Wednesday, 22 June 2016

World Refugee Day

In a world where violence forces hundreds of families to flee their homes each day, it is about time the global community showed concern about the plight of refugees. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, as at the end of last year, there were about 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. This is an increase of 5.8 percent compared to the year before. About two-thirds of this number was categorized as internally displaced people, that is those who left their homes but stayed within their own country, while almost a third or 21.3 million were classified as refugees. The remaining 3.2 million people were waiting for their asylum applications to be processed, mostly in Western countries. The striking fact about these figures is that more than half of the world’s refugees are children. The figures may mean nothing to some, but considering that, the size of the world refugee population is almost the same as the population of the United Kingdom, or the fact that if it were a country, the global refugee population would make the nation, the 21st most populous country in the world, should give a cause to worry. Is it surprising therefore that this year’s Olympics in Rio will see the participation from the refugee contingent for the first time? The situation of refugees is a grave one and must be treated as such. In fact, no one wants to see people and particularly children forced to make extremely hazardous and dangerous journeys to escape conflict, chaos and climate related conditions. The point must be made that no one wishes to and it is not pleasant living in a foreign land as a refugee. It is demeaning and dehumanising.

Records show that Syria is the single largest source for new refugees, although older conflicts, like those in Afghanistan and Somalia, continue to be big contributors as well. There is the urgent need to do much more to help refugees, especially children, by courageously addressing the underlying causes that lead to mass movements of people. We should proactively find political solutions to prevent and end conflict, which drives 80 percent of humanitarian needs globally. Regrettably, pressure on very vulnerable people to migrate from extreme hardship and conflict is worsening by the day. That is why the announcement by the Kenyan government that it intends to close the world's oldest and largest refugee camp is worrying, no matter the underlying reasons. The Dadaab Camp in Nairobi is 24 years old. Tens of thousands of refugees were born there, they cannot leave without special permission nor secure work permits, and have little or nothing to go back to in Somalia, which is insecure and has been affected by El Nino. This will force 327,000 Somalis; 192,000 of them children into an uncertain future.

Back home, the Ghana Refugee Board said the country is currently hosting more than 20,000 refugees, mainly from the sub region. It is not exactly clear the number of Ghanaian refugees in other countries. It is clear that due to chieftaincy and land disputes in certain parts of the country, residents in those areas have been forced to move to other places both within and outside the country. The least said about the impact on their lives the better. That is why it is important that as Ghana goes to the polls, everybody plays and abides by the rules to ensure that the country remains intact before, during and after the election. No single citizen of this country must be displaced as a result of this election. We must eschew politics of division and refrain from abusive language, violence and extremist ideas.

As the world mark Refugee Day, it is important that governments and humanitarian players rapidly implement recent commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit. These include ensuring that no child misses out on education by guaranteeing schooling for all - and funding it, permitting refugees to work within host communities and providing business support so they can look after themselves and their families and also support countries prone to conflict, chaos and crises with long-term development programming and financing that bring lasting change at the local level.


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