World Refugee Day is commemorated every year on the 20th of June to honor the bravery, strength, and determination of women, men, and children who are compelled to flee their own countries under the peril of persecution, conflict, curbs on freedom, and violence. Many international organizations like Amnesty International and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) often get involved in various events for the day to make the international community acquainted with the miseries that these refugees face every day.
In 2001, the United Nation decided to recognize June 20 as World Refugee Day as part of the 50-year remembrance of the passing of the 1951 convention. The date was preferred because the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was previously observing African Refugee Day formally in several countries prior to 2000.
According to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the end of 2021 as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights abuses, or events seriously distressing public order, nearly 100 million people worldwide were forcibly banished and took refuge in other regions.
According to estimates, on average, 42,500 people per day flee their homes to seek safety within the borders of their own country or other countries. And more than half of all people displaced across borders were hosted by just ten nations around the world.
Syria is the most common origin country with over a quarter of all people displaced fleeing the ongoing crisis there, according to sources, more than 11 million Syrians are currently displaced. This amounts to 45% of the Syrian population. The Venezuela crisis makes up the second-largest group of people that fled their homeland.
After escalating diffidence in Afghanistan and years of bloodbath, the first half of 2021 forced many Afghans to flee. More than 2.6 million Afghan refugees were living in 97 countries at mid-year, making Afghanistan the third largest country of origin for refugees. Pakistan hosted the largest share of these refugees fleeing Afghanistan since 1979.
The large-scale dislocation of Afghan refugees was triggered by the unrest following the Saur Revolution of 1978 and the succeeding Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It was sustained by the later advent of the Taliban regime and the continuing conflict and political volatility. By the end of 1980, there were more than four million refugees in Pakistan, with that number growing over the coming decades.
Despite its own economic hitches and wabbly security environment, Pakistan’s strategy helped Afghan refugees to return home safely and voluntarily and to reintegrate as citizens in their own country. In a demonstration of great hospitality, the people of Pakistan have also contributed more than their fair share of shouldering an international responsibility by hosting millions of refugees, an act that must be commended worldwide.
According to sources and the data collected by UNHCR, there are around 1.4 million registered Afghans taking refuge in Pakistan, many believe the actual number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan can be much higher. As per government sources, there are approximately three million registered and unregistered Afghan refugees in Pakistan who are not only residing in the country but have established their own businesses in order to earn a livelihood. Also, the host country has not only welcomed them compassionately but also provided them with the necessary protection and opportunities to survive the impediments.
Recently, Pakistan has concluded a months-long campaign to register Afghan refugees and issued them identity cards that will protect and safeguard their interests and legitimize their status and facilitate their access to humanitarian aid and other benefits. The government-run campaign as assisted by the U.N. refugee agency began in mid-April. The registration drive has also updated the data of nearly 1.3 million Afghan refugees.
Another contemporary conflict that is posing a serious challenge for the humanitarian blocs and has stimulated a huge mass migration is the Ukraine conflict. According to BBC, more than 13 million people have left their homes since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the United Nations says, nearly five million have left for neighboring countries, while eight million people are believed to be displaced inside Ukraine itself.
Amid the rising number of refugees and global concerns over the grave situation, it is time for the wealthy nations to take up the responsibility for protecting the refugees. Funding for the conflict-stricken countries should be raised and asylum seekers must be protected by the rich countries by not exposing them to dangerous situations. International bodies should extend their helping hand to the developing countries like Pakistan that are doing more than their capacity by hosting refugees in huge numbers.
The writer is a Muzaffarabad AJK-based freelance journalist and security analyst. He can be reached at [email protected]