June 20th is World Refugee Day; a day intended to draw attention to the plight of refugees worldwide.
This year attention is likely to focus on Syria. Within just three years Syria has become the single largest origin country for refugees worldwide. Over three million refugees have fled the country, including perhaps one million children. Most are in camps or settlements in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey; relatively poor countries which are struggling to cope. A further six million Syrians have been displaced inside their country, meaning that Syria also now tops this chart of misery. All told one in three Syrians have been forced to leave their homes. And there is no end in sight for the Syrian conflict.
It is laudable and important to draw attention to refugees through an international day, but there are also downsides to World Refugee Day. First, it focuses on the most public crises – and today this is undoubtedly Syria. Second, whatever the efforts of the international community and NGOs, attention tends to focus on the bad news rather than good news stories. Third, attention quickly fades as public interest and the media cycle move on.
Photo Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré