Solving the global refugee crisis starts with these three words: I welcome refugees.
Right now, record numbers of people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes.
But instead of showing true leadership and protecting refugees, most countries are slamming their doors shut.
The world’s wealthiest nations are leaving a handful of countries to cope alone with nearly all the world’s 21 million refugees. Powerful media and politicians are manipulating reality and dehumanizing refugees, portraying them as illegal or faceless invaders who are a security threat.
The reality is that they’re ducking their responsibility to protect people fleeing violence, persecution and conflict. And every single day that goes by, their indecision and inaction continue to cause immense human suffering.
So if we can’t rely on our politicians to change the world, we’ll do it ourselves.
If we can’t rely on our politicians to change the world, we’ll do it ourselves.
A chance to start again
Our 2016 survey of people’s attitudes across the world showed that 80% of us stand ready to welcome refugees into our countries, communities – even our own homes.
Even when the political environment can feel deeply hostile, Amnesty International remains a movement of people who believe that the things that unite us are far more powerful than those that divide us.
This is why we are promoting people-powered initiatives like community sponsorship of refugees. We don’t have to wait around while governments get their act together to share responsibility for other important solutions, like resettlement.
Because right now, individual people all over the world are coming together in their own right to welcome refugees - simply because they empathise with people who have lost everything, and want to create open, friendly communities to live in.
If I were to wish for something, it would be a job, independence, and to be with our loved ones. A normal life in safety – it’s as simple as that.
Now is the time
Worldwide, almost all of our leaders are turning their backs on refugees. In Mexico and the USA, they are detaining people fleeing extreme violence raging in Central America. In Kenya, they are forcing Somalis who have lived in exile for years, even decades, to go back to a dangerous conflict zone.
Many European countries are blocking refugees from seeking asylum safely, leaving thousands of people with no option but to risk death crossing the Mediterranean. And Australia is locking up people fleeing torture and persecution on remote islands, where they suffer terrible neglect and abuse.
All of this needs to change, now. And it’s up to each and every one of us.
Together, we can lead the way by doing something concrete right now – however small – to welcome refugees in our communities, from signing a petition to speaking your mind about refugees’ rights, or joining a community group that supports them.
Because solving the global refugee crisis starts with these three simple words: I welcome refugees.
What is Amnesty calling for?
All countries can help protect refugees through a solution called resettlement, and other safe and legal routes. Resettlement can protect those refugees who are most vulnerable – people who have been tortured, for example, or women at continued risk of abuse. Safe and legal routes are other “pathways” to safety that governments can open up in emergency situations, such as the Syrian refugee crisis. For example, they can offer:
· Opportunities for communities to sponsor refugees to come and live in their country.
· Family reunification – this means refugees can join close relatives already living abroad.
· Academic scholarships and study visas, allowing refugees to start or carry on studying.
· Medical visas, to help someone with a serious condition get life-saving treatment.
Opening up these opportunities for many more refugees will allow them to travel to new host countries in a safe, organized way.
By agreeing to share responsibility for protecting refugees, governments can show true leadership, invest in people’s lives and futures and bring out the very best in us all.
© Sergio Ortiz Borbolla
The refugee crisis in numbers
number of refugees worldwide by the end of 2015
of refugees live in in low and middle income countries (Source: UNHCR)
Number of refugees who are resettled yearly.