Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of Oxfam International, writes: In 1978, I ran away from the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin in Uganda to the United Kingdom via Kenya. My family and I chose Britain, knowing then – as I do now – that this was a country with a door open to people like me. As I arrived in the UK, this black, 18-year-old African refugee girl was not deported. I got the chance to stay.
This was a European country where I safely had a chance to fulfil my potential. I studied at the University of Manchester and, years later, have been brought full circle back to the UK to serve a great movement, which started in the UK, called Oxfam.
My story might have turned out very differently if a door to a safe haven was closed to me forty years ago. That memory quickly turns now into a calling.
Today, we are in the midst of a global and complex displacement crisis. To view this global crisis solely through the lens of Europe is to miss the bigger picture.
According to the UN figures, 59.5 million people fled from their homes at the end of 2014 – an increase of 63 percent compared to a decade ago – and the highest number since World War II.
The majority of displaced people are as young as or younger than I was when I fled Uganda for the UK.
Oxfam is well-placed to connect the dots between the sources and the destinations of displaced people. This helps us understand the reasons for displacement and to strive for solutions.
We witness the terrible human suffering that every day forces people into exile. We know this well because we work in nine of the top ten source countries for refugees.
It is clear to us that the broken politics of conflict weigh most heavily on forced migration. The UN recently found that the majority of people arriving in Europe by sea were fleeing from war, conflict or persecution – half of them from Syria and Afghanistan.
Yet, conflict is preventable. Critical questions must be asked of international political leaders who are initiating or prolonging these conflicts but are unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their humanitarian consequences. [Continue reading…]