Today is World Refugee Day!
Well, hey there! Thanks for stopping by for our latest post on the awareness blog! I hope you all had a wonderful Father’s Day weekend. I know I did. Nothing like some of Dad’s barbeque, am I right? I know it’s his holiday and we should barbeque for him, but he loves doing it so it’s a win for everyone. Anyways, back to the blog. Today we’re celebrating World Refugee Day, here at Personalized Cause. So, today’s blog will be dedicated to all the refugees of the world. I think it’s a particularly important topic given the current political climate of the world. Refugees deserve safety, shelter, and happiness as much as anybody who lives in a politically peaceful environment. They are not at fault for their government. World Refugee Day is celebrated every June 20th, to recognize the bravery, strength, and perseverance that refugees exhibit every day in their quest for a better life for themselves and their families.
So, what is a refugee? I know we all know the basic definition of a refugee as meaning a person who has fled from their homeland. The technical definition for refugee clarifies the current refugee crisis a little bit better than our basic understanding. First off, the most important thing to remember is that the word refugee represents a human being, the same as you or me. International law defines refugees as a person who has left the country that they called home out of a justified fear for their lives, safety, or wellbeing. Refugees may flee their country to escape persecution because of their religion, race, nationality, political affiliations, social status, or belonging to a particular group. They may also live in areas that are war torn, or plagued by conflict in a way that prevents them from being able to lead normal lives without putting themselves at risk or in danger.
We currently live in a time with the highest rate of people who are forced to flee their homes because of violence and political unrest. There are approximately 65.6 million people who are displaced worldwide. That means that every single day, over 28 thousand people become refugees to avoid the conflict that permeates their homes. That’s 20 people every minute. 22.5 million of refugees are children under 18. Becoming a refugee is not an easy decision. People give up everything just to survive, or better their chances of a future free of violence and conflict. Whatever your politics, you have to concede that no child deserves to grow up in a place where they cannot go outside without risking their lives, not that staying inside will protect them. That’s an unbearable thought. And imagine the parents of these children, who fear every second of every day that they may not be able to protect their family from harm. Refugees deserve a chance to thrive, not just survive. Over half of the world’s refugees come from only three countries, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Syria.
Looking at the total world population, about one in every 100 people have been displaced from their homes. Obviously, the level of displacement by country is greater in certain places in the world than others. In the Middle East, about one in twenty people have been forced to flee their homes. In Africa, about one in sixty people have been displaced from their homes. In Syria, a whopping six out of ten people have been displaced. This number is the highest rate of people becoming refugees in recent history. That number is unparalleled for any single country. This is due to the Syrian conflict. In 2011, the number of Syrian refugees hovered just below one million. Now, there are over twelve and a half million Syrian refugees who have had to flee their homes and find shelter somewhere else in their country, neighboring countries, or abroad. The number of unaccompanied minors who are seeking asylum has also risen. Over half of the asylum seeking, unaccompanied minors are refugees from Afghanistan. In Europe, nearly 200,000 unaccompanied minors sought asylum between 2008 and 2015. 48 percent of those 200,000 were from 2015 alone.
Over 85 percent of refugees are hosted in developing nations. Africa hosts 29 percent of all refugees. The top five countries hosting the greatest number of refugees are Turkey, Jordan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, and Pakistan. Most refugees do not seek asylum in developed nations, such as the United States or Europe. The overwhelming majority of refugees, nine out of ten to be exact, simply head towards nearby countries. Around 95 percent of Afghan refugees are housed in Pakistan or Iran. Around 95 percent of Syrian refugees are housed in Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. As you can see from these statistics, the overwhelming majority of refugees are simply trying to escape to the nearest place that is safer than where they come from. Some of the countries refugees are fleeing to are dealing with their own conflicts, but they are still preferable to the homes they have fled. I think that says a lot about the state of the countries being fled and what it must be like to live there.
Life for refugees is often full of trauma. Not only have most refugees experiences some sort of trauma in their home before they were forced to leave, but they also face traumatic experiences along the way to a new life. Many refugees are separated from their families. They endure catastrophic loss. They lose their homes, their sense of familiarity, the lives they built, their family unit may be split up, they are likely separated from their friends, and they often have to leave all or most of their possessions behind. Refugees often face poverty, and the chaos of an unsettled life. It can be extremely taxing to live in a constant state of desperation for and anticipation of a new life. Some children grow up in refugee camps and don’t know anything about life outside their camp. Refugees are extremely vulnerable. Refugee camps often lack protection from many kinds of abuse, making women and children easy targets for people who work in the refugee camps or other people living there.
Once refugees finally make it to the U.S., if they are granted entrance, they are often helped by a network of communities, which typically consist of others who have gone through the same situation and established their lives here. There are many refugees who have family in the U.S., too. Voluntary agencies help refugees by providing services to help get them jobs, teach them English, get them food and clothes, and whatever counseling or medical care they may need in the first 90 days. Refugee children are able to attend public schools, and adults are able to get a job. Some government-funded services may also be available like Medicaid and federally reimbursed cash assistance programs during the first eight months. After that, they are eligible for the same public benefits and services as legal residents. This eligibility for public benefits and services lasts for seven years. After seven years have passed, they must become citizens in order to continue to receive those services. There are mutual assistance associations, also called MMA’s, which help to connect knowledgeable people in the community to people who are in need of help, or recently arrived.
Refugees want nothing more than to return to a normal life where they can pursue their goals and take care of themselves. They have endured terrible hardship and should not have to endure prejudice and stigma when they arrive in their new homes. They should be treated with respect, compassion, and acceptance. Their journey’s were difficult and their determination unwavering. Differences are strengths, not weaknesses. Diversity makes us better. Refugees should be welcome.
Join us again next week for another edition of the awareness blog! Hope you all have a wonderful week!
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