Around the globe,
there are approximately 60 million people who have been forced to leave their homes
to escape war, violence, and persecution.
The majority of them have become internally displaced persons,
也就是说 这部分人已经逃离了家乡 但仍然身处自己祖国境内
which means they have fled their homes but are still within their own countries.
Others have crossed a border and sought shelter outside of their own countries.
They are commonly referred to as refugees.
But what exactly does that term mean?
The world has known refugees for millennia,
but the modern definition was drafted in the UN’s 1951 Convention
relating to the status of refugees
in response to mass persecutions and displacements of the Second World War.
It defines a refugee as someone who is outside their country of nationality,
“畏惧由于种族 宗教 国籍
and is unable to return to their home country
because of well-founded fears of being persecuted.
That persecution may be due to their race, religion, nationality,
membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,
and is often related to war and violence.
Today, roughly half the world’s refugees are children,
some of them unaccompanied by an adult,
a situation that makes them especially vulnerable to child labor
or sexual exploitation.
Each refugee’s story is different,
and many must undergo dangerous journeys with uncertain outcomes.
But before we get to what their journeys involve,
let’s clear one thing up.
There’s a lot of confusion regarding the difference between the terms
“migrant” and “refugee.”
“Migrants” usually refers to people who leave their country
for reasons not related to persecution,
such as searching for better economic opportunities
or leaving drought-stricken areas in search of better circumstances.
There are many people around the world who have been displaced
because of natural disasters,
and other hardships,
but international law, rightly or wrongly,
only recognizes those fleeing conflict and violence as refugees.
So what happens when someone flees their country?
Most refugee journeys are long and perilous
with limited access to shelter, water, or food.
Since the departure can be sudden and unexpected,
belongings might be left behind,
and people who are evading conflict often do not have the required documents,
like visas, to board airplanes and legally enter other countries.
Financial and political factors can also prevent them from traveling
by standard routes.
This means they can usually only travel by land or sea,
and may need to entrust their lives to smugglers
to help them cross borders.
Whereas some people seek safety with their families,
others attempt passage alone and leave their loved ones behind
with the hopes of being reunited later.
This separation can be traumatic and unbearably long.
While more than half the world’s refugees are in cities,
sometimes the first stop for a person fleeing conflict is a refugee camp,
usually run by the United Nations Refugee Agency or local governments.
Refugee camps are intended to be temporary structures,
offering short-term shelter until inhabitants can safely return home,
be integrated to the host country,
or resettle in another country.
But resettlement and long-term integration options are often limited.
因此 许多难民别无选择 只能持续几年 生活在难民营中
So many refugees are left with no choice but to remain in camps for years
and sometimes even decades.
Once in a new country, the first legal step for a displaced person
is to apply for asylum.
At this point, they are an asylum seeker
and not officially recognized as a refugee until the application has been accepted.
While countries by and large agree on one definition of refugee,
every host country is responsible for examining all requests for asylum
and deciding whether applicants can be granted the status of refugee.
Different countries guidelines can vary substantially.
Host countries have several duties
towards people they have recognized as refugees,
like the guarantee of a minimum standard of treatment and non-discrimination.
The most basic obligation towards refugees is non-refoulement,
a principle preventing a nation from sending an individual
to a country where their life and freedom are threatened.
In reality, however, refugees are frequently the victims
of inconsistent and discriminatory treatment.
They’re increasingly obliged to rebuild their lives in the face of xenophobia
And all too often, they aren’t permitted to enter the work force
and are fully dependent on humanitarian aid.
In addition, far too many refugee children are out of school
due to lack of funding for education programs.
If you go back in your own family history,
chances are you will discover that at a certain point,
your ancestors were forced from their homes,
either escaping a war or fleeing discrimination and persecution.
It would be good of us to remember their stories
when we hear of refugees currently displaced,
searching for a new home.