Thursday, September 3, 2015

The 1951 Refugee Convention

The 1951 Refugee Convention is an important legal document that defines who is a refugee, their rights, and obligations of the land where they seek shelter.  With the current civil and financial unrest and conflict in Europe, more and more people are seeking asylum in the European Union -- nearly 340,000 in 2015 alone.  The flood of moving people looking for a better, safer place to live has once again brought up words such as "migrant" and "refugee" with many people using them interchangeably.

But, they are different.  A migrant is someone who chooses to move to a new place, but a refugee has no choice.  They are fleeing armed conflict and/or persecution, often targeted due to their race, religion, or politics.  Their homes have wars and human rights abuses.  While a financial meltdown may be a catastrophe to many, people who move due to debt or looking for work are not technically refugees.  The 1951 Refugee Convention was created by the United Nations after World War II to grant asylum to those who need it most - and have no other choice.

Photo Credit: Marketplace

Regardless of your thoughts on immigration -- I personally feel that people should be able to live where they want as long as they contribute to their community (ex: sales and/or income taxes, public service, etc.) -- this is not an immigration issue.  This is about people who have been forced from their homes and merely want a safe haven to get back on their feet.

Interested in what you can do?  Read Mashable's Here's how you can help during the refugee crisis in Europe to learn about how you can assist the nearly 19.5 million people (half of them children) forcibly displaced from their home as refugees in the last year.  Some ideas based off of Mashable's list:

1. Educate yourself about the global crisis.  You're reading this post - great job!  Be sure to read more; suggested articles are below:



2. Donate to impactful organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Committee, or Save The Children.

Photo Credit: Save The Children

3. Support smaller, grassroots efforts such as Refugees Welcome, which matches asylum-seekers with people willing to share their homes.

4. Support private sector partnerships like the IKEA Foundation, which works with nonprofits including UNHCR to develop long-term, strategic ideas to create support for refugee children around the world, or UNIQLO, which has collected and given over 14 million items of second-hand clothing with UNHCR.

Photo Credit: UNIQLO CSR

5. Volunteer your time and skills with the Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, United Nations Volunteers, or another organization of your choosing.

6. Spread awareness by sharing any of the websites or organizations you found via these links or in your own research (loop back to Step 1!)

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