No Place Like It

Eritreans migrants

Eritrean migrants cramped in a large wooden boat which carried approximately 540 men, women and children.

Imagine being displaced. Imagine being uprooted from your house, neighborhood, community, state, and country.

I travel and I love being far away from home. Yet knowing there’s somewhere to return after a long journey is taken for granted. Even though I prefer to be on the go, I have the security of a permanent address and a Google satellite view of my residence online.

Refugee Reality

For 65 million people in the world, home no longer exists. These refugees are forced to flee horrendous conflict or persecution in their country. To ensure their safety and preserve basic human rights, these people must leave their homes and find shelter elsewhere. The US is one of 28 resettlement countries. Under the current Administration, it’s now harder than ever to find refuge in the US. The American government wants to slash refugee arrivals by more than half.

In the US, refugees undergo a transition program from signing promissory notes to reimbursing the US for travel costs, taking classes on US culture and laws and learning English. They are also introduced to basic housing, health care and education so they can somehow piece together a disassembled life.

World Refugee Day

June 20th is World Refugee Day. Even though it seems like every cause has their day in the sun, commemorating a day to recognize the courage and determination of women, men and children who stand in the face of extreme adversity and are forced to flee their homeland is at least a moment worthy of honor and pause.  

Around the world, June 20th is marked by special exhibitions, videos, marches or speeches. Celebrities pay tribute and social media feeds flitter with #WithRefugees, #RefugeesWelcome and #WRD2017.

Some refugees have enriched our communities and lives with new food, art, perspectives, or customs. In return I would hope our country would be a hospitable place for those who need shelter, protection and a bit of care. Is our “home” that precious to not share with others in need?  

Humans Without Borders

If there’s any small takeaway here, I hope to help dispel the myth that refugee is a bad word. Or that it carries negative connotations. I hope to squash the idea that someone doesn’t belong or that a person fleeing a “bad” country implies they are not good people. Let’s face it. When you hear “refugee” you don’t think happy thoughts.

‘Refugees do not stop being human beings just because they crossed a border.’ – HIAS Kenya Director Kiama.

Many of these people were leading “normal” lives before being displaced and desire to regain some semblance of that normality again. They are a diverse population representing several ethnicities and religions and many are hard-working and successful.

Imagine being displaced. What would you take with you? What would you do? Who would you want to be with? Where would you go?

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