Solidarity for People Displaced in the World

Solidarity for People Displaced in the World

There are currently over 70 million displaced people in the world. The United Nations Refugee Agency, the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees, (UNHCR) is calling on the world to show greater solidarity to help with the humanitarian crisis. 

The 2018 figures for displaced people around the world are the highest seen in almost 70 years.  This is the highest number since the Second World War. The UNHCR’s annual report “Global Trends” which was released at the end of June 2019, shows that 70.8 million people were forced to flee their homes and are now displaced. This is an incredible increase of 2.3 million more people just from a year ago. Although this figure is high, it does not even take into account the full number of displaced people yet to be added to the total. Venezuela had the highest number of new asylum applications in 2018 but all the figures for Venezuela have also not yet been included in the totals for 2018.

The UNHCR is seeing a rising trend of people needing protection from war, conflict and persecution. The over 70 million people displaced are made up primarily of three groups. The first group are refugees. These are people who are forced to leave their country because of conflict, war or persecution. The second group are asylum seekers. These are people who are outside of their country of origin and receiving international protection while awaiting decisions of their refugee claims.  The third group, and the largest group, are Internally Displaced People. These are people displaced within their own countries.

The number of people becoming displaced is growing quicker than are the solutions to deal with the crisis of the displaced. The best solution for refugees is for them to be able to return to their homes voluntarily, but only if safe to do so. As stated by said UN High Commissioner for Refugee Filippo Grandi: 

“With every refugee situation, wherever it is, however long it has been going on for, there has to be an enduring emphasis on solutions and removing obstacles to people being able to return home…This is complex work in which UNHCR is constantly engaged but which also requires all countries to come together for a common good. It is one of the great challenges of our times.”

As mentioned in the UNCR Report there is a great gap between the need of the world’s displaced and available resources. One of the trends seen is the wealthier countries being unwilling to support the displaced. 

In December 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted the Global Compact on Refugees. The emphasis of the global compact is to promote international cooperation to deal with the global refugee crisis. In essence, wealthier countries that receive fewer refugees must increase their support for refugees to countries that receive higher numbers of refugees. This will create a shared international responsibility. More countries are being called on to open their doors to refugees needing resettlement. This need is urgent for people who simply cannot return to their country of origin.

The case of Venezuela demonstrates the need for the Global Compact on Refugees. It is reported that over 3.4 million people fled Venezuela for the neighbouring countries including Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.  The solidarity shown to the Venezuelan people by some fellow Latin American countries has been great but now the international community must help support these host countries. 

Although there has been an outpouring of generosity and solidarity by communities for people displaced, there is still a lot of division and need for solidarity and humanitarian aid. The UNHCR stated:

 “We must build on these positive examples and redouble our solidarity with the many thousands of innocent people who are forced to flee their homes each day.”

The recent arrest of a German ship captain, Carola Rackete, who defied a barbaric Italian law to bring 42 migrants she rescued off the coast of Libya to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, is an example of the dangerous anti-refugee views being spread around the world.  Captain Rackete should be praised a hero for saving 42 human lives instead of being arrested and fined. In her own words: “People’s lives matter more than any political game”. 

How can we, as members of the global community, help the crisis of the over 70 million people displaced throughout the world? We can start with how we view and talk about these people in need. Social media and our leading media outlets have tried to create an image of the displaced people as undeserving illegals. I have seen horrible posts from many countries around the world. I have been shocked and outraged that some of the awful Facebook posts I see come from immigrants themselves. In so doing they dehumanize those who need our help the most. 

People are buying into the lies and fake news of hordes of refugees invading our borders in Canada. According to the UNHCR, Canada is listed as ninth place for recipient of new asylum seekers in 2018.  Although this seems high, it is nothing compared to the number of refugees going to neighbouring countries. Only 16% of the world’s refugees make it to developed countries. So, we should not fear an invasion of the entire world’s displaced people as some posts have suggested. We have to remember in our discourse that Canada is not taking in the majority of the worlds displaced as the media would have us believe. Canada has a very organized approach and brings in only the numbers that can be accommodated according to our infrastructure and we are doing our part in the international community. 

We must always remember that under the Geneva Convention established after the Second World War, it is legal for people fleeing their country to enter another country and ask for asylum. The term illegal is a fabricated term that was created to make us think these people are doing something wrong. There is no such thing as an illegal. We are all deserving human beings.

We must also remember there is no such thing as an economic refugee. Social media posts claiming that people with expensive cell phones and nice clothing cannot possible be refugees are ridiculous. Wealth is not an indicator of someone’s need for asylum. I have known many refugee claimants who came from wealth who had a genuine need for protection fleeing their country of nationality. In many countries the wealthiest and more educated are the opponents of vicious regimes and for this they are persecuted.   

The over 70 million displaced people in the world are in need of solidarity and support. Dehumanizing them will not make them disappear nor will it help the rest of us. Instead we must look at how we as a country, as people, can lessen their burden and do our part to help those in need and not contribute to their hardship further.  We should ask ourselves “what would I do if my family’s lives were in danger.” We would most likely do the same. 

Sources Cited for Article on Displaced People