On World Refugee Day, June 20, we commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. The United Nations says that this year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the people to show support for families forced to flee. To do this, the UN Refugee Agency launched the ‘With Refugees’ petition in June last year to send a message to governments that they must work together and do their fair share for refugees.
With a record 65.6 million people forcibly uprooted from their homes by violence and persecution, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on the international community to provide support and solidarity. “We reflect on the courage of those who fled and the compassion of those who welcome them,” he said in a video message. The UN chief says more people than ever in our lifetimes are fleeing war, disasters and persecution. “Hardship, separation, death,” Mr. Guterres said, recalling nightmare stories heard from refugees and displaced people, whose numbers rose 300,000 since the end of 2015.
According to a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conflicts have displaced 12 million Syrians, 7.7 million Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis. Despite the hardships of fleeing with nothing, “they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world,” Mr. Guterres said. “They ask for little – only our support in their time of greatest need and our solidarity.” The UN chief says it is “so inspiring to see countries with the least doing the most for refugees.” According to the report, about 84 per cent of the refugees were in low-or middle-income countries by the end of last year. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million were hosted by the least developed countries.
In his remarks, UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi says the World Refugee Day is also a moment to recognize those communities and people who receive refugees and the internally displaced in their midst, offering them a safe place, and welcoming them in their societies. In a world in which uncertainty often abounds; economic instability, political upheaval and violence close to home, “can make us want to shut our eyes or close our doors. But fear and exclusion will not lead us to a better place – they can only lead to barriers, alienation and despair,” he stresses.
“It’s time to change this trajectory. And for the better,” he states, noting that in countless communities, including in the poorest countries that host the vast majority of the world’s refugees, business people, faith communities, teachers, journalists and many more are joining together to provide refuge to the displaced and foster their inclusion in their societies. Inclusion requires opening our minds, hearts and communities to refugees. It requires a whole of society approach,” Mr. Grandi says. World Refugee Day is a moment to ask what each of us can do to overcome indifference or fear and embrace the idea of inclusion, “to welcome refugees to our own communities, and to counter narratives that would seek to exclude and marginalize refugees and other uprooted people,” he emphasizes.
The UN reports come amid a hard line by the newly elected United States President Donald Trump who has virtually banned the entry of any more refugees. Britain also has been taking a similar stand but new Prime Minister Theresa May has been left dismayed and disfigured, with a stunning set-back at the June 8 general election, the towering inferno at the 24-storey apartment complex in West London and Monday’s midnight attack near a London mosque.
On the eve of the World Refugee Day, UNHCR received information about three new shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. It is feared that at least 130 people were dead or missing. Whatever the unpredictable Donald Trump may be doing or undoing, all our religions tell us that it is our sacred duty to give shelter to the homeless and that is what we need to do, discarding the trump cards from hell.