FAITH LEADERS have written an open letter urging national government leaders to strengthen the protection of displaced people.
Over 50 leaders of faith and religious organisations, groups and communities, including the Bishops of Durham and Salisbury and the Archbishops of Wales and South Sudan, pointed out in their letter that faith leaders are present before crises occur and are key providers of assistance and protection both during them and afterwards.
As such they have ‘special relationships of trust’ and insights into and access to communities.
“We can no longer stand by as the number of people forced from their homes but who have not crossed a border continues to rise in the wake of protracted crises and climate change, they said.Their letter explains that currently there are more than 65 million people displaced due to conflict and violence, and 40.5 million of these remain in their countries of origin.
“It would take more than a year to read all their names. Millions more are displaced due to climate-related events and disasters. We call on leaders of national governments to do more to ensure that the needs and rights of internally displaced people are addressed and upheld.”
The group of 57 leaders and organisations say that they‘stand in solidarity with people who have fled their homes but not crossed borders’ –many of them are the poorest and most vulnerable in their communities, including women, children, elderly and disabled people.
“Yet so often they receive none of the support and protection to which refugees are entitled. Displaced on average for 15 years, often repeatedly, most exist without access to basic services such as health and education, are often subjected to abuse, torture and harassment and face despair,” they write.
“Our faiths compel us to speak out against the disregard of their human rights, their marginalisation, and the stripping of their dignity.”
They are calling on governments to work with UN agencies, international non-governmental organisations, civil society and faith communities to prevent displacement in the first place, to protect those who are displaced, and to work with people forced to flee to find durable solutions.
They point out that this is the 20th anniversary year of the UN guiding principles on internal displacement. They wrote: “It is time to lay the ground for bold action in support of a FAIR deal (Funded, Ambitious, Inclusive and Respectful of international law) for people forced to flee within their country of origin.
“The global compacts on refugees and migration, to be signed this year, regrettably provide scant attention to the ignored millions, forced out of their homes but still within their countries of origin.”
They added: “We therefore encourage leaders of national governments – together with local partners, civil society, faith communities and the private sector, as well as humanitarian and development actors – to join the GP20 plan of action to prevent further forcible displacement of people, strengthen the protection of those who are displaced, and seek long-lasting and durable solutions with them.”