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People who are forced to leave their home area for the safety or survival of their family and/or themselves are known as refugees. They may have to vacate just a small region, their entire state, or in some cases, their entire country. There are numerous reasons that create refugee scenarios such as war, oppression by one group of people over another, terrorism, and natural disasters.
"Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere." – Ban Ki-moon (Secretary-General of the United Nations)
In 1951, the United Nations established a document that provided guidelines for dealing with the hundreds of thousands of displaced individuals after World War II. The ‘Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees’ states that a refugee is an person who must escape their territory “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” As of today, 147 nations around the world have signed the document and have agreed to provide asylum to refugees when the need arises. Asylum is the protection granted by a nation to a person or group of persons who have run away from their native country as a refugee.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the agency that is “mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people”. This past weekend, June 20 marked the 15th annual United Nations World Refugee Day.
19.5 Million Refugees
Start by finding out more about how a refugee situation occurs. Read the UN Refugee Agency’s Flowing Across Borders. Next jump over to the Facts and Figures; you will be alarmed at the numbers. Read President Barack Obama’s ‘Statement by the President on World Refugee Day’.
Many refugees do not leave their country; they move around within their region in order to hide from and escape some form of persecution or other harm. Refugees who move around within their own national borders are called ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDP’s). According to the UNHCR, there are approximately 38 million people roaming within their own countries in fear due to forced evacuation of their homes.
“I plead to the international community and leaders of the world to recognize what this moment in mass human displacement means. This is not just another day. This World Refuge Day marks some frightening truths about our inability to manage international crisis –about our inability to broker peace and find lasting solutions” –Angelina Jolie Pitt (Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees)
Read World Refugee Day 2015: The Urgent Need for a Fresh Perspective on Global Migration from the UN Dispatch. Then skim the following articles from this weekend: