Recent Blog Entries
- Putting a Human Face on Immigration: 230 People Travel to Capitol Hill to Participate in CLINIC’s Advocacy Day
- New Americans Campaign comes together for Citizenship Drive in Los Angeles
- Ushering in a New Season for CLINIC and our 11 Million Undocumented Neighbors
- Living in God's Image, Embracing the Immigrant
- Lent: A Reform of the Heart
- Immigration Policy and New Estimates of the U.S. Unauthorized Population
- A Lenten Call to Embrace Acts of Charity
- CLINIC Holds Unique, “Mega” Workshop Training Event in Los Angeles
- Do Immigration Laws Deny Religious Freedom?
- Joyful Anticipation
World Refugee Day 2011: The Role of NGOs
By: James Porter
“1 refugee without hope is too many” – The theme of this year’s World Refugee Day as established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reflects some of the realities of the current refugee population in the world. The number of people forcibly displaced has reached a 15-year high with more than half being children. Almost 44 million people (15.4 million refugees, 27.5 million internally displaced people, and 850,000 people seeking refugee status), were forcibly displaced in 2010. Additionally, 4/5 of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries, where many stay for years with little hope. (Read more in UNHCR’s report: Global Trends 2010)On this 60th Anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said:
No one wants to become a refugee. No one should have to endure this humiliating and arduous ordeal. Yet, millions do. Even one refugee forced to flee, one refugee forced to return to danger is one too many. On this year’s World Refugee Day, I ask people everywhere to spare a thought for the millions of children, women and men who have been forced from their homes, who are at risk of their lives, and who, in most cases, want nothing more than to return home or to start afresh. Let us never lose sight of our shared humanity.
While the assistance of UNHCR is vast, the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is vital to bringing hope to such large population of people. According to UNHCR, in 2010 there were more than 15,500 asylum applications filed for unaccompanied or separated children. As a Church, we are called to serve such vulnerable populations, and be a voice for the voiceless. Each year approximately 5,000 children enter the United States alone. CLINIC’s National Pro Bono Project for Children matches these children released from federal custody with pro bono attorneys who go to court with them. Without the assistance of the pro bono attorneys who get matched with these children, many would not feel that sense of dignity and respect that they deserve.
UNHCR also reports that there were 845,800 asylum claims in 2010, with the U.S. receiving the second highest number of requests at 54,300. CLINIC's National Asylee Information and Referral Line refers asylees to more than 500 local providers of resettlement services such as English language classes, job placement assistance, temporary cash assistance, and health care. In the first three months of 2011 alone, 857 calls were received, with information provided in 13 different languages to individuals of 63 nationalities. Funded by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement(ORR) and operated by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, the referral line provides a single, centralized source of accurate information about service eligibility and programs across the country that assist asylees with the resources they need for a smooth adjustment and early self-sufficiency. As always, there is an increasing need for ESL classes, as well as integration efforts in the form of naturalization.
While conflict is a major cause of displacement, other factors will continue to grow. Persecution, poverty, hunger, and climate change will all continue to complicate already tenuous situations in many war-torn countries. Until some of these factors are combated, the number of displaced people will continue to rise. For industrialized countries such as the U.S., we must be ready and willing to accept refugees and asylum seekers regardless of their origin or social class, as we are all God’s children.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” – Matthew 25:35.
*Mr. Porter is a Communications Officer at CLINIC
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