Glad you’re still with me.
We are not likely to forget the stirring images we are seeing of the humanitarian crisis taking place in Greece, Hungary and Turkey involving people fleeing from Syria anytime soon. Like many people, I was stirred to action and went looking to help in a place where I could truly help. I found such a place in World Relief. I had never heard of them and would probably have never heard of them if it hadn’t been for Ann Voskamp’s post urging action. She, along with The Justice Conference and World Relief launched a movement called #wewelcomerefugees. You can find their website here.
So my first training as a World Relief volunteer was last night. I learned so much that I had to share it. The first thing that I learned was that the only entity with the authority to confer “refugee” status on a person is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. It’s their responsibility to stabilize and safeguard refugees and to mediate on their behalf. They have 3 options for refugees – voluntary repatriation to their country of origin, local integration into the country where they are currently located or resettlement into a third country. No one is called a refugee until UNHCR says they are. So you may have heard the Syrians fleeing their country called “refugees” or “migrants”. Migrant is the correct terminology until they have been conferred refugee status by UNHCR. The UNHCR is working in the camps to register migrants and determine whether they meet “refugee” status. You can imagine the nightmare this is.
The second thing I learned was the size of the problem and this astounded me. Here’s some data for you which pre-dates the current mass Syrian migration…
- 10-12 million identified refugees
- 30-40 million potential
- Of the 10-12 million, approximately 1% get resettled in a third country
- Only 22 countries take refugees to be resettled: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Uruquay and the US.
- Average wait in a camp situation: 15 years (average!!)
- Average wait to be resettled: 5 years
- Refugees have to apply and countries have restrictions on who they will accept.
- The US takes the majority of the 1% who are resettled. This year it was capped at 70,000. In 2016, the US will take 80,000.
This is a huge problem and we as Christians should be responding… but what’s the best way to help? There are three big things any of us can do.
- Donate to an agency providing food and services to people in the camps
- Donate to an agency who resettles refugees in the US
I encourage you to check out agencies through guidestar.com or charitynavigator.com before donating, find one that is reputable and give, please give.
36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:36-40