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Refugee, migrant numbers rise, despite travel curbs

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Refugees and migrants gather at the Pazarkule border crossing near Edirne, Turkey, hoping to travel into Greece. © UNICEF

Pandemic-related travel restrictions may have put a dent on international migration figures in 2021, but the number of people forced to leave their homes, due to conflict and persecution, rose to record highs.

By November, more than 84 million people had been forced from their homes, according to UNHCR data. This figure is an increase from 2020 and 2019, both of which were record-breaking years in terms of the numbers forcibly displaced around the world. 

‘A paradox not seen before in human history’

This rise was coupled with a drop in global mobility overall due to stricter travel rules, prompting the Director General of the UN migration agency (IOM), António Vitorino, to declare that the world was “witnessing a paradox not seen before in human history.”

“While billions of people have been effectively grounded by COVID-19, tens of millions of others have been displaced within their own countries,” he said, at the launch of the agency’s latest World Migration Report.

The migration agency also warned that refugees, and migrants who move out of necessity, have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-related travel restrictions, and millions have found themselves stranded away from home, and in danger.

Fleeing violence and armed attacks

Conflict is one of the main reasons that people leave their homes in search of a better life, and there was, sadly, a great deal of violence to escape throughout the year, particularly in Africa, where huge numbers were displaced, either within their own borders, or to neighbouring States.

Many African countries were affected: in the Central African Republic, presidential elections were followed by fighting; the Darfur region of Sudan was hit by inter-communal violence; atrocities were committed by armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo; and in Burkina Faso there was a rise in violent jihadist attacks. Several hundred thousand people were displaced as a result.

The rising conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in 2021 caused widespread concern and massive displacement, with UNHCR reporting desperate people crossing into Sudan with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Meanwhile, Eritreans who had come to Ethiopia, escaping violence in their own country, soon found themselves caught up in the Tigray fighting: in March, satellite images showed that camps housing thousands of Eritrean refugees had been burned to the ground.

UN humanitarian workers weren’t able to get access to the refugees until August, when they delivered urgently needed aid supplies.

Millions displaced in Afghanistan

Even before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August, the worsening security situation in the country meant that more than a quarter of a million people had been forced from their homes by July, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons to 3.5 million.

After the takeover – the speed of which took many observers by surprise – the UN committed to staying in the country to help those affected by the deepening, ongoing, humanitarian crisis.

The IOM chief, António Vitorino, warned in November that ongoing conflict, grinding poverty and climate-related emergencies, have pushed the country to the brink of collapse.

Unprecedented, forced migration in Central America

The amount of displacement in Mexico and Central America this year was described as “unprecedented” by UNHCR. Nearly one million people in the region left their homes due to a lack of opportunities, gangs, organized crime, the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change.

The incoming US administration signalled that it would adopt a compassionate attitude towards undocumented migrants and refugees entering across the southern border, but public health-related asylum restrictions remained in place, closing off ports of entry, and the US expelled hundreds of thousands of people to Mexico and other countries of origin.

Mexico itself has become a country of destination, as well as a nation of transit to the US, with around 100,000 asylum claims in 2021, a new record. In December, a horrific tragedy brought home the need for controlled, safe migration: when a crowded truck overturned in Chiapas, at least 54 reportedly Central American migrants died and more than 100 were injured – the single deadliest incident for migrants in Mexico since at least 2014, when IOM began documenting deaths.

Further south, Venezuela’s continuing socio-economic collapse was the source of the one of the largest displacement crises in the world. More than six million people have so far left their homes, and the needs of refugees and migrants from the country have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In December, UNHCR and IOM launched a joint appeal for $1.79 billion, to fund a regional plan to support the increasing needs of the refugees and migrants from Venezuela, and their host communities across 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The deadly waters of the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean Sea has, for many years, been a favoured route for migrants and refugees attempting to reach what they regard as a safe haven in Europe. However, the hazardous crossing became even more deadly this year, as European countries stepped up expulsions and pushbacks at land and sea borders.

In the first six months of the year, at least 1,140 died attempting to reach Europe by boat. Hundreds more died in the second half of the year, whilst trying to reach Europe from northern African States or Turkey. 

In just one incident in November, at least 27 people drowned in the English Channel, the largest single loss of life in the English Channel ever recorded by the IOM. According to the French authorities, well over 31,000 people attempted the dangerous crossing between France and the UK in 2021, and 7,800 were rescued at sea.

