The Refugee Olympics

by Victor Lund on August 16, 2016

Please welcome Camilla Harvey to the team at WAV Group. She has been with the firm for about 9 months. She is now a permanent resident of the United States seeking citizenship. Prior to joining WAV Group, Camilla spent time in West Africa understanding the plight of people living in Ghana. She brings a perspective to WAV Group that enriches our office culture.

Camilla and I were looking at the Olympic medal count during a break and we recognized a new nation called “The Refugee Olympic Team.” Camilla followed her intrigue and researched this odd group bringing forth this article that says nothing about real estate, but may enrich you as it has enriched us. It is always to understand the global perspective about housing, and like the poor we recognize that humanity has left so many behind. Enjoy! – Victor Lund

Olympic SwimmerOne team at the 2016 Rio Olympics is certainly winning over hearts across the world, the Refugee Olympic Team. This team has made history by being the first of its kind. The team of ten was formed as part of an effort to show solidarity for the world’s refugees and ongoing crises across the world. The Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, wanted the team to be “a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and to bring attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis.”

Let’s get the cold, hard, disheartening facts out of the way first. Forced displacement has hit a record high in 2015 due to conflict and persecution in countries around the world, the figure of 1 in every 113 humans affected is astonishing. The refugee population totals 65.3 million worldwide, roughly equivalent to the population size of the United Kingdom, France or Italy. Each of these people are either an asylum seeker, internally displaced, or a refugee.

There are three major reasons for this record high:

  • The conflicts that cause large outflows of refugee populations are lasting longer, Somalia and Afghanistan are into their third and fourth decades of internal conflict respectively.
  • There are tense new situations occurring, the biggest today, which has been exhaustively covered in global media, is the Syrian conflict.
  • The final reason behind this saddening statistic is the simple fact that the rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and those displaced internally has been on a declining trend since the end of the Cold War.

An article in The New York Times piqued my interest with a hard-hitting statement. “The world is moved by Team Refugees. Yet, it is unmoved by refugees.” Further stating, “The glorification of Team Refugees and the vilification of refugees coexist. How can they?” Fences have been erected around Europe to keep the movement somewhat under control, as growing tensions between EU leaders rise and the passport-free travel zone is fast crumbling. Right-wing political parties have thrived off of campaigns scapegoating refugees, while Germany has opened up its doors to those fleeing their terror-ridden home countries. People didn’t want to hear about the refugees until the Olympics.

Google reports that in September 2015 the term “refugee crisis” was a popular search term. Since then, search statistics for “refugee crisis” have steadily declined and people simply lost interest we coursed through 2016. However, August 2016 shows that one of the most popular search terms related to the Olympics is the “refugee team” and the athletes waving the ROT flag.

That said, even with all the love the world seems to be giving Team Refugee, I would be hopeful that those cheering for the ten Olympians would express the same interest and empathy for refugees in their community and around the world. It would be a shame for this team to be reduced to a fad. My hope is that they will open people’s hearts to the reality of the refugee crisis. Do those of us living in the Western world simply cheer on Team Refugee to comfort ourselves? So that we can feel like we are “friends” of refugees?

Many people in the United States of America and other countries which are far removed from the front lines of the calamities often talk of refugees as a serious problem, their talks are focused on terrorism, how refugees suck resources and how they are fraudulent. Despite so far winning no medals, the Refugee Olympic Team wants to be seen as heroes who can be a credit to any country they live in.

The Rio Olympic Games 2016, and the International Olympic Committee has given the world a real view of the humanity and desires of just ten refugees, highlighting this global crisis.  This crisis will continue long after the fanfare of the Olympic Games has died down, but will anyone remember?

 

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