Rights and Responsibilities

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When a foreigner resides with you in your land,
Do not harass him/her. You shall treat the
Foreigner who resides with you no differently
than the natives born among you; have the
same love for him/her as for yourself; for you
too were once foreigners. . . (Lv. 19: 33-34)

It’s beyond comprehension but here are just a few facts to ponder in a very complex situation: Today there are approximately 11 million refugees and migrants moving toward Western Europe. Since civil war erupted in Syria (2011) refugees’ numbers continue to escalate – this includes those displaced within Syria and those seeking safety and a future as they suffer seemingly insurmountable obstacles; about  70% of these are women and children. The numbers are constantly in flux; the following stats come from September, 2015:

An estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011, taking refuge in  neighboring countries or within Syria itself. According to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over 3 million have fled to Syria’s immediate neighbors Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. 6.5 million are internally displaced  within Syria. Meanwhile, under 150,000 Syrians have declared asylum in the European Union, while member states have pledged to resettle a further 33,000 Syrians. The vast majority of these resettlement spots – 28,500 or 85% – are pledged by Germany. (syrianrefugees.eu)

We see ongoing coverage of this overwhelming tragedy; the major cause being warring nations – Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Last week another factor came into play – Prime Minister Putin publicly allied Russia with Syria and Iran seeing this as a coalition opposing what he saw as the threatening western coalition led by the U.S. (with 60+ countries)  The result? Russia began bombing Syria, not targeting Isis but siding with Assad against the moderates resisting Assad’s brutal, military rule. The conditions of the refugees – the elderly, children, pregnant women, orphans, etc. – continue to widen and deepen as they strive to reach freedom and security. Meanwhile they are people without a place to call home. They are STATELESS.

What can be done? What must be done? What is being done?  Suggested Resource Websites:
Oxfam www.Oxfam.org;
United Nations www.unhcr.org ;
Catholic Charities  www.worldvision.org/charity
Red Cross  www.redcross.org/what-we-do/internationalservices.

Contact U.S. Legislators urging them to raise the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. In light of this last suggestion and in light of the controversy on our Southern Border this might seem unrealistic.  However, I began this reflection with scripture which calls us to respond to the stranger in a foreign land. Seems to me that if all of this is a concern in and for Europe it also applies to refugees on the U.S. southern border!

I conclude with providing an outline of the human rights of refugees and the responsibilities of nation states:

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol http://www.unhcr.org/4ec262df9.html