Today is World Refugee Day.
Take some time to educate yourself
Refugees and Displaced Persons
A refugee is someone with a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, who is outside of his or her country of nationality and unable or unwilling to return. Refugees are forced from their countries by war, civil conflict, political strife or gross human rights abuses. There were an estimated 14.9 million refugees in the world in 2001 – people who had crossed an international border to seek safety – and at least 22 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been uprooted within their own countries.
Enshrined in Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right “to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” This principle recognizes that victims of human rights abuse must be able to leave their country freely and to seek refuge elsewhere. Governments frequently see refugees as a threat or a burden, refusing to respect this core principle of human rights and refugee protection.
The global refugee crisis affects every continent and almost every country. In 2001, 78 percent of all refugees came from 10 areas: Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Burundi, Congo-Kinshasa, Eritrea, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Somalia and Sudan. Palestinians are the world’s oldest and largest refugee population, and make up more than one fourth of all refugees. Asia hosts 45 percent of all refugees, followed by Africa (30 percent), Europe (19 percent) and North America (5 percent).
Throughout history, people have fled their homes to escape persecution. In the aftermath of World War II, the international community included the right to asylum in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created to protect and assist refugees, and, in 1951, the United Nations adopted the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a legally binding treaty that, by February 2002, had been ratified by 140 countries.
In the past 50 years, states have largely regressed in their commitment to protect refugees, with the wealthy industrialized states of Europe, North America and Australia – which first established the international refugee protection system – adopting particularly hostile and restrictive policies. Governments have subjected refugees to arbitrary arrest, detention, denial of social and economic rights and closed borders. In the worst cases, the most fundamental principle of refugee protection, nonrefoulement, is violated, and refugees are forcibly returned to countries where they face persecution. Since September 11, many countries have pushed through emergency anti-terrorism legislation that curtails the rights of refugees.
Human Rights Watch believes the right to asylum is a matter of life and death and cannot be compromised. In our work to stop human rights abuses in countries around the world, we seek to address the root causes that force people to flee. We also advocate for greater protection for refugees and IDPs and for an end to the abuses they suffer when they reach supposed safety. Human Rights Watch calls on the United Nations and on governments everywhere to uphold their obligations to protect refugees and to respect their rights – regardless of where they are from or where they seek refuge.
Visit Human Rights Watch Greece
Visit The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Greece
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Read about Refugees and Displacement from Reuters Alternet
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UPDATE: Please watch this YouTube video about refugees in Greece from BBC reporter Malcolm Brabant.