15 June, 2016
Monday 20th June marks World Refugee Day, a time of year to reflect on the people behind the headlines of the global refugee crisis. And this year, World Refugee Day is particularly significant: according to the Global Trends Report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), nearly 60 million people are refugees or asylum seekers are currently displaced by war and violence… that is 1 in every 122 people on this planet!
The People Behind the Numbers
"Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere." Ban Ki-Moon.
Throughout 2015 and early 2016, many hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children made the incredibly dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. It’s important to remember that behind every one of these numbers lies an individual story of not only suffering and resilience, but also of courage, hope and human compassion.
Why Does World Refugee Day Matter?
- It’s a chance to stand up for fairness, equality and justice
We need to pressure our political leaders to take the right course of action in offering protection and sanctuary to people fleeing horrific events in their home countries. We may not be able to directly influence this diplomatic process, but all of us are able to change what happens when asylum seekers arrive in Europe. Let’s pressure our politicians to ensure we greet these people with a society that supports and enables them to rebuild their lives - wherever that ends up being!
- It’s an opportunity to offer compassion
In the midst of this crisis we have seen some incredible examples of kindness and humanity. The football fans in Germany, the people of Lesbos, and the hundreds of young volunteers who have supported the humanitarian efforts in Calais are just to name a few! These examples show what happens hope and empathy shout louder than fear – we need to celebrate these moments of compassion and solidarity!
- It’s a time to reflect on the type of society we want to live in
Author Mohsin Hamid said it right when he said: ‘the most important question raised by the present crisis is not whether the people of the countries of Europe wish to accept more refugees. Rather, the most important question is whether the people of Europe wish their countries to become the sorts of societies that are capable of taking the steps that will be required to stop the flow of migration.’ All of us have a role to play in creating a society that we want to live in, and that has to be a society which supports and protects the most vulnerable.
What Does This All Have To Do With Ice Cream?
That’s a pretty good question. It has very little to do with ice cream… but everything to do with upholding values and human rights! This is a human story - one which impacts every single one of us. Along with many others, Ben & Jerry’s has been shocked at the suffering refugees have faced, both in escaping their home countries and in trying to enter and claim asylum in Europe. The political response within Europe has been too focused on ways of bringing the number of refugees down, and has not addressed the root causes of this mass movement, or sufficiently improved the systems under which people are able to apply for asylum. Ben & Jerry’s believes that:
- The needs and rights of refugees must be placed at the centre of the response to the crisis.
- Communities must be supported to offer welcome and sanctuary to those fleeing war, persecution and torture.
- We need to challenge political groups and leaders that would close Europe to refugees and international rules on the right to asylum must be respected.
So What Can You Do?
World Refugee Day gives all of us the opportunity to reflect on the people behind the numbers, and to demonstrate our shared humanity. There are some incredible organisations out there that are providing support, advice and guidance to refugees and asylum seekers, as well as putting on events and providing opportunities for interaction between communities and newcomers.
Why not find an opportunity to join one of these organisations near you, and pledge your support to stand #withrefugees by signing up to the UNHCR petition.