By Dina Dahood Dabash
Dina is a 31-year-old Jordanian national who is completing her PhD in Urban Planning in Refugee Camps. She is also a Youth Ambassador with The ONE Campaign in Brussels.
The causes are many but the plight is one. Whether from Africa, East-Asia, Latin America or the Middle East, millions are forced to leave their lives behind and start again wherever their feet, cars or boats drop them. They may be labelled as refugees but they never lose their status as human beings who deserve to live in safety.
Today, on World Refugee Day, we seize the moment to remind ourselves of our obligations to come together in support of the guests of the world, the refugees.
Refugees never chose to leave their countries; many of them, including Palestinian refugees, hope to return one day. That is why we must not overlook their emotional plight, which adds extra responsibility on hosting communities to find a place for their guests within their social and cultural mosaic. Sometimes it is not only about money! For example, providing access to education and job permits is critical in preserving refugees’ dignity.
Over the last year, the plight of Syrians has been in the spotlight as it caused European nations to scramble to uphold our universal and humanitarian solidarity and responsibility towards each other.
But at the same time, millions of refugees are stranded elsewhere: sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than a quarter of the world’s refugee population. And the numbers have been soaring due to problems in Nigeria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. These countries have far fewer resources to provide safe access to education, health and infrastructure services for refugees and sometimes even their own population.
Indeed, with some 900 million people still living in extreme poverty, addressing the refugee crisis should not distract global attention from fulfilling our responsibilities towards other causes, such as the Sustainable Development Goals agreed last year. Governments must do both: protect refugees and invest in long-term development. Poverty-fighting programmes, for example the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, should not only be protected but increased.
Refuge has never been a status; it is a journey. A journey that starts with a loss and will probably last for longer than expected, and that’s where the efforts should be focused: to ease the burden that’s already heavy on their shoulders. At the same time, governments must keep up their promises to the world’s poorest, so that they, in turn, aren’t forced to flee their homes.