Last year the number of people living as refugees soared beyond 50 million, the highest since World War II. Sadly, much of last year’s’ unrest is still roaring away and with only a month until this year’s World Refugee Day celebration, we’re set to eclipse those figures. Sadder than the statistics surrounding refugees, are how little we’ve heard of their plight until now. This a problem we can no longer ignore, because it’s a problem we’re ill equipped to solve.
We are poorly prepared for what is about to hit us. We have neither the political will, nor the moral courage, nor the sense we need of a collective fate, to face the challenges of the future.
That’s a pretty grim painting of our hopes to solve a crisis affecting not only what happens to those fleeing by sea in the Mediterranean and Andaman Seas, but a problem which has increasingly creeped from distant camps to familiar urban centers. Bangkok is one of them and unfortunately, I can’t say my experience with refugees and those seeking recognition by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees), leaves me with with much hope we’ll come to our senses.
Here people have fled from both distant places you may be reading about in the news— Syria, Congo, Pakistan and Sudan, — and from countries in the region where everyday religious and political violence is a reality, such as in Burma, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, and China. They arrive trading their fears of violence for fear of indefinite arrest in Thailand’s jails and detention centers (read more of their stories in this Toronto Star exposé). Vulnerable, unable to work or go to school, and in limbo awaiting decisions from UNHCR for years, the recent influx has exacerbated the few resources available to urban refugees in Bangkok.
For everyone we’ve helped, I also bear in mind requests for aid I can’t always fulfill. These include requests to cover school fees and uniforms, medical costs for mothers who’ve experienced complications giving birth, or the formidable cost of bail if arrested (a steep $1500). No matter how successfully we fundraise, the need for sponsorships and requests from new families always outstrips our handful of regular donors. These problems in the context of the global refugee crisis have me reexamining my approach to aid, volunteering, and fundraising.
Bigger than the challenges our organization is facing is the quickly coming global ultimatum on refugees:
Can our desire for peace and compassion for those affected by war, grow as quickly as the exploding numbers of people with nowhere to call home?
Thanks for reading.
PS – Below is a list of links relating to our project and urban refugees in Bangkok. Please read and share as we approach 2015’s World Refugee Day on June 20th.
Toronto Star – Thailand’s Refugees: ‘Please Tell the World We Exist’
Bangkok 101 Feature – Life Skills Through Knife Skills
Global Perspective Article – “The Rohingya crisis is not an isolated tragedy – it’s the shape of things to come“