On World Refugee Day, 20th June, we celebrate the strength and courage of those who are forced to flee their countries to escape conflict and persecution, war, and to escape human rights abuse in their country. Running for their lives – often with only the clothes on their backs – we recognise their immense strength and resilience in facing the challenges as they try to rebuild their lives.
Whether in transit to their final destination or even when they have finally been resettled – their personal journey is not short of hardship and challenges as they start to build a new life. In a foreign land, amidst a new legal and social system, foreign language and different cultural norms.
In a country like Malaysia, which does not officially recognise refugees, they are often misconceived and subject to negative stereotypes and xenophobia.
The notion that they are “freeloaders” – looking for free food and accommodation – is a mistaken belief. Refugees are raring to work to supplement their families, to be self-reliant and be able to help their communities and contribute to society at large.
The theme this year is “Together we heal, learn and shine”.
“World Refugee Day 2021 focuses on the power of inclusion. The shared experience of COVID-19 has showed us that we only succeed if we stand together. We have all had to do our part to keep each other safe and despite the challenges, refugees and displaced people have stepped up. Given the chance, refugees will continue to contribute to a stronger, safer and more vibrant world. This year, we call for greater inclusion of refugees in health systems, schools and sport. Only by working together can we recover from the pandemic” – UNHCR Malaysia
We need to extinguish the xenophobia and realise the value of having an inclusive outlook on refugees in the country.
Refugee protection doesn’t only mean providing food and shelter handouts. Refugee protection means allowing them access to education and healthcare, and allowing them to build their skills to be better able to help themselves.
Refugee protection means allowing them to live in dignity and safety until a permanent solution is found.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), in a report in The Star, urge the government to have a more comprehensive and inclusive, non-discriminatory refugee protection policy, whilst maintaining its international leadership. In managing the pandemic, Suhakam hopes that the government will leave no one behind and include refugees in the vaccination program and provide safe spaces to receive it.
Global Shepherds is playing a part in empowering refugees, particularly the women refugees from various ethnic communities from Myanmar. In collaboration with UNHCR, we are currently conducting a training program, “Creating Safe Shelter Placement for Women & Children at Risk”, aimed at building their capacity to recognize the issues and risks faced by the women and children.
The program highlights core issues such as SGBV, domestic violence, child safety and protection, child marriage. By bringing their awareness to these issues helps them in identifying sustainable solutions and developing their potential to case manage within their own community.
The women are excited to be getting an education (of sorts) and the knowledge gained has already shown big leaps in their confidence and leadership qualities.
We will continue to support and encourage them; to enforce in them that no matter where they come from, they can make a difference.