Charts that Bust some Myths about Migration

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The World Economic Forum in 5 Charts that Bust some Myths about Migration gives a clear idea as to how the current population flows are shaping, thus directly affecting all countries. Will this phenomenon be felt differently in the MENA region? For starters, a good number of this region’s populations are within the highest contributors to the in or outflows of migrants. In any case, reading the WEF article before any discussion is seriously recommended.


  • There is widespread misinformation about international migrants and migration, especially in Europe and North America.
  • The United States, Germany and Saudi Arabia are the top destinations for international migrants.
  • Most international migrants in Asia and Africa move within the region in which they were born.
  • Cross-border displacement is pronounced and complex in Africa.

5 charts that bust some myths about migration

There’s a lot of misinformation about international migration. The World Migration Report gives a clearer picture.

Few issues have been as dominant and enduring in political and public discourse as migration. Around the world, but especially in Europe and North America, international migration has come into sharp focus in recent years, becoming one of the most prominent political wedge issues.

Media reports on migration are often unduly negative, and key issues in migration have too often been hijacked by those who peddle misinformation and disinformation on migrants and migration.

At a time when “fake news” is increasing and more countries are adopting nationalist frameworks, the data and information in the recently released World Migration Report 2020 provides a more accurate picture of international migration and displacement.

Here are five charts dispelling migration misinformation.

1. Where do international migrants come from and where do they live?

Historically, the United States has been the major destination country for international migrants. This trend continued in 2019, with an estimated 51 million international migrants living in the country, the largest population of them in the world. Despite the highly politicized negative rhetoric on migrants, the US has been the most significant destination country for decades, with many migrants positively and disproportionately contributing to aspects of American life.

Germany and Saudi Arabia, both with around 13 million international migrants in 2019, were the second- and third-largest destinations for international migrants, with displacement from Syria driving much of the recent increase in Germany’s international migrant population.

India, Mexico and China topped the list of countries with the largest number of migrants living abroad in 2019. More than 40% of international migrants worldwide were born in Asia, with India alone the origin of 17.5 million.

The top destinations and origins of international migrants in 2019, in millions Image: World Migration Report 2020

2. Migration patterns are not uniform and vary across regions.

As migration has gained prominence in recent years, it has become increasingly clear there is either a lack of understanding or, at times, deliberate misrepresentation of some migration trends. A common assumption, for example, is that most African international migrants leave the continent. The data shows otherwise. Most international migrants in regions such as Africa and Asia are not headed to Europe or Northern America, but move within the region in which they were born.

Migrants to, within and from Africa, 1990-2019 Image: World Migration Report 2020

3. What do the main migration corridors show?

The largest migration corridor in the world (Mexico to the United States) did not emerge recently. Contrary to popular media and political representations, Mexican emigration to the United States has occurred over many decades.

But the second-largest corridor in the world, Syria to Turkey, has developed only recently. The conflict in Syria has resulted in mass displacement, forcing millions of Syrians to leave their country. An estimated 3.7 million Syrians were residing in Turkey in 2019.

Meanwhile, other large corridors, such as the one between India and Pakistan, are partly due to historical events such as the mass displacement during the 1947 partition.

Top 20 migration corridors from Asian countries, 2019 Image: World Migration Report 2020

4. Which countries host the largest number of refugees?

Developing countries continue to host the majority of refugees globally. Of an estimated 25.9 million refugees globally in 2018, developing regions hosted the vast number (84%). Turkey and Germany were the only two countries out of the top five refugee hosts that were not developing countries, with the former hosting the largest number of refugees in the world (3.7 million), many of whom are Syrians. Turkey was followed by Pakistan, which was home to around 1.4 million refugees (mostly Afghans), while Uganda hosted the third-largest number (1.1 million).

Number of refugees by top five origin countries, 2018 (millions) Image: World Migration Report 2020

Syria is by far the largest origin country of refugees in the world (6.7 million). But in 2010, Syria was the third-largest host country of refugees in the world, hosting more than 1 million refugees, mainly from Iraq.

5. Cross-border displacement is complex in regions such as Africa.

While cross-border displacement remains significant in many parts of the world, it is especially pronounced in Africa. The intractable conflict in South Sudan, which has dragged on for years, produced the largest number of refugees on the continent in 2018, with most hosted in neighboring Uganda.

What is especially striking, however, is that several countries producing large numbers of refugees, such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, also hosted significant refugee populations. This underscores the complexity of displacement in regions such as Africa. To a lesser extent, these dynamics can also be seen in Asia, particularly in Iraq.

