The Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice (CHRIJ) hosted the “Rights and Resources in Refugee Camps” informational event on Monday night.
Organized by Timothy Karcz, assistant director of the CHRIJ, and the center's undergraduate interns Audrey Hersman, MCAS ’19, and Elizabeth Wollan, MCAS ’19, the event was advertised as a simulation through which participants could learn about, “refugees’ access, and limitations, to basic human needs in camps.”
Through this presentation, Karcz hoped to “provide some introductory information to the BC community about the plight of refugees and the magnitude of the forced displacement crisis worldwide.”
The United Nations refugee agency estimates that there are currently 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 25.4 million refugees. Kratz noted that this number is “the largest number of forcibly displaced persons in the world since World War II.”
Upon entering the exhibition, students were given cards providing a hypothetical refugee identity and backstory. Inspired by the “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” initiative of the Jesuit Refugee Services, this was designed to encourage visitors to relate these imagined characters to the very real struggles and issues presented at the event.
As part of the simulation, students could walk around and stop at tables set up by various on-campus organizations such as Charity: Water, GlobeMed, Model UN, Arrupe International, and BC Real Food to learn more about the current refugee situation, with each table highlighting specific struggles refugees face today.
The key areas of focus were food, water, education, shelter, and advocacy, as well as general statistics to demonstrate the scope of the crisis and an outline of the resettlement process through which refugees must go.
One of the primary problems facing the occupants of refugee camps is a lack of proper nutrition. While the average American consumes 3600 calories daily, the average refugee only consumes around 1300 calories.
Furthermore, the infrastructure designed to provide refugees with sustenance is struggling to keep up with the rapid growth of forcibly displaced people around the world. For example, food rations provided by the United Nations have decreased by 30% over the past 10 years.
Alongside food, another area in which refugees suffer is a lack of clean water. Charity:Water, a BC student group that advocates for increased access to clean water in developing nations, reports that roughly 5 gallons of water are allocated to refugees each day, whereas the average American uses more than 80 gallons daily.
Additionally, there is about one water tap to serve every 80 to 100 people in a refugee camp, increasing the risk of contamination. This poses a major concern, as Charity: Water estimates that “at any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.”
According to Karcz, refugees have seen a “flagging response to the crisis from many of the world's wealthiest countries such as ours,” which impedes their ability to sustain themselves and their families as they are resettled.
However, the exhibition highlighted some ways people can advocate for and assist refugees, such as the work of Jewish Vocational Services to help assimilate refugees by assisting them in their efforts to obtain stable employment.
The event also promoted the Jesuit Refugee Service website, which has further information about the refugee crisis and the work being undertaken to alleviate the suffering of refugees. Opportunities to get involved with local initiatives supporting refugees and migrants are available through findhello.therefugeecenter.org.