Heavy-handed treatment in Libya

Many of those who attempt the crossing left from Libya, whose coast was the scene of fatal shipwrecks, including a January wreck in which 43 people died, and an April disaster which claimed the lives of 130 people, prompting the UN’s migration and refugee agencies to reiterate calls for the reactivation of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

Despite an improved peace and security situation, the country itself continued to pose dangers for refugees and migrants. The UN complained that they faced increasingly heavy-handed treatment from targeted security operations, resulting in at least one death and a steep increase in detentions.

In October, the UN refugee agency declared that the Libyan government must immediately address the dire situation of asylum-seekers and refugees in a humane manner, consistent with international human rights law.

Belarus border crisis

In September a crisis loomed on the border between Belarus and Poland. The EU reportedly accused Belarus of deliberately assisting migrants to cross the border into Poland illegally – a charge which Belarus denied – in reprisal against sanctions imposed by the bloc on the basis of alleged human rights violations amid huge protests following on from the disputed presidential election of 2020. 

A state of emergency took effect in areas of eastern Poland the same month, after thousands of migrants from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere tried to illegally cross into the country from Belarus.

In November, the UN called for an immediate de-escalation, following weeks of rising tension, and TV news footage showing migrants on the border between Belarus and Poland attempting to dodge teargas and make their way through razor wire.

As temperatures dropped, and several deaths were reported amongst the asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants stranded for weeks in increasingly dire conditions, the UN rights office urged both countries to resolve the crisis and respect human rights.

The rising importance of the climate crisis

Whilst conflict looks set to continue to be a key driver of voluntary and forced displacement in the coming years, the changing climate is likely to play an increasingly important role. 

In fact, UNHCR data shows that, over the last decade, Weather-related crises have triggered more than twice as much displacement as conflict and violence: Since 2010, extreme weather has forced around 21.5 million people a year to move, on average.

And whilst Afghanistan’s conflict has been the focus of much attention, the country’s citizens also have to face numerous natural disasters: the country is one of the most disaster-prone in the world, with nearly all of its 34 provinces hit by at least one disaster in the past three decades.

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New Social Compact

Age No Bar: A Paradigm Shift in the Girl Child’s Marriageable Age in India

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Image source: indiatoday.in

India is a country known to have diverse culture, languages, social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief system, religions and their personal laws. With personal laws governing succession, adoption, divorce etc, one of the most important aspects governed by the personal laws is Marriage. Indian society has a deep-rooted belief of marriages being the most sacred bond between two people. Every religion of the country gives utmost importance to this sacred bond. Since this bond is of such great importance to the Indian society and to the people of the country, the legal system and the personal laws have made efforts to legalise the sacred bond. There are conditions and requirements laid down for the marriage to be solemnized and get a legal sanction. One such important condition is “age”. According to most of the personal laws and The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 the legal age for a man should not be less than 21 years of age and a woman 18 years of age. Recently the government introduced The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to raise the age of marriage for women from 18 years to 21 years

Introduction of this bill shall prove to be a ray of hope for people struggling to curb the evil of child marriage in our country. One cannot claim progress unless women progress on all fronts including their physical, mental and reproductive health. The Constitution guarantees gender equality as part of the fundamental rights and also guarantees prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sex. This bill would bring women equal to the men as far as the legal age of marriage in concerned. Under the National Family Health Survery-5, it is stated 7% of the girls aged between 15 and 18 years were found to be pregnant and nearly 23% of the girls in the age group of 20 to 24 were married below the age of 18 years. There are researches to point that from 2015 to 2020, 20 lakhs child marriages have been stopped.

In my opinion, increasing the age of women from 18 years to 21 should not be seen solely as an equal opportunity for them to choose their life partners at the same age as that of men, but this is a step taken by the government to eradicate child marriages that still find way in to our society. It should be seen as an effort to bring down maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate. It shall also try and curb the teenage pregnancies, which are extremely harmful for women’s overall health as well as the infants born out of it. We also have to take into consideration that a large part of our society still lack basic education and awareness about these laws and the advantages attached to it. We as educated citizens of the country should take extra efforts in making people aware and to make them understand about the disadvantages associated with child marriage and the overall consequences their children would face in the future. We should appreciate the efforts taken by the government to tackle gender inequality and gender discrimination adequate measures taken to secure health, welfare and empowerment of our women and girls and to ensure status and opportunity for them at par with men.

*The Views Expressed are Strictly Personal

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New Social Compact

Post Pandemic – What’s Next

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Setting aside the omicron hysterics leading to marshal law lockdowns, the absurdity of a last chance vaccine or risk a long winter of death; or the charade of standing in a ridiculously long line of humanoids seeking a covid test after being fully vaccinated; the more contagious omicron variant with much milder symptoms, akin to the common cold, looks more and more like a natural vaccine being wind swept across the world. If we are at the beginning of the end of the pandemic as the mountain of positive cases peak and immunity engulfs the herd of humanity, what is the next step for governments, businesses, health officials, and the people of earth?

We have entered our third calendar year with the pandemic, and one must wonder how society will move forward and under what guise and endgame. First, there are many questions on the more immediate future for the everyday person, and secondly, what is the impact of the actions taken by government, big pharma, and healthcare officials throughout pandemic, and lastly, will there be any accountability for the actions taken, whether mandating experimental medicine and the potential long-term implications to one’s physical and mental health, societal lockdowns and the economy, children’s learning and coping, and civil liberties removed.

Close to home, what will happen to our jobs and will those who refused the injections be allowed to return to the workplace that terminated their employment?  How will schools and colleges catch students up after all the disruptions? How emotionally and mentally stable will we be? What of broken marriages and abusive situations, bankruptcies, deaths from missed surgeries and acute care, drug overdoses and suicides. Will people refrain from shopping in-person, attending church, or traveling? Will families heal their rifts over the vaccines and find a way to move forward?

On a more macro level, it was not long ago that we were told one shot was safe and effective. During an April 2021 MSNBC interview, Rochelle Walensky, the Director of the CDC, unequivocally claimed vaccinated people do not carry the virus. President Joe Biden, during a CNN Townhall in July 2021, was emphatic that you cannot get COVID-19 if you are vaccinated.  Now, the vaccinated are being told not to attend restaurants or large gatherings with a tsunami of breakthrough cases, and you are required to go for a third shot and then a fourth new and improved injection currently being formulated. Explicitly, any expert telling you to get vaccinated or take the booster to prevent you from getting COVID or spreading the virus is not being truthful and potentially creating further damage.

The ineffectiveness of the vaccines to prevent COVID is clear; however, no one really knows how safe the experimental medicine will be with forgoing normal clinical research over five years of testing prior to the FDA’s regular approval process. This vaccine may have provided a level of support to make your symptoms better, but it never immunized the subject. Unfortunately, there is preliminary research coming to light that the vaccinated are now more likely to get COVID than the unvaccinated. One might even argue the longevity of the pandemic and viral mutations is now a pandemic of the vaccinated.

It was not long ago that some front-line healthcare workers were saving lives, and then were told they had to take the injection or lose their job. Now, many vaccinated healthcare workers are being infected with COVID-19 and being told they can remain at work or isolate for only five few days; yet the unvaccinated nurses who have not been infected could easily wear a n95 mask and be reinstated to provide care.

Sadly, many businesses and corporations abetted the enslavement of their employees by forcing them to choose between an experimental medicine or lose their job and ability to provide for their family’s survival. A gun was held at their head to take a vaccine that is not effective and perhaps unsafe, and they lost their basic freedom to determine one’s own health and medical treatment. These decisions need to be revisited in the future with ensuing tribunals and inquiries.

In the much bigger picture, a large segment of society has lost touch with reality and descended into a time warp of delusion through the relentless fearmongering fastened with the censorship and intimidation ploys to obey the rules or be labeled an anti-vaxxer conspirator. If science cannot be questioned, it is no longer science. It’s propaganda.

The policies nurtured by the national healthcare agencies and their cohorts on the daily news networks may have created the greatest mental illness ever witnessed where the long-term psychiatric effects evolved into a mass panic of irrationality.

“Mass Formation Psychosis” is a term gaining prominence after Belgian psychologist and statistician Dr. Mattias Desment proffered a theory for what he concludes as a global behavioural phenomenon derived from the coronavirus pandemic. Desment states several things are required to exist if you want a large-scale phenomenon to emerge. First, there needs to be a large population socially isolated that lack social bonds and who experience a lack of sense-making in life. Then it must be coupled with a lot of free-floating anxiety and psychological discontent without people being able to connect it to something – then society is highly at risk for the emergence of the mass phenomenon.

