Ankara/Berlin, 18 January 2022 -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a campaign to tackle negative perceptions of refugees at an increasingly critical time across Europe.
The #PowerToBe campaign follows four passionate Syrians living in Turkey – Hiba, a musician, Eslam, an illustrator, Ibrahim, a swimmer and Mohammed, a coffee lover – who are regaining control of their lives through the help of monthly cash assistance funded by the EU, ultimately giving them more power to be themselves.
The four protagonists each meet digitally with influential people from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal and Poland who share a common passion for music, art, water sports and coffee. The campaign shows how people from all walks of life can connect with one another at eye-level despite differences in language or backgrounds.
In the #PowerToBe campaign, fifteen-year-old drawer Eslam speaks to well-known German illustrator Steffen Kraft, Italian street artist and painter Alice Pasquini and Swedish street artist Johan Karlgren about her passion for illustration. “Drawing a lot helped me to show the world, even if only a little, what happened in Syria,” Eslam said.
Ibrahim, who became paralyzed during the conflict in Syria, connects with Polish professional high diver, Kris Kolanus about the freedom and boundlessness they both feel in the ocean. “Even though many things can hinder me, I am trying to do something. For next year, I’m preparing myself to swim the competition across the Bosporus.”
Mohammed, a father of two, talks to Turkish coffee bean suppliers Hasibe and Ümit about his passion and memories associated with coffee. “When we came to Turkey to an empty house, we had nothing at all. Some Turkish brothers helped us, gave us some furniture.” They tasted his coffee and told him it was “the best they’ve ever had”.
Hiba, who now attends a music school in Istanbul, connected with Portuguese singer-songwriter April Ivy, whom she wrote and sang a song with. “I like to give people hope because whatever struggles we go through, there are actually nice things happening as well,” Hiba says.
Turkey is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population with almost four million who are trying to rebuild their lives. About 3.7 million of those are Syrians who fled the conflict that has devastated their country.
Funded by the European Union, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is the biggest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The ESSN is implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and the IFRC in coordination with the Government of Turkey.
The cash assistance helps give refugees some relief from an exceptionally challenging year where many are facing deepening debt and poverty due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19. Cash assistance helps give people like Hiba, Eslam, Mohammed and Ibrahim freedom and dignity to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. At the same time, it provides the opportunity to invest back into communities that host them, supporting the local Turkish economy.
This year we have seen vulnerable refugee communities slip further into hardships, but we also see their hope and strength. Through this campaign, we wanted to highlight the contributions and resilience they have despite all the challenges. When given the right support, refugees’ potential is endless.
IFRC Secretary General
Hiba, Eslam, Ibrahim and Mohammed were forced to leave everything behind, but have held on to their dreams and continued to pursue them with passion. The ESSN programme offers a critical lifeline to them and 1.5 million other vulnerable refugees in Turkey, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We are proud to see the tangible difference it makes by giving them the opportunity to make choices for their lives.
EU Commissioner for Crisis Management
Click here to download more information about the #PowerToBe campaign, including short backgrounds on each of the people receiving ESSN assistance and the influencers taking part.
You can also visit the #PowerToBe website and learn more about the ESSN on our website here.
To arrange interviews, please contact:
In Berlin: Samantha Hendricks (Social Social), +49 1577 495 8901, [email protected]
In Turkey: Nisa Çetin (Turkish Red Crescent), +90 554 830 31 14, [email protected]
In Turkey: Corrie Butler (IFRC), +90 539 857 51 98, [email protected]
In Turkey: Lisa Hastert (ECHO), +90 533 412 56 63. [email protected]
Since the beginning of the pandemic, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe have been supporting their countries’ health authorities in the fight against COVID-19 through a wide range of services to help curb the spread of the virus and ensure nobody is left behind.
In Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, National Societies expanded mobile testing capacities thanks to a EUR 35.5 million partnership between the European Commission and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The European Commission financed this project as part of its Emergency Support Instrument to boost testing capacities and provide immediate support to Member States. The project’s success – it trained and equipped more testing teams as initially targeted – shows the value of a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic amongst European Red Cross National Societies.
From September 2020 to September 2021, this initiative has been a vital part of the COVID-19 response, making RT-PCR and rapid antigen testing available for more people. Local Red Cross teams performed more than 1.2 million tests within the scope of the project. Moreover, 6,800 Red Cross staff and volunteers were trained for testing and 1,428 mobile teams were set up and equipped to provide COVID-19 testing services.
The outreach role of National Red Cross Societies and their capacity to reach vulnerable groups has been particularly important in countries like Greece and Malta, where the Red Cross provided health and care services to migrants and refugees. Set up in camps and remote areas, these testing facilities aimed to help contain the spread of COVID-19 where access to health services was often limited.
“Testing is essential to help contain the pandemic. With all its initial targets surpassed, the project has proven that National Societies can play a key role in supporting national health systems in Europe and has opened new possibilities for further collaboration with health authorities,” said IFRC project coordinator Francisco Fong.
Local Red Cross teams also set up testing stations at transport hubs where a large number of people pass by every day. In Italy, staff and volunteers offered rapid antigen tests free of charge at 10 train stations across the country for travellers and commuters. In countries like Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, the Red Cross mobile testing teams have been invaluable in reaching out to marginalised communities in the countryside, where many people don’t have health insurance.
As coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge across Europe, collective efforts are more important than ever to disrupt transmission chains and save lives. The partnership between the European Commission and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been instrumental in providing support to health authorities and curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Budapest/Geneva, 7 June 2021 – The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will have far-reaching impacts for entire generations, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Several studies by Red Cross and Red Crescent societies across Europe show an alarming pattern, which requires increased efforts to tackle inequity and assist those most in need.
Antónia de Barros Mota, head of Mental Health/Psychosocial Support for IFRC Europe, said:
“The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are like invisible scars or hidden wounds. Young people and children are suffering stress, bereavement and loneliness, which can worsen as time passes. Their parents may have lost their jobs. Lockdowns and other restrictions continue to hamper their access to education, training and work.”
The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a critical point recently.
Four university students took their own lives in a campus in southern France in the last quarter of 2020. French Red Cross set up a 24/7 rapid intervention team[i] to support those at risk. During the first six months they dealt with 11 students including eight who required immediate hospitalisation.
“With end of school year exams approaching, staff and volunteers are on high alert,” explained Sara Salinas, coordinator of the French Red Cross emergency service in the county.
A Spanish Red Cross study[ii] among families with young children revealed the majority now live in extreme poverty. Nearly 40 per cent are unemployed and three quarters cannot afford expenses such as glasses or hearing aids for their children. Most parents reported feeling worried or stressed, impacting their ability to emotionally support their children.
Research by Austrian Red Cross[iii] found sleep and eating disturbances among children had doubled, and that after the second lockdown in 2020, 16 per cent of children interviewed in North Tyrol (Austria) and South Tyrol (Italy) were likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Refugees and migrant children are also significantly affected by the pandemic. A Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC study[iv] found a third were unable to access online school lessons. Another study with German Red Cross in Turkey showed that when forced to stay home children displayed more behavioural problems, and traumatic memories were triggered for some.
Europe has had more than 54.6 million COVID-19 cases and 1.1 million deaths to date[v] – a third of infections and fatalities worldwide. Declining trends are promising, but the pandemic’s effects could be long-lasting.
“Authorities and civil society organizations must scale up programmes and resources to help vulnerable youth and children – including basic livelihoods assistance and tailored mental health and psychosocial support. It is crucial to promote resilience at the individual level and within society as a whole,” de Barros Mota concluded.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, IFRC and Red Cross Red Crescent societies throughout Europe have provided mental health and psychosocial support to 1.8 million people.
[iii] Silvia Exenberger; Anna Wenter; Christina Taferner; Nina Haid-Stecher; Maximilian Schickl; Barbara Juen; Kathrin Sevecke; Heidi Siller. "The experience of threat through Covid-19 in children: Gender as moderating factor" has been received by European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The submission id is: ECAP-D-21-00298, May 2021
Budapest/Geneva, 19 November 2020 – As Europe continues to experience a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, the Red Cross will scale up COVID-19 testing with the announcement of a €35.5 million European Commission partnership.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has signed an agreement with the European Commission, financed by the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI), which will see COVID-19 testing carried out by National Red Cross Societies in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.
Across Europe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are scaling up their support to embattled national health systems. The European Commission’s funding will support staff training and allow access to equipment, lab items and reagents to take samples and perform PCR and rapid antigen tests in support of national health authorities’ work.
IFRC Europe Regional Director, Birgitte Ebbesen, said that hundreds of thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers in Europe and Central Asia are working tirelessly to curb the spread of the pandemic.
“We are truly grateful for this contribution, which allows an even stronger European Red Cross and Red Crescent engagement. Our volunteers are already working around the clock to keep their local communities safe and healthy.
“Besides COVID-19 testing, they are also assisting with transporting patients, volunteering in hospitals and health centres where medical personnel are sick or isolating and providing home care services and psychosocial support for vulnerable people. We are deeply grateful for their dedication and selfless work.”
Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety said: “Testing tells us what the extent of the spread is, where it is, and how it develops. It is a decisive tool to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
“Being efficient on testing also requires having the necessary resources, which is why we are stepping up our support to increase Member States’ testing capacity. Support and solidarity are key to overcome this pandemic,” she added.
Budapest/Geneva, 25 June 2019 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling on people to check on vulnerable neighbours, relatives and friends as Western Europe readies itself for possible record high temperatures.
According to European meteorological offices, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Hungary and Switzerland can expect temperatures in the mid to high-30s during the week, with temperatures potentially climbing to 40°C in Paris on Thursday (27 June).
IFRC’s Europe Region health coordinator Dr Davron Mukhamadiev said:
“The coming days will be challenging for a lot of people, but especially older people, young children, and people with underlying illnesses or limited mobility.
“Our message this week is simple: look after yourself, your family and your neighbours. A phone call or a knock on the door could save a life.”
Across Western Europe, Red Cross staff and volunteers are on high alert. In France, volunteers are patrolling the streets, providing water and hygiene kits and visiting isolated and older people in their homes.
“If necessary, the emergency operations centre at our headquarters can be opened to coordinate the response to this emergency,” said French Red Cross spokesperson Alain Rissetto.
In Spain, 50 staff in the Red Cross operations centre are currently calling vulnerable and older people to check they are safe and to give advice on how to cope with the heat. And in Belgium volunteers are distributing water and checking on older community members.
Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of heat extremes globally, underscoring the urgent need to manage heatwave risks effectively and to prevent avoidable strain being put on already stretched health care services. The risks are particularly high in cities, where the impacts can be most severe.
Heatwaves can have a catastrophic human toll. In 2003, for example, an estimated 70,000 people died during a record-breaking heatwave in Europe.
Next month, IFRC and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre will launch new guidelines designed to help cities better support their vulnerable residents during heatwaves.
Three European Red Cross societies have launched a joint initiative that focuses on the social integration of refugees and asylum-seekers.The two-year project “Action of Red Cross on Integration of Relocated and Resettled Persons” runs under the acronym ARCI and is implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the German, Bulgarian and Croatian Red Cross.
ARCI aims to provide personalized and accessible information for refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in these countries through EU relocation and resettlement programmes but brings benefits for the integration of larger groups of asylum-seekers and refugees in these countries. The project allows refugees and asylum-seekers to receive information in their native language from the moment they arrive in a host country. It also enables them to participate in skills and language training, and to receive some support in finding a job or a school for themselves or their family members.
To better understand the needs of the people arriving in a new country, a series of interviews have been conducted with refugees and asylum-seekers themselves and the National Societies are regularly coordinating their support with key authorities and organizations active in the field of integration. The programme also aims to foster acceptance in the host communities and sensitize local authorities through a series of trainings and sessions.
"Our experience has shown that integration is most successful when both host and refugee community are working together. Local Red Cross volunteers who engage in activities like drawing or yoga with refugees on a daily basis can build the initial bridge between the two groups. We couldn’t do all this without their dedication,”
Policy Officer at the German Red Cross
Both EU Relocation and Resettlement scheme have allowed the transfer of persons in need of international protection to access long-term solution of integration and protection in EU countries. As of June 2018, over 34,000 people have been relocated within the EU and more than 25,980 resettled since 2015. Although the EU Relocation scheme has officially ended, Germany, Croatia, and Bulgaria have received altogether 10,979 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy who have needed integration support from the moment they have arrived at their countries. Through the linkages of pre-departure and post-arrival needs assessment, the project is also looking at identifying good practices that can benefit further humanitarian admission programmes.
The ARCI project is funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
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