As of 2018, there are nearly seventy-five million refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons (I.D.P.s), returned refugees, returned I.D.P.s, and stateless persons. Anyone falling into one of these categories is classified by the United Nations as a “person of concern” . To put this into perspective, the number of persons of concern worldwide could simultaneously fill every N.F.L. stadium thirty-four times over. In the last fifteen years, the number of refugees alone has more than doubled, reaching over twenty-five million refugees throughout the world. While each of these categories vary in technical differences, there is one commonality between all of them: they are human beings without a safe home. The refugee crisis cannot be limited to their regions of origin, as this issue spans across national borders.
In 2018, the United Nations reported that in the United States is hosting over a million individuals in crisis. Seventy percent of the persons of concern are asylum seekers, while thirty percent are refugees. In Europe, France and Germany combined host two million persons of concern. In the Middle East, together, Syria and Turkey host ten million persons of concern. In Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has five million persons of concern . There are “only” a few hundred thousand individuals in crisis in Asia and the Pacific region, which is only a victory when considering the aforementioned regions that host millions of individuals.
There are multiple reasons for the varying amount and makeup of persons of concern between regions. Many persons of concern are in a state of crisis due to violence in their home country, which often follows unstable or corrupt government regimes. In addition to the challenges they face from their countries of origin, the policies of host countries are equally influential. For example, the United States’ policies on refugees and asylum-seekers come across with a less-than-welcome tone, with admittance rates being slowed drastically as a result. Similarly, France previously had more refugee-friendly policies, but recent legislation makes it more difficult for refugees and asylum-seekers to safely settle and dwell in France as a destination country. With Germany as the leading destination for persons of concern in Europe, Horst Seehofer, the Federal Minister of the Interior of Germany, has unsuccessfully proposed major changes that would reform and improve refugee policy across Europe .
Being that most persons of concern come from regions like the Middle East and Africa, they look to wealthier countries such as the U.S. and Germany as final destinations. Poorer countries have limited policies and procedures when it comes to accepting asylum seekers and refugees; this is mainly due to the fact that the governments in these countries are the very reason for which individuals are leaving. Wealthier countries need more reform in policies regarding admittance and acceptance, while poorer countries need more internal and preventative changes.
Global crises, like the growing amount of persons of concern, require global solutions. For example, as highlighted in the United States and France, by targeting certain groups and ethnicities, policies become inherently racist, and they must be addressed and changed. On a global level, potential solutions include granting corrective measures for the repercussions of previously enacted policies that have fueled the crisis. Some of these measures may include admitting or assisting those that have previously been denied refuge. Local efforts can have just as great an influence in the lives of individuals. For example, Utah’s Governor Herbert wrote a letter to President Trump, correctly stating that refugees enrich communities, and as a state, Utah is far from its limit to how many refugees can reasonably be accepted and helped . Standing up to higher authorities, as Governor Herbert did, is a major stepping stone to creating a pro-refugee dialogue. On an even more local level, volunteer opportunities to help persons in crisis are widely available. It’s important to consider that there are millions of individuals who may never be home for the holidays again, as those homes are destroyed in an environment of tragedy and violence. Volunteer efforts are a sure way to create communities where displaced individuals can build a new home.
While countries are not required to adjust their refugee policies, there is no real argument that helping people in crisis is the wrong thing to do. This is not an issue that is going to resolve itself, and it will require action on every level of the global scene. Relief is possible through every effort, both locally and globally. More than anything, increasing conversation about the situation and fostering a pro-refugee dialogue is a major step towards future progress.
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