Refugee girls, hoping for more than survival, need education

Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai addresses students at the Nasib Secondary School in Ifo2 area of Dadaab refugee camp during celebrations to mark her 19th birthday near the Kenya-Somalia border

By Tom Gardner

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday called on world leaders to provide education to girls in refugee camps to avoid them being forced into early marriage or child labor.

Yousafzai’s statement comes a week before U.S. President Barack Obama hosts the first U.N. summit on refugees in New York where he is expected to urge leaders to do more to help refugees in countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Kenya.

“Why do world leaders waste our time with this pageant of sympathy while they are unwilling to do the one thing that will change the future for millions of children?” Yousafzai said in a statement ahead of the Sept. 20 summit.

She said refugee girls were wondering how long they can stay out of school before they are forced into early marriages or child labor.

“They’re hoping for more than survival” she said. “And they have the potential to help rebuild safe, peaceful, prosperous countries, but they can’t do this without education.”

Fighting in Syria, Afghanistan, Burundi and South Sudan has contributed to a record number of people who were uprooted last year, according to the U.N. refugee agency, which estimates there are 21.3 million refugees worldwide, half of them children.

Almost 80 percent of all refugee adolescents are out of school, with girls making up the majority of those excluded from education, according to a report issued by the Malala Fund, which campaigns and fundraises for educational causes.

It also blamed donor countries for failing to provide adequate funding for secondary education, and failing to deliver on funding pledges made earlier this year.

The report also criticized wealthy donor countries for diverting resources away from host countries in developing regions, such as Turkey and Lebanon, to meet their own domestic refugee costs.

The report concluded by urging donors to commit to providing $2.9 billion by September 2019 to the Education Cannot Wait Fund, a new body to raise finance for the education of refugee children.

Yousafzai, 19, rose to international fame after surviving a 2012 assassination attempt by the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat valley to continue her fight for girls’ rights.

A regular speaker on the global stage, Yousafzai visited refugee camps in Rwanda and Kenya in July to highlight the plight of refugee girls from Burundi and Somalia.

In 2014, Yousafzai became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner for her work promoting girls’ education in Pakistan.

(Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

Naming the nameless: experts struggle to identify drowned migrants

Wooden crosses for an unmarked refugee grave

By Isla Binnie and Michele Kambas

ROME/ATHENS (Reuters) – Mose tapped the screen of his mobile phone to zoom in on a photograph of his wife, Yordanos, pointing to a mole under her eyebrow.

“She has a recognizable mark here,” the 26-year-old Eritrean said in a park in Rome; after fleeing compulsory military service back home, Mose now lives in an Italian reception center for migrants.

He has not seen Yordanos since May 26 when they left Libya, packed by people smugglers on to two separate boats bound for Italy. He was rescued, but her boat sank in the Mediterranean.

Helping people like Mose find out their loved ones’ fate is becoming ever more pressing as Europe’s migrant crisis drags on in its third year and the death toll rises.

Teams of forensic scientists in Italy and Greece are painstakingly trying to identify the victims of drowning found at sea, washed up on shores or recovered from wrecks.

However, there is no common practice to collect information about these deaths between states or even sometimes within the same country, and a plan by the Dutch-based International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to start tracing lost migrants is still awaiting funding.

Kathryne Bomberger, director general of the ICMP, said the problem was too big to be left solely to front-line countries such as Italy and Greece.

“This is a complex, international problem,” she said, as the task of identification and notification involves tracking down relatives who may be in their home countries, in refugee camps, or building new lives in the likes of Germany or Sweden.

“We are ready to go, we have the necessary database systems, we have an agreement with Italy, we have done our homework. We just need the financial support.”

The ICMP and International Organization for Migration (IOM) are calling for a strategy to process the data, and a system for repatriating migrants’ remains.

REPLACING NUMBERS WITH NAMES

Mose, who withheld his surname for fear of reprisals from Eritrean authorities, clings to the hope that Yordanos was rescued and that she could be recognised from the photograph.

If she did not survive, and her body was recovered, her remains are likely to have been buried in one of hundreds of numbered graves in Sicily or the southwestern Calabria region for migrants who have drowned.

Both in Italy and Greece, which migrants have also tried to reach on a shorter but still dangerous sea crossing from Turkey, the forensic experts are trying to replace the numbers with names.

Sometimes they succeed, despite the practical and financial problems, as in the case of a baby boy found floating near the Greek island of Samos in January.

The child, no more than six months old, had been lost in a shipwreck on Oct. 29, 2015 when 19 migrants drowned. For over two months, his body drifted more than 150 km (95 miles) north until it was recovered from the water.

In the end, police identified the little boy from a DNA sample given by his Syrian father, who was among 139 people rescued when the boat sank in the Aegean off the island of Kalymnos.

“It is the least we can do for these people, under very difficult circumstances,” said Penelope Miniati, director of the Greek police’s Forensic Sciences Division.

For some, the tragedies recall Greece’s own history of migration, including in the 1950s and ’60s when many escaped poverty for a new life in countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia, breaking up families who sometimes lost contact with each other.

“We are Greeks, we also migrated and some people were lost in the journey … and each time people wondered what had happened to them,” said Miniati.

“IMPROVISATION”

More than three quarters of the 4,027 migrant and refugee deaths worldwide in 2016 so far happened in the Mediterranean, according to the IOM.

Most died between Libya and Italy. Hundreds also drowned on the Turkey-Greece route, although arrivals have fallen sharply since a deal between the European Union and Ankara on curbing the flow in March.

