UNHCR protects Carolina refugees

23 Jun 2002 | Sgt. Roman Yurek 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

An exodus of refugees leave a war-stricken land to protect their own lives from the turmoil of a place once called home. Although this action ensures their safety others must now step up and help to enable their survival.

The United Nation High Commissioner of Refugees, with a staff of only 5,000, is tasked with helping these and other refugees worldwide who can reach numbers as high as 20 million people.

"We do not have the capacity to single handedly help an exodus of people which could reach one million in a matter of days," Raymond Wilkinson, media instructor for the refugee training explained.

That is where the military comes into play.  Through this course, both the Marines and the UNHCR will become more familiar with each other's backgrounds, aims, limitations and mandates.

The UNHCR is training approximately 60 civilians and two Marines here, June 19-27, with the help of the Special Operations Training Group, to deal with the protection of refugees.

Though the training has just begun, some of the UNHCR members have recently participated in Marine Expeditionary Unit operations, explained Raymond Wilkinson, media instructor for the refugee training.

The UNHCR is a field-orientated group, unlike most UN groups, Wilkinson added.

"What they undergo in the states will give them a taste of what field life will be like," said Wilkinson.

Throughout the course, the members of the UNHCR will learn about first-aid, stress factors and teamwork.  They will also learn how to take care of refugees by role-playing as everyone from the logistics officer to the legal protection officer.

Training with the Marines will add one more "real-world" aspect to the entire course, according to Wilkinson.

"Many (humanitarian) workers believe the neutrality of humanitarian work is compromised by a military presence," said Wilkinson.

But, the UNHCR has an opposing view.  They say the military can be very helpful when it comes to dealing with refugees.

With each organization knowing each other's specifications, the UNHCR and the military will be able to compliment each other when they are bombarded with a mass of refugees.


26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)