Tag Archives: refugee crisis

Laimīgu Jauno gadu!

RIGA — Laimīgu Jauno gadu! I’ll be spending January in Latvia and Lithuania where I will be reporting several stories on emigration and the refugee crisis. I will also be preparing for courses I teach this spring in the Gender and Development in Humanitarian Assistance program at Lebanese American University in Beirut.

2017 will be a critical year for the European Union’s relocation scheme, which aims to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers that are stuck in camps and reception centres in Greece and Italy to other EU member states. You may remember that enthusiasm  in the EU for this quota mechanism has been lukewarm at best — with Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the United Kingdom not participating in the program. And the numbers show it: on 19 December only 9,356 out of the 160,000 asylum seekers from Syrian, Eritrea, Iraq had found refuge in the EU. Although Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are only expected to have accepted 1,481 asylum seekers by the end of 2017, out of the 160,000 for the whole EU, progress towards this goal in the Baltic states in the first months of 2017 may be indicative for the success of the EU relocation scheme as a whole. I’ll be speaking with policy makers, Baltic residents, and with refugees who were accepted last year and who are trying to integrate in their new adopted homes.

While 2017 may well be a crucial year for tackling the European refugee crisis, Latvia and Lithuania are continuing to face an emigration crisis. Ever since the  dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, young and highly skilled professionals have been leaving the newly independent Baltic states in large numbers. (Estonia is the exception; since 2015 immigration exceeds emigration, which provoked a response from 39,399 Estonian citizens.) Although emigration has been slowing in recent years, researchers have found that since the 2008 financial crisis more women aged 40-65 — some of them grandmothers — are moving abroad in order to salvage their economic well-being and support their multi-generation families. This is a trend also seen in other post-communist countries like Romania and Ukraine. In the next few weeks I’ll be interviewing both migration researchers and women who have left Latvia and Romania for Guernsey, Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain to seek better lives.

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5 reasons the EU-Turkey deal won’t end the Syrian refugee crisis

After months of negotiations, the 28 European Union leaders and the Turkish government last weekend reached an agreement to slow the refugee influx from Turkey. In exchange for taking back Syrian refugees who crossed to Europe illegally, the EU will accept refugees from Turkey, along with 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) and a renewed prospect for Turkey to join the EU.

Full article published in Dallas Morning News on 23 March 2016.

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Thousands flee Eritrea monthly to avoid endless life in army

There is no war in Eritrea, and little civil unrest. Yet refugees from this small country on the Horn of Africa make up the fourth-largest group — after Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis — crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

The main cause of the exodus is the huge number of young people fleeing indefinite national service. Despite claims by officials that conscription would be limited to 18 months, a report published Wednesday by Amnesty International found that national service continues to be indefinite, sometimes lasting for decades. Conscripts include boys and girls as young as 16 as well as the elderly, and the program often amounts to forced labour.

Full article published in the National Post on 4 December 2015.

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Are Syria’s wealthy neighbours doing enough? Gulf states urged to accept more refugees

As the Syrian refugee crisis escalates, some eastern European countries — notably Hungary — are being cast as villains for turning their backs on desperate men, women and children with nowhere else to go.

But the spotlight is also turning to another group of countries that critics accuse of failing to pull their weight.

Full article published in the National Post on 26 October 2015.

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