There are over 68 million refugees around the world according to a new report by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.Spokesperson Christopher Boian says the situation is dire. “There is a person forcibly displaced now every two seconds.These are people that are fleeing not by choice but because they have no choice but to flee if they want to stay alive.”Boian says driving the worldwide exodus: war, conflict and persecution.“We’ve seen new conflicts arise in countries and regions around the world that didn’t exist before but that are driving displacement of human beings in very large numbers now.”Boian says no one chooses to become a refugee.“Refugees are human beings just like you and me who have found themselves in extremely unfortunate circumstances.”
But it’s easy to lose sight of core humanitarian principles when responding to the refugee crisis.Eskinder Negash, President and CEO of the US Committee for Refugees,says governments often treat the refugee crisis as a national security issue rather than a humanitarian one.“They don’t see them as another human being, they just see them as a burden to society.The governments are actually fearing refugees, when you fear somebody, you don’t necessarily welcome them.”Negash says the modern refugee problem started about 60 years ago when the international community started trying to warehouse refugees. “When you actually keep refugees warehouse for 20, 30, 50, 60 years, that’s really a major humanitarian crisis.”
But Boian says it’s not a problem that can be dealt with on a country-by-country basis. “This really is a global problem.It’s a human problem and we advocate for all countries to work together to find workable collective solutions to this collective problem.”Spain recently provided a good example of collective problem solving.“The response that Spain showed over the past week in accepting that ship that was on the high seas full of very, very desperate people was an example of humanity, of compassion and of the right thing to do.It’s important to be methodical, and it is important to keep those core principles at the front of our minds:how we want our world to be today; how we want it to look tomorrow for our children and grandchildren; what sort of values are important to us. It’s now when these things are being decided.”
While the refugee problem is indeed a global crisis,Boian says it’s a manageable one, a crisis that will require the world’s courage, leadership and vision.
Julie Taboh, VOA news, Washington.