68.5 Million Refugees

Being an immigrant is very difficult. I know from experience what it’s like to leave everything you know and have behind and go towards an unknown. And in our case we didn’t have to pay smugglers, we didn’t have to walk across borders, we had passports, visa, purchased our own plane fares and weren’t fleeing war. So when I read that the number of refugees and displaced persons from wars and persecutions has reached 68.5 million, I shudder. These are 68.5 million lives which have been uprooted, undergoing suffering, and we can well assume at least some are traumatized.   They are 25.4 million actual refugees, 40 million internally displaced persons and 3.1 million seeking asylum.  Two third of them come from principally five countries,  and that excludes the long term Palestinian refugees, they are Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. The 68.5 million for 2017 represents an increase of 16.5 million from the previous year and that despite the fact that some 5 million refugees were able to return home. Refugee agencies are overwhelmed, there is of course a question of funding to accommodate so many. 14 countries are banding together trying to forge a blueprint of how to deal with refugees, and  the UN is in the process of putting together a Global Compact on Refugees to be voted on by the Security Council. Still those may not be sufficient to help those in need.  The time has come for the world and each of us as citizens to take a stand to demand action be taken. It is heartening that people protesting the incarceration of children at the US border became a springboard for some action (not yet resolved at the time of this writing). Yet the protests were not triggered on behalf of refugees and their plight, but because children were held in cages. It is a good step, but not enough to address the problem. We need to stop incarcerating children, certainly, but we need to better apply our own principles, seeking asylum is legal. We also need to develop a new philosophy about our borders, and renew our commitment to immigration. And not to be forgotten, whatever we do, we need the resources to do it.  Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees sums up the issue by saying, “No one becomes a refugee by choice, but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.”

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