The processes for supporting the world's 25.9 million refugees and 3.5 million asylum seekers, continue to be fatally flawed and putting the responsibility unfairly upon some of the poorest countries, says Oxfam ahead of the first ever Global Refugee Forum, taking place in Geneva this week.
Danny Sriskandarajah, the Chief Executive at Oxfam Great Britain said: "Millions of vulnerable refugees are at risk or stuck in limbo because many countries are failing to shoulder their fair share of responsibility for protecting people forced from home. This conference could help to fix some of the most glaring faults in current refugee processes – but only if countries step up by committing to welcome more people, provide more reliable funding, and to fully include refugees in decisions about their futures.”
Devine Caneza, a Burundian refugee who has been living in Uganda since 2015 said: “We must have representatives when decisions are made about us. We are the ones who know very well the situation of our lives and what is needed to help other refugees.”
Oxfam is supporting eight refugees invited into this summit to make sure their voices are heard. Together they are calling for United Nations Member States to do their fair share to offer international protection to people who have been forced to flee their homes, so that they can live in safety and with dignity.
Oxfam says that some progress has been made to meaningfully include refugees in discussions, but more effort is needed to ensure that these experts are not only consulted but directly involved. Oxfam and The Global Refugee Network have called on member states, INGOs and UN agencies to sign a single pledge to meaningfully engage refugees in all processes and decisions which affect them.
Asan Juma Suleiman, a South Sudanese refugee living in Uganda said: “By involving us and hearing our stories in the peace process, refugees like me can help ensure an everlasting peace. We can help to restore hope. To world leaders, my life matters as a human being, not as a refugee.”
In 2016 the leaders of 193 governments committed to the more equitable and predictable sharing of responsibility for refugees as part of the New York Declaration and this promise was reaffirmed by 176 governments last December through the Global Compact on Refugees.
However, despite these commitments, it is still mainly geography that dictates where most refugees end up. Currently around 80% of the world’s 25.9 million refugees and 3.5 million asylum seekers are hosted by predominantly low-and-middle income countries, often for long periods of time – simply because these countries are the immediate neighbours.
Oxfam says that resettlement options are hugely lacking. At present only ten countries offer more than 1,000 resettlement places a year, far more countries must at least rise to this level.
“Our first priority must be to ensure that countries are sharing their responsibilities more fairly to accept refugees through resettlement and other safe legal routes. But we also need to ensure that host countries have long-term and predictable financial support. This is crucial so they can meet the needs of both refugees and their local host communities,” Sriskandarajah said.
Joelle Hangi, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo now living in Kenya, said, “Refugees like me want more support to be able to stand on our own two feet and address our own issues. We’re the one who understand these things better than anyone else. We need access to quality education and to be included in policy debates. Countries need to offer people a hopeful future, those of us who may have experienced real trauma, and who just want to be able to live in safety and with dignity. We want to contribute as productive members of the societies that are offering us a future.”
Oxfam’s key asks for the summit are:
- Member states should live up to their commitments and do more to support refugees and host communities.
- Refugees and refugee-led organisations should be put at the heart of discussions and decisions.
- All countries should step forward to increase their resettlement places.
- States must also put in place the necessary measures to welcome spontaneous arrivals of asylum seekers.
- Governments must meet their aid commitments and ensure long-term, multi-year predictable funding for host countries.