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Displacement, Despair and Death Continue for Refugees & Displaced People Worldwide

I sometimes find that the word refuge or phrases like seeking refuge lull us into a false sense of safety and security, especially when talking about people who are forcibly displaced from their homes and are given the label refugee

It’s almost as if, by the time a person receives the label refugee, we assume that the danger is behind them (aka, what forced them to flee their homes and the dangers of their migration journey after fleeing), and they are now safe to begin rebuilding their lives and provide a better future for themselves and their children. 

500 injured, 400 missing and 11 died in these four fires alone. 

Events in 2020 and the beginning of 2021 are a stark reminder that refugees and other forcibly displaced people continue to face extreme threats to their safety and security, and that, for many, forced displacement is not a one-time experience.

Below are only a few examples of threats refugees and displaced people experienced in 2020 and the beginning of 2021.

Large refugee camp fires occurred in Greece (Moria, September 2020), Bosnia and Herzegovina (near border with Croatia, December 2020), and two separate fires occurred in Bangladesh (January and March, 2021). At least 52,000 people have been displaced again, 500 injured, 400 missing and 11 died in these four fires alone. 

Approximately 30 people died waiting for a port of entry.

Six months after the explosion in Beirut (August 2020), a catastrophe that killed at least 41 refugees and injured over 120, refugee families are still waiting on repairs to their homes. They are also struggling to provide for other basic needs such as food and healthcare as Lebanon faces an economic crisis.

Over 300 Rohingya refugees were finally allowed to disembark in Indonesia (September 2020) after seven months at sea; approximately 30 people died waiting for a port of entry.

Attacks on refugee camps or violence towards refugee communities in the past year include Uganda (July 2020 and September 2020), Niger (December 2020), and Cameroon (August 2020). 

In November 2020, reports began emerging of Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region of Ethiopia being killed, abducted and forcibly returned to Eritrea. 

This family, after living as refugees for six years, returned to their home country of the Central African Republic in February 2020, only to be forcibly displaced once again along with 250,000 of their compatriots one year later.

Displaced people in Syria were displaced once again by flooding

More than 67,000 internally displaced people in Syria were displaced once again by flooding in January 2021. Earthquakes hit Turkey and Greece in January 2020 and October 2020;. Combined the countries host over 4.5 million refugees.

In November 2020, the UNHCR issued a report highlighting the vulnerability of displaced and stateless people to ongoing climate change, including the risk of repeated displacement.

Since the beginning of 2021, more than 700 refugees approved for refugee resettlement in the United States have had their resettlement flights canceled, as President Biden has not yet signed a new Presidential Determination on Refugees since taking office.

On March 24, 2021 the Kenyan government gave the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) two weeks to close the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps that currently house over 400,000 people. 

Now is the time to partner with missionaries and non-governmental agencies who work to assist refugees and displaced people

I haven’t even mentioned COVID-19 and its impact on refugees and displaced people yet. 

Fires. Explosions. Food insecurity. Economic collapse. Natural disasters. Ongoing violence. Terrorism. Climate change. Global pandemics. Protection denied, delayed or rescinded by local governments. These are only a few issues that threaten the ongoing safety and security of refugees and other displaced people, including the repeated displacement of those who have already suffered so much.

Now is the time to listen to the cries of those who seek, but have been denied, refuge. Now is the time to pray for refugees and displaced people worldwide. Now is the time to advocate for local, national and global policies focused on issues—like the ones mentioned above—that continue to propagate displacement, despair and death for refugees and displaced people. Now is the time to partner with missionaries and non-governmental agencies who work to assist refugees and displaced people—not just in the United States and Canada, but globally. Now is the time for the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the Reformed Church in America, and other faith communities to invest even more in mission and ministry that prevents displacement and demonstrates God’s love and compassion for those seeking refuge. 

Photo by William Krause on Unsplash


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