Monthly Archives: February 2013

We Are Here, for our Right to Be

Yes we camp

News and actions by the Osdorp camp refugees

In Amsterdam and The Hague rejected refugees from Africa and the Middle East are enduring the harsh weather in make shift tent camps where they demonstrate against the Dutch way of treating rejected refugees since September 4th (Amsterdam) and 19th (The Hague). Since 2010 asylum seekers who have been rejected are no longer entitled to basic rights such as shelter and food. Even when it is impossible to return to their countries of origin, the Dutch government argues that they can leave voluntarily. Denying them access to reception centers, putting them in prison and forcing them to survive in parks, railway stations and insecure hiding places, that is the way to convince them to leave this country. In the first half of 2012 4.680 asylum seekers have been dumped on the street without any life support, according to the International Network of Local Initiatives with Asylum seekers (INLIA). These self-organized action by the refugees have highlighted a humanitarian problem that has been growing for years and was hidden from the public eye. Now these people have made themselves visible and seek solutions by entering in dialogue with civil society and democratic representatives. To realize their aims they need to be together, safe and visible. Apparently the authorities want to make them disappear again. The only offer is for some of the refugees to go for 30 days in dispersed shelters for homeless people. After that they would again be on their own, insecure and invisible. A growing number of supporters is trying to create sustainable ways to continue this struggle for human rights. One way would be to make a space available as a meeting point for refugees, a House of Hope.

On their blog, the refugees that camp out in Amsterdam declared:

“We are here because our life is in danger. There are many reasons for this. War is the most important one. There are several armed conflicts in Africa that cost many lives, disrupt families and livelihoods. Political violence and oppression, religious division, problems between tribes and clans add to make solutions complicated. Drought, famine and other economic factors also push people to find a better future elsewhere. All these cases are inter-related. We can see this in the extremist movements. They make life impossible for you if you do not conform to strict rules. Having a drink can cost you your life. Being a member of another tribe, or of another religion, can bring you into deep trouble. So we are here because we face persecution and danger in our countries. We need to be in the Netherlands because this country is a free country where our lives are safe and we could build a future. “

We want your help. We want to get out of this situation. We want your help, not just with food and drinks, but with the broader issues. Help us with publicity, be creative: think about how you could help. Whether you’re politically active, or a journalist, everyone can help in their own way. We have 5 representatives you can talk to, to explain our situation.

The name “Refugees-on-the-Street” was coined when they started organizing in the spring of 2011 in Utrecht, with support of the STIL Foundation, a solidarity group for migrants without a residence permit. They are people who fled their home country, asked for asylum but were denied permission. The capstone of the asylum procedure is deportation. Undocumented migrants are systematically held in administrative detention for up to 18 months and this can be repeated endlessly. If they cannot be deported they are put on the street without any title of right, no shelter no care, nothing at all. Most of them go in hiding, including women with children. They depend on charity, on good will (or bad will) of private people. But more and more refuse to hide and they fight for a decent life, for hope.

Since the big tent camp in ter Apel everybody knows they are here. Through their demonstrations and actions, by their presence in the media and in politics they have joined the public debate. In Amsterdam the Camp against the Cold started on the 4th of September where a growing number of refugees find shelter, food, safety and medical care. With their slogan “WE ARE HERE” (WIJ ZIJN HIER) they show that WE are human beings, WE have nowhere to go, WE stay here until we have a solution that respects our human rights. In the camp at Notweg 32 in Amsterdam Osdorp are mainly African men and women (children are not allowed by the Mayor of Amsterdam) from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenia, and francophone people from Congo, Mauretania, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinee. There are individuals from Yemen (2), China and Armenia.

In Den Haag a group of Iraqi (mostly Kurdish) refugees is camping near the central Staion in open tents in worse conditions than in Amsterdam. They carry the name RIGHT TO EXIST.

What’s KM?

What is Knowledge Mobilization?KM” aka: KMb (Knowledge Mobilization), KT (Knowledge Translation), KE (Knowledge Exchange), KB (Knowledge Brokering), KM (Knowledge Management) is part of a much larger knowledge field associated with brokering, translation, exchange and intermediation. While its fast growing terminology may be difficult to keep up with, what’s important to remember is that KM has one main objective and that’s the two-way sharing of knowledge. The idea is that knowledge is not just the business of experts, but something that concerns all of us and that should be used effectively to help foster change. In this sense, KM is about using knowledge in concrete ways by involving different groups of people such as academics, policy makers, community organizers, and students in bridging the gap between what we know with what is being done.

Check out what David Phipps, Director of Research Services & Knowledge Exchange at York University has to say about KM!

