World Refugee Day 2016
People fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk.
There are currently over 20 million refugees worldwide; a number increasing daily. 20 million people without a home, country, and government in which they and their families can feel safe.
There are currently 4.8 million Palestinian refugees, 4.4 million Syrian refugees, 2.9 million Afghani refugees, 1.8 million Iraqi refugees, 700,000 Somali refugees, 456,000 Congolese refugees, and 370,000 Sudanese refugees. These are people who have found refuge in other countries, usually bordering nations. As you can tell, these large numbers of refugees are representative of recent and current conflicts and complex emergencies.
Here are some quick facts you should know about refugees:
- 80% of refugees are women and children
- 51% of refugees are under the age of 18
- Most refugees return to their communities when peace and stability return to their country
- Very few refugees are ever even considered for resettlement
Where do they go?
As stated above, the majority of refugees are in bordering countries, waiting for peace and stability to return to their home countries.
In the current Syrian refugee crisis: more than 2 million Syrian refugees are living in Turkey, over 1 million Syrian refugees are in Lebanon, more than 600,000 Syrian refugees are currently in Jordan, and more than 200,000 have fled to Iraq (a country struggling with the displacement of its own citizens).
The refugee camps in these countries are dirty and tent filled, with few necessary resources like sanitation services, enough food, clean water, and health necessities. In many countries, refugees are not allowed to work which is why these camps continue to grow and resources continue to diminish. The people living here are just waiting for their home country (in this case, Syria) to regain peace and stability so that they can return. Some of the refugees believe that their home may never be safe for them, so they look to resettle somewhere else; whether it be in the country where their refugee camp is located, a country in Europe, or in North America.
The resettling process can take years as can waiting out the conflict. It has been 5 years since the war in Syria broke out and shows no sign of ending soon.
Due to the lack of resources available to provide to the refugees by the host countries, many non-profit organizations like Concern Worldwide have programs that seek to give refugees what they need.
In Lebanon, Concern Worldwide is working to improve hygiene conditions and creating new, better shelters than the tents in which the refugees live. Read more stories about how Concern Worldwide is helping refugees here.
How Do Refugees make it to the United States?
Some refugees are are accepted into resettlement programs in other countries, including the United States.
The International Rescue Committee explains that it’s actually quite difficult for refugees to come to the United States: “The United States accepts a limited number of refugees each year. The President in consultation with Congress determines the authorized target for refugee admissions through a Presidential Determination.
The Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration oversees the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program through U.S. embassies worldwide. The State Department develops application criteria and refugee admission levels and presents eligible cases for adjudication by officers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
USCIS officers travel to the country of asylum to interview refugees who fall within the priorities established for the relevant nationality or region. The USCIS officers interview potential applicants to determine whether or not they are refugees as defined under U.S. law. A refugee of any nationality may be referred by UNHCR, however this does not guarantee admission to the U.S., for they must still qualify under U.S. law.
Upon completion of security and medical screening, the USCIS officer may approve the refugee’s application for U.S. resettlement. After approval, arrangements are made for his/her placement with a U.S. voluntary agency and travel to the U.S.”
Hundreds of thousands of refugees go through this process and only a few thousand end up in the United States. For 2016, President Obama pledged to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by October 1st. So far, only a little over 3,000 have been accepted. Many of them only arriving in the U.S. in the past 5 weeks.
So, as today is World Refugee Day, look to see if your city is home to organizations that aid refugees that are in resettlement programs and find out what YOU can do to help. Remember: Most refugees arrive in their new home country with few to no personal belongings, no friends or family in the area, and knowing very little to none of the local language. Reaching out to be a helping hand could be a great comfort to a person or family who has already been through incredibly traumatizing experiences.
Katie is a summer intern with Concern Worldwide US. Follow Global Concerns Classroom on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more.