June 19, 2017 : Pauline Diamond Salim
World Refugee Day 2017
A day of solidarity and unity with refugees around the world
The charity sector loves awareness days. We attach so much significance to them it’s easy to lose perspective and imagine everyone outside our bubble is as enthusiastic about our work as we are.
So I asked some friends from refugee backgrounds what, if anything, World Refugee Day means to them.
Abdul, a community organiser from Afghanistan said: “World Refugee Day means a lot to me. I’ve been through war, trauma and isolation before I received refugee status in the UK. World Refugee Day is a way to honour that.”
Iman, an artist from Iran said: “To me World Refugee Day makes people remember that they could be a refugee too. It is not a choice.”
At the Scottish Refugee Council, June 20 is an important day. It’s a time for us to rally our supporters to stand up publicly and say ‘we care’. We care that people around the world are persecuted and abused and that their governments fail to protect them. We care that terrorism and war continue to tear families apart and force people to flee their homes in a desperate search for safety. We care that more than 10 million children are on the move, unsettled, missing school, crossing borders, experiencing things no child should have to go through.
June 20 could easily be a day of despair. Yet on this international awareness day we join with people all around the world to stand in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes. We stand together to call on our governments to do much more to take responsible action to provide protection to those in need. We demand again that people seeking refugee protection are treated fairly and with dignity and respect.
World Refugee Day is also a chance to pay tribute to the courage and resilience of millions of people, like Abdul and Iman, who did not choose to become refugees. We say welcome and reach out in friendship to the new families and individuals rebuilding their lives here in Scotland.
Since the Syrian resettlement scheme began in late 2015, Scotland has become a place of safety to more men, women and children than ever before. These New Scots are our neighbours now in communities across Scotland. In time we hope we will become colleagues and friends.
So World Refugee Day is more than just an awareness-raising day for us. It’s a time to reflect on the hardship so many people endure with courage and strength, and a time to speak up about the fairer, more humane world we want to live in. This year it marks the beginning of Refugee Festival Scotland, an annual celebration of the contribution refugees make to life in Scotland which takes place across the country and this year includes more than 100 arts, culture, family and community events.