What it Means to be a Refugee Today

Each June 20th, World Refugee Day is recognized worldwide and is promoted by the United Nations. Here’s some more information about refugees and what you can do to support the efforts working to alleviate the refugee crisis.

Refugees in Today’s World

When you hear the term ‘refugee,’ you might envision a small, dust-covered child crying or a young family clinging together in despair in the rubble of their former home. When you think of people like this, it seems like a no-brainer that the rest of the world should do what it takes to get these individual refugees to safety. So why is refugee aid often such a complicated and controversial process?

Although about half of the recorded 65 million refugees around the world today are, indeed, children, but the rest are husbands, fathers, sisters, wives, grandmothers, and single people alike. They are young, old, model citizens, people with criminal records, devoutly religious, adamant atheists, and everything in between. All have fled from situations of violence in their home countries, and are stuck in a limbo zone in which they can only resettle abroad with the aid of the countries who can decide whether or not to take them in.

While refugee camps are safer than the war-torn homes they left behind, they are by no means a permanent solution or a happy alternative to a real home. Problems with sanitation, overcrowding, and sexual violence abound in refugee camps, and resentment often builds on both sides of the fence- the host countries for shouldering the burden of caring for hundreds of thousands of new people, and the refugees for feeling trapped, isolated, and unwanted through no fault of their own.

What can you do to help?

With politicians loudly talking about banning refugees and pulling aid from humanitarian efforts, the situation can seem hopeless for everyone involved. However, in spite of your country’s policies as a whole, there are still ways for you to help the refugee crisis on an individual level.

1. Donate to worthy causes.

While you may be hoping for more of a hands-on aid approach, the truth is that unless you have specific skill sets like a doctor, traveling somewhere with the sole purpose of interacting with and helping refugees will probably be more of a hindrance than a help. Rather than using up precious resources that could go to the people that need them, donate what you can to make the most difference on a personal level. Just make sure that the charity of your choice is one that will actually allocate funds in a helpful way; some choices could include The United Nations Refugee Agency, The International Rescue Committee, and Helping Hand for Relief and Development, among others.

2. Learn about the migrant needs closest to you.

If you live in Europe, you may be closer to a refugee or migrant camp than you realize. You can get specific with your donations and actually purchase food, bedding, toys, etc., that can be delivered to the camps, or organize a delivery trip of your own by collecting items through crowdfunding and driving them to the camps yourself. There are even Amazon wish lists available for some migrants who need specific items. Check out this crowdfunding page to see generosity in action, and to get a better idea of what time or resources you might be able to best contribute.

In the United States, you can look up refugee resettlement offices near you to help people rebuild their lives once they have passed the hurdle of making it out of a camp and into a new home country. You could tutor people in English, mentor vulnerable families, and ease the stress of finding a job; any touch of human kindness can go a long way in helping people move forward from the scary situations they left behind.

3. Get involved with politics.

Since international aid is directly affected by politics, one of the easiest things you can do to help refugees is to reach out to your local (or national) politicians. While it may not seem like it could possibly make a difference, giving a quick call or writing a postcard shows your representatives that you, and thousands like you, aren’t happy with the way things are heading.

Although it’s easy to forget sometimes, politicians are humans too- and the easiest way to reach humans is by accessing their empathy. Adding your voice and your personal reasons for supporting refugees to the hundreds of thousands who are already reaching out can and will succeed in helping some people see things from your perspective.  

If you are in the United States, use these links to find the contact information for your senators and representatives!  

Although watching the news these days has the potential to be incredibly depressing, there is still good all over the world. Refugees have endured some of the worst tragedies we could imagine, but thanks to the efforts of countless people behind the scenes and in the front lines, people will continue speaking out and acting to give migrants the support that they need at this vulnerable time in their lives.


This blog was contributed by Katharine Rose Fielding:

AuthorBioPhotoKatharine is passionate about making our world a better place for everything and everyone that shares our planet. She has traveled, studied, and worked in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam, and is currently working as a wildlife conservationist in California.