Here comes another World Refugee Day to be celebrated or commemorated around the world, most particularly, in the West, where there are less refugees than in the so-called third world and developing countries. With more violence springing up and more people pumping up dictators and war lovers, the question is: “how many refugees does the world need?”
The UNHCR or the United Nations Refugee Agency claims that this day, June 20, 2009 is set aside each year to commemorate the heroic endurance of refugees who have been victimized by violence around the world. UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie appeared alongside UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres “to call on the world to recognize millions of victims of conflict around the world not as a burden but as a potential gift.” This is a good thing.
As a former refugee myself, I appreciate this kind of effort by Angelina Jolie. I only wish there were many more rich, caring celebrities, world renowned people, Presidents of powerful countries, dictators or former dictators out there who care like Angelina. Despite her many efforts, her passion, she alone cannot accomplish what each of us working together can do to end world violence that causes refugee crisis. We cannot cry about the plight of the Iranian people without connecting what that new violence will do to create more refugees.
This shot was taken during my 2008 visit to the Liberian Buduburam Refugee camp that was home to more than 45,000 Liberians for nearly 20 years.
We cannot love the war in the Middle East without understanding how any war there will cause more commemoration of refugee days. There is a correlation between dictatorship, poor governments, big powers not doing anything to curtail injustice around the world and refugee crisis. When I fled the war in Liberia nearly twenty years ago, I was not declared a refugee nor were any Liberians. But by the time we’d fled in 1991, there were, according to news reports, 250,000 Liberians dead from the bloody civil war and wanton destruction. Ten years later and fifteen years later, the UN has not raised the figure of dead. Today, there are tens of thousands of Liberians still in refugee camps at the end of a fourteen year civil war. Are we celebrating those too? Are we celebrating their courage, their endurance, and if we are, why can’t we pressure the UN to give to Liberians who want to go home the minimum resettlement they need to return? Why give them a hundred dollars to return to devastation, thereby keeping them in refugee camps for another decade. Why?
March 23, 2009 by abluteau:There are millions of refugees around the world. Some of them are in camps, like these children in Chad, but many are not. Often, families get separated as they flee violence or natural disaster
A video of America’s Angelina Jolie, whom we all adore, including myself on her one woman efforts is being watched, but who’s really listening?
There are 45 million official UN confirmed refugees in our world today, not counting the millions of displaced, dislocated, unregistered, real people, mostly women and children who have had to abandon everything to flee death in their homelands. We need to not commemorate this sort of pain; instead, we need to STOP this sort of pain, stop it, stop dictators from being created, stop them from staying in power, stop pumping them up until it is too late, stop rebels from attacking innocent women and children, stop big and powerful countries from profiting on the blood of innocent people, stop Africa from being destroyed, stop the violence currently in Iran, in Iraq, in North Korea, everywhere. We need to stop talking and celebrating what we think we have done. We need to stop sleeping unless we can stop the carnage that is destroying our world. There is no need for us to have a “World Refugee Day” year after year. There should be no refugee if we can remember the horrible violence that is destroying our world.
This World Refugee Day like in previous years, everyone will congratulate one another again on the achievements the world has made, and the UN, of course, will give reports about their needs and the plight of refugees. The UN will also separate the goats from the sheep, the “refugees” from the “not so refugees,” and will reduce the number just so we don’t look bad, so we don’t appear to be so evil as to sit while other human beings in Dafur and other parts of the world die.
These pictured above are not called “Refugees,” but displaced, get it?
According to National Geographic, in 2003, there were 35 million refugees in the world, most of them women and children. These often talented, very educated, innocent people around our globe were forced to flee their homes, towns, cities, villages simply because some politicians around the globe in connection with the powers that be caused them to be caught up in wars and other violence. Today, according to the United Nations Agency, UNHCR, there are 45 million refugees around the world. But let’s just imagine that this is the figure that fits the United Nation’s description of the word, “REFUGEES.” Remember, the word refugee or the status of a refugee depends on the United Nations willingness to declare a nation’s real people, “Refugee.” The UN does not play around with this word. They can decide that two hundred thousand people who fled Liberia into neighboring countries when the Liberian civil war first erupted “were not refugees” because the UN did not yet see them as refugees, but “DISPLACED PERSONS,” get it?
WITH THIS CALENDAR ON THE UNHCR SITE, YOU SHOULD LOOK FORWARD TO MORE REFUGEES
Select another year-range:
Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Wed Jun 20 2001 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Thu Jun 20 2002 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Fri Jun 20 2003 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Sun Jun 20 2004 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Mon Jun 20 2005 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Tue Jun 20 2006 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Wed Jun 20 2007 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Fri Jun 20 2008 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Sat Jun 20 2009 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Sun Jun 20 2010 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Mon Jun 20 2011 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Wed Jun 20 2012 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Thu Jun 20 2013 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Fri Jun 20 2014 World Refugee Day United Nation day
Sat Jun 20 2015 World Refugee Day United Nation day
These are refugees I met in the Buduburam camp outside of Accra, Ghana. Many still need to return home.
