Monday, 21 September 2015

Intersection of Displacement, Age, Disability, Gender

Fleeing a country is not easy, in particular for older persons (via). Last year, 51% of refugees were under 18 years old (via). Considering the long and exhausting journey, it is not surprising that most of the refugees coming to Europe are young. About 80% of them are under 35. In fact, it is said that  it is very difficult to find a person over 50. According to the statistical agency of the European Union, asylum seekers lead to demographic changes in the European Union where the average age drops from 41.2 years to 34.7 years. Those coming from African countries are particularly young (Eritrea: between 18 and 25 years of age, Syria: between 20 and 29 years) (via).

Nevertheless, older refugees (here defined as 60+) make up a larger proportion than generally recognised. As of 2000, they made up between 8.5 and 30% of the population of concern to UNHCR. Older refugees may face problems such as a) social disintegration (erosion of formal or informal social support systems in war, e.g. being abandoned by their families who see no other way to survive), b) negative social selection (young, healthy, able-bodied persons are the first to leave refugee camps while the elderly, the sick, the handicapped and single mothers with young children are left behind) and c) chronic dependency (a consequence of being unable to secure family support or State benefits) more than younger people (via). According to a survey carried out by HelpAge International and Handicap International about two years ago, 54% of older Syrian refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon had a chronic disease. It can be assumed that figures have risen in the meantime (via). Still, older refugees
"should not be seen only as passive, dependent recipients of assistance. This policy seeks to highlight that older refugees often serve as formal and informal leaders of communities; they are valuable resources for guidance and advice, and transmitters of culture, skills and crafts that are important in preserving the traditions of the dispossessed and displaced. Older refugees can and do make an active contribution to the well-being of their next-of-kin, and only become totally dependent in the final stages of frailty, disability and illness. Older persons have taken the lead in return to countries as far afield as Croatia and Liberia. Older persons can also contribute to peace and reconciliation measures. Good programming requires that these roles are utilized." (via)
And then there are, of course, the very young who suffer extremely: children.

#refugees: 18 yr old Afghan man has pushed his grandmother in a wheelchair from Afghanistan to Hungary
— Valerio De Cesaris (@ValerioDeC) 27. August 2015
Age is not the only additional burden. Among those who walk from one country to another, who move thousands of kilometres of "everything but comfortable barrier-free pedestrian zones" are refugees with disabilities. Even refugee camps are not barrier-free. Being a refugee is a hard fate; being a refugee with a disability even more (via).

::: BBC: Noujain Mustaffa, journey of a 16-year-old from Kobane to Europe on a wheelchair (3 minutes) WATCH

The intersection of displacement, disability and gender makes life even more dangerous. Worldwide, more than 51 million people were displaced due to severe conflicts in 2013 (according to UNHCR, figures have risen to 59.5 million people, via). Based on the 2013 figures, there may be at least 7.6 million persons in forced displacement - potentially even more (about 15% of any population are persons with disabilities). In other words, about 7.6 million persons with disabilities are "less able to protect themselves from harm, more dependent on others for survival, less powerful and less visible", hence at greater risk of gender-based violence (via). The same is true for their caregivers who are also mostly women and girls. Persons with disabilities in humanitarian settings, however, are usually excluded from services and programmes which aim to prevent gender-based violence. According to a study carried out by the Women's Refugee Commission and the International Rescue Committee from 2013 to 2015 in Burundi, Ethiopia, Jordan and the Northern Caucasus in Russia, sexual violence is the most often reported violence. Women and girls with mental and intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable. In addition, persons with disabilities are often not invited to join activities as programme managers understimate the benefits they could have. And even if they are invited, inadequate transportation and communication are barriers to access (WRC, 2015).
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Article 11 - Situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies  
States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters. (via)

Most of the refugees currently seeking asylum in Europe are men. In 2014, 3/4 of those seeking asylum in Austria were male, only 1/4 female. This year, more than 37.000 persons sought asylum in Austria, only 21.5% of them are women. Women are often affected by conflicts differently. Families threatened by war try to anticipate what could be expecting them, discuss which family members could take the risk of leaving the country before any decision is made. Since fleeing a country is considered to be more dangerous for a woman than for a man - who can, in addition to the dangers threatening every refugee, face gender-based violence on her way to a safer life - it is more often men who leave the country. And, women often travel with little children or cannot swim, circumstances that make the journey even more dangerous. Often, men flee and try to bring their families to a safe place in a legal way by applying for a family reunification (via).

::: "Super Mario" turns into "Refugee Mario": Syrian refugee's satirical take "Refugee Mario" explains the reality for Syrians crossing Europe using the narrative of a game. WATCH

- Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) (2015) "I See That It Is Possible" Building Capacity for Disability Inclusion in Gender-Based Violence Programming in Humanitarian Settings. NY, download
- photographs (1-3) by Eli Reed "The Lost Boys of Sudan", Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, August 2001 via and by John Vink (Sudanese displaced) via and (Angolan schoolboy displaced, following classes held in church) via and by Nicos Economopoulos (Somalian refugees at Hiswa camp, Aden, 1992) via