Humanitarian Spotlight: World Refugee Day 2015

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Syrian Kurdish refugees cross into Turkey from Syria, near the town of Kobani. (UNHCR / I. Prickett)

This past Saturday, June 20, marked World Refugee Day 2015. This year’s events took place against a backdrop of worsening global crisis as the international community struggles to cope with record numbers of people fleeing disasters and conflict. In United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres’ World Refugee Day 2015 statement, he announced that the international community has “reached a moment of truth… in the wake of displacement on an unprecedented scale.” He goes on to urge global powers and nations capable of accepting refugees to acknowledge and respond to the plight of those who must flee their home countries due to natural disaster, war, or fear of persecution.

UNHCR’s Global Trends Report 2014: World at War estimates that a record 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced as refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), or asylum seekers in 2014. 13.9 million individuals were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution in 2014, the biggest leap ever seen in a single year. According to the estimates, an average of 42,500 people were forcibly displaced each day, four times that of just four years ago. For the first time, Turkey became the largest refugee-hosting country worldwide with 1.59 million refugees.

Through the figures released and the statements issued, the international call to action is clear, yet there is ongoing debate as to which countries are able or willing to open their borders to the forcibly displaced. The refugee crisis, which is only anticipated to worsen in the coming year, will become even more internationalized as countries bordering prolonged conflicts grow overwhelmed by the needs of incoming populations. As stated by Mr. Guterres, the world “must either shoulder collectively the burden of helping the victims of war, or risk standing by as less wealthy countries and communities – which host 86 percent of the world’s refugees – become overwhelmed and unstable.” As it is now, and as it will be then, the situation of the forcibly displaced is not only a human rights issue demanding a compassionate international response, but also a global security issue that threatens to destabilize not only nations, but also the international community at large.

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