These are qualities to be admired. Why then has the word refugee acquired such negative connotations in our times?
Why are politicians being elected on promises to shut borders and turn back refugees? Today the distinction between refugees and migrants has been blurred and politicized.
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Refugees have been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war or violence. Migrants have chosen to move, mainly to improve their lives.
Some leaders deliberately use the terms refugee and migrant interchangeably, using hostile rhetoric that whips up fear against all outsiders. Everyone deserves dignity and fair treatment, but we need to be clear about the distinction. Under international law it is not an option to assist refugees, it is an obligation. It is perfectly possible to ensure strong border control and fair, humane immigration policies while meeting our responsibility to help refugees. More than half of all refugees worldwide are children, and 4 of 5 of them live in a country that borders the conflict or crisis they have fled.
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But consider Lebanon, where every sixth person is a refugee. Or Uganda, where a third of the population lives in extreme poverty, sharing its scarce resources with over a million refugees. Across the world, many countries that have the least are doing the most. When I started working with the U. Refugee Agency, or U. High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR , 18 years ago, there were about 40 million forcibly displaced people and hope that the number might be falling.
From Myanmar to South Sudan, we are failing to help resolve conflicts in a way that enables people to return home.
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And we expect the U. At the first session of the U. General Assembly , in , President Truman laid upon member states the prime responsibility for creating peace and security. He said the U. But the sad truth is, member states apply the tools and standards of the U.
States often put business and trade interests ahead of the lives of innocent people affected by conflict. We barely acknowledge the impact of climate change as a major factor in conflict and displacement. We use aid as a substitute for diplomacy. By clicking continue below and using our sites or applications, you agree that we and our third party advertisers can:. If you have opted in for our browser push notifications, and you would like to opt-out, please refer to the following instructions depending on your device and browser.
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