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    Research. Rethink. Resolve.

    October 2012

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    Unprecedented Number of Children from Central America Seek Protection in the U.S.

    In El Salvador, there is a wrong—it’s being young. You’re stalked by gangs. Authorities beat and follow kids because…they think they’re gang members. There are no jobs…because employers don’t trust the kids either....It is better to be old.”

    –Unaccompanied boy held in U.S. custody

    Yesterday the Women’s Refugee Commission released a report exploring the influx of unaccompanied children migrating to the United States from Central America. From October 2011 to April 2012, U.S. immigration agents apprehended almost twice as many children as in previous years. The Office of Refugee Resettlement had a record 10,005 unaccompanied children in its care by April.

    Violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is the primary cause for this dramatic surge, and until conditions in these countries change substantially, this trend will be the new norm. The U.S. government is responsible for protecting children who are apprehended alone or without caregivers but has struggled to deal with the influx. “The Women's Refugee Commission looks forward to seeing the government address these systemic problems through legislative and administrative reform,” said Michelle Brané, Director, Detention and Asylum Program.

    Read the full report or executive summary.

    Young and Out of Work in Cairo

    We should have access to all services. Egypt should not be like a jail.

    –Somali female, 26, who has lived in Cairo for 12 years

    As we all know, Cairo has been beset by civil and political strife lately. But the hardships many young refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Ethiopia and Eritrea living there face are given much less attention. WRC staff recently returned from a trip to the city to assess what education and work opportunities are available to young refugees. They held focus group discussions and in-depth individual interviews with female and male refugee youth and met with organizations providing services, donors and staff of the United Nations refugee agency.

    They found that high unemployment rates, political unrest, lack of security in the informal economy, overcrowded schools, disruptions in their schooling and language barriers are all hindering refugee youth from learning and earning. Yet, young people are also finding ways around this in order to survive. A report on the findings will be released later this month, which will inform a larger global guidance document we will publish later this year on strategies for expanding urban youth’s access to education and employment.

    Voices of Courage Honoree Speaks at UN on Her Experience of Being Detained

    Our 2012 Voices of Courage Award winner Rim Tekie Solomon spoke at the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child General Day of Discussion in Geneva last month. Rim joined five other immigrant children from around the world who shared their stories about what it’s really like to be detained—in prison-like conditions—and the impact on their lives. The Committee described it as the the most powerful child participation event at the UN that they had ever seen, and it motivated the governments and agencies in attendance to push for change. The country representatives stated in their final conclusion document: “We saw the children’s presentation, which had a moving impact. We should stop the detention of minors altogether. No child should be in immigration detention.” Read more about our advocacy for alternatives to detention both in the U.S. and internationally.

    Refugees with disabilities face Higher Levels of Gender-based Violence and Lack Access to Care

    Displaced persons with disabilities are particularly at risk for gender-based violence and have limited access to sexual and reproductive health care. We recently travelled to Nepal to better understand the needs and risks of the Bhutanese refugees with disabilities living in camps there, particularly women and girls.

    Bhutanese refugees have resided in Jhapa and Morang districts in Nepal since the early 1990s. According to the UN refugee agency, roughly 7.5% of this population has a disability—this does not include mental illness, which would raise this figure significantly. Nearly half of all rape survivors in the refugee camps are persons with mental and/or physical impairments.

    We are conducting research in Nepal and other countries to develop recommendations for the humanitarian community on meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs of this highly vulnerable population.

    Envisioning Safe Livelihoods

    Calling all photographers! We recently launched a contest to celebrate safe livelihoods. We are looking for photos of women from around the world who are working safely and securely in refugee or displacement settings. We want to reinforce the idea that the only appropriate “women’s work” is safe work. For more details and to submit a photo, click here.

    Celebrating the Legacy of a Women’s Refugee Commission Visionary

    At the start of the month, the Women’s Refugee Commission held an event for its Commissioners featuring Will Schwalbe, son of Mary Anne Schwalbe, late founding director of the WRC. Will read an excerpt from his new book, The End of Your Life Book Club, which chronicles his relationship with his mother during her battle with cancer and their shared love of reading. This uplifting book recounts Mary Anne’s remarkable life, including her unwavering commitment to the WRC and to protecting the rights of refugee women and girls around the world. We encourage you to read this moving story if you haven’t already!

    In the News

    The Los Angeles Times published a story "Unaccompanied Migrant Youth in U.S. Detention Centers Rises 50%" based on our report Forced From Home: The Lost Boys & Girls of Central America.

    Michelle Brané, Director, Detention and Asylum Program, and Jennifer Podkul, Program Officer, were quoted in a POLITICO article on the rise of unaccompanied children migrating to the United States.

    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio program “The Current” aired a piece on the widespread sexual violence against women and girls in Syria, which quotes Director of Reproductive Health, Sandra Krause.

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