No one chooses to be a refugee

By Maria Pia Negro

Catholic News Service

“Every minute eight people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.”

That is just one of the statistics about refugees that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees agency offers. What decisions would you make if you were on that situation?

Researching for a piece commemorating World Refugee Day, I stumbled upon a role-playing phone app where users face the dilemmas that confront refugees around the world. Each story and the choices related to it are based on real-life experiences of families torn apart by war or persecution.

I was shaking after using the app. These are the decisions that over 42 million of people (refugees and internally displaced) are forced to make.

Fleeing means risk being mugged, raped, arrested, and tortured or never seeing your family again. But staying can cost you your life. What would you do? There is almost no right answer.

Like the UNHCR website said, “For many refugees the choice is between the horrific or something worse.”

The app was part of this year’s campaign to show the choices refugees have to face and aims to fight intolerance against refugees. The U.N. refugee agency campaign, titled “Dilemmas,” also includes survivors’ profiles and messages from celebrities.

According to Refugees International, there are 42.5 million refugees and internally displaced people in the world. In all, 15.2 million people ended last year as refugees. Approximately 12 million stateless people are living in limbo without citizenship rights.