UNHCR

The UN Refugee Agency, in partnership with UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee, issued a document today to improve the situation of refugee and migrant children who arrive in Europe without their relatives or caregivers.

Aziz Jabarkheil, 8, is Afghan and waits for the return of his uncle in an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade.
Aziz Jabarkheil, 8, is Afghan and waits for the return of his uncle in an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade.

Called The Way Forward to Strenghten Policies and Practices for Unaccompanied and Separate Children in Europe, the document is a roadmap which recommends policies to be put into practice to effectively protect and support these children. The organizations recognize that regional and national laws in Europe are a good framework on this matter, but through consultations with more than 100 specialists, including psychologists, social workers and lawyers, have discovered that the current bureaucratic procedures are resulting in severe consequences for the children’s well-being and future.

“Many of these children have experienced terrible violence, sexual abuse, trafficking and emotional and psychological pressure not only during their journey but in Europe itself. They deserve better protection and care from Europe. All actions and decisions must have the child’s best interests at heart. We can all make this happen and the Roadmap shows us how,” says Diane Goodman, Deputy Director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau.

Since the increase of migrant and refugee arrivals in Europe, in 2015, the situation for unaccompanied and separated children has worsened. They’ve faced detention and large scale institutional care, limited family reunification opportunities, and rising concerns over deportations.

Aziz kicks around a deflated football to keep warm in sub-zero conditions in Belgrade.
Aziz kicks around a deflated football to keep warm in sub-zero conditions in Belgrade.

As David McLoughlin, UNICEF’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia puts it, “refugee and migrant children travelling alone to Europe have taken paths marked by danger, bureaucratic backlogs and uncertainty at every step of the way – even at their destination. This Roadmap plots the way forward for these children to be given the same level of care, trust and protection as national children.”

For one thing, the roadmap recommends that governments identify and register children through adequate and friendly procedures, ensuring them to a guardian and protecting them from smugglers or traffickers.

South Sudanese refugee, Emmanuel is 10 years old
South Sudanese refugee, Emmanuel is 10 years old

The organization also recommends stronger emphasis on providing proper care arrangements and services, and long-term solutions to these children based on their specific needs. The importance of different actors, as guardians, cultural mediators and community members is also key.

“The children that we interviewed clearly stated the importance of being heard and empowered,” confirms Annalisa Brusati, the IRC’s Child Protection Senior Technical Advisor. “These children have hopes, dreams and an incredible energy to fulfil them. Through education, peer groups, sports and training, they can start their own projects and overcome the hardships they’ve endured, if supported and given the chance.”

Horyou is the Social Network for Social Good, which connects, supports and promotes social initiatives, entrepreneurs, and citizens who help the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to build a more harmonious and inclusive world. We invite you to Be the Change, Be Horyou!

Do you know that, in 2010, Syria was a peaceful and wealthy country, the land of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with a steadily growing tourism industry? Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo, were beautiful and lively places, with a strong traditon od trade and flourishing businesses. That was only seven years ago; today, whenever Syria is mentioned, it is war and refugees that first come to mind.

Aleppo residents internally displaced have begun to return.  Photos UNHCR
Aleppo residents internally displaced have begun to return. Photos UNHCR

Last month, the UNHCR launched a multimedia platform, developed in partnership with Google, that uses technology, data visualization, videos, maps and photos to reach to a global audience about the real situation in Syria. Using the latest trends in content marketing, the Searching for Syria website is more than a journalistic project – it’s an educational tool that answers the most asked questions put through to Google worldwide.

. What was Syria like before the war?

. What is happening in Syria?

. Who is a refugee?

. Where are Syrian refugees going?

. How can I help Syrian refugees?

A family walks across the desert terrain towards the Al Hol camp for refugees and displaced persons. Photos UNHCR
A family walks across the desert terrain towards the Al Hol camp for refugees and displaced persons. Photos UNHCR

“Searching for Syria aims to dispel myths and misconceptions about Syria and refugees and provide an entirely fresh look at the biggest humanitarian tragedy of today,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “This is a fantastic project with Google that allows us to pinpoint and answer the five key questions about Syrian refugees and displaced that audiences most want to know and help us rally much needed support and funding for our humanitarian effort.”

“We’re proud to work with the UNHCR to develop Searching for Syria to help raise awareness and inform the world on the human cost of the ongoing conflict and the refugee crisis,” said Jacquelline Fuller, Vice President of Google.org. “The scale of the Syrian refugee crisis is difficult for most of us to fathom, but the questions on Searching for Syria are a reflection of many a people’s desire to understand. Among the top searches in Germany, France, and the UK last year was: What is happening in Syria?”

Jankidar, a 31 years old Syrian student who fled to Lebanon. Photo UNHCR
Jankidar, a 31 years old Syrian student who fled to Lebanon. Photo UNHCR

Through the platform, the audience learns interesting facts like the actual number of Syrian refugees and where they are fleeing to – mostly neighbouring countries like Iraq and Lebanon. The vast majority doesn’t go to Western Countries. The content is presented through short editorial passages, refugee profiles, photographs and videos. Users can also share content via social networks, donate or sign up to UNHCR’s #WithRefugees global petition asking the world leaders to ensure education for refugee children, adequate shelter and livelihoods for refugee families.

The “Searching for Syria” website is available in English, French, German and Spanish with an Arabic version soon to follow.

Horyou is the Social Network for Social Good, which connects, supports and promotes social initiatives, entrepreneurs, and citizens who help the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to build a more harmonious and inclusive world. We invite you to Be the Change, Be Horyou!

A beautiful view of Geneva on the second day
A beautiful view of Geneva on the second day.

It was a cloudy morning in Geneva when I headed to my first Hackathon. I was excited and curious for the challenge of using technology and communication techniques to develop projects on the refugee crisis, along with other marketing professionals, journalists, programmers and developers. The event was organized by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), in a partnership with the Radio et Télevision Suisse (RTS) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Although I had read a lot about Hackathons all over the world, I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the beautiful and impressive building of RTS. I was welcomed by a friendly team and very quickly started to make contacts among the participants. They were producers, editors, designers, entrepreneurs and curious with different origins and interests, but with the same goal: to discover how technology can help with good and meaningful projects.

The refugee crisis is the theme of the moment. Europe has been flooded by millions of migrants and refugees for years now, in a situation that has been aggravated by misinformation, prejudice and radicalism from both sides. Communication is key here – and that is the reason why EBU, RTS and UNHCR decided to organize a Hackathon over the refugee crisis.

How non-specialists in refugee policies could possibly develop communication tools and projects for this seemingly endless challenge in 24 hours? Well, this is what Hackathon stands for: it is a “Hacker” marathon. And when I thought of hackers I had all the misinformation and prejudice I could get: people trying to steal passwords or to transfer money from bank accounts by breaking in computers. I was surprised when I discovered that, in modern computer science language, to hack is to find a solution for a problem or an inefficient process. And this is what we were willing to do, after all.

Coaching and lectures were given to the participants
Coaching and lectures were given to the participants.

We were coached for specialists in many areas: a content leader of the UNHCR, a media and data professional on Google, a young journalist who discovered appalling stories on Iran, Afghanistan and Syria using data and crossing information, as well as professionals from media outlets as Deutsche Welle and RTS itself. They were there to provide inspiration and to help us by sharing knowledge and advices.

My group of 6 people started working on a project to connect young refugees with local people, since our focus was integration. We identified problems as isolation, lack of communication between both groups and prejudice. The idea was to develop an educational app to “match” them according to their hobbies and common interests, like music, sports, career aspirations. We spent the night working on programming, design and content for our project, as well as the other teams. We needed and we had great help from the coaches and even from our “competitors”. We could exchange people from groups if we felt interested on a different project.

After many hours of work, we were ready for the pitch session. It was amazing to see how, in a short period of time, all groups had developed great ideas for the refugee crisis. Two of them were focused on the refugee travel. Using real time information, they could show the best route for refugees based on their profile: families, men, women, mixed groups. Other tried to raise awareness on the refugee crisis, showing a European or American person how hard it is to live in a refugee camp or to travel thousands and thousands of kilometers, using data and storytelling tools. The winner group developed an app with information about all European countries such as refugee policy and laws, health care system and shelters.

