On World Refugee Day, MGA Reflects on Protection, Support & Inclusion of People Forced to Flee
World Refugee Day honors the strength and courage of over 80 million refugees around the world, and encourages public awareness and support of people who have had to flee their homelands to escape conflict or persecution.
This year, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, the international treaty that defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of refugees, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them. We recognize that, increasingly, people are forcibly displaced from their homes by the sudden- and slow-onset effects of climate change and environmental degradation. The tens of millions of people who are forced to migrate and are unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin because of climate impacts aren’t considered “refugees” under the 1951 Convention, so there is this critical gap in international law. We believe more concerted action and cooperation are required to improve assistance, protection, and solutions for vulnerable communities and individuals uprooted in the context of climate change. And this includes the establishment of legal definitions and instruments to fill the gap and protect the rights of climate-displaced people.
World Refugee Day is also an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives. As a Mercy Global Action Emerging Leaders Fellow, Amy Keller explored the topic of “What is Home, and How Do We Get There?” In her research project, she shared her experience working with Restoring Dignity, a non-profit in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, which seeks to offer support to local refugees by providing resettled families with much-needed household items, cleaning and organization education, and advocacy to ensure refugee rights are protected and promoted. Amy’s research explored the challenges refugee families face in their new communities, and the physical, emotional and social aspects that make up “home.”
The shared experience of COVID-19 has shown us that we only succeed if we stand together. We all have had to do our part to keep each other safe, and despite the challenges, refugees and displaced people have stepped up. Given the chance, refugees will continue to contribute to a stronger, safer and more vibrant world. This year, we call for greater inclusion of refugees in our communities.
- Support local organizations who support refugee inclusion in your communities
- Watch a film about the refugee experience - recommended films
- Organize a book club discussion - recommended books
- Share a meal and experience the rich cultural backgrounds and traditions of former refugees through the food that has special meaning to them - free cookbook
- Advocate for policies in your city and country to ensure refugees are included in health, education, housing, and all aspects of society
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has also offered a few actions, in line with their 2021 theme, “Together we heal, learn and shine”:
- Health: Donate to help protect refugees from COVID-19
- Education: Teach students about refugees (access age appropriate resources here)
- Sport: Support the Refugee Olympic and Paralympic Teams
Messages to: Cecilie Kern - Global Policy & Research Advocate MIA-MGA