Refugees: Forced to Flee for Survival

War, armed conflicts, and drought are the main reasons that cause the displacement of thousands of African people. (Nicolas Remene/EFE)

More than 70 million people around the world have been forced to leave their home

World Refugee Day is on the June 20th, a day to remember and draw attention to the refugee crisis as well as raise awareness about the reality of millions of people around the world.

The people escaping the Syrian war, those who attempt to cross the Mediterranean to flee the conflicts in Africa, the thousands of Rohingya refugees persecuted in Burma or the Venezuelans who cross the borders of their country have been increasing in numbers.

The reality is that more than 70 million people are forced to leave their homes to escape hazards. Almost 26 million of these people are refugees: the largest number of refugees in history, according to the last report from the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

 

Who is a Refugee?

A refugee is a person who has to leave his or her country from fear of persecution, conflict or widespread violence, leading to the pursuit of international protection.

As defined by the Convention of the International Refugee Law, refugees are those who leave their country of nationality under the distress of being “victims of persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality or political opinions”.

 

What other countries do to help

The Convention of the International Refugee Law was implemented in 1951 to enhance legal protection for refugees. It defined their rights and established obligations for countries to comply in order to protect the refugees. In the world, 144 countries have agreed to comply with this convention.

Once the “refugee” status is granted, countries are legally obliged to assure the right to education, work, housing, and health, in addition to offering legal documentation of permanent residence to the refugees.

Several cities in Spain have joined the ‘Welcome Refugees’ campaign. (@bcn_ajuntment)

However, some countries that had previously agreed to intake refugees, sometimes break their promises for the challenges of having a massive influx of asylum seekers.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is an international organization bound to protect refugees by offering asylum away from the conflicts.

The Council was founded in 1950 after World War II. Its purpose was to aid the millions of European refugees who had been displaced during the war.

UNHCR can’t make countries act upon agreements. Instead, it organizes awareness campaigns, conducts fundraisers to financially support the refugees, and develops projects for emergency situations.

Provided supplies and refugee aid include shelter, nutrition, healthcare, and educational resources.

 

We are all Refugees

The current state of emergency is almost 26 million refugees are dispersed all over the world and is the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II (1939-1945). However, we haven’t learned much since then.

Beyond these numbers and factual figures, we need to learn about the history of these people: where they come from, what their home life was, how they lived before they fled…  Only then we can realize that we could all be refugees.

If we switched roles and were in their place, what would you do and what would you expect them to do?

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