Refugees Magazine-April 1985

Authored by Christina Stankewicz

Front cover of Refugees Magazine - April 1985

Front cover of Refugees Magazine – April 1985

The object featured is an issue of Refugees Magazine from 1985 that was published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR). In this issue the main focus is on the emergency situation in Africa that occurred in the 1980s due to famine. This magazine serves as a way of calling out to give aid to this part of the world and make people aware of the issues at hand.

The collection that I have been working with is from the Endres Collection at the St. John’s University Center for Migration Studies. This particular part of the collection focuses on the Refugee Act of 1980, which “removed refugees as a preference category and established clear criteria and procedures to their admission” (, 2008). My object from the collection dates five years after the Refugee Act of 1980 and this issue of Refugees Magazine focuses mainly on refugees in Africa.

The UNHCR, the group that published Refugees Magazine, states that their “primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees”(, 2015). This organization is one that follows many of the Vincentian values that are present in the St. John’s community. Truth, respect, and service are the core values that are present in this organization and in their publication. The magazine sets out to show the truth of a situation that is ravaging a part of the world, respect is shown by giving awareness to these individuals that have been forgotten, and service is being called to action to help those who need it (, 2015).

The early 1980s brought drought, famine, political instability, and civil war to parts of Africa. One country that faced this immensely was Ethiopia. In 1981 there had been a drought that wiped out their harvest, but aid from Western countries was minimal and virtually nonexistent at the time. It wasn’t until 1984 when new reports on how six million people were at risk of dying due to starvation and other related diseases in Ethiopia that Western nations really began to be involved (Milner, 2000).

In 1984 more Western countries started to focus their aid efforts on Africa. Two major aid campaigns actually came from musicians during the winter of 1984 and during the summer of 1985. Bob Gelford, a singer, helped to organize Band Aid which recorded a song for African famine relief entitled “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” This song ended up raising more than $10 million dollars for this cause (Kaufman, 2005). Gelford worked his magic again in the summer of 1985 when he organized Live Aid, which was an international concert to raise money for famine-stricken Africans. At the end of the event the total amount of relief aid that they raised was $127 million dollars (, 2015). Although this event occurred after the issue of Refugees Magazine was published, it does show that more attention was paid to the situation in Africa during the year 1985. In fact on March 11, 1985 the UN opened a conference on the Emergency Situation in Africa, which coincidentally was the same day that this issue of Refugees Magazine was sent to print (Editorial, 1985).



“Editorial,” Refugees Magazine, April 1985, 5.,  History of U.S. Immigration Law, 2008. Retrieved from,  Live Aid Concert. 2015.  Retrieved from

Kaufman, Gil, Live Aid: A Look Back at a Concert That Actually Changed the World, 2005.  Retrieved from

Milner, Kate, Flashback 1984: Portrait of a Famine, 2000.  Retrieved from, Our Mission, 2015. Retrieved from,  About Us, 2015. Retrieved from