Last Wednesday was World Refugee Day. For this the European Council of Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) decided to ask what the word refugee means to those carrying it. As a member of ECRE, SB OverSeas decided to do the same.
According to the recently released UNHCR Global Trends Report, 68.5 million people were displaced in the last year.
That is someone every two seconds.
With numbers like this, it is easy to forget that behind each figure is a person. A person with a story.
The below is three such people telling us what the word refugee means to them. Each of these people we know as they have been involved in the SB OverSeas family.
Ahmad – Syrian living in Belgium
Sometimes this word means you are without country, without nationality. Sometimes it makes you feel shame because of the mind of some people. But I do not care too much about it. It’s just a word in your identity card and I don’t feel too much the difference. We are all humans and we have the same rights.
Ahmed is one of the longest serving volunteers with SB OverSeas. Originally from Syria, he has been living in Belgium since 2015. He came across SB OverSeas upon hearing about the organisation through a friend. In between studying, working at his family restaurant and meeting his friends, he helps SB by volunteering to take photos at our events.
Hamim – Afghani living in Belgium
Every person deserves to live wherever he/she feels safe and comfortable. Though adjusting to a new environment with new challenges and obstacles are hard, it is not impossible. What makes it harder is labeling each other by different names.
As a matter of fact the word refugee really doesn’t bother me, but it depends on how one can interpret. The world as a whole is under one roof, breathing the same air, but its borders and human mindset which label one and another, making us different.
Hamim moved to Belgium a couple of years ago and joined SB Espoir, our weekend volunteering program with unaccompanied minors in the asylum centres in and around Brussels. Since he speaks Dari and Pashto, he is a bridge between some of the youth in the centres and us when we are doing activities. His favourite memory with SB Espoir? When he sees the smiles and cheerfulness on the faces of the youth! It reminds him of his youngest brother.
Wael – Syrian living in Lebanon
When the majority of people hear the word refugee, they associate it with something bad. Refugees are often stamped as people who do not deserve rights because they do not have a home to identify with. Because of their lack of a home, there are many restrictions put on these people that do not allow them to live freely.
In my opinion, the word refugee is an encouraging word, despite the restrictions and lack of rights associated with that word. Even though most refugees are branded in a certain way, the word itself inspires me and other refugees to change the association people make with that word, and defend our rights as a human beings.
When a person seeks refuge, it only takes them further away from that they call home. “Home is a place that we love, but also a place that when left, our heart remains in.”
Wael is responsible for the SB OverSeas Bukra Ahla Centre in Beirut, where he manages our education and empowerment programs. He started out as a volunteer with SB in 2013, after fleeing the conflict in Syria. In his own words, SB OverSeas gave him ‘the opportunity to gain a new family in the absence of my own. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the youth and children with us makes it all worth it’.