Reasons to care about World Refugee Day Ambassador Earl Miller


Each year on June 20, we commemorate World Refugee Day to salute the courage and resilience of the world’s refugees and displaced persons.

This year, however, it takes on a particularly special meaning. According to the just-released Global Trends Report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), nearly 60 million people have fled their homes as refugees, internally displaced people or asylum seekers.  It is a staggering number – equivalent to one in every 122 people on this planet.  Now, more than ever, the world’s refugees and displaced people need our help.

Here are four other reasons why all of us – governments and individuals alike – should take heed. 

* These aren’t just numbers, they’re people.

 They include Syrian families fleeing Asad’s relentless and indiscriminate barrel bombings, South Sudanese mothers who have walked hundreds of miles carrying small children to safety, girls who fled Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.  They are people like us, who find themselves stripped of everything they have and struggling to survive as they contend with circumstances beyond their control.  Despite all of this, they haven’t given up on themselves.  We can’t give up on them either.

* Assistance makes a difference.  Sixty million people is hard to envision.  It is even harder to understand how one could help such a large number of people.

 But we know this:  From Ukraine to Somalia, Iraq to Afghanistan, humanitarian assistance is easing their suffering and keeping millions of people alive. The UN Refugee Agency, the UN World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a vast array of other aid organisations are doing heroic work every day wherever there is conflict and displacement.  But these organisations need more support from governments and individuals.  It is a sad fact that most UN’s appeals are grossly underfunded.  For instance, the 2015 UN appeal for the Central African Republic – seeking $613 million to support 2.7 million people – is just 21 percent funded.  We can do better, and even small cash donations can keep families going for weeks.

* Helping refugees is an investment in global stability.  Helping uprooted people is not just an act of charity for people far away, whose problems will never touch us.  It is an investment in stability everywhere.

 The migration crises roiling the Mediterranean and South East Asia illustrate how conflict, oppression, and desperation have consequences that can spread far beyond places beset by war and conflict. 

Aiding uprooted children is particularly urgent. The UN Children’s Fund has warned that one in every four children and young adolescents in the Middle East and North Africa are either out of school or at risk of dropping out.  Those children, the opportunities they have and the choices they make, will determine the future not only of embattled nations like Syria and Iraq, but also of neighbouring countries that host millions of refugees.  

* Botswana has an important role to play.  Botswana hosts close to 3,000 refugees at Dukwi Camp who have fled a wide array of conflicts and violence from as far away as Somalia to as close as neighbouring Zimbabwe. 

The Government of Botswana, in conjunction with UNHCR, provides them with schooling, housing, and medical treatment.

The US Government is working to assist where we can, and we help fund the camp’s healthcare system in addition to providing small grants to organisations that offer skills training and safe spaces to the camp’s youth.  We are also working with the Government of Botswana and UNHCR to find durable solutions for these refugees. 

 The United States is committed to assisting the world’s refugees and displaced people.  Last year, we provided some $6 billion in humanitarian assistance to aid agencies helping vulnerable people around the globe, and we resettled nearly 70,000 refugees referred by UNHCR.  We are proud of these contributions, though we know that people caught up in crises need more. 

They need an end to these conflicts, their rights protected, and efforts to bring suffering and exile to an end.  Until then, everyone can do more to close the gap between the aid available and the mounting needs – by donating, advocating to keep borders open, and offering safe haven to those in need.   There are people just like you and me who are depending on it.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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