On June 20, 2015, the global community marked the annual World Refugee Day- a day set aside to remember people who are forcefully displaced by natural disasters or man-made crises.
Undoubtedly, the life of a refugee is not only harrowing, but difficult. A refugee is denied the comfort and most times that of his/her family and is at the mercy of the host community or country.
Invariably, it was a day the world takes time out to recognise the resilience, as well as honour the courage, strength and determination of men, women, children and others forcibly displaced throughout the world as a result of threat of either persecution, conflict, violence, war or other forms of natural disasters.
The event encourages both local, national and international communities to reflect on what can be done in order to help those who are forced to flee to safety, regain hope and rebuild their lives in another country, region or even environment.
Each year, the annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in over 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the refugees themselves. Such events include: panel discussions, lectures, cultural performances and concerts designed to rekindle and reawaken global consciousness on the plight of the refugees. It is also a day that helps all and sundry to capture the agony, pains and the inhuman treatment refugees face daily in their new environments.
Statistics show that 60million people have been displaced by conflict and persecution, with about 20million becoming refugees.
Surprisingly, 80 percent of refugees are women and children, and another 75 percent are living without any immediate hope of returning to their country of origin or community as they are compelled to stay in different camps for years under very harsh and unfavourable environment.
According to a report released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR and annual Global Trends Report in 2015, worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever and the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 rose to a shocking 59.5million as compared to 51.2million a year earlier and 37.5million a decade ago. It also reported that the increase represents the biggest leap ever seen in a single year, and may worsen years ahead.
More worrisome is the fact that globally, one in every 122 persons is either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum elsewhere. To worsen matters, the war since 2011 in Syria, has turned the country into the world’s single-largest driver of displacement. The UNHCR reports also said that every day in 2014 alone, an average of 42,500 people became refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced, which was about a four-fold increase in four years.
Additionally, in the last five years, at least 15 conflicts have either erupted or reignited and 8 was recorded in Africa, that is Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, North-Eastern Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and this year in Burundi. Three were witnessed in the Middle East, namely Syria, Iraq and Yemen, one in Ukraine, 3 in Asia, specifically in Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Pakistan, respectively.
These figures, no doubt, reflect the individual suffering and the challenges before the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting as well as finding solutions to persecution, conflicts, violence and natural disasters. We therefore call on all and sundry, particularly government at various levels to intensify efforts at preventing and resolving conflicts. They should also help achieve peace and security so that families displaced can be reunited and the growing army of refugees scattered across the globe can as well return to their native soils.
At the same time, we salute the courage and resilience of all refugees and displaced persons and as this year’s theme aptly stated ‘with courage let us all combine’, let us do all within our means to provide for the immediate needs of these hapless persons.