By Enas Saleh
As the summer approaches, a special day is dedicated to celebrating refugees, asylees, and displaced people across the world, this day is June 20th. Some may ask, “what is a refugee,”? According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is a person who is forced to flee their home to escape persecution or a serious threat to their life, physical integrity, or freedom under international law. This may be linked to their race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs. Refugees are protected by international law and cannot be sent back home if their life or freedom would be at risk.
The rising number of refugees across the world is tragic. In fact, in 2022 alone the world has seen a dramatic increase of refugees and forcibly displaced persons, almost doubling from the 84 million in the first half of 2021, based on UNHCR. This makes 2022 the highest number of refugees on record. Even though the exact numbers are hard to measure due to the ongoing crisis in many countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen, it is important to recognize the struggles that refugees face.
There are many reasons people including women and children end up with refugee status. Some of these reasons include natural disasters, war, persecution, or human rights violation such as torture and armed violence. Many refugees that come to the United Stated find safety, security, and a better job to improve their education and contribute to their communities in hopes to have a better quality of life for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Furthermore, there are many misconceptions about the status of refugees such as that it can only happen to the people in parts of Africa, South America, or the Middle East. The truth is that becoming a refugee can happen to anyone at any given time. The war in Ukraine is a prime example of this as many people lost their homes, lives, and loved ones.
It is important for us as a community to welcome and show our refugee communities that we hear, see, and support them as they integrate into society. When integrated into society, many refugees accomplish wonderful feats such as owning a business, being community leaders, and earning Ph.D.s in higher education institutions.
Refugees have already faced many horrific situations and are traumatically scarred. Imagine the feeling of having to face the nightmare of losing almost everything, mostly loved ones. As a human, I would like to offer the extended hand of welcoming our refugees with an open heart and warm smile. I sincerely hope that this new life for our refugees brings more opportunities, freedoms, and safety above all. We will celebrate the strength, courage, and perseverance of all refugees, asylees, and displaced people throughout the world on June 20th.
Ways to help:
1. Educate yourself. Volunteer with a refugee organization near you such as the International Refugee Committee (IRC) Lutheran Family Services (LFS) and ECDC African Community Center (ACC). You could offer your skills to teach a refugee a new language, craft, or sport.
2. Help refugees get work. Hire a refugee, support a refugee-owned business or offer training or volunteer opportunities to refugees.
3. Join a campaign and become an advocate.
4. Help refugees integrate. Show them your hometown, and invite them to activities such as a sports event or to dinner.
5. Donate. It might not feel hands-on to you, but your donation might make a huge difference in the life of a refugee.
6. Smile. It goes a long way in helping refugees feel welcomed.
To learn more about World Refugee Day, and how the Denver Public Library is celebrating, visit www.denverlibrary.org/worldrefugeeday
The Denver Public Library's Cultural Inclusivity department collaborates with Denver's multicultural community to create equitable opportunities for learning, discovery, and connection.
We offer Plazas, an open community space where people from all over the world connect with information and resources, building Denver’s global community. Come to practice English, prepare for citizenship, pursue your goals, and create your future. Whatever you’re doing, we can help!