Fleeing Hope: Ireland’s Role in the United Nations’ Mission to Help Refugees

In class today we had the extraordinary opportunity to be in the presence of an employee of The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  UNHCR was established in December, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly.  The mission of the organization is to direct and coordinate actions on an international level to protect refugees and to solve refugee problems on a global scale.  A refugee is an individual who has been forced to leave his or her home country to escape war and persecution.  An individual who leaves their home country due to a natural disaster, such as a Tsunami is also considered a refugee.  The UNHCR websites states, the “primary purpose [of the organization] is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees [and] it strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country..”

UNHCR helps people of all kinds; men, women and children, refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people (IDPs), individuals with disabilities, the elder population, stateless people and even returnees.  UNHCR advocates for and protects these different populations.  The organization helps refugees migrate and seek asylum.  It aids countries by teaching communities how to have a cleaner and healthier environment.  UNHCR also supports other countries by having an emergency response when a country is in distress.

I found this experience to be very beneficial as I work for the government under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  I learned more valuable information on immigration and refugees during the presentation than I have learned in the two years I have been at my job.  I found the presentation to be very interesting and it was the perfect moment to seize the opportunity and discuss the situation that is going on in Syria, Ukraine and other countries in the Middle East.  We learned that the Irish government is currently accepting refugees from Ukraine but like many other countries who agree to take refugees, there is a cap at how many are allowed to enter.  UNHCR Ireland takes in many refugees from African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.  In addition, UNHCR Ireland has a large amount of employees stationed in African countries (doing environmental work, interviewing refugees, etc.)

I appreciate being able to have the opportunity to meet people and make connections with people who come from different international organizations such as the UNHCR.  My Conflict Management class has exceeded all of my expectations due to experiences like this.  Professor Duffy has gone above and beyond to ensure that we get the most out of this class as possible, especially when it comes to international conflict and conflict management.  I look forward to applying what I have learned from this class to my future classes, internship and career.

Chelsea Day
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Spring 2014
Champlain College, Social Work 2015

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