Slideshow Banner4 WHAT we do

If I had known about how I would be treated along this journey, I might have never left my country. Better to die under the bombs in my home than to be treated like this in Europe.

–Syrian refugee, Šid, Serbia, February 2016

In January 2016, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) deployed a team to the Balkans to assess protection needs of migrants and refugees, with a view to inform possible NP program development in the region. In particular, the team sought to understand sources of violence against refugees and migrants in order to determine how unarmed civilian protection could be used to reduce violence along the route.

(Photo 1: Adrianne Lapar and Lisa Fuller of the NP assessment team interview an Afghan
woman and her teenage daughter in a park in Athens. The women reported fear for
their security, especially at night, in their abandoned airport building shelter.)

Visiting key transit points in Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia, the team arrived during a critical turning point in the so-called “refugee crisis.” We arrived to assess protection needs, stemming from the largest mass migration to Europe since World War II, just as borders were shutting. The team witnessed firsthand how states have been struggling to cope with the massive influx: a fine balancing act between guaranteeing the rights and basic humanitarian needs of arriving refugees and migrants, and addressing the needs of their own citizens, including national security and social welfare.

Read more: Nonviolent Peaceforce Conducts Assessment along Refugee Migration Route in Europe

While international media attention mainly focuses on the brutal civil war in South Sudan, smaller “wars” are being waged across the country that also warrant attention and speak to the need for increased unarmed civilian protection. Nonviolent Peaceforce works in several South Sudanese communities to address local conflicts that have resulted in lives lost and increased violence against women. The inter-communal violence has worsened during the civil war because there is greater access to weapons, reduced resources and less attention to community development. Together, this has resulted in the militarization of localized conflicts.

Amongst the Dinka Agaar – as with many other communities in South Sudan – wealth is measured in cattle. The keeping and protection of cattle is a central concern and traditionally, this responsibility falls to boys/men known as ‘gelweng’. From a young age, families send their sons to live unaccompanied in remote cattle camps which can be home to thousands of cows. At present, one of the largest cattle camps in Western Lakes State – Marialbek – reportedly has more than 100,000 cows. These cows belong to separate families but are all kept together.

Read more: Working to Reduce Violence in Local Communities

By Adrianne Lapar.

2016 03 06 GR Idomeni resizedKhameel sits on a piece of cardboard in a tent within northern Greece. We are literally a stone’s throw away from the border with Macedonia and far from Khameel's home in Iraq. But suddenly, his home doesn’t seem so distant when he leans in and tells me, “It’s like the conflict is following us.”

Khameel, a young Yazidi man from northern Iraq, has been displaced since August 2014, when the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL) seized his hometown of Sinjar. “Daesh took our girls from us,” explains Khameel, referring to ISIL by its Arabic acronym and referencing its sexual enslavement of thousands of Yazidi girls. Khameel, along with tens of thousands of other Yazidis, fled to the Sinjar Mountains, and hid there for about a week before trekking on foot to northeastern Syria. There, he and other Yazidis scraped by for about a week, relying upon the goodwill of Syrian Kurdish civilians, before making their way to Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

Read more: Diary of a Peacekeeper: “It’s Like the Conflict Is Following Us”

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed on 27th March 2014 between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a stepping stone towards the creation of a peaceful government in Mindanao. Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) in the Philippines was also present at the signing of the CAB. The theme for this year’s commemoration of the signing of the significant step was: "Stand up for Peace! Long live the CAB!"

Read more: Commemoration of Peace Deal in Mindanao Reaffirms Commitment to Agreement

Nonviolent Peaceforce in the Philippines joined the International Monitoring Team (IMT) as the only international NGO in its Civilian Protection Component, per invitation from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of Philippines in 2010. The invitation came as part of the peace process agreed to by the two. This work is one of the main undertakings of NP’s work in the region. NP carries out various activities together with the IMT team sites, such as protective accompaniment of civilians and shuttle diplomacy.

Read more: NP’s Work in Mindanao Praised by Former IMT Head of Mission

Thanks to your support, at the request of local civil society organizations, Nonviolent Peaceforce introduced unarmed civilian protection in Ukraine in 2015. There was great need and you responded by funding an NP civilian protector in Ukraine. For several months, our staff built relationships to better understand the conflict, determine NP's role, and to conduct trainings on unarmed civilian protection.* NP trained thirty Ukrainians representing several civil society organizations, community members and local authorities on providing a protective presence to civilians. NP had intended to stay in Ukraine and build our program there, but unfortunately, we did not receive an additional grant to expand our work at the time.

Read more: Donor Update on Ukraine

Last week, the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) assessment team visited Serbia to continue its assessment of protection concerns facing refugees and migrants transiting through Europe. Their visit was especially timely, as it coincided with significant new border restrictions put in place by five of the major transit countries, including Serbia. These shifts in policy have already had negative implications for the rights of refugees and migrants and have left thousands of vulnerable individuals stranded across the Balkans. The consequences of these policy changes have been perhaps most alarming in Greece, where the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate as the refugee bottleneck grows. Highlighting things they saw in four cities around Serbia, the NP team captured the following photos:

Read more: The Assessment Team Visits Serbia

Thursday, February 25th, the UN Security General Ban Ki-moon visited the UN Protection of Civilian (POC) Camps and specifically emphasized the need for peace agreements and their implementation in South Sudan. Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) was invited together with other humanitarian actors who are involved in delivering services to the Juba POC camps. The Security General stated that he would do his best to support the peace process being implemented, and he also wanted to thank all the respective agencies providing protection to civilians in those camps.

This visit follows the appointment by Ban Ki-moon of a ‘High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations,’ this past October, which concluded that “Unarmed strategies must be at the forefront of UN efforts to protect civilians. ”

In the picture above you see South Sudan Country Director Aseervatham Florington attending a conference with UN Security General Ban Ki Moon in Juba, South Sudan this past Thursday.

Nonviolent Peaceforce was invited to attend as an organization providing services and protection to internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in the UN Protection of Civilian Camps (POCs).

Now for another update from the Nonviolent Peaceforce Assessment team - These photos capture just a few of the steps that refugees make once they arrive to their first point of entry into Europe. Approximately 60 percent of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece are currently entering through Lesvos, traveling in small and often unsafe boats from Turkey, some 10 kilometres across the Aegean Sea. Upon arrival, refugees and migrants are required to register at the centre in Moria, housed in a former military base. Once registered, most new arrivals proceed by ferry to Athens, where many continue onward towards the Greek-Macedonia border in hopes of seeking asylum in other parts of Europe.

This photo shows the view from outside the Moria first reception centre in Lesvos, Greece:

 

 

 

 

 

 Here you see asylum seekers huddle around a fire at an informal camp outside the reception centre:

Lesbos2

 

 

 

 

 

Read more: Assessment Team Update – Refugees Arriving to Lesvos, Greece