Top 10 African countries by total refugees and asylum seekers, 2018 Image: World Migration Report 2020

What is clear from these five charts is that international migration is not only complex and influenced by both historical and contemporary factors, but that migration patterns are also different across regions and countries. Understanding these dynamics is important for anyone interested in getting a clearer and less myopic picture of international migration. Importantly, a broader and more complete understanding is key to dispelling migration myths, especially in our current age when airwaves are saturated with untruths masqueraded as facts.

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Chicagoans with MENA roots feel erased by census

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White? Asian? African? Chicagoans with Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) roots feel erased by census. Local groups say it’s essential for people to participate even if they don’t see a racial/ethnic category on the form that fits them. But why Chicagoans with MENA roots feel erased by census, one wonders.

Alexis Kwan and City Bureau@city_bureau reply.

Arab American Family Services cofounders Nareman Taha and Itedal Shalabi in their office in suburban Worth.
MAX HERMAN

On a hot Saturday in August, the parking lot of the Middle Eastern Immigrant and Refugee Alliance in West Ridge is filled with the sound of festivities. Kids jump in a bouncy house, Arabic pop music blares on the speakers, and a group of aunties chat as they watch over their charges. The organization, formerly known as the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society, hosts this yearly event as a way to connect the families they serve with the rest of the immigrant community.

Children gather round a foldable plastic table with a tawula set, playing a Turkish version of backgammon popular throughout the Middle East. Among them is Asal Alshammari, 11, who lives in West Ridge with her grandparents and sister. She immigrated to America with the rest of her Iraqi family after living in Dubai for nine years. Since moving to Chicago, Alshammari has been puzzled by the way Americans categorize race. “I identify myself as Middle Eastern, but [on school forms] it says I’m white, and that’s kind of confusing,” she says.

Sometimes she’ll even whip out her smartphone to show other kids at school exactly where Iraq is located: western Asia. “If someone says, ‘Oh, you’re white,’ I tell them ‘No, I’m Asian.’ But they’re always like, ‘What? You don’t seem Asian,’ because I have blue eyes from my grandpa,” she says. Alshammari wishes there were a box that was a better fit for people from countries like Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and she’s not alone.

As the 2020 U.S. Census approaches, local groups are working to ensure there’s an accurate count of their communities. But the census has never included any racial or ethnic category for Middle Eastern or North African communities. That, along with the current climate of fear surrounding immigration status, is a big challenge for folks hoping a full census count can help the community build political representation and gain access to crucial social services.

More than 20 years ago, when the federal government made major changes to the way race and ethnicity are reported on official forms, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget recommended additional testing on a category that would be called Middle Eastern North African, or MENA. Without a MENA option on the form, people from this region usually chose the white category, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 Race and Ethnicity Analysis.

Ekram Hanna of the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society
MAX HERMAN

In a 2015 community forum held by census officials to discuss the MENA category, participants indicated that “MENA responses should not be classified as White. They thought classifying this group as White makes them invisible in the data, even though they face discrimination in many aspects of society.”

With the support of advocacy groups like the Arab American Institute, the census bureau began testing a potential MENA category addition in 2015, and in 2017 released preliminary results that stated, “The use of a distinct Middle Eastern or North African category appears to elicit higher quality data for people who would identify with MENA.”

Despite all this, the bureau announced in 2018 that a MENA category would not be included in the 2020 census, claiming that “more research and testing is needed” since some in the MENA community felt that the designation should be treated as an ethnicity rather than a race.

“Some of us identify as white, some as Brown, some as Black,” says Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute. “We don’t necessarily need a category that reduces us to one race, but we do need visibility, inclusion, and to be seen as a group of Americans with needs and not just the focus of counterterrorism programs or political bigotry.”

With the decision made, local groups serving MENA residents in the Chicago region are now focused on ensuring that their community participates, period.

An accurate count is essential, they say, since census numbers determine the allocation of funding for services like cultural diversity training for institutions that interact with the community. Though federal funding formulas are complex, a George Washington University study in 2018 estimated that for every Illinois resident not counted, the state would lose $840 in Medicaid funding.

Fouzia Othman works with a client at the Arab American Family Services office. Case managers help community members with translating mail, applying for WIC and SNAP benefits, immigration paperwork, and other needs.
MAX HERMAN

In Cook County, where an estimated 100,000 residents are of Middle Eastern, North African, or Southwest Asian descent according to a Los Angeles Times analysis, outreach efforts are beginning. It won’t be easy, says Imelda Salazar, an organizer for the Southwest Organizing Project, noting that many MENA residents are descended from immigrants or are immigrants themselves. Salazar says outreach to immigrants in general is difficult given the Trump administration’s policies, including increased restrictions on who can seek asylum and the executive order restricting entry of foreign nationals from some Muslim-majority countries.

