The world is facing the biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. People are fleeing their homes because of violence, conflict and persecution. They’re looking for safety, a place to live and something to eat. But their hope for a quick end to this situation is fading fast.
Providing essential services to millions of people isn’t easy. Often they’re living in informal tented settlements that are vulnerable to the weather and prone to violent attacks from local communities. They face discrimination and barriers to employment and access to health care. Many have been traumatised by their experiences and need help recovering their mental and physical health. And they’re missing out on the education and skills they need to build a better future for themselves and their children.
Refugees are escaping war, violence and poverty, often in search of economic opportunities or simply looking for a better life. But the global response to their needs has been patchy and short-sighted. Too many wealthier countries focus on deterring refugees and finding ways to stop them from coming. This is putting their lives at risk and pushing them to make perilous land and sea journeys.
Some governments also try to exploit refugees for their own political or military ends. This is known as weaponised migration – the mass exodus of refugees by challenging states or non-state actors to achieve their goals. Weaponized migration can take on different forms, including infiltration, coercive displacement and fifth column activity.
We need to break down the barriers that keep us from supporting and welcoming people in their time of need. We must rethink the way we manage borders and find a more equitable and humane sharing of responsibility for the global refugee crisis. We must develop new models of integration, provide support to communities in conflict and ensure that everyone is able to work legally and get the jobs they need to sustain themselves.
We must also do more to address the root causes of refugee crises, and not just respond to them with short-term responses. We need to tackle hunger and extreme poverty, as well as climate change and other drivers of displacement. And we need to work with neighbouring countries to protect people in their own territories before they have to leave.
It is important that we remember that refugees are not numbers or statistics, but real people with stories of loss, hardship and courage. They deserve to be welcomed into societies that understand that giving refugee the opportunity to rebuild their lives is not only a moral obligation, it’s an investment in economic and social prosperity for all. This is why Mercy Corps is working in the region.