Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ll know last week the UK held a referendum on its EU membership. Whilst the nation went into meltdown and friendships were temporarily wrecked, you might have missed something else. (Well, we all probably missed a lot of things).
Last week was also World Refugee Week and the 20th June was World Refugee Day. Needless to say, they were already important days but given the xenophobic fallout of the EU referendum, I think it is particularly poignant to draw positive attention to refugees and immigrants. People who know me well will know how passionate I am about human rights, freedom of speech issues. (My long-suffering mum is particularly good at listening to my harrowing dinner-time talks and nodding in the right places. If we could, we’d have as many refugee families as possible living in our back bedroom!)
Joking aside, I think talking about helping refugees is a super important issue and something we can’t ignore. Last summer, Europe saw the biggest influx of refugees since WWII. It’s no secret that the worry around the refugee crisis was a decisive reason for a large number of Britons to vote ‘Leave’ in last week’s referendum. Although this has been a difficult time for many countries and created a lot of division, we absolutely cannot turn our backs on refugees. They are human beings who have fled their homes and untold horrors, had their lives torn apart and now face an uncertain future. Once safely into Europe, they face a whole other set of issues, including homelessness, poverty and xenophobic abuse.
They desperately need our help and together there are lots of ways we can help. And most things won’t cost a penny! Take your pick from this list of free ways to help:
- Perhaps my favourite is ‘Simple Acts’. This programme is “about inspiring individuals to use small, everyday actions to change perceptions of refugees”. There’s an endless amount of things you could do. Bake some cakes for your local refugee centre, have children draw some welcome signs or simply chat with someone who looks like they could do with a friend.
- Sign government petitions like this one.
- Write to your MP. They represent you and so should listen to you. Tell them why you think this is an important issue. Maybe make suggestions about what you think the government should be doing. You might be surprised – my MP wrote back to me! Find out who your MP is here:
- Tweet. Spread mini messages of acceptance! You can use the hashtag #MigrantsContribute, which is part of a campaign that “seeks a more truthful portrayal of migrants”.
- Stay informed by following organisations like the UNHCR on Twitter and Facebook.
- Volunteer – The Refugee Support Network is recruiting volunteers to work with children affected by war or trafficking.
- Be kind 🙂 From the average Joe Blogs, all refugees want is our acceptance, patience and kindness. Our collective attitude has a big impact.
- Similarly, if you hear any xenophobic talk on the streets or from people you know, challenge it. (Safely…).The sooner we can start changing the minority negative rhetoric on refugees (and immigrants), the better.
If you would like to donate or find out more about what is being done to help refugees the world over, visit these organisations (this is by no means an exhaustive list):
- Save the Children – Save the Children provides support and aid to children worldwide, and aims to give them their best chance at life. More than 100,000 children have been born as refugees since the Syrian civil war started.
- The UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency. 97% of the funds go directly to families in need, in the highest priority crises.
- Unicef – The UN’s children’s charity supplies clean water, medicine and psychological support.
- Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) – MSF delivers emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters or exclusion from healthcare. If you are a medical professional, you can even work with them abroad.
- The Refugee Council – works directly with refugees to help them rebuild their lives, amongst other things.
- International Rescue Committee – founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.
- Red Cross – “refusing to ignore people in crisis”, the Red Cross responds to a variety of conflicts and natural disasters. Read how they’re helping refugees.
Together we can make a difference!