Cover image: Heino Kalis/Reuters
June 20th coinciding with world refugee day, is dedicated to recognising all of those who have been forcibly displaced from their homes by means of natural and man-made causes. The number of refugees is at a record high for the fifth year in a row, as stated by the UNHCR; comparing the number of forcibly displaced people in 2017 to the population of Thailand.
Refugees are amongst some of the most vulnerable people in the world, often leaving their homes and livelihoods to avoid persecution and fleeing for safety. With the recent surge in conflict rippling across the MENA region and other parts of the world, there has been an influx in refugees who are going without their basic human rights, such as housing and education as well as access to medical care.
The theme for World Refugee Day 2018 is “Now More Than Ever, We Need to Stand with Refugees”, highlighting both the plight of refugees as well as the maltreatment they are often faced with when arriving to receiving countries. Maintaining the peace and dignity of refugee people is key from a humanitarian perspective.
As humanitarian workers, reversing the narrative of hate and division is essential. In order to commemorate World Refugee Day 2018, one of OC’s senior staff members, Hassan Al-Sabeh spent a few days volunteering in Valencia, Spain, where around 650 refugees disembarked from the Aquarius ship, that rescued people sailing from Libya across the Mediterranean.
Hassan explained his role as a volunteer when the refugees arrived, “we helped in identifying the unaccompanied minors, distributing shoes, translating and explaining the procedures”. The refugees were of various nationalities, such as Algerian, Eritrean, Nigerian, amongst others. Banners were placed around, saying “welcome home” in different languages. Although this case represents the positive way people come together in times of crisis, the Aquarius ship symbolises how many refugees are still taking life-threatening measures to get to safe ground due to the lack of legal, safe routes to safety.