Have you ever been out camping and it started raining in the middle of the night? Then you realized it was dripping inside your tent? I once walked 500 miles on the Appalachian trail and spent 2 of the worst nights of my life sleeping in wet tents on route. As soon as I found a post office, I sent for a new waterproof one, and frankly I couldn’t wait to get back in my car to drive home to a hot shower and warm fire.
Then I went to Greece and heard stories of children’s feet rotting in the rain. They never got their hot shower or their dry tent and shared stinking outhouses with hundreds of other people. 120 days they camped in limbo, waiting for their asylum paperwork to be processed so they could be resettled to a new country. Greece doesn’t have a resettlement program. Only people from countries in conflict with credible fear are allowed to even stay at all. The camps are controlled by the military, many have barbed wire and were former prisons. This is the story in most refugee camps – they are holding cells on the edges of countries that do not have the resources to resettle them. On a global average, people wait 17 years in refugee camps, and only 1% ever get a chance of resettlement. This is after fleeing bombs in their country and traveling thousands of miles across deserts and a sea 16 times the size of the Great Lakes in a flimsy raft.
What people don’t realize is that 99% of the world’s 65 million refugees will be camping their entire lives.
The word “Refugee” is just a legal status for the lucky 1% of the forcibly displaced.
By Kelsey LeBrun