Today is World Refugee Day, a day enacted by the United Nations to draw attention to the 43.7 million people displaced around the world.
The United States and Israel are two countries built by refugees, Mark Hetfield, of HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees points out in the Forward:
Starting on World Refugee Day, let’s not tolerate intolerance toward refugees and the refugee “burden” being placed on the United States and Israel. We should welcome the refugees among us, not complain about them. Let’s remember that the overwhelming majority of the American Jewish community came here, or are descended from people who came here, as refugees.
The Huffington Post posted a video featuring a Syrian refugee named Lekaa who is eight months pregnant and living in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp. In the video, she describes her living conditions and hopes for the safety of Syrian refugees around the world.
The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that 15 million displaced individuals live in refugee camps. But those camps are usually built quickly, during emergencies, and lack the amenities necessary for people to live comfortably. Many are in protracted refugee situations, which means they’ve been in exile for five years or more:
According to this definition, about two-thirds of the world’s refugees—over seven million people—find themselves in Protracted Refugee Situations without much prospect of achieving substantial change or durable solutions. In 2011 there were approximately 30 PRS situations worldwide. The average duration of these situations has significantly increased over the last decade, and is now approaching 20 years.
While most refugee camps are built by the government or international organizations and don’t provide basic needs, entrepreneurial refugees have undertaken projects to increase the quality of life for themselves and their neighbors, the Guardian reports:
Enterprising refugees like electricity supplier Mohammed Ahmed Bashir, a Somali living in the Hagadera camp in Kenya, are setting up businesses within camps to serve inhabitants’ needs. “We might lack a stable government back home, but we do not lack entrepreneurial minds,” Bashir told Sabahi online.
For more information about current refugee statistics and news, visit the UNHCR website.