Today is World Refugee Day.
Around the world each year as many as 19 million people are under the aid and assistance of the UN High Commission for Refugees. These include displaced persons, asylum seekers, returnees and stateless people. This figure covers 117 countries on five continents.
So, what do you know about refugees other than what appears on your local television news?
I didn't know very much even though I have been thinking about the idea of volunteering to help with the local migrant assistance service here in Auckland. I had no idea of how many people were affected, nor of the different 'versions' of refugee status.
Here is what the UNHCR has to say about refugees:
What is a refugee? International law defines refugees as people who are unable or unwilling to return to their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group. What international law does not describe is the sheer strength of spirit that keeps their hopes alive, wherever they are. Most of the world’s refugees are women and children, and on World Refugee Day in particular, we celebrate the tenacity and quiet strength of the millions of mothers and wives who hold their families together in the most difficult circumstances. They make sure the flame of hope is never extinguished. They are true heroes, and they deserve our respect.
If you can take a few minutes out of your busy day, today, and visit the UNHCR website and get a few basic facts about the lives and experiences of refugees that would be a great start. If you are a numbers person, then perhaps the statistics page is more to your taste.
And finally, if you want to find out how you can help there is the 'How you can help' page.