My hubby recently cleared some bushes from around two young naseberry trees (sapodilla to you Eastern Caribbeaners). I went down the hill to look at them yesterday. They are a little taller than I am. I had planted them maybe seven or eight years ago. I had helped to pack the hundreds of rocks that hug the contours of the hillside, a soil conservation measure that has faithfully done its job. I felt a sense of pride and achievement. I felt like I belong here.
Unfortunately, there are 21.1 million people who are deprived of this feeling, displaced from their country of birth and right at this moment, are alienated from this very basic human right, the right to belong to one's own country. (This figure does not include internally displaced peoples like those in Sudan and Iraq). Look: article 13 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that "everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." Article 15 states that "everyone has the right to a nationality".
But wars, violence, intolerance and other things that we get wrong have led to the need for the word "refugee".
Article 1 of the Geneva Convention as amended by the 1967 Protocol provides the definition of a refugee:
"A person who owing to a 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."
Displacement means many things, none of them good. It must mean you are separated from family. It must mean you are a second class citizen if you're lucky to find assylum some place. It probably means that you are hungry, you haven't had a bath for days, you're exposed to cholera. It probably means that you have walked miles, and have many more miles ahead. Right now you might be frightened, desperate, helpless, hopeless.
Today, more than 10,000 bloggers unite to draw attention to this very important issue. If you're a blogger and want to spread the word, do join in. You can help to unite families. Other bloggers have said their piece here and here and here. And you can inform yourself about refugees, assylum seekers and displaced peoples in Kosovo, Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan here.