Monday, 20 June 2016

World Refugee Day

Today the world commemorates the strength, courage and resilence of millions of refugees. World Refugee Day was first marked in 2001.Tens of thousands of people around the world take time to recognize and applaud the contribution of those forced to flee.The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in over 100 countries, involving government officials, aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.Never before have the immediate needs of vulnerable children and their families been so great. Some 20 million refugees half of whom are children, have been forced to flee violence, poverty and persecution from places such as Syria, Somalia, South Sudan and Central African Republic taking perilous sea voyages over the Mediterranean. According to the International Organisation for Migration, over 20,000 migrants have died in their attempts to reach or stay in Europe since 2000, and according to the United Nations, only one per cent have been resettled. It is imperative that they should be given help, protection and long term solutions.
Together, we should be creating an outpouring of compassion and show individual refugees that they are welcome here.but the persecution of refiugees continues, whipped up by forces of racism spreading fear and misinformation about security and terrorism.The EU Referendum campaign has sadly contributed to this unleashing some of the most heinious manifestations of racism we have seen in generations. Those on the far right across Europe are eager to use the crisis to further scapegoat immigrants.Last week UKIP leader Nigel Farage had the audacity to stand in front of a poster chillingly reminiscent of nazi propoganda depicting long queues of refugees heading for Europe. Earlier he stated that violence would be the 'next step ' when people felt that nothing could be done about immigration through democratic means.
It should be pointed out that despite whatever one thinks of the European Union it is a leading global donor of aid. It gives more than one billion euros a year for humanitarian assistance to support those forced to flee their homes. This funding is vital, providing access to shelter, food, healthcare, sanitation, education and other essential services. A necessary humanitarian response to one of the worst crisis's since the Second World War. In the circumstances, it could be argued and more than justified that they contribute even more. The EU is morally, and indeed legally, obliged to share some of the refugee burden
In light of this as continuing tragedy unfolds, some of the countries most able to help are shutting their gates to people seeking asylum. Borders are closing, pushbacks are increasing, and hostility is rising. Avenues for legitimate escape are fading away.Since the beginnings of civilization, we have treated refugees as deserving of our protection. Whatever our differences, we have to recognise our fundamental human obligation to shelter those fleeing from war and persecution. It is time to stop hiding behind misleading words. Richer nations must acknowledge refugees for the victims they are, fleeing from wars they were unable to prevent or stop.History has shown that doing the right thing for victims of war and persecution engenders goodwill and prosperity for generations. And it fosters stability in the long run.
The world needs to renew its commitment now to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its principles that made us strong.To offer safe harbor, both in our own countries and in the epicentres of the crises, and to help refugees restore their lives.In this context it is sad to report  that on Saturday 18 June 2016, the Convoy to Calais was refused entry to France. Over 250 vehicles carrying many tonnes of much needed aid for refugees in the 'Jungle Camp' stuffed full of desperately needed aid; food, sleeping bags, tents, clothes; love were turned away at the border by the French authorities. The reasons given for refusing the convoy entry were spurious, including the 'State of Emergency', football hooliganism and the threat of terrorist attack. None of these had any connection with this humanitarian mission.While two lorries and a handful of cars and vans managed to get through, less than half of the aid collected was delivered.
The organisers of the Convoy to Calais made it clear to the French authorities that there was no intention to cause any disruption or hold any kind of demonstration or protest, when in France.This was a convoy delivering aid and solidarity to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet who governments across Europe are trying to forget. A truly shameful state of affairs, a dangerous reaction, short-sighted and morally wrong.
Today and tomorrow we must continue to stand up for refugees.We must remember that arms trade helps exacerbate the crisis,plus poverty and inequality, war and conflict, we need to build bridges not more obstacles and borders.
In the meantime please consider signing the following petition :-

Aziza Brahim performs refugee Blues

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