Hope away from home.
Images of refugees facing unimaginable circumstances, as they flee places that they have called home in search of safety and a better life, are all too familiar. While such images are familiar, many of us cannot begin to comprehend what it is like to leave everything behind in search of a new beginning, a new hope. For the brave and desperate souls who risked their lives to find a safe haven in other countries, the reception is not always welcoming. Too often, refugees are rejected and blocked from accessing safe harbours, often by policies that do not recognize the legitimacy of their needs. In a year where, according to the UNHCR, at least 103 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes, it is incumbent on all of us to act in aiding refugees.
The UN theme for this year’s World Refugee Day is “Hope away from Home.” Canada has welcomed 1,088,015 refugees since 1980, but more needs to be done. The core of the Labour Movement has stood up for social justice and human rights. Labour Community Services and Toronto & York Region Labour Council began the Refugee Next Door campaign in 2018 to raise awareness of the plight of refugees, counter anti-refugee sentiments and fight racism. It is essential to understand that a refugee does not have one face, and they don’t come from only certain parts of the world.
The Refugee Next Door campaign joins refugee-serving organizations to call on all sectors of society to extend services necessary to meet the needs of refugees. Globally, refugees are forced to seek safe harbour because of war, economic disparities, famine, and climate change. A person becomes a refugee due to causes beyond their control and inherently become part of a refugee crisis created by the countries who have the ability to remedy the situation, but all too frequently don’t.
It is crucial to remember that with the exception of Canada’s Indigenous community, Canada has been populated by immigrants and refugees from the very beginning. Refugees have, and continue to be part of what makes Canada, strengthening our society morally, economically and through our diversity.
The hope is that refugees are seen as more than the title they were forced to adopt due to unforeseeable circumstances, but instead, valued for their resilience. They are our friends, family, colleagues, and fellow Canadians.
On World Refugee Day, we recognize all the individual stories refugees have experienced and are dedicated to helping them find hope away from home.