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On World Refugee Day, UN Urges “Hope, Opportunities, and Solutions” As Ship Tragedy Shows Ongoing Dangers Facing Migrants

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On World Refugee Day, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi is urging nations to do more to offer “hope, opportunities, and solutions” to people displaced from their homes due to armed conflict, environmental disasters, and persecution. In just one example, he said Kenya has shown what’s possible when refugees are welcomed into communities.

“Today in Kakuma refugee camp, I met Abdulaziz Lugazo, who chairs a farmers’ cooperative that cultivates drought-resistant crops such as spinach, okra, and collard greens,” Grandi writes. “Abdulaziz grew up on his family’s farm in Somalia, and when he was forced to flee in 1990, he never thought he’d be able to farm again. Now, he is able to work alongside other refugee and Kenyan farmers on land provided by the government, earning enough to pay for his children’s school books and uniforms.”

“I am using this particular visit to highlight to the rest of the world that we can – and must – do more to offer such hope, opportunities, and solutions to refugees, wherever they are and whatever the context,” he continues. “Kenya shows that it is possible.”

The need to welcome with dignity has never been more urgent. “The number of refugees worldwide increased from 27.1 million in 2021 to 35.3 million at the end of 2022, the largest yearly increase ever recorded,” UNHCR said. This sharp increase was spurred by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which sparked Europe’s largest movement of refugees since World War II. 

While more than 116,000 Ukrainians have arrived to the U.S. through a successful program that allows Americans to sponsor displaced people, restrictionist policies have forced others to take dangerous – and tragic – routes. CBS News reports that at least 78 migrants are dead after a ship traveling from Libya to Italy sank off the coast of Greece last week. While authorities rescued more than 100 migrants, hundreds more may still be trapped in the ship. This could include more than 100 children. It’s estimated the ship was carrying as many as 750 people. “If confirmed, that would make the tragedy one of the worst ever recorded in the central Mediterranean,” the report said.

“These deaths are tragically not unexpected,” Daniel Gorevan, Senior Advocacy Advisor at Save the Children, said. “Member States have gone to extraordinary lengths to close off all routes to children and their families seeking safety in Europe. Often their only option is to take dangerous journeys by boat, and tragedies like this sinking are the inevitable, deadly result.”

But policies like Uniting for Ukraine and the Biden administration’s more recent parole program show everyday people want to step up and help. Americans in all 50 states have applied to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee while more than 1.5 million requests have been submitted to sponsor a migrant from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua or Venezuela under the parole program. Americans want to help, but only 30,000 migrants can be accepted per month under the policy — and Republicans led by impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are seeking to use the courts to block this program.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) lifts up the story of one migrant who was welcomed and embraced in the U.S. “Wilmot Collins, the mayor of Helena, Montana, began his journey to civil service nearly 30 years ago when he fled a home engulfed in civil war,” LIRS said in a tweet.


“Brave. Strong. Resilient. These are the words that come to mind for many of us who have the honor of working directly with refugees and refugee-led organizations,” Women’s Refugee Commission said, writing that the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative it founded with RefugePoint has helped connect displaced people in other areas of the world with the tools they need to begin their new lives. 

In Kenya, the program helped Patrick with business development skills to advance his dreams of owning his own taxi service. “Within seven months, RefugePoint helped Patrick save enough money to take full ownership of a motorcycle and start his taxi business,” Women’s Refugee Commission said. “As his income has grown, Patrick has moved his family into a one-bedroom apartment—a significant upgrade from the single room they lived in.”

Welcoming refugees isn’t just in keeping with the values we profess, it’s also to our economic benefit, with refugees contributing $269 billion in loca, state, and federal taxes from 2005 – 2014

Research also shows that refugees boast high rates of entrepreneurship, outshining even that of other immigrants and U.S.-born citizens,” LIRS said last year. “The United States was home to more than 180,000 refugee entrepreneurs in 2015. That means that 13% of refugees were entrepreneurs in 2015, compared to just 11.5% of non-refugee immigrants and 9% percent of the U.S.-born population. The businesses of refugees also generated $4.6 billion in business income that year.” 

In states like Maine, new migrants are also helping rebuild a shrinking workforce. “The guys we work with, every single day they’re going to classes, they’re learning,” Luke’s Lobster co-founder Ben Conniff told Portland Press Herald last year. “They want to be involved.”

“Today is World Refugee Day,” tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). “Twenty eight years ago, my family endured four years in a refugee camp with little food or water, and were given the opportunity to start a new life in America as refugees. I and millions of others would not be where we are today if it weren’t for the United States of America—a country that stands as a beacon of hope for the poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free around the world.”

“It is on all of us to live up to our professed values,” Rep. Omar continued. “We must provide safe refuge to those seeking asylum and reject nativist efforts to punish and criminalize asylum seekers.”

“Welcoming refugees is part of who we are as Americans—our nation was founded by those fleeing religious persecution,” President Biden said in a statement. “When we take action to help refugees around the world, and include them, we honor this past and are stronger for it. And together, we create a more hopeful and better future—one that embodies our highest values.”