June 17, 2016 by Afsan Chowdhury
On this World Refugee Day, people all over the world will affirm their commitment to humanity, from the global to the local level. Refugees are the most vulnerable people on earth and experience every suffering that is possible. Perhaps the greatest pain is that they left a home behind and have no land to call their own.
According to UNHCR, 65.3 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes in 2015. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, half of who are under the age of 18. The global refugee population is greater than the total population of many countries.
UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon has said that we all must work together to reduce the number of people who are forced to become refugees, as well as ensure the safety and welfare of existing refugees.
“Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere.”
Bangladesh has a long familiarity with refugees, dating back to 1971 when 10 million people fled Bangladesh to escape genocide. History shows that such mass displacement causes suffering not only to the fleeing population but great difficulties to the refugee-hosting countries as well. As of now, Refugees International estimates that Bangladesh is hosting 29,000 Rohingyas in official refugee camps, while another 200,000 live in unofficial camps.
The world must place more emphasis on looking at the reasons why people are seeking refuge, and focus on reducing conflict and violence. We must also anticipate new catalysts such as climate change, which many fear will force many people, particularly from low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, flee their homes.
It is irresponsible human action – political, social, and environmental – that causes people to seek refuge. We forget that we all have a past as refugees once. We are worsening the situations of the people who need our support when we deny help to refugees. It is not just a matter of kindness but it is a practical consideration also. Refugees might not carry many material possessions when they reach a country, but let us not forget that Einstein was a refugee.
BRAC sees refugees as victims of irregular migration and the focus of our work is on ensuring safer, more efficient migration that leads to positive outcomes for all.
Our commitment on this day is to declare that we will take steps to assist refugees, prevent creation of refugees and build a better and environmentally-sustainable world for all.
Afsan Chowdhury is a senior advisor at BRAC.