Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Learning about refugees

Last night I attended a panel presentation on refugee camps around the world. I learned some interesting things that everybody ought to learn as well.

There are 65 million displaced people in the world and 23.1 million refugees. For reference, the population of Texas is just under 27 million. In order to attain (obtain?) "refugee" status, it must be ruled that a person, for their own safety, CANNOT return to their country. Period.

And there are countless stories of people denied refuge who obviously need/deserve it, so that 23M number is egregiously small.

On misconceptions: Refugees aren't illegal immigrants pouring across borders. They go through months and years of paperwork, vetting, and red tape to be "refugees." Sometimes the UN grants the status and/or it goes through the State Department of the US. It isn't easy to prove one's identity (when one has, for example, escaped in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs) or provide any proof that they would be harmed or killed if they returned home.

The refugee camps that the speakers described were pretty horrific. Some of them went from living in modest houses in areas just like our towns to immediately living in dirt-coated camps without electricity, running water or even clean water, or any kind of safety or security. Many people in the camps suffer and die from diarrhea and dehydration on a regular basis.

Violent combat continues just adjacent to camps and spills over into them as well. Some of the speakers' most vivid memories are of seeing bullets and bombs light up the night sky just above their heads when they were children.

They come to America to save their families, to start a new life, and to escape the violence—not to perpetuate it. They are VERY THOROUGHLY vetted before being settled here.

Maybe you can share some of this when family members speak disparagingly of refugees as vermin rather than human beings who are suffering and afraid for their lives.

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