According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people by the end of 2015. Their Global Trends Report: World at War, says that worldwide displacement is at the highest level ever recorded. According to the document, the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 rose to a staggering 59.5 million, compared to 51.2 million a year earlier, and 37.5 million a decade ago. That’s almost 60 million people homeless due to forced displacement.
The number of refugees entering Europe is also at an all-time high. Most of them are aiming to obtain refugee status in a country where they can experience some peace and relief from the horrible events they have been facing. Refugees that fail to be recognised as such often drift on the margins of society and are vulnerable to many dangers, such as human trafficking. People placed in refugee camps, like the ones in Calais, France, and Traiskirchen, Austria, also face a lack of access to medical resources, sanitation, bed, and even food and shelter.
Every day, more people are risking their lives aboard unseaworthy boats and dinghies in a desperate attempt to reach Europe, where they are often received with violence, prejudice, and closed doors. Part of the problem faced by them is that people in Europe fail to understand what they are running from. Most of them are fleeing war, violence, and persecution, and are in need of international protection. More than 770,000 people have entered Europe by crossing the Mediterranean sea, most them come from Syria (52%), others are fleeing form Afghanistan (19%), Iraq (6%), Eritrea (5%), Nigeria (2%) and Pakistan (2%), to mention a few. Refugees that reach Europe have faced mortal dangers and risked everything only to get a little bit of peace (UNHCR).
The UN estimates that 7.6 million people are internally displaced and that 12.2 million need humanitarian assistance in Syria alone (Human Rights Watch); the death toll resulting from the armed conflict between government forces and non-stated armed groups has reached more than 191,000 people, with both sides indiscriminately targeting civilians. Facing risks of torture, disappearance, violence, indiscriminate targeting, rape, and occupation, is more than enough to make anyone want to leave their home. Is it any wonder some of them are desperately trying to reach Europe? The time has come for western governments to assume some of the responsibilities over the destabilisation in the Middle East, and do a little more to help those brave enough to venture into the sea in search of refuge. This however, may be the sort of courage that is often expected from politicians but almost never actualised.
While politicians across Europe continue to argue over whose responsibility it is to help refugees, some of the Homeless World Cup National Partners have already stepped up to help those that make into their countries, hopefully teaching those in higher circles a little bit about humanity. Diogenes NGO in Greece, Caritas in Austria, Surprise Strassensport in Switzerland, and JZ Socio in Slovenia are just a few of the programmes who have been working with refugees since before the crisis begun.