The Who, What, Why Of The Refugee Crisis

In honor or World Refugee Day 2016- a day where we commemorate the resilience, strength and courage of millions of refugees, and honor and remember the men, women and children who have not survived. 

refugee crisis, baby dies at sea

This photograph of a drowned baby found by a German volunteer rescuer in the seas separating Lybia and Italy, is what I believe in this year’s symbol of the migrant and refugee crisis.

Martin, a German rescuer with the aid group Sea Watch, pulled the body out of the water, saying the infant was “like a doll, arms outstretched.”

“I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive,” “It held out its arms with tiny fingers into the air, the sun shone into its bright, friendly but motionless eyes.”

Martin added, “I wanted to scream, but I decided to sing instead, in order to calm myself and the baby which should never have died — and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heartbreaking moment.”

Refugees are guaranteed a particular protection under international law and under the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, a country is legally obliged to shelter a refugee and is not allowed to return a refugee to somewhere where their life or freedom would be threatened.

Every day, hundreds of individuals and families just like you and me are forced to leave their homes, their families (often in graves) their lives, their jobs, with nothing except what they can carry on their backs. These victims make a long, treacherous and dangerous journey, many times carrying their children in their arms, to a safer place in hopes of a better life. These people are love-starved, food starved, thirsty, freezing or in extreme heat, exhausted, have no place to go, no place to sleep and nobody to help them. Wherever they go, nobody wants them. The refugee crisis in among the worst crisis' in the history of world.
Thousands have died on their journey seeking a better life. Thousands of have died at sea. 2,500+ this year alone. Stop and think about that. Hundreds of people, children, at a time drown in the middle of the ocean after their boats capsize. You can read stories of mothers clinging to their children, watching, holding their babies as they drown and die. We all remember the shocking image of the toddler who drowned trying to flee the war in Syria. The happens every single day. I hate to be so grotesque but the situation is real. 

The world has a shared moral obligation to step up during times like these. No country should refuse to step up and do its part or fair share because no country can do it alone. We must collectively take measures to stabilize the situation while coming up with long-term solutions. Nobody should have to risk their lives, put their children in danger on unsafe smuggling boats because they have no other choice- or be turned away, desperately begging and pleading for help. 

With the rise of Donald Trump, Xenophobia seems to have swept the US. I hear or read all too often that we should close our borders to outsiders- to Muslims, to Latin Americans, to refugees. I am saddened by people's lack of compassion, empathy, and inability to imagine themselves and their families in the positions of these desperate people, facing the trauma, violence, death and suffering that they have. The "safety of Americans" excuse, and lumping everyone of a certain religion or country or region in with a few extremists and violent people or groups, is disgusting and ignorant. With regards to outsiders coming to this country, I had one girl tell me the other day that she refuses to support something that would put her children in danger. I told her that hate and racism and lack of compassion is far more likely to harm her children than an immigrant or refugee. 

More about the refugee crisis:
65.3 million- the number of refugees worldwide. That means that almost 1% of the global population are refugees. That's 1 person for every 112 that have been forced to leave their homes.

These numbers are largely due to conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan.

Half of the refugee population are children under the age of 18.

Where are refugees fleeing from?
Over half of all refugees come from 3 countries- Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. There are a total of 4.9 million Syrian refugees, 2.7 million Afghan refugees and 1.1 Somali refugees. 

Why are these refugees fleeing?
• Syria's civil war. Since the war started in 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have sought shelter in neighboring countries and another 7.6 million have been forced from their homes but remain displaced within Syria. 

• In Somalia, continuous warfare and border clashes has brought the Somali economy to near collapse. Mass starvation has followed, and the level of violence has become extreme, with rape and torture commonplaceMost of the population relies on international agencies to provide food, basic health, education and water services. Violence and displacement has resulted in 2.5 million deaths since 1991. 

• An increase in attacks by President Assad (of Syria), Boko Haram and ISIS.

• People are partly fleeing now because it’s become clear that the conflict is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

• Collapsed infrastructure: healthcare, education systems, and other infrastructure destroyed

How does the crisis affect children?
• Children are susceptible to malnutrition and diseases brought on by poor sanitation. Cold weather increases the risk of pneumonia and other respiratory infections.

• Many refugee children have to work to support their families. Often they labor in dangerous or demeaning circumstances for little pay.

• Children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in unfamiliar and overcrowded conditions. Without adequate income to support their families and fearful for their child’s well being, parents may opt to arrange marriage for girls, some as young as 13.

• Between 2 million and 3 million Syrian children are not attending school. The U.N. children’s agency says the war reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children.

How is the world responding?
• Some of the world's least developed countries have hosted 26% of all refugees. Lebanon hosted the most, Jordan and Nauru ranked second and third. 60% of all refugees are hosted by countries in the Middle East and Africa.

• European countries remain divided on how best tot cope with the crisis. Many countries have shut off their borders while others, like Germany and Sweden, are taking in as many as they possibly can.

•The U.S. has resettled only 1,554 Syrian refugees since the start of the civil war in 2011, out of the more than 4 million who have fled. International organizations have been trying to persuade the federal government to take in more, but the White House has yet to make a formal commitment to doing so.

 How you can help
 -Sign THIS petition. By doing so, you send a clear message to world leaders that they must work together and do their fair share to help refugees and bold, humane and innovative solutions are needed to address the worldwide refugee crisis.
-Don't give in to the hate and rejection of refugees that is being fed through media.
-Donate to help refugees and displaced people receive the aid they desperately need.

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