This week, for Refugee Week and World Refugee Day, we imagine being a refugee during a pandemic.
This week marks UK Refugee Week and World Refugee Day (on the 20th). The 2020 theme for Refugee Week is “Imagine”. Imagine a world where no one will be forced to flee their homes. Imagine leaving behind your friends and family for a strange new country in the hopes that you will be safe. Imagine trying to figure out how to survive in a new country where there is no physical danger, but very little government aid you can access. Imagine being uncertain about your new life, and then finding yourself dealing with this in the midst of a pandemic.
No one could have imagined the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, the struggles of many refugees who are living in crowded, deprived conditions, and unable to access healthcare are real. By virtue of their uncertain status and governments’ reluctance to accept more refugees, many refugees are irregular migrants, and do not want to draw undue attention of the authorities by seeking medical attention. The situation is dire for those in camps, where the infected and non-infected must live in close quarters and all use the same facilities. In Calais camps, there is not enough resources to maintain adequate hygiene, and government-provided food goes against religious customs. Government-provided food in Calais is only half of what it was before. It is not hard to imagine how vulnerable these refugees are to COVID-19, on top of their existing disadvantages.
Refugees rely heavily upon charities, as well as government assistance to have enough food and shelter to survive – not to be comfortable, to survive. With the imposition of lockdown, refugees have been largely left in limbo, as helpers cannot meet with them, and they do not have access to the technology required to print forms required by some governments to legally move outside during lockdown. Imagine being forced to leave your home out of fear for your life, finding yourself in a country with customs you do not understand, and losing what may be your only source of support at a time where many are fearing a potentially fatal illness. Refugees face obstacles that most of us would struggle to even imagine.
Imagine a world in which refugees are included and not forgotten in society. At JAN Trust, we try to make this a reality. We provide a supportive environment for BAMER individuals to learn English, and other useful skills, such as IT, life skills, and fashion and design skills. We work to empower the isolated and marginalised, by educating them in a culturally sensitive manner about dangers like online radicalisation. JAN Trust’s work has also come under threat because of COVID-19. If you’d like to help us continue to help those whom society may forget, please donate.
How do you imagine the life of a refugee? Can you think of ways to help refugees? How do you imagine you could make a difference in the lives of isolated individuals? Join the conversation on social media for Refugee Week by using the hashtags #RefugeeWeek2020 and #Imagine.