As an organization whose mission is to help refugees find safety and move forward, we want to address the recent executive order regarding refugees. Without question, it is devastating whenever and wherever we see borders close to them.
Fear is shaping this conversation. The same fear that is driving support of these policies, is that which is driving people to seek sanctuary in the United States. The desire to protect ourselves and our families is universal.
Refugees are fleeing conflict, not causing it. It is our honor to work in places like Syria, Somalia, and Sudan. Every day, refugees show us what hope and resilience look like. They want nothing more than to make a future for themselves and for their children. And, regardless of how difficult it gets, they do not stop trying. We know this personally – because these are our colleagues, our friends, and even ourselves.
We are in the midst of a truly global crisis. Right now, there are more refugees and forcibly displaced, than in any other time in modern history. In 2016, the global toll of displaced people shot above World War II levels. There are now more than 65 million people who have been forced to abandon their homes and their ways of life to escape war and conflict.
The vast majority of them – 99% – live in refugee camps or informal settlements and are largely unseen or forgotten by the rest of the world. Each year, less than one-half of 1% of the refugees have the opportunity to resettle in the United States.
Around the world, countries like Jordan, Turkey, and Kenya are shouldering the responsibility of hosting the world’s refugees. In 2016, Uganda welcomed more than 500,000 new refugees into their country (as compared to 85,000 who entered the United States). They rely on support from countries like the U.S. to make this possible. If the U.S. were to turn its back on these host countries, the results would be catastrophic. Countries would be destablilized under the weight of their obligation.
American leadership is central to the international system that supports refugees – from funding international organizations that protect refugees to welcoming refugees to our country – all of it springing from the natural goodwill and compassion of the American people. As such, the precedent the U.S. sets with this action will reverberate across the globe.
The global refugee crisis requires leadership and action, as politicans but also as everyday people. The magnitude of the problem should stir us to action not intimidate us to complacency and fear. As everyday people, we have our own part to play. This is a time for us to have difficult conversations with our neighbors and loved ones, a time to renew our empathy for others and recognize our common humanity. If we’ve learned anything in a career serving refugees around the world, it’s that compassion is simply never constrained by a border.
Perry Witkin – Chair, Board of Directors
American Refugee Committee
Daniel Wordsworth – President & CEO
American Refugee Committee