Stepping to the forefront of the global refugee issue, Obama is hosting a United Nations summit in New York, trying to get more nations to pledge to take in more refugees from around the world.
Leaders from 193 United Nations member states are expected to attend the summit, but not all of them are taking in their fair share of refugees, according to the U.N.
The U.N. reports there were an “unprecedented” 65.3 million “displaced” people by the end of 2015 – which is 5 million more than the year before. Included among them are 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million migrants.
Based on those numbers, 44 million of them are just people who are leaving their country because they want to, but the U.N. lumps them all in with the “refugee crisis” that the world must accommodate.
According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, refugees are people forced to flee due to armed conflict or persecution, while migrants chose to move in search of a better life.
Almost half of the refugees are from Pakistan, reports The Guardian.
On the eve of the UN summit, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Pierre Krahenbuhl, urged leaders not to forget the plight of long-term refugees, nearly half of whom are Palestinians.
“The summiteers are clear that no one must be left behind and I urged that this must include the 5.2 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA,” Krahenbuhl said. “They represent 44% of the world’s long-term refugees, the largest in scale and most protracted in duration of any refugee situation today.”
Obama has put forth goals for the United States of increasing humanitarian aid by $3 billion, doubling resettlement and increasing access to education for 1 million youngsters and access to employment for another million of the displaced.
Obama has also committed the U.S. to increasing the total number of refugees from 85,000 to 110,000 in 2017.
According to an Associated Press report:
The agreement seeks to standardize responses to refugee situations and provide better education and jobs to refugees. It also encourages resettlement and includes plans for a campaign to combat xenophobia.
That may prove an uphill struggle, however, as the document is not legally binding and comes at a time that refugees and migrants have become a divisive issue in Europe and the United States.
A number of countries rejected an earlier draft of the agreement that called on nations to resettle 10 percent of the refugee population each year, something that has led several human rights groups to criticize the document as a missed opportunity. The U.S. and a number of other countries also objected to language in the original draft that said children should never be detained, so the agreement now says children should seldom, if ever, be detained.
“Instead of sharing responsibility, world leaders shirked it. The U.N. summit has been sabotaged by states acting in self-interest, leaving millions of refugees in dire situations around the world on the edge of a precipice,” Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said in a statement.
Shetty said the agreement merely kicks the can down the road by calling for separate global compacts for refugees and migrants to be adopted within two years.
According to Shetty, no nation is supposed to put their own interests first.
Obama is hosting a “follow-up summit” on Tuesday, where 45 countries are expected to step up and make pledges to take in more refugees.
Obama is also putting pressure on the issue by getting the private sector involved. He will be hosting a meeting with executives from 50 companies prior to the follow-up summit.
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