World Refugee Day is held annually on 20th June to draw attention to the plight of refugees across the globe.
The annual commemoration was started by the United Nations Refugee Agency and has been in practice since 2001, being marked in more than 100 countries. The commemoration is a result of the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees held in Geneva, Switzerland.
The convention agreed on the responsibilities of nations to grant asylum to those rendered stateless by warfare, famine or natural disasters and those most vulnerable to persecution.
The convention defines a refugee in three ways:
- A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
- A refugee is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.
- Or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
The theme for 2019 is Global Compact on Refugees. It calls for investment in communities that host refugees to help ease the pressure on the host and to help refugees become self-reliant.
A Record Number of Displacements
The United Nations revealed a record high of 68.5 million individuals are currently displaced worldwide due to war, poverty, persecution and other events.
To put this into perspective: the population of the UK is 65.6 million.
The damning report also shows that only 100,000 refugees were resettled by the international community in 2017.
However, 2.9 million new people sought asylum statuses due to conflicts raging in Syria, Myanmar, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan alone.
This is the biggest increase in the history of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The total equates to 44,500 people a day seeking refuge.
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a recent statement:
“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone. But there is reason for some hope. Fourteen countries are already pioneering a new blueprint for responding to refugee situations and in a matter of months a new Global Compact on Refugees will be ready for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly.”
No one becomes a refugee by choice, but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.