World Refugee Day: Challenges and responsibilities

SEBNEM Incesu.

ACCORDING to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)’s “Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2016 Report”, we witness the highest levels of displacement on record. Nearly 20 people are displaced every minute. All around the world, 22.5 million out of 65.6 million people who have been forced from home are refugees. Over half of them are under the age of 18.
June 20 (yesterday) marked the World Refugee Day. This day provides the global community with the opportunity to commemorate the strength and perseverance of the refugees, recall the shared responsibility for responding to their needs and reflect on the causes that force people to flee their homes.
It is also an occasion to recognise countries around the world who welcome refugees in their territories. Since its independence in 1964, Zambia has been a shelter for refugees from neighbouring countries and a champion for peace and stability in the region.
Zambia is now faced with the recent influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As of May 6, 2018, around 42,000 Congolese refugees and asylum seekers were registered in Zambia. Since January 2017, the Government of Zambia has been undertaking measures to address the situation comprehensively.
Not long ago, the Zambian Chapter for the Regional Refugee Response Plan for the DRC situation was launched. The Plan aims to bring together the collective efforts and financial requirements of partners and secure support to bridge the gap in the budget.
UNHCR Zambia points out that US$8 million have been mobilised so far, leaving a funding gap of US$66 million.
Recently, Turkish Red Crescent Society, in cooperation with the Zambian Red Cross Society, provided chlorine tablets for Kenani Transit Camp in Nchelenge. Other partners have contributed in various ways to the establishment of Mantapala Settlement Camp and relocation of the refugees from Kenani to that centre.
However, as it is clear from the figures, and in accordance with the appeal made by the Government, Zambia needs increased support from donors, development partners, private sector and NGOs to strengthen the reception capacity, improve conditions in all centres and ensure the provision of adequate food, water and health services as well as transportation and communication facilities.
Like Zambia, Turkey has been historically and geographically at the centre of refugee movements and has had a long tradition of open-door policy. The arrival of Jewish people at the end of the 15th century, forced migration of Circassians during the 1800s, Germans and Austrians escaping Nazism in the 1930s, and mass influxes from Iraq starting from 1988.
The Syrian conflict that entered its eighth year created one of the largest refugee crises of our time. Seven years of fighting have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, left 6.1 million people internally displaced, and compelled 5.6 million refugees to seek safety in neighbouring countries in the region, including Turkey. Today, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. Of the 4.3 million temporarily living in Turkey, 3.5 million are Syrians.
With over 1 million children, Turkey is the top child refugee hosting country. Turkey renders the refugees access to all basic services from health care to education and promotes their participation in the economy legally. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Turkey spent almost US$31 billion (including the assistance from municipalites and Turkish NGOs) for the well-being of the Syrians. However, the contribution received from the international community remained far from meeting the expectations.
In 2016’s New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, Member States of the UN “committed themselves to a more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting the world’s refugees.” The Declaration entrusted the UNHCR with the mandate of developing a global compact on refugees which will be proposed to the UN General Assembly this year.
Challenges before the international community are a global one as the scope of displacement has changed drastically. The first challenge is related to the emergency response and the second one concerns the normalisation of living conditions in the countries of origin. The global compact will attempt to strengthen the international response to large movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations with four key objectives: ease the pressures on host countries; enhance refugee self-reliance; expand access to third-country solutions; support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
The international community will once again be called upon to shoulder the immediate; and social, political and economic consequences of refugee crises. Let us seize this opportunity!
The author is Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Zambia.

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