Five Things To Know on World Refugee Day

Posted by Anjalina Sen
June 20, 2014
Somali Refugees Walk Near UNHCR Camp in Eastern Kenya
1. There are more people displaced by violence and conflict on the planet right now than at any time since World War II.  The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says the number of people forcibly displaced, including refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons has now reached over 51 million.  
The world’s refugee population is greater than that of Spain, South Korea, or Canada.

A woman carries blankets and carpets on her head at the Zam Zam refugee camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in North Darfur, Sudan, June 11, 2014. [UNAMID/AP File Photo]

2. What is a refugee?  And what is an internally-displaced person?
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country and who has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.  At the end of 2013, there were 16.7 million refugees around the world.
An internally displaced person (IDP) is someone who flees conflict and violence to another part of their own country.  For every refugee in the world, there are two IDPs.  At the end of 2013 there were 33.3 million IDPs.

Refugees en route to Irbil, Iraq, June 12, 2014 [AP File Photo]

3. What kinds of people are refugees?   
More than 50 percent of refugees worldwide are women and children. While you might think they all live in refugee camps, more than two-thirds live in cities, towns, and villages.  
Conflict does not discriminate based on education level or social status: refugees come from all walks of life. They might be doctors, teachers, university students, farmers or small business owners. 
More than half of refugees recognized by UNHCR have been unable to return to their homes for more than five years, and if you add in Palestinians (who are counted separately), that number jumps to over 67 percent.  The largest refugee nationalities are Afghans, Syrians, and Somalis.  These three populations add up to be more than 50 percent of refugees worldwide.

A Syrian child walks in the mud through the Fadaya Camp,  March 9, 2014. [AP File Photo]

4. The international community is responding to three “Level 3 emergencies” at the same time.  What does that mean?
“Level 3” is a UN designation for highest level of humanitarian crisis. Right now, there are Level 3 emergencies in Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.  These three emergencies alone have forced millions of people to flee for their lives.  

An Afghan worker lifts a sack of wheat on his push cart for a family donated by USAID through the United Nation's refugee agency in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 2, 2013. [AP File Photo]

5. What are we, the United States, doing about it?
The United States is the largest single donor to humanitarian activities worldwide, providing some $5 billion in 2013.  
That includes more than $2 billion to save lives and ease suffering caused by the fighting in Syria, with programs helping 4.7 million people in Syria and more than 2.8 million refugees in neighboring countries. 
We also assist the millions who have fled persecution in Burma, Afghanistan, and many other places around the world.  
Our assistance saves lives, upholds human dignity, helps stabilize volatile situations, and prevents or mitigates conditions that breed extremism and violence.  When refugees, IDPs, and asylum seekers have no one else in the world to stand for them and help them survive, the United States is here and will help. 
We resettle more refugees in the United States than all other countries combined -- 70,000 in 2013.  The United States was built by people who fled oppression and war, leapt at opportunity, and worked day and night to reinvent themselves in this new land.  The refugees who arrive in the United States today continue this tradition, renewing the qualities that make our country strong.
About the Author: Anjalina Sen serves as a Public Affairs Officer for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State.
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Morris B.
United States
June 20, 2014
The single most important thing to know about the world refugee crisis is that the neo-conservative foreign policy of Tony Blair and the Bush and Obama administrations is what created it.
Ricky R.
United States
June 20, 2014
This is so very sad. It gets worse, when you realize that most of the overseas refugees are a result of wars because of RELIGIOUS differences
June 21, 2014
This is reason that US is the more important country all over the world
Paul R.
Arizona, USA
June 22, 2014
This type of refugee discussed I do support, I will not support that of current Guatemala and that region. I feel our current Presidential office has forgotten his responsibility to United States citizens/veterans who are homeless in our own country. I know that through the Church of Jesus Christ LDS and many other religions we constantly provide assistance, food clothing and other types of support. There is in time which to me is now to care for our own.
Eric J.
New Mexico, USA
July 1, 2014

Throwing money at the symptoms of a crisis may enable humanitarian relief to those in need of shelter, and is critical to saving lives, but providing the stability to return home is a completely different thing in conflicts, including influencing the outcome militarily,....though this too often brings humanitarian relief in the long run.


Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of StateWashington, DC

July 1, 2014


Saudi Arabia has made an enormous and very significant commitment to help its neighbor, underscoring that the entire region has a stake in seeing Iraq overcome today's crisis, and achieve stability. Iraq's grave humanitarian crisis affects Shia, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians, and all other religious and ethnic groups. It is worsening by the day and Saudi Arabia's strong show of support will be crucial to alleviating the suffering of all Iraqis displaced by the violence. This half a billion dollar commitment is a powerful statement of solidarity.

We commend the generosity and compassion demonstrated by Saudi Arabia and other donors, and urge others in the international community to join in the international humanitarian response for Iraqi internally displaced persons and to swiftly follow through with their pledges.


I gotta say that this is a good and proper attitude to take on funding relief....shows folks can work for the common good together.

Now if some senior diplomat really wants to blow my mind, just get Russia to pony up a cool billion in cash to address the Syrian refugee crisis.

Let it never be said that the citizen will be satisfied with the status quo.

EJ 7/1/14

Eric J.
New Mexico, USA
July 1, 2014

Where it concerns US domestic immigration policy (17,000 refugees admitted last year) and the current influx of children coming across the Mexican/US border from all parts of the Americas;

I think it boils down to a question of guardianship, in so much as this government has a responsibility to all within its borders to preserve life and protect the innocent...( which I will assume here includes the notion of including children among them).

Whether that be a citizen or someone here on US soil legally or not.

If one is to deport them into the custody of their natual guardians (their parents), then The US gov has an obligation to provide safe passage, being in temp custody of a minor...under 18 years.

It seems to me that anyone trekking across the desert to get here would be pretty worn out and needing the same basic aid given to refugees the world over.

Given the fact that it can take months to process and arrange transfer from detention facilities , what if instead of housing all these huddled masses in detention centers this government took inspiration from FDR's CCC camps and offered adult folks stuck in limbo a chance to do a little work for the gov in exchange for passage home and/or a chance to apply for a work visa properly.

Most folks objections to accepting folks in stem from percieved affects on the local economy, jobs lost, etc.

If one were to consider the fire danger to our national foests to be a national security issue, then it would serve us to hire the willing and able to thin these forests of dead wood and combustables....a labor intensive/primitive living proposition needing thousands of people to make a difference...on a temp rotational basis. This is just one reason to admit folks in and give them another path to citizenship.

I suppose someone smarter than me will be able to find a way to pay for it, but since I've been smelling smoke from the local national forest for the past couple days I hope folks will consider taking an interagency approach to solve a couple pressing problems.

EJ 7/1/14


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