We're Humanitarian team members with Save the Children, responding to the ongoing refugee crisis - AMA!
We're humanitarian team members with Save the Children, who have been responding on the ground in Europe to the ongoing refugee crisis. We know first-hand what it's really like to help vulnerable children and families. Ask us anything!
I'm Dot: a Humanitarian Adviser in our Government Relations team working on the refugee crisis and what the UK government can do to help. Earlier this year I went to Calais with a Save the Children team to see what life is like for children caught up in the crisis.
I'm Alice: a media manager fresh back from Croatia last night where I was working on our response to the refugee crisis.
I'm Laura: a member of our Supporter Care team to answer any other questions you may have about our work.
Here is a link to Save the Children's Twitter feed and tweet about this AMA.
UPDATE 25/09 14:06 BST: Thank you all for your amazing questions! We're signing off now, but will continue checking in over the next few days.
Feeling inspired to help? Find out more about our work with child refugees.
Dot: Save the Children has a domestic programme in the UK as well as working in over 120 countries across the world, so it's not a case of choosing one over the other. The UK Government has pledged to resettle 20,000 people Syrian's over the next 5 years which is a great first step. The money used for supporting these refugees will be taken from the overseas development budget - which is a small amount of the UKs overall budget (0.7%) and not from government funding that is meant to spent within the UK itself. So helping refugees will not detract from services that are meant for the British welfare system.
The children and families we work with in places like Syria, and those we have met in Europe, tell us horrific stories of what they have been through in their countries – bullets, bombs and torture are prominent themes - they really do need our support and protection. Relatively wealthy countries, like the UK, can and should offer to protect the most vulnerable.
Arent these 'refugees' mostly economic migrants? They're passing through so many countrys where they could settle so why not stay in the first safe place ?
Dot: The UN, who have been tracking who is entering Europe on this route, says that 86% of those arriving so far in 2015 are from the top 10 refugee producing countries in the world - 54% are from Syria alone which is in it's 5th year of a brutal conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Therefore we are confident that the majority of these people have legitimate asylum claims and are not economic migrants. Lots of the people we have spoken to have relatives in northern Europe which is why they wish to continue their journey onwards.
This Eurostat report (pdf warning) shows that in the 2nd quarter of 2015, only 21% of asylum seekers are from Syria not 54%. Source please.
Dot: We use UN figures- this dashboard is really useful if you are interested in finding out more about who is arriving in Europe. It is updated regularly by UNHCR: http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/regional.php
Thank you for your work. I've done some research into your charity and it seems to be recommended highly and has a high score on sites like charitywatch, charitynavigator, give.org, etc. I really appreciate that the charity does not take any political or religious stances and instead focuses on delivering the help children need. After researching, I've decided to donate to your charity. However, I do have some questions regarding some topics I came upon while doing my research:
I understand that Pakistan may not be the easiest country to get along with, but I am curious as to the reasons that the Pakistan government decided to shut down your operations in the country? (source)
On glassdoor, there are several complaints from employees regarding the shift in management and the general feeling of employees being ignored. Has this impacted the effectiveness of the charity?
Dot: On your question regarding our operations in Pakistan, Save the Children’s office in Islamabad, was closed temporarily however I am pleased to say it was reopened and have resumed operations in the field. Save the Children has worked in Pakistan for more than 35 years and we currently have 1,200 staff members operating programs in health, education, food security and livelihoods that reach more than 4 million children and their families.
I wonder how you manage to carry on with your daily life after seing what you saw. I mean, how does it look like to hear a relative complaining on how much his salary suxx after what you saw there ?
Alice: I got back just last night and am still very tired but trying to precess everything. I woke up feeling very moved by all the children I met and their troubling stories of fleeing war in countries like Syria, only to face physical and emotional struggle in Europe, rejection, occasional xenophobia and uncertainty at what lies ahead. While it is indeed difficult to hear people complaining about things in their life that might seem minor, it is all relative. We cannot blame someone complaining about their wage if that is what is important to them in their life and they have not been exposed to the stories of suffering from children and their families that Save the Children staff are dealing with on a daily basis, so I try to be patient with them. But it also means we have a job to do in ensuring that the stories are reported in the media and done so accurately, so that we can raise awareness amongst the general population of what is really happening and dispel any untrue or unfair myths about refugees.
Alice - what stood out for you most about your recent experience in Croatia. What were the individuals stories that affected you the most?
