Child watching migrants on boat
A migrant child stands by the shore watching a rubber raft carrying other migrants near Mithymna, on the island of Lesbos, 28 September 2015 (Photo: UNICEF)

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This World Refugee Day, we must show that we stand #WithRefugees

The displacement of millions of people may seem like a hopeless cause, but there are ways all of us can effect change

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By Kuba Shand-Baptiste on

Between the separation of migrant families in the US, an unwavering lack of transparency from the Home Office in the UK and widespread hostility towards migrants in Europe and conflict-ridden countries around the world, efforts to draw attention to the injustices facing displaced people this World Refugee Day feel particularly urgent.

As the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) revealed in a report on Tuesday, the number of displaced people around the world reached a record 68.5 million last year, despite five million people returning to their countries of origin. The number of refugees fleeing from conflict and persecution also rose to a peak of 25.4 million, 2.9 million more people than in 2016 and the “biggest increase UNHCR has ever seen in a single year”. Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia contributed two-thirds of the refugees under the care of the UNCHR (around a fifth of the 25.4 million people were Palestinians under the care of UNRWA).

And, unsurprisingly, owing to the prevalence of war and humanitarian crises, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Myanmar topped the list of the countries with the highest number of displaced people. The figures carry on like this – endless statistics and percentages painting a devastatingly bleak picture of a state of affairs that has shown very little sign of easing.

It’s more important than ever for the international community to play its part, any part, in both highlighting the myriad issues that these people – more people than the population of the UK – have been forced to deal with for some time

But, although these crises may seem to have reached the point of no return, it’s more important than ever for the international community to play its part, any part, in both highlighting the myriad issues that these people – more people than the population of the UK – have been forced to deal with for some time.

The first thing many of us can do is sign the UNHCR’s #WithRefugees petition, which aims to hold authorities and world leaders to account over inaction with regards to refugees. So far, according to the UNHCR, over 50 cities worldwide have taken part in the initiative by urging “local authorities and municipalities to join them in welcoming and including refugees in their communities”.

But there are other ways you can help, too:

  • GlobalGiving launched its matching campaign recently, where you can donate money to a number of causes, from fast-track education for Afghan women and girls to support for families displaced by insurgency

  • The International Rescue Committee is hosting a series of campaigns for World Refugee Day, including encouraging “elected officials to support refugee-friendly policies and welcome new families into my community with open arms” and their partnership with Airbnb, where people can volunteer to provide temporary shelter for refugees

  • Save The Children has a Refugee Crisis Relief Fund that you can donate to, and have launched a practical guide to delivering education to all refugee children in conjunction with the annual campaign

As recent events in the UK have demonstrated, the continual mistreatment of refugees has seen devastating consequences for some time. This year, a number of teenagers who had been separated from their families during their journeys to the UK have died by suicide. Asylum seekers and immigrants have been denied healthcare. The list goes on. But the sooner we wake up to our responsibility to do something – beyond expressing sadness, or worse, silence – the better.

@kubared

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A migrant child stands by the shore watching a rubber raft carrying other migrants near Mithymna, on the island of Lesbos, 28 September 2015 (Photo: UNICEF)
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Refugee crisis
Asylum Seekers
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