As discussed in a prior post, a “refugee” under international law is “any person who owing to well- founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
The principal U.N. agency concerned with such refugees is the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which was established by a December 1950 resolution of the U.N. General Assembly. Its purpose is to safeguard and protect the rights and well-being of refugees and the right to seek asylum. Over time its mandate has broadened to include internally displaced people (IDP) and stateless people. Every year it publishes detailed statistics on all of these people of concern to UNHCR.
For 2010 there were 33,924,000 people of concern to UNHCR in the following categories:
Nearly 80 % of these people were hosted in developing countries, including some of the poorest countries in the world while the U.S. had 271,000. The major sources of these people in 2010 were the following countries:
|Democratic Repub. Congo||2,719,000|
The overall statistics for 2011 should be published by UNHCR in June 2012. Just recently it published its report on one part of this new set of statistics–asylum applications in 2011 in 44 industrialized countries, including the U.S. The total of new applications was 441,300, which was 20 % more than in 2010 (368,000). The 2011 level is the highest since 2003 when 505,000 asylum applications were lodged in the industrialized countries. With an estimated 74,000 asylum applications, the U.S. was the largest single recipient of new asylum claims among the 44 industrialized countries. France was second with 51,900, followed by Germany (45,700), Italy (34,100), and Sweden (29,600).
There are many ways one may make U.S.-tax deductible financial contributions to organizations that help these people. These organizations include the following:
- USA for UNHCR, which supports UNHCR’s humanitarian work to assist refugees around the world;
- U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, which seeks to protect the rights and address the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide by advancing fair and humane public policy, facilitating and providing direct professional services, and promoting the full participation of migrants in community life;
- International Rescue Committee, which was founded at the request of Albert Einstein to offer care and assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster;
- American Refugee Committee (Minneapolis, Minnesota), which works to provide opportunities and expertise to refugees, displaced people and host communities around the world;
- Center for Victims of Torture (Minneapolis, Minnesota), which helps torture-survivors from around the world heal and rebuild their lives;
- Advocates for Human Rights (Minneapolis, Minnesota), which, among other things, provides pro bono attorneys for asylum-seekers;
- Immigrant Law Center of [St. Paul] Minnesota, which provides quality immigration legal services, law-related education, and advocacy to meet the steadily increasing needs of Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities;