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April 12, 2021

Welcoming refugees

Opinion

April 12, 2021

Thousands of desperate migrants, mostly from Central America, are stuck at the US-Mexico border. Most are families and unaccompanied children.

Despite their legal rights to apply for asylum, U.S. officials are turning away huge numbers, claiming pandemic restrictions. But thousands of children remain, held in crowded border detention facilities while awaiting transfer to Department of Health and Human Services facilities that are full to bursting.

The situation is terrible for those children and their families. But dealing with it isn’t rocket science: The government should authorize emergency spending to expand and build new facilities and hire social workers, health care providers, and teachers to care for these kids – along with an expanded team of family reunion workers.

Here in the wealthiest country on earth, we should know how to care for influxes of desperate people. Just ask the teams who welcomed, cared for, and arranged placement for 131,000 Vietnamese refugees in the US in 1975. All that’s missing now is political will.

When you look at the global picture, the situation on our border starts to look much more manageable. So let’s clear up a few things. There is a massive displacement crisis all over the world.

Globally, more than 80 million people, including 34 million children, have been forced from their homes because of war, violence, economic collapse, or climate disasters. Among these, 26 million are refugees, forced out of their country. Another 4 million are seeking asylum.

The world’s top refugee hosts are mostly poorer countries. More than two-thirds of refugees come from just five countries – Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar, Venezuela, and South Sudan – none of which are in Central America. These refugees have mostly sought safety in nearby countries. Millions of Syrians fled to Turkey. Venezuelans poured into Colombia. Afghans escaped war in Pakistan, and South Sudanese in Uganda. Myanmar’s Rohingya fled to Bangladesh.

Among the world’s top refugee hosts, the United States isn’t even close. In Lebanon, a tiny country facing a massive economic crisis, one of every five people is a refugee – the equivalent of the United States taking in 66 million. Yet under the last administration, we admitted just a few thousand each year – a record low.

Allowing refugees to apply for asylum isn’t just a nice thing to do – it’s the law. When the United States signed the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, it committed itself under international law to protect refugees. According to the United Nations refugee agency, the Convention’s “core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.”

Excerpted: ‘Poor Nation's of the Earth Host Millions of Refugees as US Refuses to Host Just a Few Thousand’

Commondreams.org