Caught in the Crossfire: World Refugee Day

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Written by Samantha Thorne

Washington, DC—Today on World Refugee Day, the global community honors refugees fleeing from war, violence, and persecution. As forcibly displaced families and individuals seek freedom and a better life, June 20 is a day to commemorate and recognize their courage, strength, and perseverance in a particularly trying time in asylum seeking’s history.

World Refugee Day encapsulates the sentiment that the world’s most vulnerable individuals should not be ignored. It is important to note that United Nation refugee protection efforts predate this recent international holiday. Specifically, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was established in 1950, which heralded in the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Both the convention and protocol are global and legal instruments that explicitly cover refugee rights; namely non-refoulement. Asserting that refugees “should not be returned to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom,” non-refoulement is foundational to securing and supporting refugees. The UNHCR is also working towards a Global Compact on Refugees, which is directed towards improving the international community’s response to large refugee and migratory flows.

Today, migration and refugee admittance is one of the most divisive topics in both domestic and international affairs. As more of the world’s superpowers have taken harder stances on asylum seekers based on national security grounds, a global shift towards isolationism has ensued. This has dramatically altered dynamics between European Union member states in particular—with refugees caught in both literal and metaphorical crossfire.

“We need to re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime,” Secretary-General António Guterres stated in his World Refugee Day message. “In today’s world, no community or country providing safe refuge to people fleeing war or persecution should be alone and unsupported.”

Thus, to answer the Secretary-General’s call for solidarity and unity in supporting refugees, the UNHCR enacted the #WithRefugees Campaign. The campaign endeavors to give the public not only a voice to support and defend asylum seekers, but also a voice to petition governments to act with shared responsibility in providing safe havens.

As the globe unites to remember and shed light on refugee causes this World Refugee Day, may various governments, organizations, and individuals help remove refugees from the line of fire projected by wars, violence, and governmental hostility. Only by creating an environment of refuge and support can refugees be removed from the crossfire they currently find themselves in.

Photo courtesy of UNHCR Washington, DC.