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World Refugee Day: Advocating for Refugee Rights and Integration

Updated: Jun 24

Article by Luwam Mebrahtu | June 17, 2024 | Global Rights Defenders

Each year on June 20th, the international community comes together to commemorate World Refugee Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of refugees worldwide and celebrating their strength and resilience. As a refugee myself, I find it imperative to share the realities we face, emphasize the importance of welcoming and integrating refugees into host countries, and advocate for enhanced support from international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).


Currently, over 120 million people are displaced globally due to conflicts, persecution, and natural disasters, making the refugee crisis one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time[1]. Refugees, who are forced to flee their home countries in search of safety, often embark on perilous journeys, facing numerous challenges along the way. These journeys can span multiple countries and involve crossing dangerous terrains, often without sufficient resources or protection.


The journey of a refugee is fraught with hardship. From the initial flight from danger to the uncertainty of asylum processes, refugees encounter numerous barriers. Legal barriers are among the most daunting; many refugees struggle to obtain legal recognition and documentation[2], which are crucial for accessing basic services and rights. Without proper legal status, refugees can be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse[3]. Economic hardships compound these difficulties. Refugees often face unemployment or underemployment in host countries due to language barriers, lack of recognition of qualifications, and discrimination[4]. This economic instability not only affects their ability to provide for themselves and their families but also hampers their ability to integrate fully into society[5].


Social integration is another significant challenge. The cultural and social integration into host communities can be difficult, as refugees may experience xenophobia and isolation. Host communities may have misconceptions about refugees, viewing them as a burden rather than as individuals who can contribute positively. This can lead to social tensions and a lack of cohesion. Furthermore, the trauma from conflict and the stress of displacement can have long-term impacts on mental and physical health[6]. Refugees often require specialized mental health services to cope with the trauma they have experienced, but such services are frequently inadequate or inaccessible. These challenges not only affect refugees but also have broader implications for host countries. Without proper integration, refugees may become marginalized, leading to increased social tension and economic strain on host communities[7].


The successful integration of refugees can yield substantial benefits for both refugees and host countries. When refugees are welcomed and supported, they can contribute positively to the economy, enrich cultural diversity, and foster social cohesion[8]. Studies have shown that refugees, when provided with the right opportunities, can become valuable members of society, filling labor shortages, starting businesses, and bringing new perspectives[9]. For example, refugees have been instrumental in revitalizing communities by opening new businesses, which create jobs and stimulate local economies. Moreover, their diverse backgrounds and experiences can foster innovation and creativity, benefiting the host society as a whole.


Refugees possess inherent rights under international law, as enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol[10]. These include the right to non-refoulement, the right to work, the right to education, and the right to healthcare. It is imperative that host countries uphold these rights to ensure the dignity and well-being of refugees. By ensuring that these rights are respected, host countries can help refugees rebuild their lives and contribute to their new communities. For instance, access to education is crucial for young refugees, enabling them to build a future and integrate more effectively into society.

To address the global refugee crisis effectively, international organizations and NGOs must take a proactive role in advocating for refugee rights and supporting their integration. Recommendations include increasing efforts to raise awareness about refugee issues and combat misinformation and xenophobia. This can be achieved through public education campaigns and community engagement initiatives. Providing legal assistance to help refugees navigate asylum processes and secure their rights is also essential. Legal aid can empower refugees to understand and claim their rights, ensuring they receive the protection and support they need. Implementing programs that facilitate refugees’ access to education and employment opportunities is another key recommendation. Vocational training programs, language classes, and mentorship schemes can help refugees develop the skills needed to succeed in their new environments[11]. Working with governments to develop policies that promote the inclusion and integration of refugees is essential. Policymakers should be encouraged to create frameworks that support refugees' rights and facilitate their integration into society.


Solidarity is more than an abstract idea; it is a lifestyle that entails a dedication to understanding, empathy, and justice. And as we mark World Refugee Day this year, let us reaffirm our dedication to standing alongside refugees, advocating for their rights, and working towards a world where they are truly embraced and welcomed. Solidarity with refugees isn't just a choice; it's a moral imperative that defines our humanity and shapes the world we live in. And as we strive towards a future where refugees are no longer seen as strangers, but as valued members of our global community, let us remember that our actions today will shape the world of tomorrow.


Finally, World Refugee Day serves as a reminder of the urgent need to support refugees worldwide. As a refugee, I call upon the global community to recognize the challenges we face, uphold our rights, and promote our integration into host societies. By doing so, we can create a more inclusive and harmonious world for all. The responsibility lies not only with governments but also with individuals and organizations committed to justice and human dignity. Together, we can make a significant difference in the lives of refugees and in the societies that welcome them.


References

[1]United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). (2024). UNHCR warns against apathy and inaction amid spike in forced displacement.


[2] Hanna, Svensson. (2023). “We Kiss Everyone’s Hands to Get a Permanent Job, but Where Is It?”: The Failure of the Social Inclusion Narrative for Refugees. Social Inclusion.


[3] Marta, Costa, Blasco., Anne, Gobin. (2023). GD08 Migrant dermatology. British Journal of Dermatology.


[4]Vasileia, Digidiki., Jacqueline, Bhabha. (2023). The Hidden Costs of Unaccompanied Child Migration. The International Journal of Children's Rights.


[5] Sarah, Eisen., Nicholas, Longley. (2023). 567 Challenges of caring for asylum seeking families – perceptions from the front line of primary care.


[6] Nikolaos, Nagopoulos., Ouael, Sarsour., Dimitris, Paraskevopoulos. (2023). Intercultural Capital and Social Integration of Refugees. Open Journal of Social Sciences.


[7] Omar, Kadkoy. (2023). Betts, Alexander. 2021. The Wealth of Refugees: How Displaced People Can Build Economies. Oxford University Press:Oxford University Press, pp. 430.. International Migration.


[8] Eun, Su, Lee., Betina, Szkudlarek. (2022). Marginalizing the Marginalized: Human Resource Development and Refugees’ Employability. Proceedings - Academy of Management.


[9] Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2018). How Immigrants Contribute to Developing Countries' Economies.



[11] Saida, Quftan, Abdelaziz, Aladwan. (2022). The effectiveness of a training program based on Betts’ model of autonomous learner on improving the creativity product. Eurasia journal of mathematics, science and technology education.

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thank you luwam

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