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Each year, thousands of people flee their countries to find refuge in other parts of the world which can be due to famine, poverty, wars, or persecutions. The World Refugee Day is a chance for people from all over the world to stop and think about the strength, the efforts and grievances of those who are forced to find a new home elsewhere.
Today, there are 65.6 million forcibly displaced worldwide, of which 22.5 million are refugees. More than a half of world refugees come from only three countries (South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria), and are being hosted mostly by lower- or middle-income countries: Turkey (2.9 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), and Lebanon (1 million).
The Mediterranean Region is one of the centers of gravity of various refugee flows, and unfortunately also the theatre of smuggling and deaths: about 360,000people coming from the South Mediterranean reached the Northern shores in 2016 only. It is estimated that 1,854 people died from January to June 2017, while trying to reach the Northern shores seeking for a safer life. Refugees are also fleeing toward the Southern Mediterranean countries: notably, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan are the countries hosting the highest number of Syrian refugees.
By seeking refuge in other countries, refugees need to be supported by the hosts and international community. The work of communities hosting refugees can be seen as a global public good, and need to be supported in return. A very high influx of refugees in hosting countries can lead to a sharp increase in population, that will turn into a congestion in public service delivery, and social tensions. However, refugees can also contribute to the host country by enlarging the demand of goods, creating more open societies and sometimes bringing new skills and know-how into the host countries. In this respect, measures aiming at strengthening social cohesion between refugees and their hosts, guaranteeing formal work and training opportunities to both, and enabling a successful integration of refugees according to the hosting context could be a way of strengthening the resilience of forced displaced and building inclusive societies.
The World Refugee Day reminds us of the shared commitments of states, underlined on September 19th, 2016 in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, to support forcibly displaced and their hosts by strengthening the potential socio-economic benefits of forced migration for host countries, as well as protecting refugees’ human rights, ensuring their education, and strengthening their resilience.
All figures are from UNHCR.