World Refugee Day: Together we heal, learn and shine
You, like I am, are probably swamped with information on what’s going on in the world. If it is not the COVID pandemic, it is the climate change crisis. If it is neither of these, then it is about crypto currency and how it is going to revolutionize the future. Amid all this kerfuffle, for a tiny group of people spread in various parts of the world, climate change is a far scare and crypto currency means nothing. For these people, whether they will get their next meal is a constant worry. They worry about where they will get clean water to drink and shower. They are nervous about whether they’ll have a roof over their heads. They miss home, they miss their kin. And many of them have to live with the uneasiness of not knowing whether the peace they have at the moment, will last. The people I speak about have been called by names such as ‘displaced people’, ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’
The UNHCR estimates that the number of these people has surpassed 80 million as of mid-2020 (UNHCR, 2021). That roughly translates to 1 in 100 people who either do not have a place to call home or have been forced to contend with the fact that a camp is what they’ll call home. Data from UNHCR shows that 67% of these people originate from just five countries – the Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar (UNHCR, 2021). Unfortunately, thirty to thirty-four million of these people are children and that is not even the saddest part. The saddest part is that this number is expected to keep growing, as the world gradually becomes riddled with conflict, natural disasters, and health-related pandemics (Dehghan, 2021).
Many governments around the world have increasingly become intolerant of these people. Some governments are deliberately turning back refugees through border restrictions, violent evictions, refugee camp shutdowns, and some are simply burying their heads in the sand. For instance, the Kenyan government has proposed to shut down the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps that hold more than 410,000 refugees (Reuters, 2021). Other governments such as the US have placed border restrictions on refugees under the guise of pandemic-related control. This allows border officials to expel migrants and asylum seekers despite the dire situation they are in (UNHCR, 2021). In Europe, Spain sent troops to send back thousands of people who had swum around a breakwater that extends into the Mediterranean Sea (Peltier, 2021). Collective expulsions are frowned upon because they leave no room to find truly vulnerable people. These are just but a few of the many instances where intolerance against refugees has become prevalent.
I mention this entire not to overshadow the many other problems you and I experience all over the world, but simply to shine a light on one that is happening under our radar. By giving names such as ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’ to these people, we view them as distant objects with whom we should not worry. However, these are people just like me and you, and that is why I have referred to them as such throughout this article.
This sense of oneness is mirrored in the theme for this year’s world refugee day. The theme is ‘together we heal, learn and shine’. By viewing refugees and asylum seekers as people, we can help them heal. We can improve their access to primary and secondary healthcare, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, and mental health services. Together, we can help refugees get an education and build better futures for themselves and their loved ones. Together we can enrich the lives of refugees by involving them in sports and other creative arts for them to gain confidence in themselves and forge new relationships.
This is the message: You and I can make a difference in the lives of refugees through thinking of, and treating them as people just like us. On this world refugee day, strive to help refugees heal, learn, and shine.
Dehghan, S. K. (2021, May 20). The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/may/20/climate-disasters-caused-more-internal-displacement-than-war-in-2020#_ga=2.211076893.920736506.1622455355-178299566.1622455355
Peltier, E. (2021, May 18). The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/18/world/europe/spain-migrants-ceuta-morocco.html#_ga=2.47370159.920736506.1622455355-178299566.1622455355
Reuters. (2021, April 29). Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/kenya-tells-un-it-will-shut-two-camps-with-410000-refugees-by-june-2022-2021-04-29/
UNHCR. (2021). UNHCR. Retrieved from https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/
UNHCR. (2021, May 20). UNHCR. Retrieved from https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2021/5/60a687764/statement-attributable-un-high-commissioner-refugees-filippo-grandi-need.html#_ga=2.85779985.920736506.1622455355-178299566.1622455355
By Genuine A Desireh