The forgotten refugees in Africa

young refugee Maban South Sudan
A young boy's drawing shows his view on life before and after displacement/JRS International

Fr Endashaw Debrework SJ visited Ireland this summer to create awareness of refugees in Africa and to represent their forgotten voices. As Regional Director of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) in Eastern Africa, he maintains that as a result of the Syrian exodus, the African crisis has been forgotten.

Africa also has a refugee crisis

In the region for which Fr Endashaw is responsible, there are over two million refugees and the same number of displaced people in Eastern Africa alone. He would like the Irish people and government to know that there are other refugee movements ongoing while the crisis unfolds in Syria.

JRS fully understands the Syrian urgency, emergency and the need for support. However Fr Endashaw reminds us that we shouldn’t forget crises in other parts of the world, and especially in Africa, there are over 15 to 20 million refugees in different regions there.

The world’s youngest nation of South Sudan, according to UNHCR ”has one of the highest levels of conflict-induced population displacement globally. Nearly one in four of the South Sudan’s citizens is displaced within its borders or in neighboring countries, affecting some 2.6 million people against a population that stood at 11.3 million in 2013. A large majority are children.”

Fr Endashaw emphasized the need for technical supports, logistical supports and financial supports from the international community to continue to reach out to millions of vulnerable people on the move.

A watershed moment

At the international level, Fr Endashaw talked about the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 19th—a high-level summit that will address the issues of large movements of refugees and migrants. According to the UN website, the aim of the Summit is “of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach.

“This is the first time the General Assembly has called for a summit at the Heads of State and Government level and it is a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response.

“It is a watershed moment to strengthen governance of international migration and a unique opportunity for creating a more responsible, predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants.”

family in Maban refugee camp
Refugee family in Maban, South Sudan/JRS International

President Obama’s Leaders' Summit on Refugees

“Also on the margins of the General Assembly, on 20 September, the United States President Obama is hosting the Leaders' Summit on Refugees which will appeal to governments to pledge significant new commitments on refugees.

“While the Presidential Summit will focus on refugees, not migrants, the General Assembly event will address large movements of both. The two events will complement one another.”

For more reading on the Jesuits’ work with refugees and migrants please see Irish Jesuit Missions’ related articles:

World Refugee Day, Advancing Education for Refugees, Jesuits tell of their experiences to accompany, to serve and to advocate

Author: Irish Jesuit Missions Communications, 11th August 2016

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