0:00 – 2:13   How knowledge mobilization can be used

2:13 – 4:46   Where does it come from?

4:46 – 7:15   The three basic questions

7:15 – 8:52   The model

0:00 – 2:24   The core of knowledge mobilization

2:24 – 6:22   Educational and career path

6:22 – 9:00   What is Knowledge Mobilization Works and who is their clientele?

Follow these links to see how others define KM:

Terms & Definitions

Conceptual Frameworks


KM in FM

How is knowledge on forced migration produced? Who produces it? How is it being used? Our aim is to bring KM into the forced migration conversation by calling attention to some basic, but crucial questions about knowledge and its practice.

Loren Landau (2012) in his article, Communities of Knowledge or Tyrannies of Partnership: Reflections on North–South Research Networks and the Dual Imperative, takes up some of these thorny questions. He argues that the knowledge partnerships between western scholars and southern researchers are often imbalanced. According to him, rather than fostering two-way knowledge exchanges much of the policy-oriented research in the south supported by western partnerships entrench the very type of one-way knowledge production they purport to challenge.

For the full text click on the PDF link below:

Obama Migration Bill to pass in Congress

Reid predicts Congress will pass immigration legislation

Sourced from Reuters

 WASHINGTON | Sun Feb 3, 2013 4:54pm EST

(Reuters) – The top Senate Democrat on Sunday predicted that Congress will pass and send to President Barack Obama legislation overhauling the U.S. immigration system, saying “things are looking really good.”

Obama last week expressed hope Congress can get a deal done on immigration, possibly in the first half of the year.

The president is proposing to give the roughly 11 million U.S. illegal immigrants – most of whom are Hispanics – a pathway to citizenship, a step that many Republicans have long fought.

Obama’s fellow Democrats control the Senate, but Republicans control the House of Representatives.

 Appearing on the ABC program “This Week,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was asked whether immigration legislation can win House passage.

“Well, it’s certainly going to pass the Senate. And it would be a bad day for our country and a bad day for the Republican Party if they continue standing in the way of this. So the answer is yes,” Reid said.

Obama choose Reid’s home state of Nevada, with a sizable Hispanic population, as the site for a major speech last Tuesday pushing Congress to pass an immigration bill.

Hispanic voters were crucial in helping Obama beat Republican nominee Mitt Romney – who advocated “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants – in Nevada in November.

“It has to get done,” Reid said of immigration legislation.

“It’s really easy to write principles. To write legislation is much harder. And once we write the legislation, then you have to get it passed. But I think things are looking really good,” Reid added.

After years on the back burner, immigration reform has suddenly looked possible as Republicans, chastened by the fact that more than 70 percent of Hispanic voters backed Obama in the November election, appear more willing to accept an overhaul.

Obama has pushed for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the United States that is faster than one proposed by a bipartisan group of eight influential senators.

Rather than emphasize border security first, Obama would let illegal immigrants get on a path to citizenship if they undergo national security and criminal background checks, pay penalties, learn English and get in line behind those foreigners seeking to immigrate legally.

The bipartisan Senate plan envisions taking steps to toughen security along the U.S.-Mexican border before setting in motion the steps illegal immigrants must take to gain legal status.

“Every time I’ve talked about this, I say there are a few things we need,” Reid said. “Number one is border security, southern and northern border security. We have to do that. We have to have a pathway to legalization. We have to make sure that the employer sanctions work.”

On another matter, Reid expressed “utmost confidence” in New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, incoming chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee who last week denied allegations that he had engaged in sex with prostitutes during free trips to the Dominican Republic provided by a political donor.

“Oh, I have confidence he did nothing wrong, but that’s what investigations are all about,” Reid said.

Menendez is one of the members of the bipartisan Senate group working on immigration.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Kenya’s Dadaab finds innovative ways to educate knowledge-hungry refugees / BHER

New university campus near Dadaab complex aims to improve life for Somali refugees and prepare them for returning home

in Dadaab

MDG migration Dadaab

A Somali refugee girl writes on a board at a makeshift outdoor classroom at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab. Photograph: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

A humble, green-roofed building on the outskirts of the world’s largest refugee settlement in north-eastern Kenya could be the unlikely portal that opens Ahmed Noor Hassan’s life, and the lives of thousands of other Somali refugees, to the world.

This is the proposed site for the Dadaab campus of Kenyatta University, the first higher-level institution to serve a refugee site. Classes, due to start in a few weeks, will include diploma, undergraduate and master’s courses in public policy, peace and conflict studies, commerce and education. They will be open to refugees, students from the local community and staff from humanitarian agencies.

