The United States has had a long history of refugees and immigrants even before there was a United States of America. It’s a history we claim as a great strength. However, for as long as there have been refugees, those already here have resisted their coming claiming they are dangerous, want to overthrow the government, collapse our society etc. Politicians have built careers around anti-refugee and anti-immigrant rhetoric conveniently forgetting they are products of refugee and immigrant family histories.
Right now we are facing a half billion dollar shortfall in funds for sheltering refugees to handle the biggest global displacement crisis since World War II which is why the United Nations has launched a new campaign aimed at the private sector that includes individuals, companies, foundations, and philanthropists worldwide. Forced displacement arising from war and conflict has increased sharply over the past decade due to the Syria crisis as well as new displacement situations and unresolved old ones.
The campaign’s goal is to raise funds to build or improve shelter for 2 million refugees by 2018. Without this, millions of people face homelessness or inadequate housing in countries such as Lebanon, Mexico, and Tanzania. Proper shelter is central to social cohesion. The private sector is an increasingly important donor source. The regions most in need are sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, and North Africa as well as Asia and Europe.
Fear should not cloud our sense of history. We are all refugees in the end in one way or another. History teaches us as well as common decency to imagine ourselves in the place of the refugees and to show compassion rather than rejection.
Sources: Star-Ledger, 12/27/15, Brian Regal, guest columnist; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Relief and Works Agency, 5/2016