Date of Meeting: 10 February 2016

Meeting Organizer: Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations

ISJC Staff Present: Captain Kathy Crombie, Robert Docter, Luke Cozens

Reporter: Luke Cozens

Which SDG does this topic cover? 1, 4, 8, 16

Type of meeting: Side event for the 54th Session of the Commission for Social Development

Brief summary of presentation of information made

  • Mr. Alexander Kauschanski, Youth Delegate of Germany moderated the discussion and introduced the German Ambassador who said “we need a global burden sharing” over the refugee crisis. Mr Kauschanski explained that when asking children what they associated with the UN flag children who were refugees associated it primarily with help for refugees and the work of UNHCR. He shared a quote from their Twitter feed that “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”. He also asked each speaker for a one sentence summary of their views.

  • Ms. Manar Marouf, Refugee Resettlement Intern and Community Interpreter at the International Rescue Committee in NY agreed that no one wants to be a refugee unless they are forced into it. She shared the story of a family in Syria which had positively not wanted to leave the country until their house was destroyed by a rocket. She has personal experience of this turmoil and had moved to the USA in search of educational opportunities. She said that schools are targets in Syria and as such that education is not an option. She noted further that children don’t get a choice and young people are forced to either leave or participate in the violence and warned against the problem of leaving young people in refugee camps for long periods with nothing to do which may make them vulnerable to becoming extremists. She also added that there's a huge financial cost to flee Syria - it costs more to do it in a "safer" way. She suggests a focus on giving refugees long term skills and livelihoods. Her one sentence summary was: Find the political will to end the war.

  • Mr. C. Mario Russell, Director of Catholic Charities New York’s Immigrant & Refugee Services Division highlighted the term “crisis” which is used for issues around refugees in the press. He questioned whether the situation in the United State was in fact a crisis for the USA and suggested that a crisis was better exemplified by the 1million refugees living in Jordan which has a population of 6million. He explained the situation in the United States where 70,000 children, particularly coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, present themselves to the US annually. Most of these children, he explained, are seeking reunification with a parent who lives in the United States. Such children have to travel through Mexico to reach the USA in what Mr. Russell said is often a dangerous passage. He said that the children are also subject to gangs during this journey along with their new settlement in the United States - especially when they're unaccompanied or in foster care. Mr. Russell suggested that the true crisis in the US was in the movement of these children and in the separation of their families. He remarked that “almost to a percentile” each of these children has significant psycho-social damage and that two thirds of the girls have been victims of sexual abuse on their travels; many of these children, he said, suffer from PTSD, depression, and drug abuse. He highlighted that regardless of questions of citizenship these children are going to be “here” living in the United States and as such he though they deserved the care of United States citizens. He also shared about his own work, working with these children who are tried in America - who can't afford lawyers and proper representation. They work in serving these youth, educating them on their rights, and re-opening cases that weren't done properly in the past because he/she didn't have a good lawyer. He noted that leaving behind their home country is always “a strained divorce” for these children and recommended an integrated service approach where a child can be met simultaneously by a doctor, a lawyer and other service workers in a comfortable setting such as a garden. His one sentence summary was: Understand new paradigms and become more imaginative to help children who don’t fit typical definitions.

  • Ms. Mischelle Cervantes, Senior Policy Coordination Associate in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) highlighted that there are currently 60million refugees and spoke especially about the difficulty of education plans. She highlighted that such plans need to be run as long term programmes.  She mentioned UNHCR’s service provision of scholarships for refugees - and the need for more resources with that program. She also called on youth to work with refugees/this issue if interested in doing social justice work. Her one sentence summary was: Find political solutions because humanitarianism is just a band-aid/

  • Comments from the floor  focused on the need for children (and not just young people) to have a voice in the media and at the UN and the issue of youth radicalization, particularly over the internet.

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

  • The refugee crisis is a serious and worldwide problem that is more than a situation in Syria.

  • Young people and children in particular need to be engaged not just as recipients of assistance but as people with a voice.

  • Refugees do not leave home unless they are forced too. Stigmatization is a serious problem.

  • Youth have an opportunity to be engaged and have a voice. Young Salvationists have tremendous opportunities for social justice work and volunteering.

Web links for more information

Twitter: @YouthDelegates #HumanSide16

Tags: United Nations, SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG1: No Poverty, SDG4: Quality Education, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth