The Global Plight Of Refugees

A new camp recently opened in Jordan is expected to house as many as 130-thousand Syrian refugees.

The Associated Press reports “Once full — a process expected to take months — the camp will outstrip Zaatari, currently Jordan’s largest camp.”

The Zaatari camp houses so many refugees it ranks as the 4th largest city in Jordan and “the second largest refugee camp in the world.”

In Lebanon the Syrian refugee population now surpasses 1 million.

In 2012, the last year for which data is available, there were 10.5 million refugees in the world — that according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

While the 2012 total was down from an all-time high of some 12 million refugees in 2001, it’s considerably larger than the 1.6 million refugees recorded in 1960.


Refugees from DR Congo board a UNHCR truck in Rwanda. Image via Graham Holliday (Flickr – Creative Commons).

As the number of refugees has grown, countries all over the world have struggled to find a way to accommodate them.

In Europe the struggle has been over who to allow in and what resources to offer them. The European Union has been working since 1995 to create a Common European Asylum System. This system designed, in part, so that:

“asylum in the EU must remain accessible. Legitimate measures introduced to curb irregular migration and protect external borders should avoid preventing refugees’ access to protection in the EU while
ensuring a respect for fundamental rights of all migrants.”

But the EU has faced some difficulty in getting all member states on-board.

Amnesty International just released a statement focusing on what it calls Greece’s “unlawful” treatment of refugees.

“The treatment of refugees and migrants at Greece’s borders is deplorable. Too often, instead of finding sanctuary, they are met with violence and intimidation. There are cases where they have been stripped naked, had their possessions stolen, and even held at gunpoint before being pushed back across the border to Turkey,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

The organization is urging the EU to sanction Greece for its treatment of refugees.

Australia, the United States, and Canada have all been in the news for reaching a possible deal on the resettlement of refugees in Cambodiaholding asylum seekers in jail, and cutting funds to a program providing mental health services to refugees.

A number of outlets and organizations have attempted to tell the story of the refugee experience.

The Refugee Project is a multimedia site that relies on UN statistics to tell the global story of forced migration. PBS’s Global Voices program featured an episode in which a Cambodian man who’d fled his home country reunited with his family. And last year the Guardian featured a multimedia story about Alaskans who might be “America’s first climate refugees.”

Of course, researchers have also sought to tell the story of refugees as well.

This article from the Journal of English Linguistics examined the way refugees were constructed by discourse in the British press. Global governance and climate refugees are the focus of this piece from Global Environmental Politics while this research published in Geoforum tells the story of people who do not want to be considered climate refugees.

The European Union’s treatment of refugees is the focus of this article from Refugee Survey Quarterlythe experiences of Bosnian refugees resettled in the American South are chronicled in this article published in the Journal of Ethnic and Culture Diversity in Social Work.

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