New approach to refugees Tony Karumba/Getty Images

A Smarter Approach to Refugees

Meeting refugees’ basic needs – food, shelter, medical care, and safety – is essential. But so is providing the knowledge and tools displaced people need to support themselves and their children in the long term, whether in a new country or the one they fled, should they ever return.

BRUSSELS – In recent years, few issues have generated as much public debate as the plight of refugees. With an unprecedented number of people uprooted by political instability, conflict, or persecution and forced to seek protection beyond their countries’ borders, the inadequacy of international responses has been laid bare.

One central problem with current approaches is that they fail to ensure sustainable futures for refugees. Meeting refugees’ basic needs – food, shelter, medical care, and safety – is essential. But so is providing the knowledge, tools, and opportunities displaced people need to support themselves and their children in countries where they seek asylum, in countries to which they are resettled, or when they return home.

Such a strategy will require new methods, partnerships, and financing mechanisms. It will not be easy, but there are already heartening examples. Over the last year, countries in the Horn of Africa, home to almost four million refugees, and other parts of East Africa have all been pursuing bold efforts.

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