“We give a lot of know-your-rights trainings and we tell people, Do not open the door [for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents],” she says, which makes it hard to allay their anxiety about opening the door for census workers. To try to dissipate these fears, SWOP precedes many of its workshops with a conversation about current deportation and detention issues and then talks about the legally mandated confidentiality of U.S. Census data. Salazar emphasizes that “fear won’t take us anywhere” and that if “we really want to build power, we need to be counted.”

Distrust of the federal government is particularly salient in the sizable Arab American community of Bridgeview, a southwest suburb. In the 2018 documentary The Feeling of Being Watched, Bridgeview native Assia Boundaoui uncovered evidence that Muslim residents were under FBI surveillance as far back as 1985 as part of a counterintelligence effort known as Operation Vulgar Betrayal.

With Trump administration policies like the public charge rule and the Muslim ban, some people have become wary even of receiving public benefits, according to Nareman Taha, cofounder of Arab American Family Services, a nonprofit social service agency in the southwest suburbs. They’re afraid the government is collecting their personal information through the institutions that dole out benefits.

“Clients would come and say, ‘Close my file. I don’t want anything from the government. I don’t want food stamps. I don’t want medical cards,'” she says. “And these are people who are working poor, they’re eligible. . . . Imagine that detriment and the impact that had on families.”

Samir Alomar at the Festival on Devon in September. Alomar, who performs classical Arabic music and is originally from Syria, came to Chicago’s West Ridge community two years ago after spending four years in a refugee camp in Turkey with his family.
MAX HERMAN

To counteract that fear, groups like AAFS are relying on the relationships and trust built over years working within communities.

AAFS founded the Arab American Complete Count Committee, which meets at their office, and they are local members of the national Yalla Count Me In campaign—both are aimed at increasing census participation. AAFS is asking people to mark the “other” box on the form and write in “Arab” or their country of origin, in the hopes that when the Census Bureau reevaluates the MENA category there will be evidence to support its inclusion. Other groups, like the Arab American Action Network, say they have not yet decided what to recommend; they’re planning more conversations with community and national partners before making a decision.

Though race and ethnicity data in the census are rarely tied directly to federal funding, local organizations say that if the data were available, it could help them raise money from other sources and draw publicity for their work.

When Hatem Abudayyeh of the Arab American Action Network raises funds for the group’s work to protect youth against discrimination in schools, he says government representatives and donors will ask questions like, “What are the academic levels? How do they do in school? What are their literacy rates?”

“We were in a coalition with Black and Latino organizations, and they all had these stats about how Black and Latino kids were being suspended and expelled from school at much higher rates than whites for the same alleged activities,” he explains. “And we didn’t have any numbers for the Arab kids, even though anecdotally we knew that those things were happening to Arabs as well.”

Taha, at AAFS, says most of their funds come from state government, corporations, foundations, and private donors. The group has been encouraging local universities and other nonprofits to collect data using the MENA category to help them make the case for the services they provide, like domestic violence prevention and immigration legal consultation. One funder, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, did just that, adding a MENA category to collect better health data statewide.

Some organizations rely on their own surveys or draw noncensus data from sources like Chicago Public Schools. CPS conducts an annual survey asking what languages are spoken in students’ homes, and Arabic was the third-most common non-English language in 2019, preceded only by Spanish and Cantonese, according to data City Bureau received through a public records request.

Laura Youngberg says the census category gets at “the bigger issue of, how does a community define itself and how the families define themselves.”
MAX HERMAN

Laura Youngberg, the executive director of the Middle Eastern Immigrant and Refugee Alliance, says her group was able to use CPS data to advocate for federal and state grants that support its youth and family services. “It’s a battle of like going back to the state and saying, your data is wrong,” she says. “This is the correct data [from the school district]. This is why we deserve to have funding.”

The census category gets at “the bigger issue of, how does a community define itself and how the families define themselves,” Youngberg says. Better data around MENA communities could improve language access for Arabic-speaking people, increase visibility and political representation, and contribute to a larger sense of belonging.

Beyond the census, Taha wants to push for the MENA category at the state level, asking newly elected governor J.B. Pritzker, “How would you recognize the Arab American community? I mean, you came to us when you needed our votes.” Now, more than ever, her community needs to be counted.   

Sarah Conway contributed reporting.

This report was produced by City Bureau, a civic journalism lab based in Woodlawn. Learn more and get involved at citybureau.org.

More from Chicago Reader: NewscensusimmigrationMiddle Eastern and North AfricanMENAwhiteIraqSyriaLibya

NB: The top picture is of The Arab Weekly that touched on the subject of How significant is rejection of MENA category from the 2020 US census? back in March 2018. MENA-Forum published many articles on how immigrant populations are treated in their host countries.

Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

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Paul Salopek is tracing humankind’s footsteps out of Africa, giving voice on the way to migrants who are part of history’s largest diaspora.

A storyteller chronicles the mass migrations that define our age

By Paul Salopek, Photographs by John Stanmeyer


This story appears in the August 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.


ETHIOPIA 2013, FOLLOWING OUR FOREBEARS Paul Salopek (at left) and his guide Ahmed Elema begin day two of the author’s global odyssey at the village of Herto Bouri, where the . . . Read More Magazine Out of Eden Walk

For nearly seven years I have been walking with migrants.

In the winter of 2013 I set out from an ancient Homo sapiens fossil site called Herto Bouri, in the north of Ethiopia, and began retracing, on foot, the defining journey of humankind: our first colonization of the Earth during the Stone Age.

My long walk is about storytelling. I report what I see at boot level along the pathways of our original discovery of the planet. From the start, I knew my route would be vague. Anthropologists suggest that our species first stepped out of Africa 600 centuries ago and eventually wandered, more or less aimlessly, to the tip of South America—the last unknown edge of the continents and my own journey’s finish line. We were roving hunters and foragers. We lacked writing, the wheel, domesticated animals, and agriculture. Advancing along empty beaches, we sampled shellfish. We took our bearings off the rippling arrows of migrating cranes. Destinations had yet to be invented. I have trailed these forgotten adventurers for more than 10,000 miles so far. Today I am traversing India.

Our modern lives, housebound as they are, have changed almost beyond recognition since that golden age of footloose exploration.

Or have they?

The United Nations estimates that more than a billion people—one in seven humans alive today—are voting with their feet, migrating within their countries or across international borders. Millions are fleeing violence: war, persecution, criminality, political chaos. Many more, suffocated by poverty, are seeking economic relief beyond their horizons. The roots of this colossal new exodus include a globalized market system that tears apart social safety nets, a pollutant-warped climate, and human yearnings supercharged by instant media. In sheer numbers, this is the largest diaspora in the long history of our species.

I pace off the world at 15 miles a day. I mingle often among the uprooted.

In Djibouti I have sipped chai with migrants in bleak truck stops. I have slept alongside them in dusty UN refugee tents in Jordan. I have accepted their stories of pain. I have repaid their laughter. I am not one of them, of course: I am a privileged walker. I carry inside my rucksack an ATM card and a passport. But I have shared the misery of dysentery with them and have been detained many times by their nemesis—police. (Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, and Turkmenistan have denied me visas; Pakistan ejected me, then allowed me back in.)

What can be said about these exiled brothers and sisters? About the immense shadowlands they inhabit, paradoxically, in plain sight?

Hunger, ambition, fear, political defiance—the reasons for movement are not truly the question. More important is knowing how the journey itself shapes a different class of human being: people whose ideas of “home” now incorporate an open road—a vast and risky tangent of possibility that begins somewhere far away and ends at your doorsill. How you accept this tiding, with open arms or crouched behind high walls, isn’t at issue either. Because however you react, with compassion or fear, humankind’s reawakened mobility has changed you already.

The first migrants I encountered were dead. They lay under small piles of stones in the Great Rift Valley of Africa.

Who were these unfortunates?

It was difficult to know. The world’s poorest people travel from many distant lands to perish in the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia, one of the hottest deserts on Earth. They walk into these terrible barrens in order to reach the Gulf of Aden. There the sea is the doorway to a new (though not always better) life beyond Africa: slave-wage jobs in the cities and date plantations of the Arabian Peninsula. Some of the migrants’ graves doubtless contained Somalis: war refugees. Others likely held deserters from Eritrea. Or drought-weakened Oromos from Ethiopia. All had hoped to sneak across the unmarked borders of Djibouti. They became lost. They collapsed under a molten sun. Sometimes they dropped from thirst within sight of the sea. The columns of exhausted travelers walking behind hastily buried the bodies.

How long have we been depositing our bones like this on the desolate trails of the African Horn? For a long time. From the very beginning. After all, this is the same corridor used by the first modern humans to exit Africa during the Pleistocene.

One day I stumbled across a group of scarecrows hiding in the scant shade of some boulders—15 lean Ethiopian men who seemed to pretend that if they didn’t move a muscle, they would be invisible. Some were manual laborers. Most were farmers from the Ethiopian highlands. The annual rains, the farmers said, had become impossibly erratic. Sticking it out on their sun-cracked fields meant slow starvation. Better to chance the ocean of white light that is the Afar Triangle, even if you never returned. They were pioneers of sorts, new climate change refugees.

A recent World Bank study calculates that by 2050 more than 140 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America could be tumbled into motion by the catastrophic effects of climate change. Ten million climate refugees could swell the trails of East Africa alone. In Ethiopia the tide may reach 1.5 million people—more than 15 times the emigrants now straggling annually through the Afar Triangle to reach the Middle East.

Inching north up the Rift, I was forced to consider the urge to leave a familiar world that was falling apart, a home where the sky itself was against you. All around me snaked the invisible battle lines of an intensifying range war between the Afar and Issa pastoralists—two competing herder groups whose shallow wells were drying up, whose pastures were thinning from a relentless cycle of droughts. They shot at each other over the ownership of a papery blade of grass, over a cup of sandy water. In other words, over survival. Here was the source of our oldest travel story. Drastic climate change and murderous famines, experts say, likely helped drive the first pulses of humans out of Africa.

How strong is the push to leave? To abandon what you love? To walk into the unknown with all your possessions stuffed into a pocket? It is more powerful than fear of death.

In the Afar Triangle I stumbled across seven unburied bodies. They were women and men clustered together. They lay faceup, mummified atop a dark lava field. The heat was devastating. The little wild dogs of the desert, the jackals, had taken these travelers’ hands and feet. My walking partner, Houssain Mohamed Houssain, shook his head in wonder, in disgust. He was an ethnic Afar, a descendant of camel herders, the old kings of the desert. His people called the recent waves of transients hahai—“people of the wind”—ghosts who blew across the land. He snapped a picture.

“You show them this,” Houssain said angrily, “and they say, ‘Oh, that won’t happen to me!’ ”

One of the unlucky migrants had squeezed under a ledge. Doubtless he was crazed for shade. He had placed his shoes next to his naked body, just so, with one sock rolled carefully inside each shoe. He knew: His walking days were over.

Walking the continents teaches you to look down. You appreciate the importance of feet. You take an interest in footwear. This is natural.

Human character, of course, is mirrored in the face. The eyes reveal sincerity, lying, curiosity, love, hate. But one’s choice of shoes (or even lack of it) speaks to personal geography: wealth or poverty, age, type of work, education, gender, urban versus rural. Among the world’s legions of migrants, a certain pedal taxonomy holds. Economic migrants—the destitute millions with time to plan ahead—seem to favor the shoe of the 21st century’s poor: the cheap, unisex, multipurpose Chinese sneaker. War refugees escaping violence, by contrast, must trudge their wretched roads in rubber flip-flops, dress loafers, dusty sandals, high-heeled pumps, booties improvised from rags, etc. They flee burning cities, abandon villages and farms. They pull on whatever shoes lie within reach at a moment’s notice. I first began to see such eclectic piles of footwear appearing outside refugee tents in the highlands of Jordan.

“I wake up to these mountains,” cried Zaeleh al Khaled al Hamdu, a Syrian grandmother shod in beaded house slippers. Tiny blue flowers were tattooed on her wrinkled chin and cheeks. She waved a bony hand at the alien peaks around her. “It feels like these mountains, I am carrying them on my back.”

Heaviness. Weight. The crush of despair. The mountainous burden of helplessness.

This is the badge of the war refugee. Or so our televisions, newspapers, and mobile phones would inform us. The stock media photo of the war-displaced: columns of traumatized souls marching with heavy steps, with slumped shoulders, along a burning road. Or families jammed into leaky boats on the Mediterranean, their gazes sagging with anguish, sunk in vulnerability. But these snapshots of refugee life—seen through the lens of the rich world—are limited, misleading, even self-serving.

For weeks I walked from tent to dusty tent in Jordan. At least half a million Syrians languished there—just one aching shard of some 12 million civilians scattered by the bloodiest civil war in the Middle East. War steals your past and future. The Syrians could not go back to the contested rubble of their homes—to Idlib, Hamah, or Damascus. Nobody else wanted them. They were stuck. All they owned was their miserable present.

Many toiled illegally on farms.

