Faith Through Action: The Refugee and Migration Compacts
Brief summary of presentation of information made
The event began with a video produced by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) documenting its work Uganda with South Sudanese refugees. The Ugandan government and CRS are piloting the response structure based on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, produced and ratified by UN member states in 2016.
Panellists then answered questions.
Andrew Fuys, Senior Director at Church World Service
Jill Marie Gerschutz-Bell, Senior Policy and Legislative Specialists at Catholic Relief Services
Emilie Johann, Head of International Advocacy at Caritas France
Giulia McPherson, Director of Center for Migration Studies
Jihad Saleh Williams, Government & Public Affairs Manager at Islamic Relief USA
- Highlight ways you’ve adjusted your program to address long-term needs.
- Williams: Our role must shift as we work with children and young adults that have never lived outside the camp. Also, the communities around the camps must be considered as well – they are often just as fragile and volatile as the camps themselves, affected by lawlessness, economic stagnation and climate change.
- Fuys: Access to labour markets is key. At CSW we try to connect refugees with prospective employers, but we also try not to therefore exclude local natives. Many local natives in South Africa need the same kinds of career services and access training that we offer to refugees, so we are making it a community-wide program.
- McPherson: At this point, we turn our focus to education. In order to be successful in this, we must have the support of the host community and government. Also, new efforts should be to the benefit of everyone including locals – we are not here to create a parallel, segregated education system for refugees.
- Gerschutz-Bell: Livelihood opportunities, such as work, freedom and self-sufficiency, should be valued over simple handouts. However, setting up a system that works for everyone long-term is not easy. For example, the Bangladeshi government was not expecting the Rohingya crisis to turn into a long-term situation. As a result, it’s taken a lot of advocacy to loosen up even a very generous government.
- How do you facilitate the agency of refugees and migrants in your work?
- Gerschutz-Bell: No one can say that refugees cannot fend for themselves – look at how much they have overcome just to be present. Of course they are strong enough on their own. Restoring dignity is important, and I focus on freedom of choice. Cash-based assistance, rather than food handouts, restores the dignity of shopping for yourself. Some system of naturalisation is also important, so that refugees feel there is a genuine path to citizenship/belonging.
- Fuys: Be sure to reiterate rights, such as right to assemble. We also want to be truthful in our promises: the system often looks much different in practice, compared to what is described on paper.
- Williams: Refugees know their situation better than anybody else, so obviously they are the best prepared to generate potential solutions. Leaders cannot do their work effectively without hearing directly from the refugees – so we should bring the refugee voices straight to the seat of government, not the other way around.
- How does your faith tradition influence your work?
- Williams: some early Muslims found refuge in Abyssinia, a Christian kingdom. The interfaith connection runs all the way back to the faith’s beginnings. So we see a deep connection between the faiths that leads to solidarity.
- Fuys: Our theology dictates “welcome the stranger”. Period, with no ifs, ands or buts. Fortunately, the CRRF uses this as a strong theme throughout.
- Johann: I like to view it as, what is our added value as faith groups? We take a people-centred approach so that no one falls through the cracks. Protection, promotion and integration should all be focal points, but everything should be enveloped in giving agency to the refugees themselves.
All the panellists repeatedly emphasised the importance of dignity and justice in all actions.
The final section was questions from the audience, and the panellists responded with a couple of interesting points:
- The SDGs can be complementary to the frameworks (CRRF and New York Declaration). We are currently working on implementation, but not yet monitoring/measuring. This can line up well with the SDGs, either keeping them in parallel with each other or integrating them.
- We cannot forget that most refugees and displaced people just want to return home. In providing education and vocational training, we should also focus on fostering skills that will be useful upon returning home and rebuilding their lives.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
The Salvation Army is already involved in refugee responses in certain parts of the world – but the focus is usually on integration for refugees that are permanently resettled in Western countries. Responding to refugees hosted in developing countries in temporary situations requires a different set of guidelines. This meeting was encouraging, in that faith-based organisations can play a major role in improving the lot of displaced people and refugees.
It will take time and effort, however, to build a reputation in the field and navigate the difficulties posed by reluctant and restrictive host governments. The Salvation Army must be a powerful voice to advocate on behalf of refugees and to raise them up so that they can regain what they have lost.
Web links for more information
https://www.crs.org/sites/default/files/tools-research/little-by-little-study-results-brief_0.pdf “Little by Little”, a study by Catholic Relief Services on refugee integration.
http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/comprehensive-refugee-response-framework-crrf.html More information on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.Tags: United Nations, SDG10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG1: No Poverty, SDG4: Quality Education, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth