St. Jane Media continues its journalistic research series looking into the refugee crisis. This third report from the week of December 28 looks at the ongoing debate regarding refugee settlement and the rhetoric used by politicians opposing themselves to humanitarian efforts. In addition, we highlight ongoing efforts by humanitarian organizations, who are using art and the web to communicate refugee issues.
Our first section focuses on three different projects using film, virtual reality, and multimedia to document the crisis.
By Christian M. Patterson
Jack Leslie, former chairman of USA for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and current board member of the United States African Development Foundation and the Advisory Committee for Voluntary Foreign Aid, wrote a piece showcasing different methods of showcasing the struggles of refugees in different media.
Leslie writes on the three different projects which exhibit different perspectives on the refugee crisis:
"[Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci] have turned their energies to the plight of refugees and have just released "Salam Neighbor," a film sponsored by UNHCR and Save the Children. This dramatic film documents their time living among Syrian refugees in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp.
"The UN recently created a series of short virtual reality films that shed light on some of the world’s most imminent global challenges, including the Syrian refugee crisis. "Clouds Over Sidra" follows a 12-year-old girl named Sidra who, along with more than 80,000 other refugees, is living in the Za’atari camp in Jordan."
News organizations, too, are making use of data and visuals in new ways that help show versus tell. The New York Times made use of virtual reality technology for its multimedia documentary project, "The Displaced.”’ The project follows Syrian, Ukrainian, and South Sudanese children and documents their daily life.
Meanwhile, Jackie Nelson of Oxfam America’s communications department reports on the experience of refugees:
"Each story revealed different details: a wife’s miscarriage caused by a falling bomb; a boy’s burst eardrum; surviving in an unfamiliar country after fleeing threats of beheading in another. But they also followed the same eerie narrative. First, parents raced their children out of harm’s way as war arrived on their doorstep. Second, parents faced a series of nightmarish dilemmas that required them to make impossible choices between meeting their family’s basic needs, obeying the law, and upholding their dignity. Finally, as each choice and each step carried families farther from danger, their stories concluded with a growing sense of hope."
Nelson writes, "In Za’atari, we discovered that one of our son’s eardrums had burst, and he had been severely psychologically traumatized by the sounds of the mortars, shooting, and bombs."
This is the same refugee camp from Save the Children’s photo Journalism project "My Own Account," which is on Instagram at @InsideZaatari and on Tumblr at insidezaatari.tumblr.com. It is also the refugee camp from the previously mentioned ‘Salam Neighbor’ film.
Medical Teams International (MTI) CEO and president Jeff Pinneo spent a week in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon and the Greek islands Chios and Samos. The Redmond Reporter writes, "MTI predominantly raises money for medicine and health products with long-established partners to distribute to refugees." MTI focuses much of their attention on neglected refugees currently still in Syria.
The article focuses on a 23-year-old Syrian woman in her fourth year of studying computer engineering. The Redmond Reporter continues, "the neighbors two houses down had been kidnapped and a school was bombed: They had to pack what they could carry and get out post haste." Her family was relocated to a settlement near a potato field, where they work, and her brother moved to Sweden, to save up money and relocate them.
The article concludes, "Pinneo said the 23-year-old stoically told him that she hasn’t lost hope, and 'she offered that in a way of encouragement to other 20-somethings around the world.'"
Refguees in Europe
Politico reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel has continued supporting refugees in Germany. Merkel’s support of refugees contradicts the will of some more Conservative members of her party: right-leaning Christian Democratic Union. The CDU’s sister party, Bavaria-based Christian Social Union, has pushed for more strict policies against refugees. Politico writes that Merkel ‘laid to rest any questions about her authority over her conservative base,’ for standing firm in her position.
Merkel’s declaration happened right before, as Newsweek reports, German police reported "more than 1,600 crimes have been committed against refugees in the country." This is nearly double the amount of crimes against refugees from 2014. Newsweek writes, "out of the total number of offenses, 850 crimes were committed by people with far-right political beliefs."
Meanwhile, in Greece, due to the bottleneck between Greece and the rest of the Balkans, the International Rescue Committee is opening a reception center in Northern Lesbos. Rescue.org writes that there has been resistance in what is known as the "refugee corridor" —Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia — to let refugees through. Because of the resistance in letting immigrants make it to Western Europe, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to build up resources for refugees in Greece.
Refugees in the United States
In a report on a recent campaign ad by Rand Paul, CNN says that Paul "is out with a new presidential campaign ad that takes aim at the national security credentials of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio."
The video mentions two Iraqi refugees who relocated to Kentucky and pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism. Paul suggests that Cruz and Rubio have "refused to learn from mistakes" and are too soft on national security. This video positions Rand Paul more right than Cruz and Rubio, although Paul misrepresents Cruz and Rubio’s position on refugees, considering "both Cruz and Rubio have called for halting any program accepting refugees from Syria in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks."
A couple days after this commercial was released, Cruz made similar attacks against Rubio’s stance on refugees at a CNN debate. NPR reports, "In particular, Cruz slammed Rubio for his participation in crafting a compromise immigration bill in 2013."
Cruz’s full statement was, "One of the most troubling aspects of the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight bill was that it gave President Obama blanket authority to admit refugees, including Syrian refugees without mandating any background checks whatsoever." NPR then asked experts to look into the validity of Cruz’s claim. The Gang of Eight Bill’s Section 3403 allows the president to "designate entire groups of people who could be eligible to come to the U.S. as refugees." However, the groups of people must be those "whose resettlement in the United States is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest." This altered current laws which looked at refugees on an individual basis, rather than as a collective group.
In that same NPR piece, Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the immigration policy program at the Migration Policy Institute says, "It is not accurate to describe [this section] as giving the president 'blanket authority,' as the section spells out specific criteria that people must meet to be designated as refugees under the section."
This means that Cruz’s claims about Rubio are misleading, because refugees are still held to the same background checks, they are just now allowed admission into the U.S. by the nature of the groups they may belong to.