They eked out another breath of life by picking tomatoes for $11 a day. When I plodded past, they waved me over. They jauntily fed me their employers’ crops. (Residents of a poor nation, Jordanians spared little affection for their even poorer Syrian guests.) They poured gallons of tea with wild thyme down my throat. They shook out their filthy blankets and bade me sit and rest.

“Here, we only dream of chicken,” one man joked. He’d eaten grass to survive in Syria. In one tent a young woman stepped behind a hanging bedsheet and reemerged in her finest dress—pink with silver stripes. She was dazzlingly pregnant, and her beauty passed in a clean hush through my chest, into the moldering tent, before blowing unstoppably out into the desert.

What I’m trying to say is this: Whatever else refugees may be, they aren’t powerless.

They aren’t the infantilized victims usually featured in the political left’s suffering porn. They resemble even less the cartoon invaders feared by right-wing populists and bigots—the barbarian hordes coming to take jobs, housing, social services, racial identity, religion, sex partners, and everything else vital and good in wealthy host countries. (Since Neolithic times, the earliest populations of Europe have been overrun and utterly transformed by waves of immigrants from Central Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. Without such interbreeding, modern “Europeans” wouldn’t exist.)

No. The refugees I have walked among are bearded pharmacists and girl goatherds. Shopkeepers and intellectuals. That is, supremely ordinary beings grappling with meager options. Remembering their dead, they cup their hands to their faces and weep. But often they are incredibly strong. And generous.

“Please come, mister,” a Syrian teacher whispered in Turkey, guiding me from a refugee camp classroom out into the open air. Her students had been drawing decapitations and hangings as part of their art therapy. She noticed I had fallen silent. She was worried about my emotions.

A thousand walked miles to the east, in the Caucasus, a family of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria hollered, “Don’t come in please!”—making me wait outside their dilapidated home while they hastily set a table they couldn’t afford. They recently moved into a house that once belonged to ethnic Azerbaijanis, a local population ejected during the decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I found the Azerbaijanis 120 miles later. They refused my money in a refugee camp café.

“We have been waiting for peace so long,” Nemat Huseynov, the café owner, said. He had owned many sheep when the conflict began in 1988. It goes on, despite a cease-fire in 1994.

Huseynov stared at his big, work-swollen shepherd’s hands splayed palm down on the worn tablecloth.

Home.

You cannot always choose your shoes on a long walk.

The world’s refugees and migrants don’t demand our pity. They just ask for our attention. Me they pitied because I walked on.

But before you do, refer to the original document for more with lots of pictures and related texts.

The West Mediterranean, a basin for the mixing of cultures

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The West Mediterranean, a basin for the mixing of cultures and fruitful dialogue between different civilisations.

Following a Meeting of the 5+5 in Marseille 23 and 24 June 2019, this contribution was my intervention as member of Algeria’s delegation headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs before the various foreign representations and the President of the French Republic as part of The 5+5 Dialogue.  A sub-regional forum for the ten Western Mediterranean countries that take part since its creation, five from the north of the Mediterranean (Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Portugal) and five from the southern shore (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia), all working in the hope for concrete results for the benefit of both sides of the Mediterranean western basin.

The Algerian delegation delighted with Marseille, the seat of different cultures and venue for this final meeting where in a few months, we have carried out an important work showing the vitality of civil society in the western Mediterranean. It was not that obvious at the outset.  From April to June 2019, civil society in the western Mediterranean on both sides worked together to bring concrete solutions to the region “through the implementation of concrete projects for human, economic and sustainable development. We hope that all of these reflections and proposals for initiatives will be shared today with leaders at this summit in Marseille to determine which ones will be implemented as a priority, the means and mechanisms to be implemented to forge strong links in all areas around the Mediterranean in order to boost cooperation, based on the conviction that civil society must be fully involved in the definition of a new “positive” agenda. I recall that recently with renowned experts from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya and 15 European personalities during 2015 and 2016, we produced under my direction and that of my friend Camille Sari two books (1050 pages), one on political institutions, the other economic in all its diversity entitled “The Maghreb in the face of geostrategic issues published by Harmattan Editions, following on from my contributions on this subject at the level of The French Institute of International Relations between 2011 and 2013 on Europe-Maghreb relations.

