Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

World Refugee Day

This is the day each year when the United Nations High Commission for Refugees highlights the problems of refugees and urges global response.  Trends had been that the number of refugees (including internally displaced persons) were declining for the last 5 years.  However, this year the number of global refugees is up by a whopping 14%–nearly 10 million people forced to flee their homes.  The increase is almost entirely due to the violence in Iraq, in which 1.5 million Iraqis have fled the country and another 2 million are internally displaced, says the United Nations. (The UN figures do not count the displaced Palestinians since 1948 and 1967, which would dramatically increase the figures again.) Conflicts in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, the Sudan (Darfur), and East Timor have also greatly increased refugee numbers.  Internally displaced persons (who have fled violence but are still within their home nation, sometimes still in zones of conflict) are largest in the Darfur region of Sudan and in Columbia.

Since 9/11, fear of terrorists infiltrating their nations, has led many Western nations to refuse asylum to refugees, which has greatly increased the suffering of millions.


June 20, 2007 - Posted by | economic justice, human rights.


  1. Of course, these figures only refer to those who actually claim asylum; I have heard anecdotal evidence that many aslyum seekers simply do not bother to claim and hence are not necessarily included in such figures (technically they are only refugees when the deciding authority acknowledges the reasonableness of their claim, until that point they are deemed refugees).

    I must admit that from my perspective I have not seen any real evidence that fear of terrorism per se has led to governments being harsher on the asylum claimant, the law after all that governs recognition has substantially remained unchanged since the 1950s.

    Comment by Richard | June 20, 2007

  2. I meant of course that until that time they are deemed asylum seekers.

    Comment by Richard | June 20, 2007

  3. Richard, the UNHCR, cited in the BBC articles I linked to, has the data. In the U.S., the law has not changed. What changes is the enforcement of the law–such as during the ’80s when the Reagan admin. simply refused to acknowledge the rightwing death squads of El Salvador and called all asylum seekers from El Salvador “economic refugees” and deported them back to die–often being gunned down as soon as they stepped off the U.S. planes.

    The BBC article was mostly on the tightening of refugee acceptance in Europe, but also in America. You can ignore this if you want, but the data are there. The U.S. govt. did not issue any denial of the UNHCR’s claims.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 20, 2007

  4. Thanks for reminding us of this, Michael!

    Comment by Kerry | June 20, 2007

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