June 20, 2016 (GIN) – The UN’s World Refugee Day is observed each year as a global observance of the plight of thousands of women, men and children forced to flee their country under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.
Severe drought, the loss of harvests, farm animals, clean water has also pushed many from their homes to attempt risky crossings on unsafe vessels for which they often gave their life savings.
This year, Hadi, a refugee and young father from Burkina Faso, West Africa, was able to tell his story on a video posted on Twitter and Facebook, prepared by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fh9Mjrtso0 )
“Why I left, I wasn’t safe in my country, it’s very hard to live there,” he said. “Here, we are rebuilding our lives from trauma, from tragedy… We came to live in peace.”
Burkina Faso, when Hadi left, was in the throes on a coup d’etat. With the exile of the president, Blaise Campaore, there were high hopes for a democratic transition. It was not to be.
While Hadi successfully reached American shores, the majority of immigrants resettled in NY State in 2014 were not from his country but from Burma (Myanmar), Bhutan, Somalia and Iraq. Of the 4,085 refugees resettled in New York State, according to the Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, 95% were resettled upstate New York – only 215 were resettled in New York City and Long Island.
In a blog post on the Reuters website, Raj Patel and Eric Tang, university professors, called this World Refugee Day “the most contentious one in recent memory.”
After the Vietnam war, they noted, one million migrants were admitted to the U.S. from Southeast Asia – the single largest wave of refugees in U.S. history. But once in the U.S., the bloggers wrote, they were cast aside, placed into housing in some of the most devastated neighborhoods and sent to poverty-wage jobs where many of them remain.
Those fleeing Syria today are finding the same playbook – social isolation, state dependency and working poverty, Patel and Tang wrote in their blog. Plus, only 2,500 refugees have been admitted to the U.S. since the beginning of the Syrian war – a far cry from the 10,000 initially pledged for one fiscal year alone.
As regards the Somalis, those who found shelter in neighboring Kenya have until November before Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, will close. According to President Uhuru Kenyatta, the camps had been used as bases by Al-Shabaab terrorists to plan and execute attacks on Kenya.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has pledged to help secure funds so that the refugees are repatriated safely and with dignity. But Ahmed Awad, Somali’s ambassador to the U.S., was doubtful that a camp built 25 years ago could be closed in a few months’ time.
A video produced by the U.N.’s Refugee Agency tells the stories of refugees around the world. It can be seen online at http://www.unhcr.org/refugeeday/us