Yesterday, June 20th, was World Refugee Day. The UN Refugee Agency launched its #WithRefugees petition to show that people globally stand with refugees, and to tell governments around the world that they must collaborate in their efforts to help refugees. Hundreds of families flee their homes every day. They are forced out by the violence present in their home countries. Their “home” country can no longer be considered as such when the refugees are escaping war, oppression, or famine. Thankfully, several countries are offering a helping hand as well as a new place to call “home” for these families.
The UN Refugee Agency #WithRefugees petition will be delivered to UN headquarters in New York and asks governments to:
· Ensure that each refugee child gets an education;
· Ensure that each refugee family is provided a safe place to live;
· Ensure that each refugee can work in order to make a positive contribution to their new country.
World Refugee Day, first observed in 2001, is a time to reflect on the millions who have been forced to displace from their homes. It is a time to reflect on the struggles faced by these families, as well as pay tribute to their incredible hope and courage. It is also important to recognize those that come to the aid of the refugees. Each refugee should be valued, and each refugee has great potential to benefit their community. No life is worthless and it is crucial that countries continue to be as generous as they can be in meeting refugees’ needs.
Countries such as the United States have been extremely resourceful to refugees. In 2015, the US contributed the most to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, having donated over US$1.3 billion.
The number of global refugees continues to rise. Half of Syria’s population are now said to be refugees, or were forced to relocate internally. Syria is not alone in the Middle East as the situation continues to worsen in Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine. Countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan are already overwhelmed with their intake of refugees. Others continue to enter Europe by sea in large numbers, with an estimate of over 200,000 migrants this year already. Sadly, not everyone makes it across. Many lives continue to be lost at sea, including those of infants and children. While European countries such as Malta, Greece, and Italy continue to provide a safe home for refugees, there is still so much to be done to avoid such tragedies in the future.
There is strong evidence that refugees can be an asset to the long-term economic growth of any country. A country’s increased diversity through its intake of refugees contributes to the country’s strength and creativity. All of us are created equal and should all be given the chance to be the best we can be. Countries with the ability to do so must increase humanitarian aid as well as numbers of refugees taken in every year, regardless of their country of origin. Children should be able to grow up in a world offering equal opportunity and dignity for all.