Regardless of why refugees have fled their countries and whether or not they can return, there are three steps we can take to greatly improve the lives of displaced people the world over.
First, we need to continue to support countries at the front lines of the crisis with pressing immediate needs. Nearly every refugee family says the main reason they fled their country is so their children could have an education and a childhood. In places like Lebanon — a small country where more than 25% of the population is refugees — they need additional funding from the international community for extra shifts at school so more children can access quality education, vocational training and cash subsidies to avoid a rise in child labor.
Second, as leaders prepare to meet in New York for the UN General Assembly, they should commit to the principle that no refugee child should be out of school for more than 30 days. Given what these children have been through, we need to focus on more than just their immediate physical needs. Learning inside a classroom helps children gain skills that enable them to become productive members of society and embrace a future of hope, not one overshadowed by the false promises of extremism.
Finally, we need to change the negative and generalized way that we think about the 65.3 million people worldwide who are currently forcibly displaced. They come from all races, religions, professions and more than 150 countries. They are individuals who would collectively make up the 21st-largest country in the world, with a population larger than Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania combined.
Many have experienced or witnessed violence on a scale that most Americans cannot fathom. Each has a family and has had to leave a job and oftentimes a home. We need to understand that those displaced are people with great potential.