World Refugee Day is observed each year on June 20. On this day, refugee advocates urge people to focus on the plight of those who have been displaced by famine, war and oppression.
By the end of 2016, more than 65 million people worldwide were forced to leave their homes due to conflict and persecution, data published by the U.N. Refugee Agency reveals. That’s an average of 28,300 people per day, almost 20 people every minute.
“As an editor, I think about who is going where, and why,” shares Tiffany Harness, Middle East editor. She recalls one such experience: The young mother was crying, uncontrollably it seemed, as the rescue boat that had picked her up off the coast of Libya drifted in the sea.
She and more than 600 others had piled into a smuggling vessel that was probably overloaded, unseaworthy or both. When the boat capsized, most of those onboard were rescued. At least 30 were not, including the woman’s baby.
I will never know more about them than that.
More than 5,000 migrants and refugees drowned last year in the Mediterranean as they tried to reach Europe. More than 1,600 have drowned in the same waters this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, a slower pace than last year but still horrifying.