It’s Time The World Took Another Look at The Way We Look After Refugees

This month UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke to the Global Refugee Forum about the way the world looks at refugees, and how we must ‘reboot’ our approach to them. At the first meeting of its kind in Geneva, Mr Guterres said we should be doing more to understand the reasons why so many people are feeling the need to flee their homes while respecting their rights and protecting them where possible.

“Now more than ever, we need international cooperation and practical, effective responses. We need better answers for those who flee, and better help for communities and countries that receive and host them.”

After ‘a decade of displacement’ the global forum – defined as the ‘blueprint’ for restoring the human rights of refugees – comes as Mr Guterres calls for joint action, describing the Global Compact on Refugees as “our collective achievement and our collective responsibility. It speaks to the plight of millions of people. And it speaks to the heart of the mission of the United Nations.”

UN data states that there are currently over 70 million people who have been forced to leave their homes, an increase of 2.3 million from last year and double the amount 20 years ago. Over 25 million have become refugees, unable to go back home thanks to civil unrest, war and persecution, desperately trying to make a new home in thousands of refugee camps throughout many other countries across the world.

Although there are international agreements that were created decades ago, Mr Guterres stated that we need to “re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime.”

“Indeed, at a time when the right to asylum is under assault, when so many borders and doors are being closed to refugees, when even child refugees are being detained and divided from their families, we need to reaffirm the human rights of refugees.”

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Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the event’s co-host has also called on the world to ‘reboot’ the way it deals with people who need protection.

“Injustice, conflict and violence. This is why we are here. Our world is in turmoil, and 25 million refugees are looking to us for solutions.”

Mr Grandi also stated that there are “71 million people uprooted from their homes globally, inside and outside their countries, it’s time to reboot our responses.’ Yet instead of helping those in most need, the responsibility had been passed onto the poorest countries by those ‘with more resources.”

With this outlook “refugees are pushed aside too…often in camps, cut off from the social and economic life of the communities hosting them. Humanitarian aid helps, and remains vital, but is not enough and not adequate to turn the tide from despair to hope.”

Switzerland Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis confirmed that his country has dedicated $125 million to refugee protection for the next four years and gave his support for more countries to share the burden.

Currently 8 in 10 refugees are taken in by developing countries however Swiss cities and towns are continuing to provide assistance in the integration into communities.

Speaking on the crisis Mr Cassis quoted a saying from one of the most famous refugees, Albert Einstein:

“Life is like a bicycle; you have to move forward to avoid losing your balance…This applies to all of us, we must not lose our balance and look ahead.”

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Mr Cassis went on to highlight how religious partners could play a positive role when helping find ways to solve refugee issues including integration and protection, quoting the ‘unique’ written agreement, based on ‘ethics and solidarity’ between the country’s Muslims, Christians and Jews.

While Heiko Mass, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs spoke for Germany, saying the refugee ‘burden’ should be shared amongst ‘a greater number of shoulders’.

However Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan brought the forum’s attention to the struggles that developing nations were facing stating that the amount of vulnerable families heading over their borders ‘causes problems that cannot be imagined by richer countries.’

Although Pakistan currently houses nearly three million refugees in ‘a country with massive unemployment’ Mr Khan commented that Europe was also struggling to cope with refugees, thanks to the new trend of socialist politicians who ‘cashes in on public distress’.

Confirming his desire for a rethink into the way the world looks at refugees, Mr Guterres declared:

“This is a moment for ambition. It is a moment to jettison a model of support that too often left refugees for decades with their lives on hold: confined to camps, just scraping by, unable to flourish or contribute. It is a moment to build a more equitable response to refugee crises through a sharing of responsibility. One might say that as refugees go, so goes the world. Today we must do all we can to enable that humanitarian spirit to prevail over those who today seem so determined to extinguish it.”