Syria is, without question, the first country we imagine when someone says the word "refugee."
But this idea is quite mistaken- there are several refugee situations and emergencies around the world, some more public than others.
The UNHCR- the United Nations Refugee Agency- has, according to their website identified several emergencies. These include the emergencies involving the Central African Republic, Central America, Europe, Iraq, the Rohingya, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen. Yes, Syria is only one of multiple UN-affirmed refugee emergencies.
But that's not all. The UN has a very specific and controversial way of defining a refugee. According to the UNHCR, a refugee is a person "who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence."
While this sounds right, what it also means is that countless people who have been forced to flee home for their safety and livelihoods, but who do not fall under the UN's category of "refugee," do not receive refugee status and, as a result, receive even less protection that those deemed official "refugees."
The current concept of refugees focuses largely on imminent violence and less on what seem like long-term issues. For example, "climate refugees" has still not been adopted as an official term providing the same protections. Yet people can often become displaced because of climate disaster. When their land is destroyed, reducing possibilities for homes, farms, and possibly livelihoods, people are forced to leave home- like other refugees, they have no reasonable choice but to flee.
Truly, it may be time to re-evaluate who gets "refugee" status. Still, even among the emergencies officially recognized by the United Nations, many go forgotten by the people of the United States.
Journalists and media consumers, it is time to recognize more than those traditionally defined as refugees, and it is time to extend our eyes to include not only Syria but every area from which refugees are forced to flee. Global issues such as these are urgent, and all of them deserve attention and aid.