This entry posted by Renata Rendón, Advocacy & Policy Lead, Oxfam Greece Mission, on World Refugee Day, 20 June 2016.
More than 65 million people worldwide have been forced to flee violence, conflict and persecution. Call on your government to protect and welcome people searching for safety.
The number of people forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence or persecution is at its highest level since World War II. The conflict in Syria has been a major factor in the rise, but people have also fled conflicts in South Sudan, Burundi, Iraq and Central African Republic.
The responsibility for providing refugees with shelter, food and health care as well as jobs and education is falling disproportionately on poorer countries, which are often struggling to meet the needs of their own people.
This all puts some of the most vulnerable people in the world in dangerous and frightening situations. Worldwide, more than 5,400 people lost their lives during 2015 making treacherous journeys to reach a safe haven while at least 2,776 people have had lost their lives Families are routinely separated, with parents often unable to find their children. Many have left possessions and documents behind, fleeing with just the clothes they were wearing. Some find themselves living in overcrowded shelters, where conditions can lead to infections and disease.
How can the international community help fix this?
In 2015, the five wealthiest countries gave $1.9bn in aid to the UNHCR to help refugees. Such aid is vital as it provides refugees with essential shelter, food, water and other support.
But providing aid cannot absolve rich countries from their moral and legal responsibilities to welcome more refugees. Aid should not be used by governments to put pressure on developing countries to host refugees and stop people from moving.
World leaders must heed messages of solidarity and support, as they plan to meet in just under 100 days’ time at two important summits in New York. On 19 September, UN Member States will come together for the first UN Summit for Large Movements on Refugees and Migrants. The following day, US President Barack Obama is inviting all world leaders to tackle the refugee crisis. World leaders must not miss these opportunities to help millions of people forced to flee.
Ahead of the summits, Oxfam is demanding that:
- All countries must uphold the fundamental human rights of all people on the move and uphold and implement the principles and standards of the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol
- Rich countries must welcome many more people seeking refuge and asylum
- All refugee-hosting countries must provide a dignified future – including the right to work and education – to everyone trapped in long-term displacement
- Rich countries must give more help to the developing countries who host the vast majority of refugees and displaced people.
What’s Oxfam doing to help?
Oxfam is working in over 20 countries around the world, helping people who have fled because of violence or conflict. This includes bringing safe water to people in bombarded areas in Syria, providing food in South Sudan, and water and sanitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Yemen. In Greece, Italy, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, Oxfam is providing food and clean water and building much-needed toilets to prevent the spread of disease, and making sure people have the information they need to stay safe and obtain access to legal aid.
What can YOU do?
To save and protect lives, governments worldwide must act together and responsibly.
Sign the global petition calling on governments to guarantee safety, protection and dignity to people forced to flee. We’ll hand it to world leaders meeting at the twin summits in September.
This entry posted by Renata Rendón, Advocacy & Policy Lead, Oxfam Greece Mission, on 20 June 2016.
Photo top: Beatrice, 23 collects water from an Oxfam water pump in Nyarugusu refugee camp. Photo: Amy Christian/Oxfam, 22 March 2016
Photo middle: Children in Zaatari camp, Jordan. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam