “The Trump administration’s second attempt to prosecute Scott Warren is a cynical misuse of the justice system, intended to criminalize compassion and lifesaving humanitarian aid. This is a dark hour for the USA when the government is seeking to send a man to prison for ten years simply for providing food, water and clean clothes to people in need.
More than 600 refugees landed in the United States this week, marking the first arrivals of US fiscal year 2020.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) welcomed the refugees who come from a variety of countries. IOM works closely with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration to provide case processing support, pre-departure health assessments and cultural orientation, as well as transportation support for refugees.
Almost half of the refugees resettled in the US in fiscal year 2019 were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On Tuesday, a group of 25 Congolese refugees were the first to arrive on Tuesday morning at Washington Dulles International Airport before continuing to their final destinations. Due to ongoing violence, the families fled to neighboring Rwanda where they remained in limbo for years.
Whether in conflicts in Syria, Yemen or Iraq, civilians bear the brunt of war. The protection of civilians lies at the foundation of international humanitarian law (IHL), the law that regulates the conduct of war. According to theUnited Nations, a war crime is a serious breach of international law committed against civilians or “enemy combatants” during an international or domestic armed conflict.
A war crime occurs when superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering is inflicted upon an enemy. In spite of the outrage caused by the bombing of a school or a country’s TV station, such actions do not necessarily amount to war crimes. Such bombing will only be a war crime if the extent of civilian casualties resulting from the attack is excessive compared to the military advantage gained from the attack. And in contrast with genocide and crimes against humanity, war crimes have to occur in the context of armed conflict.
Although the concept of war crimes has ancient roots, rules on war crimes
started to develop at the end of the 19th century. The meaning of war crimes
was clarified in the four 1949 Geneva Conventions.
Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as “wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including … willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person … taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”.
But in spite of the near-universal ratification of the Geneva Conventions,
war crimes often go unpunished. According to Mark Drumbl, professor of law at
Washington and Lee University, this can be attributed to several factors,
including difficulties in obtaining evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, high
requirements such as proving intention and, most importantly, power politics.
Mindanao has been shaken by three consecutive earthquakes within the same
location on 16, 29 and 31 October 2019, each compounding the effect of the
According to authorities, the death toll from the last two earthquakes is
now at 21 with over 400 people injured and an estimated more than 35,000 people
displaced. Many families have been left homeless due to the destruction of
More than 180,000 people are affected with many families requiring
Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said: “People are left
anxious by the earthquakes and the ongoing aftershocks. Families do not feel
safe returning to their homes. Since the first earthquake hit, our volunteers
and staff have been working around the clock to provide not only relief items
and safe drinking water, but also psychosocial support to help families cope
with their fears.”
UK International Development Secretary Alok Sharma has pledged new aid support to help vaccinate more than 400 million children a year against polio.
UK support will help vaccinate more than 750 children a minute against polio in developing countries around the world
The UK package of up to £400 million will help support 20 million health workers and volunteers, via the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
Three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – are still not officially polio free
This funding which runs from 2020 to 2023 will help buy tens of millions doses of polio vaccine every year. Without this new support, tens of thousands of children would be at risk of paralysis from the disease, which leaves many unable to walk for the rest of their lives.
Sharma said: “We have made tremendous progress to fight this
debilitating disease, but our work must continue if we are to eradicate it forever.
… If we were to pull back on immunizations, we could see 200,000 new cases each
year in a decade. This would not only be a tragedy for the children affected
and their families, but also for the world. We cannot let this happen.”
Thanks to global efforts, backed by the UK, more than 18 million people are
currently walking who would otherwise have been paralyzed by the virus.
A food crisis is especially acute in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia, which account for 75% of the people needing food assistance. The ongoing food crisis is compounded by a number of factors including drought, the effects of cyclone Idai and its related flooding, conflict and economic downturn.
“We are extremely concerned at the increasing number of adolescent girls caught up in food insecurity, especially where they are being traded off by family members in an effort to earn the next meal,” says Stuart Katwikirize, Plan International Regional Head of Disaster Risk Management.
From sex-for-food to forced marriage, girls are caught between impossible choices for survival as severe food shortages sweep across the southern continent.
In Mozambique multiple and consecutive incidents have left almost 10 per cent of the country’s population in need of lifesaving and resilience-building assistance.
“Adolescent girls and women are typically more affected by drought because it is usually their job to find water and food for the family, ” says Anne Hoff, Country Director, Plan International Mozambique.
“Children are increasingly dropping out of school because of hunger issues which remains a serious concern,” said Angela Muriithi, Country Director, Plan International Zimbabwe. “An estimated 2.2 million people in urban areas are facing food and economic insecurity, with 53% of households in Harare reporting inability to pay school fees.”
Heavy rains have killed at least 10 people and displaced more than 270,000
in Somalia, destroying infrastructure and livelihoods in the Horn of Africa
nation, the United Nations said on Friday.
East Africa has been experiencing heavy rains with the Indian Ocean’s
equivalent of the Pacific Ocean-based El Nino, at its strongest since 2006.
A tropical storm next week is expected to worsen the floods. Rains are
forecast to continue until the end of the year and humanitarian organizations
are warning of waterborne diseases and mass displacement.
“Higher than usual rains are expected to continue through November and December,
leading to more floods and conditions for disease,” the International Rescue
Committee said in a statement. “Recovery from these weather conditions may take