By: Kyra

What is the issue?

Refugees are people, occasionally entire villages, and towns fleeing armed conflict, religious or other persecution, often at the hands of their own governments. Their position is often so perilous that they cross national borders to pursue sanctuary in nearby countries, and thus become internationally recognized as “refugees” with access to official assistance from countries, UNHCR and other organizations. They are so recognized precisely because it is too dangerous for them to return home and they need sanctuary elsewhere.

The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained

"Today's Challenges are interconnected and complex. Population growth, urbanization, climate change, water scarcity and food and energy insecurity are exacerbating conflict and combining in other ways that oblige people to flee their countries."

- UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

The Challenge and Response Theory of Change

This theory of social change is attributed to Arnold Toynbee, whose work on the rise and fall of civilization focuses on the key notions of challenge and response. According to Toynbee, every society faces initial challenges posed by its physical environment and by internal and external forces aimed at its destruction. This theory applies to the global issue of refugees, because people oftentimes flee their towns and villages based on external conflicts such as armed war, natural disasters, religious or other persecution.

The ability to respond successfully to these threats will determine the society's fate. Therefore, nearby countries offer assistance to respond to help act as relief for the refugees. To be able to act successfully responding to challenges is the measure of a great society.

#WithRefugees Campaign

In a world where violence forces thousands of families to flee for their lives each day, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, believes now is the time to show world leaders that the global public stands #WithRefugees. They will launch our #WithRefugees petition in June to send a message to governments that they must work together and do their fair share for refugees. On World Refugee Day, held every year on June 20th, we commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee. By signing the #WithRefugees petition people from across the globe can call on governments to work together and do their fair share for refugees. Add your name to the petition to show that the world stands #WithRefugees!

The petition asks governments to:

"Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures." - UN Secretary - General Ban Ki-moon

The Quality of Life

"The notion of human welfare measured by social indicators rather than by "quantitative" measures of income and productions." - United Nations

The huge disparities in living standards between the developed and less developed regions of the world account for much international migration, including refugee movements.This paper examines the relation between refugee movements and indicators of income, education, and life expectancy in sending and receiving countries. Countries which score low on the Human Development Index are more likely to experience conflict giving rise to internal displacement and refugee movements. Wealthier countries accept the better educated for permanent settlement, while admitting less skilled manual workers and asylum seekers on a temporary basis. Some people are fully incorporated into the advanced industrial economy of the emerging global system, while others are marginalized. Poverty is endemic in some regions of the world but the experience of deprivation is not confined to developing countries. Controls over the movement of people across national borders are designed to preserve absolute and relative advantage. While advanced industrial societies welcome immigrants who bring money or human capital, others are excluded even when there are political as well as economic reasons for their migration and humanitarian reasons for their admission.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a suitable method for determining a nation's quality of life, because it displays quantitative composite statistics of education, life expectancy, income per capital, and etc, that provide an overall picture of the country. With these quantitative measures it can help educate and provide us with useful knowledge. It can also help researchers through investigating statistics to help predict, and accommodate the future trends.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

The war in Syria has killed as many as 250,000 Syrians, and has uprooted more than 11 million people. Children, who make up more than half of Syrian refugees in the Middle East, are paying the heaviest price: many have witnessed violence and the loss of homes or loved ones; the vast majority have been out of school for years. Syria’s neighbors, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt, have responded to the call to welcome the stranger. With an influx of some 4.1 million refugees, their economies, social services and basic infrastructure are strained to the breaking point. But unless and until families can feed their children and provide opportunities, they will continue to look for other opportunities. Since 2011, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has worked with our Catholic Church partners across the Middle East providing:
  • Food
  • Living supplies and hygiene kits
  • Shelter and rent assistance
  • Medical support
  • Livelihoods support
  • Formal and informal educational support and counseling for children

Sub-Saharan Africa Refugees

As Europe and Canada begin to welcome Syrians, African Refugees fear being left behind. Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 26 per cent of the world’s refugee population. Over 18 million people in this region are of concern to UNHCR. That number has soared in recent years, partly due to ongoing crises in the Central African Republic, Nigeria and South Sudan. It has also grown as a result of new conflicts erupting in Burundi and Yemen.

Across Africa, they work tirelessly to ensure that the displaced have access to services such as education and health care. UNHCR also create safe school environments, improve camp security and provide lighting in public spaces to help reduce the risks of sexual and gender-based violence.

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The European Refugee Crisis

Driven by violence and seeking safety and a fresh start, Syrians made up half of the more than one million refugees and economic migrants who arrived on European shores in 2015. However, following border closures throughout the Balkans in March 2016, tens of thousands of refugees and economic migrants have become stranded in Greece. Thousands more are stuck in Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. With their options in flux and conditions increasingly perilous, these families need food, basic supplies, shelter and clear information about legal options for seeking asylum and international protection. Since the beginning of the conflict, CRS has come to the aid of approximately 1 million war-affected Syrians across the Middle East and Europe. Since the summer of 2015, CRS has been scaling up our response to the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe by working with Church and other local partners across the refugees' routes. The CRS has provided European refugees with food and emergency living supplies, medical assistance, temporary shelter, information, translation services, and legal services.

The lives of Canadians

Canadians are concerned that Syrian refugees are getting preferential and special treatment in the immigration process. There is a sense that these refugees are getting into Canada ahead of some other groups who may have been waiting as long, and that has an effect. In a random sampling of 1,369 Canadian voters, 54% are concerned Syrian refugees invited to Canada will get preferential treatment in the immigration queue, and one third (34%) are “very” concerned. Meanwhile, Canadians are evenly split when it comes to the impact thousands of Syrian refugees will have on the countries economy, the same poll found. The random sampling showed that 34% believe the refugees will have a positive impact on the country, with an equal 34% also believing they will not have a positive impact. 32% had no opinion. And of those opposing the plan, the majority say the government should be focusing on problems within Canada, like homelessness instead. It was revealed that Canadians are split on their support of the government’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees, with 48% supporting the plan and 44% opposing it.And of those opposing the plan, the majority say it’s because there are already enough problems in Canada. According to a 2014 study, over 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year, and over 35,000 are homeless on any given night.

“Look after Canadians, homeless, elderly people, take care of our own before we start helping everyone else,” said one City News viewer. “I sympathize with the Syrians but we don’t have the room to take in all these immigrants.”

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What you can do

The ongoing conflict in Syria has triggered the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

There are many ways that we can help. This is a time for Canadians to come together as we open our hearts and communities to welcome refugees to their new home. All Canadians can help welcome Syrian refugees. You can help make a difference in their lives in a number of different ways. Either on a small or large scale. Get involved!

The Road Ahead for Business

How your workplace can #WelcomeRefugees

  • Organize a training event and/or social events to celebrate diversity and promote cultural exchange.
  • Invite a refugee to learn more about your workplace.
  • Mentor a newcomer, either informally or set up a mentoring program.
  • Host a welcoming community event for newcomers by giving money, staff time and space.
  • Diversify your corporate social activities by giving money to community organizations that help newcomers.
  • Celebrate the diversity within your business and your community and host a multicultural food festival.

About Us

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is the world’s leading organization aiding and protecting people forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict and persecution. UNHCR provides shelter, food, water, medical care and other life-saving assistance to refugees around the world.