Ahead of the first ever Global Refugee Forum, taking place in Geneva this week (17-18 December), Oxfam warned that the processes for supporting the world’s 25.9 million refugees and 3.5 million asylum seekers, continue to be fatally flawed and put the responsibility unfairly upon poorer countries.
Oxfam’s Chief Executive, Danny Sriskandarajah, said: “Millions of vulnerable refugees are at risk or stuck in limbo because many countries are failing to shoulder their fair share of responsibility for protecting people forced from home. This conference could help to fix some of the most glaring faults in current refugee processes – but only if countries step up by committing to welcome more people, provide more reliable funding, and to fully include refugees in decisions about their futures.”
Oxfam is supporting eight refugees to attend the summit to make sure their voices are heard. Together they are calling for governments to do their fair share to offer international protection to people who have been forced to flee their homes, so that they can live in safety and with dignity.
Victoria Nyoko, a South Sudanese refugee who has been living in Uganda since 2016 said: “We must have representatives when decisions are made about us. We are the ones who know very well the situation of our lives and what is needed to help other refugees.”
While some progress has been made to include refugees in discussions, only two percent of people attending the summit in Geneva are refugees. Oxfam and the Global Refugee Network are calling on member states, international NGOs and UN agencies to meaningfully engage and directly involve refugees in all processes and decisions which affect them.
Asan Juma Suleiman, a South Sudanese refugee living in Uganda said: “By involving us and hearing our stories in the peace process, refugees like me can help to restore hope. To world leaders, my life matters as a human being, not as a refugee.”
In 2016 the leaders of 193 governments committed to the more equitable and predictable sharing of responsibility for refugees and this promise was reaffirmed by 176 governments last December through the Global Compact on Refugees.
However, despite these commitments, it is still mainly geography that dictates where most refugees end up. Currently around 80 percent of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers are hosted by predominantly low-and-middle income countries, often for long periods of time – simply because these countries are the immediate neighbours.
Resettlement options for refugees and asylum seekers are also hugely lacking. At present only ten countries offer more than 1,000 resettlement places a year, far more countries must at least rise to this level.
Sriskandarajah said: “This week we hope countries will keep their promises to refugees by offering more people a safe new home, through resettlement or other safe and legal routes. It’s also crucial that higher-income countries provide long-term, predictable financial support so countries hosting large numbers of refugees are able to meet the needs of both newcomers and local communities.”
Oxfam’s key asks for the summit are:
– Member states should live up to their commitments and do more to support refugees and host communities.
– Refugees and refugee-led organisations should be put at the heart of discussions and decisions.
– All countries should step forward to increase their resettlement places.
– States must also put in place the necessary measures to welcome spontaneous arrivals of asylum seekers.
– Governments must meet their aid commitments and ensure long-term, multi-year predictable funding for host countries.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with Danny Sriskandarajah or any of the refugee spokespeople at the Global Refugee Forum, please contact: Martin Namasaka in Geneva on: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 7511910607 or Sarah Dransfield in the UK on: email@example.com, +44 (0)7884 114825
Notes to editors:
As well as Asan Juma Suleiman, the following refuge spokespeople will be available for interview throughout the summit:
· Anila Noor is a refugee activist, speaker and researcher based in the Netherlands. Anila is originally from Pakistan and is the daughter of a Kashmiri refugee. She campaigns for the unheard voices of women migrants and refugees living across Europe.
· Mohammed Badran is originally from Syria and was resettled in the Netherlands in 2013. Along with other refugee leaders, he launched the G-100 initiative, a mobile dialogue platform that brings together newcomers with experts and decision-makers to find solutions to the key challenges of integration in Europe. He also founded a refugee led network of volunteers to care for disabled children and help the elderly with household tasks.
· Ravda Nur Cuma is a Syrian activist who had to leave her country at the age of 13 to live in a camp in Turkey. She fought for her right to education and published her own magazine in the camp. She is very active in defending women’s rights and preventing child marriage and child labor.
· Robert Hakiza is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who has been living in Uganda since 2008. Robert has experience of working with urban refugees and educating others about the obstacles they face. He represents Africa on the Global Refugee-Led Network.
· Najeeba Wazefadost is a refugee from Afghanistan, who has been living in Australia since 2000. She spent several months in mandatory immigration detention before being recognized as a refugee. Najeeba is the Chair of the Refugee Leadership and Participation Working Group and co-founder of the first regional refugee-led network in Asia.
· Shaza Alrihawi is a refugee from Syria currently based in Germany. She is the co-founder of Network for Refugee Voices and a Steering committee member of the Global refugee led Network. Shaza is also a former member of the European Migrant Advisory Board.
· Victoria Nyoko is a refugee from South Sudan living in Uganda. She arrived in Uganda in July 2016 after an escalation of the conflict in Juba. She currently works at Dynamic Action for Peace and Rehabilitation in Uganda, a community-based organization founded in 2016 by a group of South Sudanese youth activists committed to improving community-level participation and involvement in humanitarian and development activities, as well as peacebuilding, environmental conservation and public health.
Globally there are 70.8 million people who have been forcibly displaced. 25.9 million are refugees, 3.5 million are asylum seekers and 41.3 million are internally displaced. Source UNHCR: https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html
According to UNHCR of the 2700 participants at the Global Refugee Forum, only 60 (2.2 percent) are refugees.
Oxfam together with NRC, DRC, IRC and Save the Children have contributed to the consultation and analysis of the Global Compact for Refugees