Today, June 20th, is World Refugee Day, a single day each year where we are urged to think about the worldwide refugee crisis, what our leaders are doing about it, and what we as individuals can do to advocate change and action on behalf of the world’s 15 million refugees. In the United States, this day often brings increased attention and awareness to the refugees that have been resettled and welcomed on behalf of United States, who arrive with nothing and struggle to restart their lives as urban refugees in a new context. Heshima Kenya encourages us to think outside of these borders, despite the fact that there are ten girls who have been resettled and moving their lives forward in the United States. We advocate for increased attention to the bustling city of Nairobi, Kenya, home to the world’s largest urban refugee population. We advocate on behalf for these refugees, and more specifically unaccompanied women refugees. We give voice to refugee issues surrounding women and children, the Horn of Africa, and urban refugees. We give voice to these women and issues where there was none before.
Moreover, our advocacy for these refugee women must begin with our own government, the largest international funding source for refugees, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In the United States, we are fortunate to live in a country that singlehandedly resettles more than half of all the world’s resettled refugees and supports refugee issues internationally. Reviewing the FY2013 United States Department of State’s budget for Populations, Migration, and Refugees, the department that is most responsible for international refugee support, the there is a proposed $20,700 drop in funding from FY2012, not including the suspension of funding for Overseas Contingency Operations in American-conflict related areas including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Specifically looking at assistance programs in Africa, we see continued support for Africa assistance aims to provide a predictable level of support for African refugees, IDPs, and conflict victims at minimum international standards. Maintaining first asylum and providing lifesaving assistance in the Horn of Africa is a top priority. At the same time, keeping refugee camps secure and neutral and combating gender-based violence (GBV) will continue to be key components of this critical humanitarian programming.
Despite the continued support of refugee programs abroad, we advocate for increased funding for at-risk young women refugees, perhaps the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable of the world’s population. Furthermore, we see a $30,000 dip in the numbers of refugees admitted into our borders from the FY2012 budget. We would like to see both numbers of admitted refugees and funding increase, not remain stagnant of decrease.
We invite you to advocate alongside of us, for increased awareness and funding, for refugees around the world, both within and outside of our borders.