Caritas Internationalis has released a message on the occasion of World Refugee Day, Saturday, June 20 Stressing that “refugees are victims of our unjust system”, the global confederation of Catholic charities is appealing to the world’s political leaders to accept refugees in a dignified and safe way, ensuring their basic needs are met and providing them with safe living conditions, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, at least 79.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18.
There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement.
At a time when 1 per cent of the world’s population have fled their homes as a result of conflict or persecution, our work at UNHCR is more important than ever before.
In the case of Nigeria, United Nations Refugee Agency said in its 2019 reports that since the violent attacks of the Islamist group Boko Haram started to spill over Nigeria’s north-eastern frontier in 2014, Cameroon, Chad and Niger have been drawn into what has become a devastating regional conflict.
To date, the Lake Chad Basin region is grappling with a complex humanitarian emergency. Over 3.3 million people have been displaced, including over 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in north-eastern Nigeria, over 550,000 IDPs in Cameroon, Chad and Niger and 240,000 refugees in the four countries.
The crisis has been exacerbated by conflict-induced food insecurity and severe malnutrition, which have risen to critical levels in all four countries. Despite the efforts of Governments and humanitarian aid in 2019, some 3.5 million people remain food insecure in the Lake Chad Basin region and will depend on assistance.
The challenges of protecting the displaced are compounded by the deteriorating security situation as well as socio-economic fragility, with communities in the Sahel region facing chronic poverty, a harsh climatic conditions, recurrent epidemics, poor infrastructure and limited access to basic services.
The Nigerian military, together with the Multinational Joint Task Force, have driven extremists from many of the areas they once controlled, but these gains have been overshadowed by an increase of Boko Haram attacks in neighbouring countries. Despite the return of Nigerian IDPs and refugees to accessible areas, the crisis remains acute. This year, the refugee crisis in the country clocked its seventh year.
“We call on our political leaders to take courageous decisions to safeguard the refugees, in particular those who are victims of every kind of abuses in many places,” says an appeal from Caritas Internationalis, the global confederation of 165 national Catholic relief and development agencies of the bishops’ conferences worldwide.
In a message released in view of World Refugee Day, June 20, the Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John says refugees “are human persons, with dignity, values and rights and it is the duty of all of us to receive them with open arms and ensure they live in dignity”.
“As Caritas Internationalis, our main focus is to nurture brotherhood through the expression of care and love for the most vulnerable, and the refugees are among them,” says Aloysius John in his message.
“Victims of violence, fear, and above all victims of an unjust system,” Caritas notes, refugees “have been forced to leave their homes to leap into the unknown destiny where they will have to face hardships, pain, anguish and trauma”.
“Women, children and the elderly are the worst affected” Aloysius John points out, noting that last year 33.4 million people “were forced into the harsh road of exile across 145 countries”.
He laments the international community’s indifference and silence regarding the suffering of refugees and the displaced, saying, “for many around the world, these people don’t have a face nor a story”, they are “only numbers or news to look at briefly in the newspaper”. “For many around the world, these people don’t have a face nor a story.”
Noting that Covid-19 has galvanized “global solidarity to fight against anything that affects humanity,” the Caritas secretary-general insists that 2020 “must lead us to a new way of responding to the refugees and their plight”.
He says “there is an urgent need to receive the refugees with empathy and solidarity and address the root causes of the phenomenon and develop a just economic system that guarantees them equal opportunities”.
In this regard, he mentions the case of the Rohingya people, who despite the hospitality of the Bangladeshi government, are exposed to highly vulnerable conditions, including the Covid-19 pandemic.