Thinking Aloud: World Refugee Day

June 20, 2015 by Darius 

What do migrants drowning crossing the Mediterranean, militants fighting through the streets of Yarmouk, Syria, and the expansion of a camp in a dusty corner of northeastern Kenya have in common?  They are all manifestations of one of the biggest humanitarian crises of the century.  Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day.  There are more refugees around the world than at any time since the United Nations began keeping records at the end of World War II.

The UN estimates there are nearly 60 million displaced people throughout the world, including 20 million refugees.  Put another way, if all the displaced people were to become a single country, that country’s population would be nearly as large as that of the United Kingdom.  Furthermore, the last year generated more refugees and displaced persons than any other since recordkeeping began.  A shocking 42,500 people were displaced on average every day in 2014.

The refugee crisis is completely unparalleled.  Due to the sheer number and geographic diversity of refugees, from Syria to South Sudan to Burma, the most basic needs of refugees are often unmet.  As a result, hardly any progress is being made on the ultimate goal: allowing refugees to return to their countries of origin and resume productive lives.  If refugees cannot return, they risk becoming stuck in limbo, unable to go home or fully integrate into the countries in which they find themselves.  One need look no further than the fate of the Palestinian people to see the disastrous effect of refugees in limbo.

Thus, it is imperative that the developed world unite to tackle the refugee crisis.  By the time of World Refugee Day next year, progress must have been made on the related fronts of (a) preventing more people from being displaced, (b) meeting the basic needs of current refugees, and (c) allowing refugees to return to their countries to reassemble their lives.  The global refugee crisis cannot and will not be solved overnight or even by next year.  But without a concerted effort, the problem will merely get worse.  Refugee camps are not a path to the future.


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