Monday, 30 January 2017

Unaccompanied children and child refugees

are the most vulnerable human beings in the world.
Apart from that statement I am not sure where to start this. I don't often talk about my work here. Some of the time I can't. Some of the time it would be simply dull.
Yesterday though was one of those days which makes me wonder why I bother, why other people bother and what the point is. 
One Iranian surgeon ended up not going to the United States. He was due to go for three days to learn a technique new to him. I won't go into details. It is sufficient to say it is surgery designed to save the lives of young cardiac patients. He does a lot of charity work so that not just the privileged few get help. 
Instead of going after I had helped to set up the communication system that would allow him to feel confident about using English - his fourth language - he ended up stuck at an airport. He's now gone home again because he can't get more leave. We will have to try again later. 
A Dutch engineer ended up not being able to go into Yemen to try and save a water supply. We couldn't work out why. It is vital to the community concerned. It had taken weeks of negotiation - not by me. I had been peripherally involved on the communication side.
Eventually I got a message, "We've just been told there's a live operation about to take place in the area."  That was more work which won't be used.  
There were three more messages about people being held up, people being halted in transit, people being unable to go where they were expecting to go. I had provided communication assistance for all of them. 
These things happen. We know that. It is part of the aid process. Things rarely run smoothly but yesterday was not good - and this morning things don't look much better.
And then there was the halt to a busload of children from one place to a place of greater safety. I can't say more than that but it was this last one which had me almost weeping with frustration and anger.
Cardiac surgery matters. Water supply is essential for life. This is life itself. These were unaccompanied children. These are children who have no family, no friends to care for them. They don't speak the same language as the people who were trying to get them to a safer place. Some of them are too young to be able to read. Some of the others have forgotten how to read because they haven't been to school for several years. They are severely undernourished, frightened, and have no idea what the future will bring. Several of them don't speak, another speaks only nonsense, and another speaks what sounds like sense but she is no longer in touch with reality. Two of the older children have been trying to care for them - in the way that adults should. It has taken people weeks to gain the trust of these children, enough trust for them to try and communicate with strangers and agree to go with them - on a bus, to another place. There was supposed to be space there because the lucky ones were supposed to be going to America and that would leave some space for them. 
All that has been put at risk. We don't know what is going to happen.
Now I admit this sort of thing has happened under other administrations in America. It has been done quietly, so quietly people have been largely unaware of it. 
It has also happened in other places. The government here is no better. Germany, for all their much lauded open door policy, has done it. It will happen again. 
When it does happen though it usually happens quietly. Negotiations will take place. I might find out because I will get asked to provide communication assistance. I provide it and I keep my mouth shut. Then I hope for the best possible outcome.
The difference yesterday was not what was happening because it has all happened before but because the person who ordered it to happen made no secret of the fact. He actually boasted about it. 
He told us it was working the way he intended. 
I just hope your intentions are frustrated Mr President.

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