New arrivals crowd together living in makeshift shelter at the Yida refugee camp along the border with North Sudan July 4, 2012 in Yida, South Sudan. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
By Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General and Khairunissa Dhala, South Sudan Researcher
It’s been nine months since we last visited the Yida Refugee Camp in South Sudan and returning now it’s amazing what has changed – it’s also deeply troubling what hasn’t.
Over the past year and a half this camp has been the destination of refugees fleeing massive human rights violations and a humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state.
When we were here in April, there were just over 20,000 refugees at Yida but hundreds more were arriving every day.
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Every day across the world people make the difficult decision to leave their homes. War, persecution, environmental disaster and poverty are just some of the reasons why a person might feel that they have to leave their family, community or country.
Refugees leave their country because they have no other choice and fear for their own life or safety or that of their family. Refugees also flee their country when their government will not or cannot protect them from serious human rights abuses.
Right now, as you read this, millions of people around the world have fled and are waiting to begin their lives again. Tens of thousands of Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa wonder if today is the day their food rations will run out. Hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees in Thailand worry that today is the day they will succumb to illness without medical attention. A quarter of a million Colombian refugees in Ecuador fear that today is the day they will be sent back to face the violence in their home country.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the main agency mandated to provide protection and humanitarian services to those fleeing persecution, estimates there are almost 10 million refugees around the world. They have fled political and religious persecution, been caught up in ethnic conflict, and subjected to violence because of their sexual orientation. There are many reasons that people become refugees, but only a few ways to obtain the protection they so desperately need. International agencies and local organizations do their best to assist everyone, but caring for the world’s most vulnerable is a daunting task.
Amnesty International USA advocates for the rights of asylum-seekers in the United States, and for the humane and dignified treatment of refugees and migrants worldwide. As violations of human rights continue and the number of fleeing people rises, we must all raise our voices to protect the persecuted.