The ideas are not new but unfortunately have not been realized. I recall that during a meeting almost similar at the UNESCO in 1993 at the initiative of Pierre Moussa with Mr. Thom Bekki then Vice-President of South Africa on the theme – Africa-Maghreb as part of the strategy Euro-Mediterranean, I had advocated in my speech the creation of both a Euro-Mediterranean university as a place of fertilization of cultures, against intolerance, and a Euro-Mediterranean bank and stock exchange with financial instruments adapted to the situation for the realization of concrete projects by promoting decentralized networks of economic, social and cultural actors, involving international financial institutions and traditional banks.  I reiterate these proposals for this summit of 5+5 in addition to the creation of an economic and social council at the level of the Western Mediterranean (5+5) whose vocation is to bring together the different segments of civil society, experience if successful could be extended to a global civil society bringing together the different regions of our planet in order to combat insecurity, migration and thus promote a balanced and global solidarity space.

It is in this context that I would like to welcome the initiative of His Excellency the President of the French Republic, Mr Emmanuel Macron, to whom Algeria has given its support from the outset. This initiative, it seems to me, is part of the new transformation of the world, ecological challenges, the breakthrough of digital and artificial intelligence to witness between 2025/2030/2040 a fourth global economic revolution based on knowledge, which will influence all international relations, recalling the conclusions of COP 21 and COP 22, which calls on all humanity for a solidarity future. The 21st century will have three strategic actors forging dialectical links: states that must adapt to globalization (the centralized bureaucratic Hegelian state is outdated, the North African states have unfortunately copied the French Jacobin system, a blocking factor for reforms as shown by my friend Jacques Attali, the international institutions that need to be renovated with the massive entry of emerging countries including China, and civil society which will play an increasingly important role more predominant, non-antinomic with the other two players but complementary. The common hope is that this important meeting will be able to turn the Mediterranean basin into a lake of peace, tolerance and shared prosperity based on a win/win partnership far from any spirit of domination, through tolerance and dialogue cultures of which I am deeply attached.

Algeria is a strategic player in the Mediterranean and Africa since it played an essential role in the various meetings in preparation for the 5+5 meeting where it proposed concrete projects with a regional impact, favouring economic interests and the stability of the region, taking into account the transformation of the world. Algeria, endowed with the issue of Energy Transition, proposed projects from civil society, where the work of the Forum in Algiers organized in the form of four thematic sessions, namely: Renewable Energy and Energy efficiency; Electrical interconnections, Natural Gas as the engine of an energy transition and the digital transformation of the energy sector.  It is that energy will be at the heart of the sovereignty of states and their security policies and their economic dynamics alter the balance of power on a global scale and affect political recompositions within countries as regional spaces. The energy transition refers to other subjects than technical, posing the societal problem. It can be viewed as the passage of human civilization built primarily fossil, polluting, abundant, and inexpensive energy, to a civilization where energy is renewable, scarce, expensive, and less polluting with the objective of eventually replacing energies stocks (oil, coal, gas, uranium) with flows of energies (wind, solar). This raises the problem of a new model of growth and consumption: all economic sectors and households are concerned. The important potentials of all forms of energy in the Mediterranean, that of wind or sun, or of fossil fuels present in its subsoil, can make this area contacts between millennia-old civilizations, which have always been subject to political tensions, a new energy region of the world, at the gates of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Crossroads of three continents, fragile from an environmental point of view, the Mediterranean basin is also a region that provides energy, such as those of the wind or the sun, or fossil fuels present in its subsoil. The energy mix of tomorrow will be electrically dominant, as the electricity market is expected to increase by almost 80% by 2040. Solar thermal for export, combined with photovoltaic for internal consumption needs, is expected to be the most important resource for electricity generation. Hybridization with gas should already allow it to be competitive. Electric highways in continuous current to cross the Mediterranean could be used to meet the growing needs of Europe’s Mediterranean coast and superconductivity completed by liquid hydrogen cooling will be the most medium-term solution to meet the needs of Northern Europe.

After the mixed results of the Barcelona Agreement and the Union for the Mediterranean, let us hope that this summit can lead to concrete results for the benefit of the people of the region. I am convinced only the culture of tolerance will allow our space, in the face of the new challenges of globalization, to meet the challenges of the 21st century in the face of fierce competition, including the breakthrough of emerging countries, the rise of global terrorism threat, the rise of protectionism detrimental to the growth of the world economy, existing a dialectical link between security and development, to the dangers of populism.  Finally, co-development in the Mediterranean via the continent Africa issue of the 21st century can, as I pointed out recently in interviews with AFRICAPRESSE.PARIS and the American Herald Tribune, curb ensure security and avoid destabilization that would have geostrategic repercussions for the entire Mediterranean and African region.

