World Refugee Day: 5 Shattering Statistics and 3 Ways the Translation Industry Can Make a Difference

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20 June is World Refugee Day. This year, it’s an especially solemn occasion. Crises around the world have sent record numbers of people fleeing their homes and their countries for an uncertain life elsewhere. Here are 5 heart-shattering statistics about the refugee crisis…and 3 ways the translation industry can make a difference.

Last year, 65.3 million people were forced to flee from their homes.

That’s a new record- it’s never been higher than 60 million since the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees began tracking it. It’s also more than the entire population of the UK, and more than the number of people displaced after World War II. According to the latest UN report, “If these 65.3 million persons were a nation, they would make up the 21st largest in the world.”

Here’s how that 65.3 million breaks down:

  • 40 million internally displaced.

  • 21.3 million living as refugees

  • 3.2 million waiting on asylum claims.

Every minute, another 24 people around the world are displaced.

They flee their homes, leaving almost everything behind in search of safety.

Although lower than it was in 2014, the rate of displacement is 4 times higher than it was a decade ago. And the dangers the refugees face along the way have increased, as well. According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi:

More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too.”

More than 50% of Syria’s population has been displaced.

4.9 million Syrian refugees have fled the country since the war began. Most of them end up in nearby countries like Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon.

51% of refugees are children under 18.

These are children who should be doing the “work” of childhood: playing, going to school and preparing to become adults. Instead, most of them are struggling to survive, and to help their families survive.

2 to 3 million Syrian children can no longer attend school. That represents an entire decade’s worth of progress undone in just 5 short years.

It’s true that less than 40% of refugees worldwide live in camps. However, according to charity World Vision, children in refugee camps are vulnerable to diseases, child labor exploitation, and sexual abuse.

Even worse, according to UNICEF, this year 9 out of 10 refugee children who came to Europe through Italy were travelling alone. And their stories are even more horrible than you’d expect.

More than 3,700 people in 2015 who tried to cross into Europe, never made it.

They drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean, packed like sardines into leaky tin cans. From September 2015 to February 2016, an average of two children a day drowned during the perilous sea crossing.  

World Refugee Day: 3 Ways the Translation Industry Can Help

These statistics are painful to read, but fortunately they aren’t the whole story. When something terrible happens, Mr. Rogers always said to “look for the helpers.” Translators, interpreters and other language service professionals are uniquely positioned to help refugees and other displaced people. Here are 3 ways your skills can make a difference:

Support Translators Without Borders

Translators Without Borders is a fantastic organisation that the K International team has always been thrilled to support.

Since October of 2015, Translators Without Borders has been assisting refugees arriving in Greece via their Words of Relief program. The program helps provide refugees with practical information in their native languages.

You can apply to be a Words of Relief interpreter here. You must be able to work within the EU and be able to speak one of the following languages: Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish (Sorani and Kurmanji), Pashto or Urdu.

Of course, you can also donate and fundraise.

Help Add to and Improve the Refugee Phrasebook

The Refugee Phrasebook is “an open collection of useful words and phrases for refugees who just arrived.” Crowdsourced and published under a Creative Commons license, it is completely free to print and available in 28 languages.

You can suggest corrections or additions at the projects website. They are also looking for lawyers and legal translation experts for a juridical phrasebook.

Help Translate Coursera’s Online Courses

Coursera, the world’s largest provider of online courses, just announced a new initiative called Coursera for Refugees, just in time for World Refugee Day. This initiative will provide free online courses for refugees around the world. So far, Coursera has partnered with the US Department of State, Libraries Without Borders, the Institute of International Education and Samaschool to offer free classes for refugees in Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Jordan.

The courses will teach skills like English, technology, communication and socialisation skills. Join their Global Translator Community to help increase access to the courses for students around the world.

How did you observe World Refugee Day? Do you know of other ways for translation industry professionals can help address this problem? Share them in the comments! The refugee crisis is huge and heartbreaking, but working together, we can make a difference.