After 24 hours of working together, we didn’t feel we were competitors, as it is common in group contests. We were sharing skills and inspiration, feeding each other with purpose and will. We celebrated the best project because it was indeed a great idea and didn’t feel sorry for not being chosen as winners. Most important, we showed the UN Refugee Agency many possibilities and paths they can take from here.

Personally, I have got made new friends, new abilities and a full set of ideas I will use and share in my work at Horyou. As a social network for the social good, we have the same goals and aspirations I experienced on this Hackathon: to connect for good, to help solving social challenges by using technology and communication and to build a better world. I didn’t know it by then, but we are all together social good hackers.

Written by Vivian Soares

By Amma Aburam

Catching up with Reza is always a pleasure. The photographer is a humanitarian force, consistently using photo to change the lives of people around the world. With him, there is always something new to discuss. This time he tells us about projects: a recollection of stories and photographic plans, never picked randomly but always made to have an impact on the people who participate in, see and share them.

One of his on-going projects that he brings to life through various initiatives as time goes by is called A Dream of Humanity. The idea is to have an umbrella term for his various humanitarian endeavors that take place in different parts of the world. His most famous initiative is called Exile Voices, which consists of giving cameras to children in refugee camps to take photos of their daily lives, joys and struggles. Exile voices is a project he aims to pursue for the next five years.

"Frozen Shoes" - Photo by Maya Rostam, Exiled Voices project
“Frozen Shoes” – Photo by Maya Rostam, Exile Voices project

Reza is currently working on an interactive book around the theme of Afghanistan Peace Warriors. He believes that the Internet with all its tools is an important vector of connection and knowledge. He reckons its ability to help reach millions of people with an idea is priceless. “The book is a way to link Afghanistan to the modern world, to move it away from its traditional cultural biases and ancient stories”, he explains. The book is a way to reach Afghan as well as global citizens, hence its multilingual and interactive approach designed to allow readers to engage, explore and grow their knowledge.

"Reconstruction" - © Reza
“Reconstruction” – © Reza

Another project seeks to engage the youth on current social issues. “I love Nature, I hate Pollution” is a competition created and launched by Reza in 2012 also titled Children’s Eyes on Earth. It does not only aim to raise children’s awareness of ecological issues but also to teach them about the power of photography. “I believe that 15 years ago, to be a photographer you had to have a reputation and the means to buy the material, as well as the ability to learn techniques. Today’s generation has access to limitless technologies like smartphones and I-pads to take photos” he states. For him, this can make photography trivial at times. His project is to show children that some themes and issues are so important that you can use your smartphone camera for more than just taking selfies. “It is important to have the youth know this, and to train them about it at a young age”, he adds. The competition aspect is simply to make it more exciting for them; kids love its game aspect and engage fully because of that. When I launched the project, kids from 90 countries participated; they all proved their creativity, curiosity and enthusiasm about nature and environmental issues “At the end of the day, adults see these photos and get a unique insight on how kids view their surroundings. From the refugee camp to this competition, it is easy to see that kids have a photographic eye that influences people differently”, he adds.

Reza has travelled the world and his photos have focused on various peoples, in struggles and in joys. One of his series focused on farmers in Morocco and their stories. This was in support of an NGO called AgreSud, which lacked funds while supporting agriculture in various places in the world. Reza’s humanitarian work extends to NGOs such as this one and his photos allow for the stories of these peoples to be told.

"The Frame" - © Reza
“The Frame” – © Reza

Similarly, he photographed women in Rwanda in a series called Words of Rwandan Women, as part of a project on women and their role in shaping the future of humanity. “I believe the world would be a much better place if women where in domains and positions of power and decision-making: in politics, communications, education and more”, he says. “War is the affair of men, just as we see males in various species battle things out. Women are mothers, nurturers, they give life so they don’t want to take it away”, he adds. In Rwanda and Burundi specifically, he was working on a before, during and after the genocide conflicts photo documentation. The women in these series have untold stories, one of them being about those who were raped during these conflicts. These women decided to keep their children despite the circumstances and were rejected by their families, tribes and friends, kicked out of their communities and villages. Once their tragic stories told through this series and in New York Magazine, many NGOs felt called to action and went out there to help them.

With Reza, there is no underestimation of the power of photojournalism and its endless impact on communities and lives. He has a real heart for helping others and using his talent to bring positivity to the world.

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