I wanted to stress during this meeting on behalf of Algeria, that a strategic player at the regional level will contribute to the success, based on a win-win partnership, of this enormous undertaking, an old dream, forging our common Mediterranean consciousness.  I quote the conclusion of my speech: “Mr. President of the French Republic, you, who are the age of my son, hope that all together leaders of the 5+5 and civil societies of our region, supported by international institutions, will realize this old dream that I defend with the many Maghreb and European friends, for more than 30 years the Mediterranean, a place of mixing of cultures, tolerance and fruitful dialogue between different civilizations, our common destiny being to do business together.”

Finally, as I pointed out in an interview with Jeune Afrique, Paris on June 24, 2019, far from any vision of disaster, Algeria’s future holds immense hope as at the end of my interview, and I quote: “Our youth and the National People’s Army have shown unwavering maturity. But it is imperative to move beyond the current status-quo before the end of 2019 with transparent elections, as a longer transition period could inevitably lead the country to an economic and social drift. And as in economics, lost time is never caught back, the productive dialogue with concessions on both sides for Algeria being its benefit, accompanied by a profound restructuring of parties and civil society based on new networks, is the only way out of the current crisis.”

ademmebtoul@gmail.com

20 June, World Refugee Day: A long way to safety

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Maria Diaz Crego wrote in commemoration of 20 June, World Refugee Day: A long way to safety that :

According to UNCHR, those fleeing their own countries for fear of persecution travel collectively around two billion kilometres per year to reach a safe haven. To honour their resilience and determination and to remind us of the long and tortuous journeys they are forced to make on their way to safety, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has launched the www.stepwithrefugees.org campaign to mark 2019 World Refugee Day.

Meanwhile, a New paper: Teachers need support to better help migrant and refugee students suffering from trauma Posted on 20 June 2019 by GEM Report reads as follows:

Image: UNESCO/Seivan M.Salim

The number of migrant and refugee school-age children around the world has grown by 26% since 2000. Eight years on from the beginning of the Syrian conflict, a new paper released today and at an event in the Netherlands looks at the importance of making sure that education systems are set up to address the trauma that many of these children face before, and during their journeys to new countries. In particular, teachers need better training to provide psychosocial support to these children, including through social and emotional learning.

In Germany, about one-third of refugee children suffer from mental illness, and one-fifth suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Unaccompanied minors are particularly vulnerable. One third of 160 unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Norway from Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Somalia suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Among 166 unaccompanied refugee children and adolescents in Belgium, 37-47% had ‘severe or very severe’ symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Rates of trauma among the displaced in low and middle income countries are also high. For instance, 75% of 331 internally displaced children in camps in southern Darfur in Sudan met diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, and 38% had depression.

Image: Anthony Upton/ARETE/GEM Report

In the absence of health centres, schools can play a key role in restoring a sense of stability. Teachers are not and should never be leant on as mental health specialists, but they can be a crucial source of support for children suffering from trauma if they’re given the right training. But they need basic knowledge about trauma symptoms and providing help to students, which many do not have. NGOs, including the International Rescue Committee, iACT, and Plan International, are training teachers to face this challenge through their programmes, but their reach is not enough.

In Germany, the majority of teachers and day-care workers said that they did not feel properly prepared to address the needs of refugee children. In the Netherlands, 20% of teachers with more than 18 years of experience working in mainstream schools reported that they experienced a high degree of difficulty dealing with students with trauma. The vast majority of these teachers (89%) encountered at least one student with trauma in their work. A review of early childhood care and education facilities for refugee children in Europe and North America found that, although many programmes recognized the importance of providing trauma-informed care, appropriate training and resources were ‘almost universally lacking’.

The paper shows the importance of social and emotional learning, as an approach to psychosocial support which targets skills, such as resilience, to manage stress, and is often rolled out through interactive, group-based discussions or role play. It shows the importance of this approach for less acute situations but emphasizes that for more challenging cases trained specialists are needed.

It is also important to involve parents in social and emotional learning so that activities can continue at home. One programme in Chicago looked at addressing symptoms of depression among Mexican immigrant women and primary school children with in- and after- school programmes and home visits, for instance, and improved school work, child mental health and family communication.

Key recommendations:

  1. Learning environments must be safe, nurturing and responsive.
  2. Teachers working with migrant and refugee students who have suffered trauma face particular hardships and need training to cope with challenges in the classroom.
  3. Psychosocial interventions require cooperation between education, health and social protection services.
  4. Social and emotional learning interventions need to be culturally sensitive and adapted to context. They should be delivered through extra-curricular activities as well.
  5. Community and parental involvement should not be neglected.