Many shipwreck victims are never recovered, but about 1,500 have been brought to Italy since 2013. So far, just over 200 have been identified.

In a “policy vacuum” the action in Italy and Greece has been driven by “improvisation”, the IOM said in June in a joint report with City University London and the University of York.

The report praised a deal that Italy’s special commissioner for missing persons struck with a university laboratory, which provides free forensic work, and the interior ministry, to adopt a protocol to identify victims and inform relatives.

The commissioner records details of corpses and sends notices through embassies and humanitarian organizations asking survivors for photographs of the missing, and personal effects such as toothbrushes that could harbor DNA.

In Athens, Miniati’s division has a database with information on 647 people who need identifying, about 80 percent of them the nameless dead of the migrant crisis.

People who drown and stay trapped underwater for months are often unrecognizable, so accounts of scars, tattoos and dental cavities help. Some people come to Italy to look for missing relatives in the commissioner’s files and some take DNA tests.

VALUES THAT COUNT

Deputy Italian Commissioner Agata Iadicicco said a shared international database would make it easier to reach migrants’ home countries and diasporas across Europe. “We need money to standardize this model and to involve all the migrant communities that mainly live in northern Europe,” she said.

With no sign of a let-up in the perilous voyages from North Africa, Italy feels that fellow EU countries should pull their weight more in handling the crisis.

The issue of graves for the victims has become caught up in the ill-feeling. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he sent the navy to raise a ship that sank last year and bury the more than 450 people found in the wreck to “tell Europe which values really count”.

For Mose, whose young son is still in Eritrea, even being sure Yordanos had died would be some comfort. “If I find her body, I can find some serenity,” he said. “If my son asks whether his mother is, at least I can say where she is buried.”

(editing by David Stamp)

Shorey gives last-minute preparation tips, says time is running out

One of the most important messages from the last-minute preparation seminar John Shorey gave Thursday morning on Grace Street didn’t concern food, water, shelter, finances or security.

The long-time prepper mentioned all of those things, but began his address on another point.

Time.

“Are these the last minutes that we have to prepare?” Shorey said. “I believe they are.”

Shorey, the author of “The Window of the Lord’s Return” and “Unlocking the Mystery of the Book of Revelation,” said now is the time to start focusing on the last-minute preparation steps he laid out in his address, the third and final seminar he gave at Morningside this week.

Shorey’s other talks focused on food security and survival tips.

On Thursday, Shorey said he believes the Biblical tribulation period will begin this spring. He has continued to stockpile food and supplies to help him prepare for what he believes is coming.

“I would rather be prepared and be wrong than be wrong and not prepared,” Shorey said.

The seminar covered some of the final steps that people can take to bolster their preparedness, and Shorey delivered his remarks with a tone of urgency.

“We will see the signs of the last minute, and we need to not wait for the last minute,” he said.

FOOD

Shorey advised people to continue collecting food with long shelf lives, but added that now is the time to start stockpiling food that does not have long shelf lives, such as flour, mayonnaise and canned meats and fruits. Those items with the shortest shelf lives should be purchased last.

People should also consider if they want to raise animals that can generate food, Shorey said, and mentioned chickens and goats as possible options. If they opt to go that route, he said that people should make sure that they obtain the animals and stockpile feed before it’s too late.

Shorey also encouraged people to start securing ways to cook their food and heat their homes without relying on electricity, recommending solar ovens and wood and propane. Whenever possible, he said people must test their equipment ahead of time to ensure it works properly.

HOME

Shorey advised people to buy supplies like lumber, plywood and hardware, should they need to perform construction or repair projects. He also suggested obtaining gardening tools and manure, as he believes successful gardens can help slow the consumption of food stockpiles.

He also told people to pump their septic systems.

“You’re probably going to have more people in your home and it’s going to fill up faster,” he said.

Shorey advised people to cancel their utilities “when things start falling apart.”

FINANCE

Shorey said it’s important for people to have cash on hand, including small bills, for purchases, as there could be a time when ATMs do not function and stores can’t accept credit or debit cards.

He said there was some value in precious metals, recommending silver over gold because gold can be difficult to divide gold bars into amounts that can be spent. He mentioned that pre-1964 United States coins could be useful tools for bartering, as they have high silver content.

He advised people to pay off critical bills and try to prepay property taxes and several months of their mortgages.

HEALTH

Shorey said people should not put off dental issues or minor surgeries, noting dentists and doctors could be hard to come by. He also advised people should stock up on prescription medications and bolster their first aid kits.

He said to look for disinfectants with long shelf lives.

HELPING OTHERS

Shorey advised people to start looking to form groups, reiterating there is strength in numbers. He said while preppers may be asked to help people outside their core group — he’s anticipating a soup line at his home — their group should consist of people they’ve known for a while and know they can trust. He recommended having a wide range of backgrounds — gardeners, security officers, trained medical professionals — but acknowledged that is easier said than done.

“You’re probably not going to get all of these skill sets,” Shorey said. “But you know what you can do? You need to acquire all of the training materials, like good books on gardening.”

He said those groups should prepare to act as underground churches and should stock up on Bibles and other devotional materials to help win the lost. But he said it was also important to ensure the groups have ways to defend themselves from those who may try to cause them harm.

Shorey’s earlier seminars also touched on the importance of helping others in the last days.

All three will soon be available for purchase through The Jim Bakker Show’s online store.