On June 20th, people around the world will recognize World Refugee Day. Born of an expression of solidarity, the global community will hope to raise awareness of the plight of millions of refugees and seek solutions for solving the problem.
What is a Refugee?
According to the UN guidelines, a refugee is a person who, for fear of being prosecuted on the basis of race, nationality, religion, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality and who is unable or unwilling to avail themselves of protection of that country. A refugee, in essence, is a person who has fled their native land due to hostility, harassment or violent treatment and who cannot return. Refugees exist in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe and seek asylum because their country is either ravaged by political struggles, war and famine.
The Origin of the Day
In 1951, the United Nations General Assembly convened on the issue of refugees. In that historic year, the General Assembly drafted a legal document which defined who was a refugee and which rights would be granted to those seeking asylum. The document was approved at a special conference and became international law in 1954. Denmark was the first to ratify the document and almost 150 countries recognize it. By 1967, the UN General Assembly ratified the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Almost 50 years following the original action by the UN, refugees and their plight had becoming a growing issue. In 2000, the UN adopted a resolution relative to the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention and the first World Refugee Day was created. The first ever celebration took place on June 20, 2001.
Ways to Get Involved
As members of the global communities, action and omissions can impact our homes, lives and freedoms. With this in mind, many people seek to help address the issue of refugees and their plight. There are many ways people can help.
Money is not the root of evil when it is given to help the less fortunate. One of the ways a person, who has little time, become more involved with the issue of displaced and persecuted people is to donate to the cause. There are a number of groups, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Rescue Committee and the American Refugee Committee, that benefit from generous donations.
Also, those who have time, can also volunteer with various organizations that help refugees. Volunteers can travel to affected areas or peoples and distribute food, medical supplies, or help with other relief efforts.
You can sponsor refugees. Many church and civic groups assist refugees with housing, jobs and other support.
While you may be low on funds and time, you can help raise money for those groups heavily involved with the plight of refugees. Some organizations and community service groups hold fundraisers, including raffles, collections, bake dales, and auctions.
Some academic efforts can also help. When people are aware, they are more inclined to become involved. Colleges, special interest groups, student groups, and charities can hold debates, discussions, receptions, and guest lecturer series/panels that spread the world about refugee issues. These efforts can educate the general public. These same groups can also take part in rallies and letter writing campaigns.
There are others with special talents, who simply add their voice. Talented singers and song writers raise awareness through their songs and music. Think of those like Wyclef Jean and the Marleys.
We are all part of the global community and the status of refugees have remained an issue for more than six decades. By getting involved with World Refugee Day, a person can make a difference.
For more information on the United Nations, refugees or World Refugee Day, check out the following links: