Lara Kajs | 20 June 2022 |
Consider this: in the next sixty seconds, through no fault of their own, twenty people will be forcibly displaced, somewhere in the world. June 20th is World Refugee Day! Today, we acknowledge the 100 million forcibly displaced persons around the world.
Displaced persons may be categorized as refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons, and returnees.
Refugees are defined by the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees as “someone who fled his or her home and country owing to a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”. However, not everyone who is displaced is a refugee. In contrast, asylum seekers, claim to be refugees, however, their refugee status has not been evaluated by the country where they are now living.
Internally displaced persons are people who have been forced to flee their homes but are still within their country’s borders. In Syria, more than 6.5 million people are internally displaced, scattered throughout the country seeking shelter and safety.
Stateless Persons are not recognized by any country and do not have a recognized nationality. This is usually caused by deep discrimination against certain groups. They are prevented from gaining citizenship and excluded from all aspects of services including education, healthcare, or employment.
Returnees are refugees who return to their home country after the exile. Sometimes returnees are repatriated back to their home country, most often as a result of an agreement made between the governments of the country of origin and the host country.
More than half the world’s refugees come from five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar.
Refugees do not simply wake up one morning and decide to leave their homes, friends, and family, and choose displacement. Making the decision to become a refugee is really a matter of life and death. They have left everything behind to help their families survive, with the hope of rebuilding their lives in safety.
Forcibly displaced people have suffered unimaginable persecution and violence as a result of war, conflict, and discriminative practices led by state terrorism. For example, the Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted on a regular basis since the 1970s by the government of Myanmar and nationalist Buddhists. The Rohingya have had their citizenship stripped from them and labeled stateless, even though their ancestry has been traced to the region and what is now Myanmar, to the 1500s.
Desire to Return Home
Most refugees, about eighty-four percent, stay in close proximity to their home country. The main reason for this is that almost everyone dreams of the day when things will change, the conflict and persecution will end, and they can return home. However, this is usually followed by a lengthy stay, in a country where they have no rights and no access to education, healthcare, or permission to work.
Approximately 93.7 percent of Syrian refugees fled to neighboring countries and not to camps. They live in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq – with the majority living in Turkey and Lebanon. Outside of the camps, with no sustainable living conditions, more than sixty percent of Syrian refugees live in poverty. But if you ask them, the life they have now is better than living in fear of the next chlorine barrel bomb attack from Assad.
A New Start
Relocation is often a long wait as it comes with a lengthy vetting process, depending on the host country’s protocol. For example, the vetting (screening) process for refugees to enter the United States is the most rigorous system in the world. It is just not as simple as someone walking up to a counter, claiming refugee status, and they walk across a line in the US. The reality is that to be accepted as a refugee to the United States involves a multi-organizational security clearance, multiple interviews, biometric scans, fingerprints, medical clearance, and cultural orientation; all of which take approximately two years. But for the committed, the wait is worth the chance to start a new life, free from persecution and violence.
Today, we recognize and offer hope to so many millions of people who have made some hard decisions – decisions that most of us will never have to make – to survive. May your life be filled with hope, joy, peace, and health.
Photo Credit: World Refugee Day – Malak, Darwin, by Stephen Michael Barnett. License by CC 2.0 license.