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Blog: June 20, 2012: Hastings Recognizes World Refugee Day

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One day a year some of us are reminded that all over the world millions of refugees, stateless persons, and internally displaced people live under constant threat of death. For others this year, June 20th will just be an average Wednesday. But for the scores of displaced men, women, and children from the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, the survivors of the horrendous atrocities still happening in Syria, those displaced by civil conflict in Colombia, and the thousands of people still suffering the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, June 20th will be another day of survival.

As Ranking Democratic Member of the United States Helsinki Commission, I can also speak to the 4.2 million refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced, and stateless persons across Eurasia of which women and children constitute about half. For example, the Republic of Georgia, where hundreds of thousands of people were forcefully displaced from their homes during the 2008 conflict or Bosnia-Herzegovina, which currently has more than 100,000 persons registered as internally displaced, and Serbia still host around 300,000 refugees. Sadly, the reason for such staggering amounts of forcibly displaced people in the area is ethnic conflicts and tensions, and the systematic violation of human rights.

Food and water insecurity, natural disasters, and resource competition also contribute to the approximately 43 million people around the world who have been forced to abandon their homes in search of safety for themselves and their families. In many cases it is the amalgamation of several of these factors that causes the displacement.

I continue to work tirelessly for the rights of refugees and the displaced across the world. Last year's National Defense Authorization Act carried my amendment which authorized the heads of several Federal agencies to produce a needs assessment of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis and their status. It also requires the development of a plan using the needs assessment to expedite resettlement of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis at risk as the United States withdraws from Iraq.

Displaced persons and refugees around the world may get some small sense of justice this year. In March, the founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots, Thomas Lubanga was found guilty of war crimes and the recruitment of child soldiers, and faces the maximum sentence in prison. In May, Charles Taylor, the former Liberian President accused of crimes against humanity for his role in the Sierra Leone Civil War was sentenced to 50 years by the International Criminal Court. Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic may get their day in court as their pending trials continue this year for their roles in the Bosnian War.

So on June 20th as we give thanks for the things we have, let each of us take a moment of silent prayer to remember the millions of displaced persons and refugees around the world.


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