There were many stories that were really affecting but I was mostly concerned by the numerous stories of under 18s travelling on their own all the way from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries to Europe, without the support of their parents. I saw two groups. The first was those who had travelled to Europe alone, often with friends or siblings. They are sent ahead because their parents want them to come to Europe to finish their education or get jobs. The second are those separated from their families during the often chaotic scenes at borders. people are queueing for hours and then put on buses and trains. The authorities guiding them on to vehicles don't speak Arabic or Farsi and the refugees don't speak Croatian so it is not easy to explain something like 'please let me wait for my father before i get on the bus'. Save the Children is doing a lot of child protection work with the red cross, unicef and others to ensure separated children are reunited with their families for these instances. For me this included a 10 year old boy who lost his brother in Serbia, we were able to find his brother and fast track him to Opatovac camp so they could be reunited. It was very touching. And of course a 10 year old boy cannot protect himself in a busy camp at night, so it was essential for his welfare that the reunification happened quickly. Thanks, Alice.
Don't you think it's abit ridiculous that your CEO earns over $300,000 per year?
Hi there, Laura from Supporter Care here, thanks for your question. We know that working for Save the Children is a privilege and that is why we don't pay private sector, or even senior public sector salaries.
Having said that, we do need to attract the top people to lead us to ensure we can help as many children as we can. We are always aware of our responsibility to our supporters to use their money as effectively as possible, and at Save UK from every pound we receive, 88p goes directly towards activities to help children, 11p on raising the next pound and the final penny on governance and other costs (averaged over 5 years). If you would like to see more details on this, our Annual Report contains more details - http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/annual-report-2014 - thanks. Laura
Charities seem to be the enemies of the state according to some parts of the British press. What are Save the Children doing to combat this poor reputation?
Hi Steve, Alice here. As I replied to the user named lesboautisticweeabo I'm a comms and media manager so have the task of hosting journalists who wish to see our work and/or report on the crisis. I also write press releases and give interviews to generate interest amongst journalists in what is happening on borders and in refugee camps, and what Save the Children is doing to respond. We need honest news reporting of the crisis to ensure that the general public get insight into what life is really like for refugee children and their families, and to dispel any unhelpful or unfair myths that frequently arise. Similarly we need a fair and honest account of what Save the Children is doing to respond to the crisis in order to be transparent and show the British press what's really happening. That's why part of my jobs is to gather case studies of children we help throughout this crisis, so the media and public can see the value Save the Children adds to the response, specifically on the health, wellbeing and protection of child refugees.
Hi Alice, thanks for your reply! For what it's worth I think Save the Children does a brilliant job :)
Thanks Steve - we couldn't do it without the great support of people like you! Dot :)
If you could change one thing about how the world has responded to this so far, what would it be?
Dot: I've been horrified by some of the scenes at some of the border crossings. Watching people in distress be treated like criminals. I would definitely like to see an end to this. People really must be treated with dignity when trying to find safety in Europe.
Based on your experience, what policies help increase support for refugees amongst the host population?
What we must all remember is that refugees arriving into Europe have been through exhausting journeys, the majority of whom are escaping horrifying situations, bullets and bombs in their home country. Whilst European leaders decide where they can go, it is important that they are met with adequate reception centres with all the essentials like water, shelter and food. We also are advocating for stronger child friendly receptions for the thousands of children who arrive here scared and exhausted, some of whom are arriving here completely on their own.
- Are there any vacancies for remote programmers in your refugee centre?
- Do you know how to contact other asylum camps where I could ask about the same thing?
- Do you know how other refugee camps are solving encountered problems (are you able to learn from each other experiences)?
- Would you blow a whistle if you notice any abuses or wrong health care in the camp you work in (if yes, than how would you do it)?
Agencies working in various camps have daily coordination meetings to spot gaps and ensure they're met. This is an opportunity to solve problems. We would always blow the whistle if we came across abuse or inappropriate healthcare. Just yesterday, our nutrition advisor Christine went around Opatovac camp in Croatia talking to mums with babies and ensuring they have private space to breastfeed including giving out breastfeeding scarves/shawls for privacy and to give any other supplies they might need. It's extremely difficult for these people who are on the road every day without access to washing machiens and hot showers, especially if you have a baby! We set up a mother and baby tent at Bapska crossing point so women could have privacy, shade, get rehydrated, feed their babies, change nappies and take supplies of wet wipes and nappies for their onward journeys. For jobs, suggest you look at the websites of all organisations responding to the crisis including UNHCR, MSF, Red Cross, UNICEF and us: https://www.savethechildren.net/jobs
Why are you guys always out on the street trying to get people to sign up to donate, but do so by basically calling anyone passing by minding their own business "hey would you like stop being an asshole?" Or "you like being not an asshole, right? Want to donate?" I'm all for charity, and helping people, but when there are obnoxious people standing there with those red t-shirts, and the first thing out of their mouths is some apprehensive statement, it just doesn't make me want even talk to those people.
Hello, thanks for your message, I'm sorry you have had some bad experiences with our fundraisers. We do find that this is a great way to raise awareness of our work but obviously don't want to annoy anyone. We also do act straight away if we find out about a fundraiser not behaving appropriately. You should always feel free to contact us if you do have any specific concerns or incidents. Thanks. Laura
America helped resettle 800,000 refugees after the Vietnam war and coordinated with the international community to help more.
Outside of the Europe, what can other countries do to help resettle migrants directly or support countries absorbing refugees (like Jordan)?
What can non-European citizens do to help refugees generally and help mitigate the pressure on the EU?
Great question. The Secretary General of the UN - Ban Ki Moon - will be holding talks at the UN General Assembly in New York next week to discuss just this. We are looking forward to seeing what they outcome of this meeting will be. Dot
Dot: How much of a madhouse is it in Calais. Are the news sources just exaggerating?
Alice: What is a media manager?
Alice: my job is to host journalists who wish to see our work and/or report on the crisis. I also write press releases to generate interest amongst journalists in what is happening on borders and in refugee camps, and what Save the Children is doing to respond. As I replied to Shurdem, we need honest news reporting of the crisis to ensure that the general public get insight into what life is really like for refugee children and their families, and to dispel any unhelpful or unfair myths that frequently arise. Only with the facts at our fingertips can we make informed decisions about how best to respond and do the best we can for children. Similarly only with these facts can EU leaders make a coordinated plan for how to deal with the crisis.
Dot: Calais was indeed chaotic. But volunteers and other fantastic organisations like Doctors of the World are doing a tremendous job addressing some of the needs that are there. I think the part that stood out to me the most about my visit there was that there was a real sense of a lack of hope - so the amazing work being done by such organisations was really inspiring.
Looking at international experiences with immigration, what factors best facilitate refugee integration in host communities?
What factors help refugees who want to return to the home communities effectively rebuild and strengthen their home?
There are hundreds of excellent refugee agencies working in the UK just on this like Refugee Action and the Refugee Council. They work within local communities to help orientate refugees to their new surroundings, help with English lessons and getting children back into education. Dot
Thank you for this answer.
How would you compare the response to this crisis to previous crises?
How has this response been aided/hindered by government policies, economic conditions, and other environmental factors?
There are more refugees in the world now than since world war 2. So yes, this is an unprecedented crisis. The response by the public has been overwhelming but we do need policy makers to now match that good will. This is not an issue that can be solved by one policy or one government. That is why we are pushing for the adoption of our 5 point plan across Europe if we want to see some real achievements made to help the thousands of people arriving in Europe now, and across the regions they are fleeing from. More details here http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/Save_the_Children_A_5_point_plan_for_Europe.pdf
Given the failure of the EU member states to negotiate how to distribute migrants equitably, what policies do you advocate in the absence of international cooperation?
What kind of international system would you like to see with respect to dealing with the immediate refugee crisis and long-term resettlement?
How can regular citizens help push for that international system?
We think that European leaders need to work together on a comprehensive plan. There is no one solution or one country that can address this issue in full. Save the Children has been advocating for EU members to adopt a 5 point plan. We’re calling on leaders to agree to work together to: - Maintain search and rescue operations with a mandate and capability equal to the task of saving lives in the Mediterranean Provide safe and legal routes into Europe to tackle trafficking and people smuggling Provide reception facilities that can separate out economic migrants from refugees and give a place of safety and support for children Provide relocation and resettlement programmes, with special priority for children, which are equal to the task of the worst refugee crisis since World War Two Have regional plans – including sufficient aid – for the countries refugees are fleeing from, which tackle the root causes of the refugee crisis
You can read the policy in full here: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/images/Save_the_Children_A_5_point_plan_for_Europe.pdf
Also - in the UK we are advocating for the UK to do it's part in Europe and offer to relocate the most vulnerable children - those who have arrived alone. We are extremely concerned about these children as they are at risk of all forms of exploitation when in Europe without any relative to care for them. Last year 4,000 children who arrived in Italy on their own, totally vanished, we need to ensure these children are protected. Dot
I am a healthy 30-year-old unemployed man doing nothing special with my life. Is there any use for me in humanitarian work? It costs about $1500/yr to feed me in the US, probably less elsewhere. Otherwise I require almost nothing else to keep me going except useful work.
Or do you have plenty of professionals and cash with which to pay them, local volunteers already in abundance, no shortage of labor?
Hello, that's great you want to help, thank you! As I think you are in the US, this link will take you to all the current vacancies at their offices - http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6226565/k.5717/Save_the_Children_Jobs.htm - I hope you find what you are after. Thanks. Laura
I really admire your organization. Thank you for the good work you all do. For those of us on a budget, Besides donating money, what can the public do to help the crisis?
Dot: Great question! There is a lot you can do that doesn't require donating. Use your voice – you are powerful citizen, and we must demonstrate how many people care about the situation facing refugees. Find out more on our website: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/shame-on-europe
If you want to go even further, you could also volunteer. The best way to volunteer to directly help arriving refugees is through your local refugee agency, or through the British Red Cross, with whom we’re working closely.
The UK Government has set up this useful site with further details on how you can help:
Do you think the UK is doing enough during this crisis?
Dot: The UK has made a great first step by pledging to resettle 20,000 Syrian refuges from the region. It is also one of biggest contributors to overseas aid and to the Syria region specifically. So there is a lot to be celebrated in the UKs response, however Save the Children strongly believe that without a plan for how this can be tackled in Europe, we will continue to see the horrifying images that have been filling our TV screeds. We are calling on the UK government share the burden with our fellow EU members and offer to relocate the most vulnerable children from Europe – those who have arrived without family members, completely alone – the UK should also prioritise helping 3,000 of the most vulnerable children who have recently arrived into the EU without any family members at all.
Refugee advocates argue that direct cash aid to migrants will both help migrants by allowing them to acquire the resources they need and since that money would flow into the local economy, would also build local support for migrants.
Does direct cash aid make practical sense?
Politically, how can it be sold to policy-makers/the public?
This is a great question. We do cash transfer programmes across a lot of our humanitarian responses and we think it is a really valuable way to allow people to make decisions about what their family needs the most. Policy makers do support such initiatives, but often people are worried that cash will get into the wrong hands, i.e. in this instance - smugglers. We have monitoring systems in place to ensure we know where and how our aid is being used, including cash transfer programmes – part of this involves what we call ‘post distribution monitoring’, which includes continuing the relationship with those we’ve supported, and tracking how they’ve spent the money. The primary reason that we know people aren’t using this money is that the only people eligible for cash transfers are those people who are extremely vulnerable – they can’t afford to pay for food and water, let alone start saving these small amounts of money for the huge cost of paying a smuggler. Dot
I hear your CEO's make hundreds of thousands of dollars, while the children get only 15 cents per dollar. Is this true?
Hello, here at Save UK, 88p from every pound we receive is spent directly on activities which help children, 11p is spent on raising the next pound and the final penny on governance and other costs (averaged over 5 years). Thanks. Laura
With all the money that's been raised for the appeal, what work on the ground can we expect to see to help refugees across Europe?
Hi it's Alice here. We are certainly doing lots on the ground! We have a long term programme in Italy to provide legal advice and counselling to child refugees. In Greece we are providing supplies to children and their families from food to water to toiletry products (especially good for teenaged girls!) In Hungary, Serbia and Croatia we are on the ground staying mobile and responding where needed. Where I've just been in Croatia, for example, we have a child friendly space inside the transit camp at Opatovac, yet also a mobile team moving to where the latest hotspot is - a new border crossing perhaps, or a train station - and taking supplies of water, food, toiletries, nappies etc. We also have child protection experts to ensure child refugees are protected in camps and at border crossings. To tackle the root cause of the crisis, we are working in Syria and its neighbouring countries like Jordan and Lebanon to try and improve life and provide opportunities for young people, so that they don't feel the need to make the dangerous journey to Europe and can instead stay near to Syria in the hope they can return when the country finds peace. You can see more about all our work in a number of countries here: http://blogs.savethechildren.org.uk/2015/09/refugee-crisis-what-were-doing-to-help/
How can I work with you guys?
If you are in the UK please check out our vacancies page here: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/jobs
If you are elsewhere in the world you can search of jobs with us here: https://www.savethechildren.net/jobs
Hello, Laura from Supporter Care here. We work with children in the UK as well and have done so throughout our whole history. If you want to see our current programmes, take a look here - http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/about-us/where-we-work/united-kingdom - thanks. Laura
Dot: We work in the UK and internationally. Save the Children has always worked in the UK since we were founded in 1919. Our programme and campaigning work in the UK focusses on children living in poverty across the country, with a special focus on education.
When you visit these war torn countries are you still put up in 5 star hotels?
Dot: That has certainly never been my experience having worked here for nearly 5 years.. I spent last summer living in a tent when responding to the emergency in South Sudan and I stayed in our office compound in Nigeria …
We certainly always aim to find the cheapest appropriate accommodation wherever possible and we work closely with a travel agency to do this. However this must always be balanced with the safety and security of our staff. So sometimes, particularly in hostile environments, we might find that the only safe option isn’t the absolute cheapest, but I can assure you, we aren’t living the high –life when responding to emergencies
In all seriousness, what would your response be if you overheard somebody say "I don't know why they bother helping out the refugees when we have people struggling in our own country"?
View HistoryShare Link