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World Refugee Day: an opportunity for world leaders
June 18, 2012

World Refugee Day: an opportunity for world leaders
A Colombian refugee in Ecuador, one of 45 million refugees in the world today. This mother of five was forced to flee with her children after an armed group burst into their home in the night, murdered her husband and stabbed her in the legs. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
"Our message is simple; encourage hospitality and cooperation. Hospitality is a door that opens the way to other possibilities, such as access to rights and services. Refugees have human resources, skills and energy," said Fr. Balleis.

(Rome) June 18, 2012 — Over the next two days, the leaders of the G20 nations will make difficult decisions regarding the stability of the global economy. On June 20, World Refugee Day, Jesuit Refugee Service urges world leaders to place social cohesion at the core of their decision-making process, and not lose sight of the needs of more than 45 million forcibly-displaced migrants worldwide.

Keeping the humanitarian needs of refugees at the center of policy is never more important than in times of economic turmoil. The economic recession threatens essential international aid to forcibly-displaced persons. Likewise, refugees struggle even more to make ends meet. Tragically, further displacement of impoverished populations is likely to occur, as hard times result in the increased marginalization of oppressed minorities.

"Forced migrants are concrete examples of what happens to societies pushed beyond the limit: conflict, human rights violations, displacement. The G20 summit is an opportunity to take preventative action, to reduce economic instability by promoting holistic refugee protection, enhancing livelihood opportunities for marginalised communities and strengthening inclusive social protection systems," said JRS International Director Peter Balleis S.J.

In the midst of economic crisis, the fragile value of hospitality ought to be nurtured. Shrinking economic opportunities are placing greater burden on overstretched social support networks, fueling intolerance. A clear example is the success of political populism that places xenophobic rhetoric at the center of everyday public discourse. Instead of describing refugees as courageous survivors rebuilding their lives in safety, politicians turn to simplistic and misleading labels, which demonize refugees for societal ills. This constant dehumanization and hostility marginalizes refugees even further.

"The populations of host countries generally have little contact with refugees and other forced migrants. Their opinions are largely shaped by political and civil society leaders. If governments took a more positive approach to forced migration, it is likely we would see the beginning of a reversal of the current levels of hostility and exclusion of refugees," added Fr. Balleis.

Despite the current trend, people across the world individually and collectively respond to the needs of refugees. For instance, owing to the French government’s inability to house asylum seekers, JRS volunteers in Paris have stepped in and opened up their homes. Besides offering a necessary service, friendships are formed and a powerful message is being sent to society: strangers are welcome.

Similar acts occur in Jordan where local residents and Iraqi refugees are helping displaced Syrians. Analogous examples of grassroots hospitality can be found in Congo, Kenya, Venezuela and many other countries. Time and again we see refugee and host communities offer protection, housing, food, medicine, and most importantly, friendship. These simple acts have the power to transform difficult situations.

"Our message is simple; encourage hospitality and cooperation. Hospitality is a door that opens the way to other possibilities, such as access to rights and services. Refugees have human resources, skills and energy. It’s important to let them do something for their new communities. Governments would do well to follow these examples of solidarity, rather than seek short-term solutions, creating further problems for the future," concluded Fr. Balleis.



Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
communications@jrsusa.org
202-462-0400 ext. 5946