World Refugee Day is every June 20, but there's a special sense of urgency this year, thanks to the onset of mass unrest against the separation of families at the U.S. southern border — many of whom are seeking asylum from life-threatening violence and crime.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported Tuesday that the number of forced displacement rose to 68.5 million by the end of 2017. Last year alone, 16.2 million people were displaced, which amounted to an estimated 44,500 each day — or one person every two seconds.
"Refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution accounted for 25.4 million," reports the agency — and Syria, fueled by its civil war, led with the highest total of displaced people.
On World Refugee Day "we commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees," the UN says on its website.
"This year," it adds, "World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee."
Here’s how to help refugees on World Refugee Day (and, for how to help families separated at the U.S. border, click through to Metro's guide).
How to help refugees on World Refugee Day: Donate
There are many options for how to help refugees in honor of World Refugee Day — one being to donate to charities and organizations aiding these people.
Larger organizations include The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), which connects refugee families across the U.S. and provides legal services to prevent wrongful deportation, the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) devoted to crisis relief in Syria and UNICEF, which fights to protect the nearly 50 million children across the globe who have been uprooted from their homes.
You can donate to smaller organizations as well. One, the nonprofit Jake’s Diapers, is dedicated to providing cloth and disposable diapers to families in need around the world. It recently teamed up with CaringCrowd, a Johnson & Johnson crowdfunding platform, in honor of World Refugee Day.
According to founder Stephanie Bowers, the original goal was to "help 15 babies at a childcare facility in a poverty-stricken, shanty town in Peru, whose caregivers had to choose between food and diapers. That experience opened our eyes to diaper need, and what an incredible, yet so basic need it is worldwide." Now, Jake’s Diapers has impacted over 6,000 families in 16 countries.
"When people think of basic needs, they tend to think about food, clothing, shelter, and water," Bowers tells Metro. "Diapers are an overlooked, yet so critically important basic need."
Jake’s Diapers is committed to helping refugees, but it’s also more generally committed to providing these cloth diapers during times of crisis — for instance, helping those affected by the Fuego Volcano in Guatemala.
Another way to donate is by sending contributions through the international nonprofit Kiva, the world's largest crowdfunding platform for social good.
Kiva's goal is to raise $1 million in loans for refugees and internally displaced people. These loans help refugees "past their immediate needs and to truly rebuild their lives," and according to a spokesperson, many use these loans to start their own businesses or get an education.
To view Kiva's page of refugees and displaced people awaiting your help, click here.
How to help refugees on World Refugee Day: Volunteer
Besides donations, another way to give back is by volunteering, and many of the above organizations offer volunteer opportunities.
Additionally, UNICEF is looking for volunteers to educate, advocate and fundraise on behalf of their organization.
"Volunteers have hosted awareness raising events, such as panel discussions, speaking on the issues of trafficking, global citizenship, and emergencies around the world," reads the UNICEF website. "Volunteers have held bake sales, dinner parties, Water Walks, and hosted sporting events and online fundraisers, raising crucial funds for UNICEF’s lifesaving work to put children first."
How to help refugees on World Refugee Day: Sign petitions or call your representatives
In 2016, the UNHCR launched the #WithRefugees petition to "send a message to government" that all refugees deserve to live in safety. You can sign the petition here.
On that same note, calling your representative is another option. The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is urging people to write to the White House and call Congress with this message: "#RaiseTheCeiling for Refugee Arrivals to 75,000 in FY 2019."
"In FY 2018, the administration lowered the ceiling for refugee arrivals from 110,000 (the year before) to an unprecedented low of 45,000," a statement on the site reads. "Yet, as we approach the end of the fiscal year, the United States hasn't even come close to admitting that number of refugees."
To find sample messages and posts for social media, go to the LIRS #RaisingTheCeiling page and visit their website for more advocacy efforts.
"I am deeply concerned to see more and more situations where refugees are not receiving the protection they need and to which they are entitled," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres writes on the UN website in honor of World Refugee Day. "We need to re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime."
"In today’s world, no community or country providing safe refuge to people fleeing war or persecution should be alone and unsupported," he continues. "We stand together, or we fail."