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CozumelCozumel, México © Gab Chaag (Gabriela Chaparro)

By Gab Chaparro - Safeworld Correspondent

Globally, there are many conversations about human rights. And yet the world is turning away from the plight of refugees.

Worldwide, leaders pride themselves on the “excellent programs” they have implemented, or how they have dealt with the influx of refugees, migrants, or political asylum seekers.

But imagine for a moment...

For over a year you have been without a job, without family, without anything that gives you the stability to keep going. What could you do if you lose your beloved ones? But you’re not able to go to say the last goodbye?

However, in the name of civilization, good manners, and the 21st century, you’re requested to keep calm.

No matter what happened to you, your country or your heart, you must keep calm and accept any treatment .

I wonder how can any human being keep going when they have lost everything?

How do we let someone know we are listening and we care? And still the thing is maybe we in civil society are doing so, but on the other hand still those with the power to do something still don’t listen…

I listen to leaders talking about how the world is engaged in a war on terrorism and how these leaders are trying to dialogue with Muslim key figures (no matter that many of the terrorists are not Muslims). What happens when this entire issue is focussed on a specific religion, group or minority? What happens when all those that have been affected by persecution, violence, torture are treated as suspicious instead of human beings that deserve dignity, freedom and security, under the banner of protecting the world from “extremists”?

Most of these populations are merely civilians in the search of happiness.

How we can shout out loud “We are with you and we care!' - but also, 'Wait just let me check your story, investigate you and after while decide if you will have a future or not..?”

How many years can you be living in the uncertainty of what’s next, in the uncertainty of wondering which country will consider your case and work on it to guarantee you a place?

Refugees

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who:

"owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."[1]

When we are living under any kind of regime that oppresses, kills, and denies basic human rights to their own people, on one hand we read that we have the right to go to any place and on the other one we are not able to fully enter into another country because of security reasons.

While we eagerly read about the advances, treaties and conventions that are moving forwards better conditions, legally we are stuck in an unknown field where yet again the most vulnerable suffer because of the lack of vision and real solutions.

And of course we don’t deal just with this, we also face xenophobia, ignorance, blaming, just to name a few difficulties… and also we face not only the inaction of worldwide leaders, but the indifference too. At what point to we became insensitive? At which moment do we stop seeing each other as human beings and we start to think in borders? Or that one race is superior to another one? I don’t find any answers to this, as it’s impossible for me to think how we have forgotten the world wars. What has happened to our basic human rights?

Are we so busy trying to live in a world full of stigmas and closed minds that the human lives aren’t valuable anymore?

Interview - Iranian Political Refugee

In the hope of gaining some insight, I decided to put some questions to political activist Moustafa Rahmani[2]

1. How did you become a refugee?

“In 2010 I was arrested for my journalism activities in Iran's 2009 post election protests and after more than two months in prison, I was sentenced to five years suspended imprisonment by the infamous judge Salavati.

Shortly later, there began Syrian peaceful protests and they were brutally suppressed and killed by Bashar Assad. Iranian regime's media began to spread propaganda about the Syrian revolution and called the peaceful protesters terrorists. So to spread the truth, I used my expertise in journalism and I built a facebook page: Solidarity with Syrian People (‎ همبستگی با مردم سوریه-الایرانیون یدعمون الثوره السوریه الشعبیه‎ ) in Farsi, English, and Arabic. I continued my activities through the most powerful internet proxies for almost one year. Then, more than three years ago, I came to Turkey to meet Syrian and Iranian human rights activists and journalists, but at the same time, one of my administrators of the page was arrested and my identity was exposed. So I couldn't go back to my home country and I introduced myself to UNHCR in Turkey.”

2. Do you miss your country?

“Yes indeed, it's where all my family, relatives, friends and memories are.”

3. Do you feel that your chances for a better life are high?

“Maybe, if I would be transferred to a safer country. Turkey is close to Iran and I don't feel safe, as I found one of my friends, an Iranian human rights activist and journalist, dead in his house last year... The next one could be me."

4. Do you think the world has responded as should do to refugees?

“They do some help, but not as they should.”

5. Are political refugees treated differently to other refugees?

“Yes the process of the cases of political refugees, like me, take much longer.”

6. It's well known that Turkey gives job opportunities, in your experience is it easy to get a job?

“I know it is impossible for me to get a work permit in my area of expertise, and instead I have to do labour jobs with the lowest pay - and that is also illegal and unsafe, with no insurance.”

7. Do you think all these policies and programmes related to refugees are really helping or do they force modern exploitation of professionals?

“I am not an expert in this field. But it kind of help them.”

8. What would you like to tell to the youth fighting in any country?

“I recommend peaceful ways and don't give up on their dreams of freedom and dignity.”

9. Do you regret for your activism?

“Not at all.”

10. Would you do everything exactly in the same way again?

“Yes.”

On the one hand, we defend free speech and rights defenders, encouraging them try to speak out.

However, some of these activists are trying to keep themselves safe, secure, and trying to find countries that open their doors to them.

And what about the regular citizens, too? Exactly the same.

Now how can we talk about democracy and justice when these people receive nothing, null, finito …?

We have international organisations, we have representatives, we have…. we have tons of experienced professionals in this field and still we fail every single day, as humanity, to give refugees proper protection, attention and security.

Is This Life?

Swat exodusThe offensive in Swat and surrounding areas in the NWFP has triggered an exodus of nearly two million refugees from the region.3 We can turn around and we will see that mostly these people haven’t a decent way to live. How many of us live daily in a tent in the middle of nowhere, without water, food and medical assistance? I mean, since when has living in tents been the best housing option?

We have all kinds of international organisations based in international jurisprudence, with articles that cover everything about what every human being needs to keep going in his/her own country, or in another one when faced with prosecution and danger. However, it’s shocking that their actual situation is overlooked.

Even when we don’t want to acknowledge it, we are dealing with Islamophobia, discrimination, and of course, ignorance.

There are people who say, “We don’t want your religion here”. Some people are more worried about this than the things that truly matter. Like the issue of our refugees can communicate if they don’t speak the language of the country where they are “living”, how they can get food, and which organisations can reach them with their basic needs,

We can read :

“Despite the efforts to tackle malnutrition, the needs outstrip the capacity to respond. Throughout the country, UNICEF is scaling up malnutrition prevention and treatment services, and more health workers, community volunteers and women’s groups are being trained. Fifteen additional nutrition centres will be established in Homs, Hama and Aleppo by the end of 2015, bringing the total to 75.”[4]

I was reading about some of the definitions of a refugee[5] and I quote:

  • “they are outside their country of origin or outside the country of their former habitual residence;"
  • "they are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted;" and
  • "the persecution feared is based on at least one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”

 

Now I invite you to close your eyes and imagine yourself in this situation: lose your house, your family, your country, your everything; let’s say because of the way you dress…. sounds stupid right? Well, what if someone tells you that you’re free to flee but not to enter into another place? In this emotional roller coaster you’re listening to someone just saying that you can’t enter, you’re not welcome and if you do so you will be imprisoned or sent back to the place you’re running from… Or face on a daily basis discrimination, humiliation, racism, xenophobia and a never ending list of bad behaviour against you because you want a basic human right - the right to live freely, with liberty and respect.

And to every single leader, I invite you to live under these conditions for a week, maybe then the projects will just arrive, and have better options, as some legal proposals for such things.

Remember that freedom of movement is also a universal right. However there is not a legal counterpart – the right to enter”. What should we call it? The guarantee to have a life without fear… not sure, as long as we keep seeing people defending their twisted nationalism.

I can't think of humanity as a nation.

International law should find the legal tools to provide protection to every human being around the globe.

Some Statistics

On the UNHCR Global Trends Forced Displacement 2014[6] we can read:

“By end – 2014, 59.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. This is 8.3 million persons more than the year before (51.2 million) and the highest annual increase in a single year.”[7]

With all due respect, if 21st century international organisations were functioning optimally, and the governments were to implement the laws as they should be, this just shouldn’t happen. And yet it is one of the major struggles of our days.

As long as we keep allowing corruption, misinformation, dictators, tyrants, this will persist as a never-ending story. Worldwide, leaders proudly smile because of their wonderful assets… Let me remind them from the same report….

“Children below 18 years of age constituted 51 per cent of the refugee population in 2014, up from 41 per cent in 2009 and the highest figure in more than a decade.”[8]

Something is not right, and not according to the century we’re living in.

We still deal with massacres, corruption, forced displacements, torture, prosecution, racism, just to mention a few… We can complain and criticize every single decision. But here are some proposals:

  1. That processes are accelerated to grant asylum, refugee status and a decent way of life to those that need it. This means a reformation in the international law to provide a place to this people more quickly.
  2. Instead of tents we can reuse plastic around the globe to build green, friendly housing, and the people can become involved in this, giving them a reason to keep going.
  3. Solar energy for every house, so that providing energy won’t represent something hostile to the earth or the resources of asylum countries.
  4. Orchards and gardens in these “camps” that can be in those forgotten towns, strips of territory where people can have a sustainable way of living.
  5. Urgent capacity in provisional schools for teaching the language of the host country.
  6. Cultural exchange through art, food and dialogue.
  7. Workshops for women to develop their economic activities.
  8. Likewise, workshops for men to develop their skills.

 
Just to mention some of the options that are worthy of thought.

For the sake of humanity

Take a stand in your community, Start with something. Help each other, not in the name of a religion or a political party, do it because your heart shows you that language… the language of love and empathy, the one transcends colour, religion, or nation.

Just be human and hold tight those in need. Make a better world with small actions, because it is possible to have an impact, to change others lives and to keep going every single day just in the name of love. Use it to transform the world and our children. I believe there is more good in this world than bad.

Think by yourself, analyze, criticize, stop, breathe, and then… see through your heart the world.

When our leaders start to do so, they will worry about that and not about the money they need for something. Solutions, actions, love. Then we’ll see clearly and give better options to those that need it.

Is not about right, left, religion, it is about humanity – and we’re failing.

References

[1] UNHCR, “Refugees. Flowing Across Borders”, The UN Refugee Agency, 2001 - 2015
Retrieved September 16, 2015 from UNHCR.  

[2] Iranian political activist, Syrian Revolution supporter and asylum seeker

[3] No photographer name was found, © Al Jazeera Photos, May 21, 2009 “Refugee Camp” Retrieved October 17, 2015 from flickr.com

[4] Report from UN Children’s Fund. “The struggle to Reach Syrian children with quality nutrition”. Mebrahtu Shushan, September 8, 2015 Retrieved September 16, 2015 from reliefweb.

[5] International refugee law - “The Definition of a Refugee” Copyright 2015 © Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Switzerland webmaster Retrieved October 16, 2015 from Geneva Academy.

[6] UNHCR Global Trends Forced Displacement in 2014 “World at War” © 2015 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

[7] UNHCR Global Trends Forced Displacement in 2014 “World at War” [PDF] © 2015 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees page 2 Retrieved October 19, 2015 from UNHCR Global Trends.

[8] UNHCR Global Trends Forced Displacement in 2014 “World at War” [PDF] © 2015 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees page 3 Retrieved October 19, 2015 from UNHCR Global Trends.

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