Statement on 2022 World Refugee Day
On this World Refugee Day, we pause to honor the strength, courage, and resilience of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes. The number of forcibly displaced people has exceeded 100 million; more than 27 million are refugees.
Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees have the right to seek safety, “whoever they are, wherever they come from and whenever they are forced to flee,” as the theme of this year put it. This means refugees should be treated with dignity and should not be forcibly returned to countries of origin when harm is imminent.
In the late 1980s, I was one of more than 20,000 unaccompanied minors who took refuge first in Ethiopia and later in Kenya during the Sudanese civil war. More than two decades ago, I was given the opportunity to come to America through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program after thirteen years in refugee camps. Sadly, many refugees who were with me in the same refugee camp more than 30 years ago are still stuck in protracted situations with no prospects for return, local integration, or resettlement. Not only are we losing generations of innocent children, but we are also wasting human potential as they linger in limbo.
The UNHCR Global Trends report shows that forced displacement outstrips the available solutions in the last decade. With the new refugee situations intensifying at a faster rate and existing protracted displacements unresolved, there is growing mandate to focus on sustainable solutions that will truly meet the need.
The Refugee and Forced Displacement Initiative (RAFDI) strives to help policymakers and practitioners meet forced displacement challenges by expanding the space for new perspectives, constructive dialogue and sustainable solutions. First, new perspectives would recognize the complexity and reality of forced displacement, the resilience of refugees and their contributions to host communities, and integrate views from the Global South. Second, constructive dialogue would fight xenophobia and misinformation with facts, and establish that forced displacement is both a humanitarian issue and development challenge. Third, sustainable solutions would balance the need to support the refugees and their host communities as well as addressing the root causes of refugee plight in countries of origin.