The world is awash with refugees, with more people on the run than at any time since World War II.
The latest numbers, released this week by the United Nations refugee agency, show that the toll of war and persecution around the globe has risen sharply. Almost 60 million persons, half of them children, were living as refugees in 2014. The number of people displaced in 2014 alone, 14 million, quadrupled over the previous year.
World leaders have responded poorly to the crisis. Developed nations have forced some of the planet’s poorest countries, such as Ethiopia and Kenya, to bear the burden. Thanks to endless brutal conflict in Syria, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other nation. Nearly a quarter of the people living in Lebanon are refugees.
Many European leaders, meanwhile, are trying to figure out how to keep refugees away. In Southeast Asia, better off nations such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have turned away boats filled with desperate refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh. Australia has been particularly heartless about rejecting migrant boats.
The United States permanently resettles 70,000 refugees a year. That’s higher than any other nation, but a minuscule number when compared with the need.
Developed nations must adopt better strategies to stop traffickers who charge desperate people exorbitant fees for perilous journeys. Wealthier nations must share resources with the poorer nations who host most of the displaced population.
And, somehow, world leaders must find a way to tamp down the wars and conflicts that have forced people to flee their homes.
António Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement: “It is terrifying that on one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace.”
About 500 refugees settle in Kansas City each year, and about 300 settle in Johnson and Wyandotte counties. They come here with great needs, but most adjust quickly and are motivated to work hard and better their lives.
Area agencies that work with refugees include Jewish Vocational Services, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, and Della Lamb. All three offer opportunities to help refugees here while waiting for world leaders to step up and better address the crisis.