I ran away from home. I ran away from St. Louis, and then I ran away from the United States of America, because of that terror of discrimination, that horrible beast which paralyzes one’s very soul and body.

Josephine Baker

Some people don’t leave home based on their own needs.  They are forced to.

Mandel Ngan/AFP (Getty Images) - Zaatari Refugee Camp (Jordan)

Mandel Ngan/AFP (Getty Images) – Zaatari Refugee Camp (Jordan)

Warehousing is a term that aid workers use to describe a group of refugees (10,000 or more) who cannot return home and who cannot find asylum and who end up living in camps or restricted settlements.  Examples of these types of camps include those of Palestinians, Afghanis and Sahwaris.  The Palestinians have been so long without a homeland (50+ years) that the U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) no longer includes them in their count of refugees.  Over a million Afghanis have been in Pakistan for more than 25 years and the Sahwaris have been in Algeria since the mid-1970s.

I bring this up out of my own ignorance regarding refugees that was awakened after I saw a movie on television titled Turtles Can Fly, a 2005 movie about children in a Kurdish refugee camp near the Iraq-Turkey border.  Whatever I might write would pale when compared to the movie’s story, so I won’t lessen the movie’s impact by writing about it – it’s an amazing story with memorable characters.  Roger Ebert wrote an excellent review in 2005, which is worth reading.

Perhaps I should have been more aware of the enormity of the world-wide refugee problem due to the efforts of people like Angelina and Brad, Bono, Don Cheadle and George Clooney.  Somehow I didn’t get their messages.

In addition to the huge number of refugees world-wide, several countries have significant populations of displaced persons within their borders.  The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre puts the number of people displaced due to conflict at more than 33 million and those displaced by disasters at 22 million.  Then there are the 10 million stateless people, such as many Roma.

Until 2012 one of every four refugees was an Afghani and from 1980 to 2012, more Afghanistan nationals had sought refugee status than any other nationality:  about 90 percent live in either Pakistan or Iran.  However, since the Syrian Civil War began three million Syrians have fled to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and other countries.

Often we think of war as counts of civilians and militants who have been injured or died; the cost of armed conflicts is much bigger, though, as refugees cannot continue their occupations, aid needs to be provided, and the countries that provide refuge suffer disruption as well.  I’m certain no one thinks on these issues as they fill up their autos with gasoline.  I know I never did.

Darshakran refugee camp (Iraq)


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