These findings can account for the form of mass hypnosis or a madness that dismisses scientific principles and adopts the government’s noble lies and dominant narrative concerning the safety and effectiveness of the genetic vaccines. What one observes is about 30% of the population is brainwashed and indoctrinated by the bombardment of daily misrepresentations and attack anyone who shares alternative information that contradicts the propaganda they have embraced to the point where families, friends, and workplace networks have been torn apart. The 40% of the population in the middle simply follow along with any alternative information being censored and deemed as anti-vaxxers not following the science or some right-wing conspiracy. The remaining 30% continue to question the narratives and in some cases fight against it.

We can compare the current “Mass Formation Psychosis” to the highly educated German population between the two world wars when they became decoupled into a free-floating anxiety and a sense that things have gone awry. Their attention was then focused by a leader or a series of events onto one small point where they literally went mad. A good percentage of the population got behind the hatred of Jews while a large swath of the nation simply went along, and a smaller percentage of dissenters were exposed and systematically removed. The famous French philosopher, Voltaire warned us of our civil liberties being lost when he said, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”   

Parents are being further coerced by the irrational fear of death being obfuscated through the news media to line up your child up for a potential life altering injection that has not come close to being assessed for long health implications. Even when data points to a very low fatality rate among children measuring .002% and young adults at .01%, the FDA throws mud at the wall with announcing a third shot in adolescents 12-15 years old five months after their previous injection.

We are on the cusp of an immense dedication to counselling for mental health and perhaps medical malpractice class action suits at a tremendous cost for many years to come. Imagine your child never seeing their teacher’s face all year as she pronounced words or smiled with encouragement. Imagine some students alone all day in a room on the internet and never socially interacting. Imagine the cost of a child breathing cotton fibers in the mask all day. The unleashed cruelty against our kids is a crime and will have lifelong consequences.    

In a trending microcosm across many jurisdictions, the CEO for OneAmerica, Scott Davison, a $100 billion insurance company located in Indianapolis since 1877, said during a news conference on December 30th, that the death rate is up a stunning 40% among working-age people 18-64; and that the data is consistent across every player in the industry and the highest ever seen in the history of the business. Davison shared just how bad it really is when he said a one-in-200-year catastrophe would be a 10% increase in deaths of this age group so 40% is just unheard of. Most of the claims for death being filed are not classified as COVID-19 deaths.    

During the same conference, Indiana’s chief medical officer said the number of hospitalizations in the state is now higher than before the COVID-19 vaccine was introduced a year ago – a weekly count ending Nov. 8th had 195 reported COVID related deaths where most of these were elderly compared to 1,350 people from other causes. The president of the Indiana Hospital Association added that hospitals across the state are being flooded with patients experiencing many different conditions and noted the average person’s health is now declining. The president confirmed the extraordinarily high death rate, and it was noted that the vast majority of ICU beds were occupied by people with other conditions than COVID-19.

What is responsible for the stunning 40% in deaths? Could it be one’s health condition in decline over the stress of the COVID mandates and lockdowns, or perhaps delayed medical care? Could there be effects from the vaccine? The Governor of Indiana and the various state level experts did not have a clear answer; however, they were clear that the high number of deaths and hospitalizations followed a year after the vaccine rollout.  

Dr. Robert Malone, an internationally recognized scientist/physician and original inventor of mRNA vaccination as a technology and the mRNA platform delivery technologies, including holding numerous patents in these fields with over 100 scientific publications and 12,000 citations, places him in the “outstanding” impact factor. The proven 30-year vaccinologist and inventor of the mRNA technology has recently become known for questioning the safety and bioethics of how the COVID-19 genetic vaccines were developed and forced upon the world.

Malone discovered many short-cuts, database issues, lies told in the developments of the Spike protein-based genetic vaccines; while advocating for drug repurposing and the rights of physicians, and finally the unethical mandates for administering experimental vaccines to adults and children by authoritarian governments being manipulated by large corporations (big pharma, big media, big tech) to such an extent that they no longer represent what is in the best interest of humanity. This once acclaimed doctor has been attacked, censored, and suspended permanently from Twitter for dissenting from reciting the government’s narrative.

Governments, the CDC, FDA, and leading healthcare officials will not willingly relinquish their grip on power and will continue to weaponization of the pandemic and prolong the totalitarian measures to silence scientific opposition and silence political dissention. How much longer will the unvaccinated be the scapegoat for the extended pandemic? Will the unvaccinated ever be allowed back into society to work without this vaccination? Will we ever accept ‘natural immunity’ that provides up to 27 times the immunity against the virus than the vaccine? Will we push injections into young children who are not at risk of death but may be at greater risk from the vaccine? For now, the answer from the top is clear. President Biden on January 4th maintained that COVID-19 to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated. 

One might hope that answers and culpability will take place once society looks back and realizes that the vaccines and mandates caused more damage across all spectrums of society, however it is unlikely anyone will be held accountable. One must consider whether the oppressive pandemic pendulum has swung too far never to swing back where our freedoms are peacefully reinstated. We must keep in mind that the mandates and lockdowns, Big Tech censorship, news media collaboration, and the fear-laden ‘Mass Formation Psychosis’ leading us down a path to a China-like Neo-Marxist society removes any notion that our civil liberties and democracy is preordained. We the people have a choice over collective self-annihilation.    

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There is room for all actors in education, as long as we have the same vision for change

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I started my education in a non-state pre-primary and primary school before enrolling in a state secondary school in Sierra Leone, continued through on scholarships to world class non-state universities in the United States and then to a multinational company as a research scientist in Kenya. I am now channelling all I learned during this mix of private and public education and life choices into the combined roles I have in the Sierra Leonean government on education and innovation.

As a Cabinet Minister, I have the responsibility for overseeing such a mix of state and non-state actors working with me on educating the children of our country. While some people seem to pretend that non-state actors do not or should not play a role in education today, the fact of the matter is that they do already and will continue to do so tomorrow. In Sierra Leone, for example, 60% of all schools are owned by religious missions, and 15% are owned by the private sector. The new 2021/2 Global Education Monitoring Report on non-state actors in education just released on this subject shows clearly that there is no part of education that non-state actors are not involved in. If non-state actors somehow disappeared tomorrow, the education of no fewer than 350 million children would fall to the responsibility of the state.

You can try, but it’s also extremely difficult these days to make clear distinctions between public and private. If most statistics on this matter tend to look at management and ownership, the new report shows how intertwined the two are in financing. Governments financially support non-state schools in 171 out of 204 countries: these include private schools in 115 countries, faith-based schools in 120 countries; and non-governmental organization and community schools in 81 countries. This makes the arguments that stake positions on clear dichotomies between either private-or-public increasingly irrelevant.

In this context, our role is to make sure that we design our governance and regulations in a way that ensures that all these actors pull in the same direction. This means strong oversight on the core values we committed to as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, notably equity and quality. Yet, the GEM Report’s PEER website shows that countries’ regulations are least likely to focus on quality or equity: 67% regulate fee setting, 55% prevent selective student admission procedures in non-state schools, 27% ban profit making and only 7% have quotas supporting access of disadvantaged groups.

Along with setting explicit rules and regulations that clearly outline our vision to all actors, I agree with the report when it says that collaboration is key to making sure that we deliver on this agenda. This means creating spaces and setting the conditions for a variety of actors to interact. There is much to be gained from putting all parties’ expertise to good use. One of the first things that we did when I left the private sector to come to this office, for instance, was to put together a new curriculum framework relevant to the 21st century. We built teacher training modules based on real needs. This report calls for all countries to pick up on such practices. Skills development systems that feed on contributions from governments, employers and the workers themselves are far more likely to keep pace with labour market needs.

Anyone in government knows that public education is not easily reformed. But with the fast and furious changes in the world, education systems need to keep up. More than that, they have a lot to gain if they do so. Partnerships with the private sector can help bring resources and expertise and encourage initiatives at a pace governments may be unlikely to achieve on their own. We recently issued tablets to administrators to help them track grades, enrolment, attendance and budgets. We have a fully digitized school census data going right back to 2015 that we now interrogate to track those left behind. All these enhance our ability to make impact at scale within the public sector.

But I also welcome the warning sounded in the new GEM Report for governments as they navigate these partnerships. What strategic interests are our partners putting first? Does their support align with government priorities, does it avoid duplication or distraction, and will it be flexible to our evolving needs? The questions the report asks are important for all of us to consider. ‘Who is choosing?’, we are asked. Sometimes it might not be clear. ‘Who is losing?’, it asks again. Why is it always the same groups?

It shouldn’t matter to an education minister where children are educated. Governments must show they care equally for all children’s education no matter the choices made and to apply the same quality standards, monitoring and accountability mechanisms across all providers. In Sierra Leone, the government pays exam fees for all children including those in private schools, for instance. We also provide training and assistance on emergency responses across all schools, and endeavour to increase our support on teacher training in private schools in the future.  We are all party to making sure that our education system works for all.  Whether you are in the private or public sector, I encourage you to read the 2021/2 GEM Report recommendations to be sure you are not left behind on the vision it has for change.

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