World Refugee Day 2020: Calling all leaders to safeguard the dignity of refugees
By Aloysius John
For refugees living in dignity is a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, 33,4 million people were forced into the harsh road of exile across 145 countries. Victims of violence, fear, and above all victims of an unjust system, they have been forced to leave their homes to leap into the unknown destiny where they will have to face hardships, pain, anguish and trauma. Women, children and the elderly are the worst affected. Thus joining the hundreds of millions of refugees all over the world.
On this World Refugee Day, how can the international community turn deaf ears to the cries of refugees who suffer? For many around the world, these people don’t have a face nor a story. Refugees are only numbers or news to look at briefly in the newspaper. We seldom care about their stories of untold sufferings, of enduring pain, and above all stories of dehumanisation where people live in very precarious conditions.
COVID-19 has taught us an important lesson, the need for global solidarity to fight against any thing that affects humanity. This year, 2020, must lead us to a new way of responding to the refugees and their plight. As an international community, humanity was able to organise itself against the pandemic. In the same way, there is an urgent need to receive the refugees with empathy and solidarity and address the root causes of the phenomenon and develop a just economic system that guarantees them equal opportunities.
This day dedicated to the refugees recalls our role and our responsibility towards our neighbour who is de-rooted from his home, his culture, his family and his environment and experiencing a tragic painful situation. For example, the Rohingya people, who have left their homes to be transplanted in the neighbouring country where, despite the readiness of the Bangladeshi government to receive them, they are exposed to highly vulnerable conditions and today also to the COVID 19 pandemic. And there are millions like them in other parts of the world.
As Caritas Internationalis, our main focus is to nurture brotherhood through expression of care and love for the most vulnerable, and the refugees are among them. We call on our political leaders to take courageous decisions to safeguard the refugees, in particular those who are victims of every kind of abuses in many places. They are human persons, with dignity, values and rights and it is the duty of all of us to receive them with open arms and ensure they live in dignity.
As Caritas Internationalis, daily in close contact with the sufferings of the refugees, we want our political leaders to take the following courageous and bold action:
• To ensure that policies that contribute to receive the refugees in a dignified and safe way are put in place;
• To ensure the refugees their basic needs such as food, water and health care, thus enabling them to live a dignified life;
• To give refugees and internally displaced people access to safe living conditions especially at this time of pandemic.
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The tragic toll at the moment is of 300 dead and about 250 injured, while more than 216 thousand homes have been damaged. Sindh, the province of which Karachi is the capital, is among the most affected areas of the country.