“It will open the life of refugees to the external world,” says Noor Hassan, 25, a youth leader who is hanging out with friends in a small compound in Dagahaley, one of the five camps that make up the Dadaab refugee complex. “Our problems will be understood by the world.”

MDG Dadaab University

Ahmed Noor Hassan, 25, a youth leader at the Dagahaley camp in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee complex, January 2013.

(Photograph: Clar Ni Chonghaile for the Guardian).

There is much to understand. In Dadaab, 448,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia, live in five giant camps in a sweltering, scrub-covered expanse of sand. Some camps have winding streets and trees, while the newest feature rows of tents housing people who fled Somalia’s famine in 2011. The idea of opening a university campus here is audacious – this corner of Kenya, just 90km (55 miles) from the border with Somalia, has been hit hard by years of war against the Islamic insurgents of al-Shabaab.

Improvised explosive devices have targeted police patrols in the camps, aid workers have been kidnapped, and several elders and community leaders have been shot. Foreign visitors must take a police escort to visit the site, and aid workers’ movements are restricted. Kenyan security forces have also been accused of abuses in the camps, after bomb attacks against them.

Noor Hassan wants to improve his skills so that when he goes home he can compete with Somali returnees from the US and Europe. He has applied to study public policy and administration at the new campus and although the fee of 100,000 shillings (£730) a year is high, he hopes he can raise it through savings and from friends living abroad.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is seeking partners to provide scholarships to the new campus.

“If I finish, I will move to Somalia and take the risk, because no pain, no gain. If I stay here, I will be wasting my energy and my youth,” Noor Hassan says. “Let me have four more years of difficulty, then I can go there.”

Marangu Njogu, executive director of the Windle Trust, helped mobilise support for the Dadaab campus. Known as “the father of education” in Dadaab, he is a key player in the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (Bher) project, a partnership between Canadian and Kenyan institutions aimed at improving education opportunities for refugees and marginalised local communities.

The Kenyatta University campus will “act as a launchpad [for Bher] to provide education for the refugees”, he says, arguing that education is as essential as emergency services. “When people look at refugees coming, and say, ‘We can’t do education because it’s an emergency’, it’s a disservice to the people … Education is the most critical element in helping human beings to develop and be self-reliant,” he says.

“We should provide education immediately, give people skills to be able to be in charge of their lives, and give them opportunities to interact with other people instead of just bundling them together,” Njogu says, adding that education also prevents young people from engaging in “antisocial activities”.

Programme development manager Tom Oindo says Windle Trust aims to improve life in the camps but also to prepare people for returning home. The organisation places a special emphasis on enabling girls to further their education. “We try to give a transformative education to ensure that we are actually equipping our scholars with skills to be able to contribute to the development of their home countries but, at the same time, have requisite skills to survive within the current situation.”

This idea underlies the Bher programme, which will provide a wide range of courses to refugees through a mix of online and on site resources, says Professor Wenona Giles of York University in Toronto, one of Bher’s lead partners.

Bher will not charge tuition fees, but will need contributions to cover direct costs. The consortium – including York University, Kenyatta University, the University of British Columbia and Kenya’s Moi University – wants to set up a fund to help refugees with transport, food and other expenses.

“This is a pilot project from which we can learn in order to do this in other sites,” says Giles. “Education is a right. And higher education should be a right. We’re looking at [using] phones, radios, MP3 players. We are going to use everything we can.” The Bher project will also have a learning centre on the Dadaab campus.

Technology is key to another education initiative in Dadaab: a joint project between UNHCR’s education and innovation units that has received funding and support from Microsoft and Kenyan telecoms firm Safaricom.

Erin Hayba, an associate community services officer and an innovation iFellow for UNHCR, says the aim is to give a laptop to each school to manage education information, including school attendance and learning, install computer labs in every secondary school, and provide computers for vocational training centres.

The project involves training teachers on how to use computers in the classrooms, and organising electricity and internet connections. Some funding is provided by a UNHCR campaign to provide solar power in schools.

For the project to succeed, Hayba says, teachers, parents and community leaders must be involved. She has been surprised by the enthusiasm she has encountered. “[The refugee communities] are even contributing in small financial ways … Some of the computers are in [school] science labs. The refugees bought fabric and made curtains and covers to keep off the dust … It’s that ownership.”

These projects all have the common aim of increasing self-reliance among Dadaab residents, many of whom do not fit the classic profile of refugees but who still find themselves living extremely restricted lives.

“If you give someone food it is only keeping them alive for a few days,” says Noor Hassan. “For the future, we need to be empowered. I would like the youth of Dadaab to be able to compete with the other diaspora refugees back in Somalia.”

Available at: The Guardian