World Refugee Day 2021
Did you know that one percent of the world’s population is displaced? That’s roughly 80 million people. Of that, 5.6 million are Palestinian — the largest group of refugees in the world. While it’s important that we honor and celebrate refugees on World Refugee Day, marked each year on June 20, we must remember them every day.
After the Beirut blast, Syrian and Palestinian refugees helped in the emergency response and joined the community-led cleanup efforts. In Gaza, most residents are refugees. After the bombings in May 2021, volunteers came together to clear the rubble from the streets. In the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, refugee volunteers are talking to their neighbors to help them register for the COVID-19 vaccine. Wherever refugees are living, they are not merely surviving but giving back — supporting each other and their wider communities.
For the past year, the communities Anera works with have endured a pandemic, destruction and war. And while Anera’s community of supporters have responded to our calls for action by donating and spreading the word about our work (thank you!), refugees, too, have stepped up to support their communities during times of need.
We recently spoke with four inspiring Palestinian and Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. Learn more about how they are spreading hope in their communities in the four video profiles below.
This World Refugee Day, join us in celebrating the generosity within refugee communities. This year, we are asking refugee youth from Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan to submit poems, photography, paintings and drawings that represent how they are giving back to their communities. Make sure you are following us on social media and at #RefugeesShareHope to see some of our favorite artwork submissions on Tuesdays through early November.
I hope you are inspired to share ways you think refugees are making a difference in YOUR community or life. Do you know a refugee who positively impacted your life or someone you know? Or, what motivates you to support refugees? Why do you give back? We look forward to reading your answers!
10 Ways to Help Refugees on World Refugee Day
Dealing with the flood of refugees worldwide has become the world’s main humanitarian crisis. A decade ago, roughly 38 million people had been forced to flee their homes because of persecution or war. According to the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), that number stood at 68.5 million at the start of 2018.
- Of that 68.5 million, more than 25 million are refugees, while an additional 40 million are internally displaced and 10 million are stateless.
- Every day, almost 44,000 people on average flee their homes to seek protection in another part of their own country or abroad.
- Developing countries, like Lebanon, host about 85 percent of the world refugees. That number has increased by 16 percent in the last decade.
- Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees relative to its overall population. One in six people in Lebanon is a refugee who is the responsibility of the UNHCR.
- Of the total number of refugees globally, over 50 percent are under the age of 18.
World Refugee Day is designed to commemorate and honor the bravery and the strength of refugees around the globe and said to encourage people to take action to help them.
What Is World Refugee Day?
World Refugee Day celebrates the strength and resilience of refugees and acknowledges the many obstacles refugees face. Every year on June 20, people around the globe mark the day as an important moment to show support for refugees and their families forced to flee their home countries. The day seeks to educate people about significant issues of concern to refugees and to mobilize action to help them as well as the political will to confront pressing global problems. It is also a celebration of the international achievements of humanity and the need to keep pressing forward.
The goal of World Refugee Day is to raise awareness of the challenges for refugees around the world and to encourage people to find homes for others who been displaced by war or by persecution. The day serves as a call to action for individuals, communities of faith, businesses, schools and communities around the world from every walk of life to work in solidarity with refugees.
Brief History of World Refugee Day
For many years, various countries had been holding events very much like World Refugee Day. Africa Refugee Day, celebrated on June 20 every year, was one of the most widely celebrated events. On December 4, 2000, to express solidarity with the continent of Africa, the United Nations adopted a resolution that World Refugee Day would be held on June 20, starting in 2001. That day also marked the 50th anniversary of the U.N.’s 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees. The resolution also noted that the Organization of African Unity would coordinate Africa Refugee Day with the new World Refugee Day.
The 1951 Convention had defined what it meant to be a refugee. According to the UNHCR, a refugee is a person who is forced to leave their country of nationality due to persecution, violence or war. In 1967, the U.N. expanded the group of people who can apply for refugee status. That was because the 1951 Convention basically defined a refugee as those people who had been forced to flee their homes because of World War II. This came to be known as the 1967 Protocol. The protocol removed the time limitations and geographical definitions of what it meant to be a refugee.
How to Help Refugees on World Refugee Day
There are many practical ways that you can help refugees around the world. For instance, many organizations around the world hold events on World Refugee Day designed to help refugees financially or to bring attention to their plight. But you don’t just have to do something on World Refugee Day. You can do any one of the ideas listed below any time of the year.
1. Help Refugees Where You Are — Host Them in Your Home
Do you have a vacant room? One of the best ways that you can help refugee families is by opening up your home to them without charge. This gives refugees a place to live and connects them with a family who can help them navigate the often confusing intricacies of a whole new country. Many organizations that can help you find refugee families can also assist with paying for some the extra expenses you might face, such as rent or additional utilities.
2. Find a Way to Use Your Specific Skill to Help Refugees
Do you speak a foreign language? When you offer to translate for a refugee family, you help bring great peace of mind because misunderstanding a new language or a new culture is a real obstacle that many refugees face. Do you have experience teaching English as a second language? Teaching refugees English while they wait for their status to be determined is enormously helpful.
You don’t have to have a skill with languages, however, to aid refugees. For instance, a soccer coach in Italy who was angry with the growing racism that many refugees faced, started a team for refugees and migrants. Recreational activities of this kind can be very helpful to people who frequently have to spend so much of their time waiting, often unable to work and unsure of what the future holds.
Whatever your skill, you can use it to aid refugees. Reach out to organizations in your community or state that work with refugees and ask them how you can help. You’ll be surprised at the various ways available.
