June 20th is World Refugee Day

Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres states “Our duty to the people we serve is to work together to move from fear of each other to trust in each other. Diversity in all its forms is an asset, not a threat.”

Let us recall our common humanity on World Refugee Day, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to displaced people everywhere.

Refugees and displaced people are just like you and me

Every minute 30 people leave everything behind to escape conflict or persecution.

What would you do if conflict threatened your family? Stay and risk your lives or try to flee, and risk kidnap, rape or torture?

We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees – over half of whom are under the age of 18. Over a half of all global refugees come from Afghanistan, South Sudan and Syria.

There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

It is heartbreaking to see borders being closed, people perishing in transit, and refugees and migrants alike being shunned, in violation of human rights and international law. The human cost is profound: millions of jobs lost, millions of children thrust out of school, and lives haunted by trauma and intolerance.

TOGETHER is a United Nations campaign that promotes respect safety and dignity for refugees and migrants. Its aim is to counter the rise in xenophobia, intolerance, racism and discrimination by:

  • changing negative perceptions and attitudes towards refugees and migrants, and
  • strengthening the social contract between host countries and communities, and refugees and migrants.

Definitions of displaced people and NZ’s response to refugees

There are several types of forcibly displaced persons.

  • A refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”, according to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters.
  • Asylum seekers say they are refugees and have fled their homes as refugees do, but their claim to refugee status is not yet definitively evaluated in the country to which they fled.
  • Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are people who have not crossed an international border but have moved to a different region from the one they call home within their own country.

Migrants make the decision to move based on choice so are very different from refugees. They choose to move to better their circumstances such as to escape poverty and unemployment or to reunite with family members, and are often able to decide where they will migrate to.

New Zealand currently resettles up to 1,000 refugees every year through the Refugee Quota Programme, and we are only 1 of 37 countries that regularly accept refugees annually. Last year New Zealand welcomed refuges from 21 different countries as well as 600 Syrian refugees under the emergency refugee quota.

Sources: NZ Red Cross Refugee Services and United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Published on Wednesday, May 29th, 2019, under Uncategorised
Page last updated: 21/06/2019

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