How many countries will fall into refugee crisis before the world pays attention to real people’s needs instead of to politically charged stories? How many millions around the world will die in refugee camps around the globe before we make refugee issues a priority like we make the needs of richer countries?
Today, the UNHCR’s number of refugee stands at 45 million, but the real number will never be known. You must remember with me and account for the millions who are displaced across the borders of their countries, displaced for years in other countries, people who have no country anymore, who cannot return home even if they wanted to. And as you remember, realize also that there are dictators, warlords, like Liberia’s Charles Taylor who are making fun of peace and justice by evading the truth of their war crimes. We need to set aside time to bring them to justice. Remember that there are millions in the Dafur region, in Chad, in Iran, in Iraq, and all over the world who continue to suffer as a result of violence.
As we slow down our pace in the free world and reflect on refugees around the world, I am reminded of one refugee who waited nearly fifteen years to return home, and on the brink of her return, died.
My young sister-in-law, Ora Sansan Wesley Dixon, who was a vibrant, industrious young woman died just two weeks after she and I stood together in Buduburam, talking about the need to return home to Liberia. Sansan, as we affectionately called her was a hardworker who despite years of the war, having lost her mother and many family, made a small life for herself in the infamous Buduburam camp in Ghana.
The things that refugees acquired over nearly two decades can fit in a small space of a truck if they survive or acquire anything at all.
My late sister-in-law, Oral Wesley Dixon in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Accra, Ghana. May her soul rest in peace as we commemorate World Refugee Day.
The lack of medical facilities caused her to suddenly become ill, and died of conditions not quite explained just a couple weeks after the photos below. As you may observe in the photos, I am standing before the truck that was supposed to take the few possessions of dozens of refugees back to Liberia in the UNHCR’s attempt to repatriate Liberians. Liberian women had gone on strike early that year, but never got what they needed to survive their return to the devastated Liberia.
Many had decided it was no use staying in a country where they were not wanted, and were leaving. On the trucks were old beds, chairs, pots and the few belongings refugees could for over a decade. Sansan had also paid for her own few possessions to be placed on the truck. There was no money to take them, so family members had pitched in to fly her back home in August after her things were sent to Liberia. Family had made room for her. She was among the lucky who still had family that cared about her or that had survived fourteen years of warfare.
She offered me food that afternoon, my aid, Enock, refusing to eat from someone who had so little, he said. But Ora insisted to no avail. Enock, a Ghanaian was so saddened, tears welled his eyes to see the sort of condition refugees lived in. There was one small stool, the entire little shack, empty of all of Sansan’s possessions. She was her happy jubilant self, but deep down, she was hurting and she told me so very easily. She’d lost everyone, including her mother whom we wept for as I tried to stay focused on the purpose of my visit to the camp: to be a consolation to her and to her friends. The life of a refugee is more uncertain than anything any of us knows. I knew that for months as I fled in the bushes in Liberia. But when that war fled from in 1990 was supposed to be over, and after all these years, people have to pay for their own repatriation, then why are we celebrating their strength? I am not saying that the UN is doing nothing; I am saying that the UN and the world can do more.
Ora Sansan Wesley Dixon who died July 2008, nearly a year ago at Buduburam Refugee Camp near Accra, Ghana. May Her Soul Rest in Peace and the Almighty Shine His Eternal light upon her.
For me, Ora Wesley Dixon represents the face of the refugee crisis. In her last days in the Buduburam Refugee camp in Ghana, she had learned to survive, to make a life, got married, found a job helping other Liberians, putting herself through school as a preparation to return home. But her life was cut short by lack of medical care. She may not seem like the poster child of war refugees in tents in the dessert, but she’d already been there after more than ten years of refugee life. She had seen it, but she never lived to return home. She had packed, but never returned.
Today, according to Liberian journalist, Ekena Wesley, there are about 10,000 Liberian refugees still in Ghana alone, with others scattered around the world.
As I conclude this post, I know that there is much more that the world can do to end world violence and bring peace to most of the world’s refugees. There must be more than one Angelina Jolie in the world. All of us in our own small ways can bring the refugee crisis to the world’s attention. There are many more refugees whose plight is much worse than the Liberian, the Sierra Leonean, the Chadian or even the Middle Eastern Crisis. There are worse wars that have lasted decades, like the Colombian war that is more than forty years old. We need to cry out until there are no more refugees or displaced people around the world. We can do it if we are united. Thank you.