3. Employ Refugees
Once accepted as a refugee, that individual can work in the United States. People who have attained refugee status need to find meaningful employment so they can help themselves and their families. Government assistance for refugees in the U.S. can be short-lived, depending upon whether the refugee is an individual or part of a family group. Refugees are expected to take care of themselves after a certain period. Refugees can receive a Reception and Placement Grant for up to $1,850 per person for only their first three months in the country. After those first three months, their abilities to access any further financial or medical assistance depends upon their economic status. These programs last anywhere from eight months to nine years. Also, refugees have a variety of skills and are often quite talented. After all, war and persecution don’t care about your educational level. If your business has openings that could be filled by refugees, think about hiring some. If your community has a resettlement center, they can help you find workers with the talents you need to fill empty positions.
4. Shop at Stores That Employ Refugees
The old maxim says money talks. If a business in your community has made a point of employing refugees, shop there and encourage others to do so as well. If a store in your community will not hire refugees, do not shop there, and let them know why you’re not shopping there. Sometimes small acts of activism like this can make an enormous difference for refugee families.
5. If Refugees Cannot Work, Offer Them Chances to Volunteer
Many organizations in your community are desperately in need of volunteers. Encourage them to work with refugees. Many refugees can help in positions such as stocking cupboards at food banks or shelves at libraries, volunteering at senior centers or helping coach local sports, like soccer or chess teams. As noted above, refugees often have a variety of skills, and many refugees are more than happy to volunteer in communities that are offering them a life away from persecution and terror. When refugees become volunteers in their new communities, it helps them become more connected to those communities and feel more at home.
6. Encourage Universities in Your Community to Offer Refugee Scholarships
Since many refugees are so young, losing the chance to pursue their education is a real blow. In many countries around the world, universities are reaching out to these young people and offering them scholarships. In Canada, a program gives student refugees who become permanent residentsa chance to enroll at a university or college. In the United States, Southern New Hampshire University has started a $10 million initiative to allow refugees to earn degrees at home or abroad. Their goal is to educate 50,000 refugees a year.
If you have a university in your community, reach out to them and talk to them about some of the initiatives that have been happening around the world, and encourage them to join in.
7. Help Refugees Integrate Into an Unfamiliar Culture
Imagine what would happen if you and your family were forced to flee your home, spend countless months in a refugee camp, and then finally be allowed to emigrate to a new country very far away. Think of the language, the customs and the conventions that you would need to learn to fit into everyday life.
Refugee families in your community face the same obstacles. They have to deal with the trauma that follows many refugees as well as restart their lives in a whole new place. Small acts of friendship can make an enormous difference.
Invite a refugee family for dinner. If a refugee family comes from a warm country, help them learn about the kind of clothes needed for winter and where they can buy that clothing. Assist them with registering their children for school. Go with them to the DMV to get a driver’ s license. Show them where to look for a new job. You can smooth the bumps from many of these activities by just reaching out and being a friend.
8. Know the History of Refugees in the United States
It’s important that people know the facts about refugees because there are many misconceptions about them in the United States. Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. currently does not accept many refugees, although, over time, the United States has accepted more refugees than any other country.
- Learn about the number of refugees America accepts every year. In 2019, that number is capped at 30,000, down from 45,000 in 2018.
- Since 1980, about 2 million refugees have found homes in the United States. 2018 saw the fewest number of refugees accepted into the U.S. in decades.
- On average, it takes a refugee family between 18 to 24 months before they know if they will be accorded refugee status. This includes several rounds of background checks, screenings and interviews.
- If a refugee finds a job, they pay taxes like everybody else.
- A 55-page draft study by the U.S. Department of Human Health Services (HHS) in 2017 found that between 2004 and 2015 refugees contributed $63 billion more than they cost to local, state and federal governments.
- Refugees do not come to the U.S. for economic reasons. They are not migrants. They have been forced from their homes by violence or terror. Most refugees would never have left their native countries if war or persecution had not forced them to do so.
The main purpose of knowing about the situations refugees face is so you can point out the facts when you hear statements about refugees that are based on misunderstandings or ignorance. Many states also feature pages with information and facts about the real situation of refugees in your community.
9. Organize Fundraising and Awareness Events in Your Community
You can do this either as an individual or by helping to organize events in your community. Hold a yard sale, and tell people who come that you’re donating all your proceeds to aid refugees. Participate in a 5K race or even run a half-marathon, and ask your family and friends to sponsor you. Your children can have a lemonade stand. Ask your friends to donate to help refugees as a birthday present. Work with a local community group, and organize a supper, a dance, a movie showing, a block party or some other kind of event designed to raise funds refugees. Think about setting up a booth on your university campus or at a community event like a fair or a library used book sale to share what you have learned and raise awareness about refugees and how people can help.
Organizations like Anera rely on donations to be able to do all kinds of lifesaving work with refugees around the world. When you donate to Anera, your dollars support essential projects like medical assistance, getting food to needy families, repairing water infrastructure, helping Palestinian refugees learn critical jobs skills and building or repairing schools. Your donation will reach the most vulnerable people in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.
How Anera Helps Refugees in Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank
Anera has worked with refugees in Palestine and Lebanon since 1968. Our workers are members of the communities they serve. They know exactly what will help refugees and their families succeed and gain a better life. Your financial support for refugees is more important and crucial today than it has ever been in the past.
There are 12 refugee camps in Lebanon alone. Most of them date back to 1948 when they were built to accommodate refugees from the first Arab-Israeli war. That means that these camps have seen generations of refugees born and raised in poverty, without citizenship and little hope for a better future without your help.
Anera has helped to rebuild damaged buildings and critical infrastructure in Gaza, trained Palestinians in the West Bank in agricultural techniques to help them farm in low-resource areas and offered education to newly arrived Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Anera also provides health care to all these communities.
If you’re looking for ways to help refugees this coming World Refugee Day, please consider donating to Anera. When you donate, you are helping Syrian and Palestinian refugees families find a life with hope, dignity and well-being.
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