On this year’s World Refugee Day, the UN puts the spotlight on helping refugees to become self-reliant in the new place they call home. At a time where 86% of refugees worldwide are hosted in developing countries, ensuring their self-reliance can lessen the stress put on local communities, that already face a lack of or reduced access to basic resources. Wealthy countries, the UN said, need to support this effort on a greater scale.
Every year on June 20th, World Refugee Day raises awareness about the unique perils which refugees face in their daily lives. By celebrating the courage which refugees harbour, as well as drawing attention to the plight which they face, this international day is an important event in the humanitarian calendar.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) describes a refugee as someone who has been “forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence”. Two-thirds of refugees worldwide come from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia – with the largest refugee camp in the world located in Dadaab, Kenya, hosting over 329,000 people. Refugees differ from Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), who are forced to flee from their homes but do not (or can not) cross international borders.
World Refugee Day began in 2001 after the United Nations General Assembly passed a Resolution 55/76 and declared the annual event. This initial day commemorated fifty years since the 1951 Refugee Convention in Geneva, which defined what a refugee is, their legal protection and social rights. While the convention was mainly limited to European refugees in the wake of World War II, the convention remains the basis for global humanitarian definitions of refugeedom.
In Ireland, the situation of asylum-seekers have brought international attention. According to the Refugee Council of Ireland, in 2018, 70.3% of applications for protection status were rejected. These asylum-seekers who wait for this decision are housed in Direct Provision system, given basic accommodation and pittance living allowance. The system has been criticised widely in both public discourse and international media (including the New Yorker).
World Refugee Day is a stark and important reminder of the responsibility of wealthier countries to provide answers to the global refugee crisis, by hosting refugees or by providing humanitarian and development support in host countries to help refugee communities become self-reliant.
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Image courtesy of EU/ECHO Pierre Prakash.