As June 20th approached last week, so did our reflection about the plight refugees experience everyday. A recent study commissioned by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights points out that the Arab Uprising in Syria has killed at least 93,000 people up until April 2013 since it started in March of 2011. Although the latest figure represents an increase of more than 30,000 people when compared to the figure released in November 2012, the number of victims might be much higher as many deaths go underreported.
As immediate ceasefire is not achieved the conflict intensifies, conditions on the ground deteriorate, and the needs of refugees increase every second. So far, the conflict in Syria has displaced thousands of people and had a dramatic effect on one of the largest urban-refugee populations in the world.
At the present time, the UNHCR estimates that there are more than 1.6 million Syrian refugees in foreign nations, which includes Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, making it the fastest growing refugee crisis of 2013. Recently, the needs of Syrian people have been reflected by an increased humanitarian appeal by the UN and its partner for Syria, from US$1.5 billion to US$4.4, making it the largest humanitarian appeal ever in monetary terms.
This increased in monetary appeal has caused the entire international community to reflect upon the importance of UNHCR, which was created on December 14th 1950 in order to help Europeans who were displaced because of World War II. Its mandate is to “lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide”. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well being of refugees by offering legal protection and evoking the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. The agency has a national and international staff of more than 7,685 working in 126 countries.
Although the UNHCR is widely recognized these days for its operations in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and for the protection of the Muslim minority Rohingyas and Christian Chins in Myanmar, the HCR also has a long story of work in Latin America. Colombia remains a challenging place due to its deterioration of security caused by decades of narcotraffic and natural extraction by rebel groups. Due to the activities of these groups, thousands of displaced individuals are concentrated in areas bordering Ecuador and Venezuela, as well as parts of the Pacific Coast.
The road of a refugee can be long, painful and traumatic. The UNHCR is able to provide the necessary immediate protection, and long-term durable solutions needed for persecuted individuals who are forced to flee their home. On June 20th, we remembered all of those immediately affect by conflict, and the important work the UNHCR and everyone else plays in providing choices and support to those who need it at a time when they need it the most.
Post written by UNAC-Vancouver website writer Luciana Prado