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On World Refugee Day, is there a place for all?

June 20, 2020

By Suzanne Rumsey

World Refugee Day – June 20, 2020

“Yet there’s no place for us my dear, yet there’s no place for us…”

W. H. Auden

In 1939, the English poet, W.H. Auden wrote “Refugee Blues” a poem both particular to his time and universal today. Auden was referring to European Jews seeking refuge from Hitler.

On June 18, 2020, in the lead up to World Refugee Day, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), published its annual Global Trends Report. It put the number of displaced people in the world at 79.5 million at the end of 2019, an increase of almost 10 million from the year previous. As this article notes, “there are more displaced people in the world today than at any time since the Second World War.” 

The report also stated that in 2019 Canada led the world in its resettlement of refugees at 30,082.

79.5 million

30,082

The numbers don’t add up. And it is this discrepancy, this overwhelming need that the Refugee Coordinators profiled here face every day. At the May meeting of the PWRDF Refugee Network, they spoke of their concerns for the future. When the border finally reopens, will there be parishes (and other groups) still willing and able to sponsor refugees? COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges of everyone, not least those coordinating the detailed and practical work of “welcoming the stranger.”

Auden’s poem also contains the line, “But we are still alive my dear, but we are still alive.”

May it be so when our borders reopen.

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