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The challenge of millions of displaced people in the world: “You don’t know what awaits you, but you need a new future”

It is an image that we see repeated every week, long lines or boats full of people fleeing their countries because of a war conflicta persecution or massacre caused by the adverse effects of climate change.

Imad Mechrany, when he was barely 17 years old, he fled Morocco and crossed through Tarifa to Spain. “It’s not easy to leave your family, you don’t know what to expect but you need a new future. You know that nothing guarantees that you will arrive safely,” she says.

Due to his age, he was sent to a juvenile center in Guadalajara, a stage that he remembers as the hardest after his arrival. “It was very complicated, you are used to living with your family and in the center you meet all kinds of people. You have to take care of yourself, until you get used to it.”

Language, culture and, sometimes, society are the first barriers that refugees encounter. “Society can be difficultnot everyone is going to welcome you,” says Mechrany.

Your case is one of those that comes to fruition. Over the years she has been able to legalize her situation, study and become an administrative assistant at the La Merced Migrations Foundation. His arrival by truck to Spain, one of the three countries with the most asylum applications in 2023specifically, 163,220, according to data from the latest annual report of the Spanish Commission for Refugee Assistance (CEAR).

This Thursday, June 20, commemorates the World Refugee Daya specific date to give visibility to a problem that has increased in the last year, according to CEAR, by more than one and a half million people.

It’s not just one date a year

As stated by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), refugees are those who cannot return to their country of origin due to a well-founded fear of persecution, conflict, violence or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and that, consequently, require international protection.

Sometimes, the figures can depersonalize the stories of more than 110 million forcibly displaced that currently exist throughout the world. Most of them, coming from Afghanistan, Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Latin America and the Caribbean, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan and Ukraine.

“This happens all the time, not just one day a year. The lives of vulnerable people must be protected,” he says. Óscar Camps, founder of Open Arms.

The sea as an escape route

The flight that these people undertake to the different countries of Europe is not only by land, on the contrary, the Seaway It is what 90% of the displaced people on the continent take. The sea becomes an escape route and, at the same time, the worst enemy of those who take a boat.

From the ship ‘Astral’, in the port of Badalona, ​​the founder of the rescue NGO ‘Open Arms‘, Oscar Camps, is preparing to leave for the Mediterranean in a few weeks. “We have had two shipwrecks in a row in recent days, in the Atlantic there have already been more than 5,000 deaths so far this year… All this represents a collective failurea sign of states’ inability to protect the most vulnerable people,” he shares.

His NGO considers the Mediterranean to be “the largest mass grave on the planet”, after the numerous shipwrecks of people fleeing their countries to reach Europe. “For us these are people who are adrift at sea, they are lives in danger, Neither its origin nor its destination is questioned.nor the color of their skin, nor their religion,” says Camps.

Image of the rescue of 60 migrants by the crew of the NGO Open Arms boat | Antonio Sempere / Europa Press

Among the latest missions that the NGO has carried out are those in the Gaza Strip, for which they managed to open a humanitarian corridor and transport tons of food together with the organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), by chef José Andrés. “We considered that if two NGOs could achieve that, what could two states have achieved if they had set their minds to it,” he says.

Inaction is deliberate, it is putting yourself on the back foot and not wanting to do anything

On the coast of Gaza, he denounces that they found a “completely inhuman scenario, everything was surreal.” “From where we were we could see corpses in the sand and how the bombing continued,” says the founder of ‘Open Arms’.

According to UNHCR data, at the end of 2023 there were 1.7 million people who had to be displaced in the Gaza Strip, which represents 75% of the population. Among those displaced in the area there are palestinian refugees who have had to abandon their homes on more than one occasion.

The reception process in Spain

Those who manage to reach port or cross borders by land face a new reality, a life far from everything they knew. In the case of Spain, there are foundations such as Merced Migrations that have been hosting thousands of people who have arrived requesting asylum for decades. “The most important pillar is welcome, support and advice so that they do not feel alone,” he says. Priscila Jimenez, communication manager of the Foundation.

La Merced has several shelters distributed throughout Madrid, Malaga or Valladolid. “In addition to the family, when these people arrive they have given up their economic situation, so job placement is a very important part,” says Jiménez.

Among the main adversities, in addition to language or culture, is the uncertainty. “They don’t know how long it will take to regularize their administrative situation. Uncertainty is what costs them the most, and it is not something they count on when they arrive, they think they are coming directly to work,” they share from the Foundation.

Raquel Santos, CEAR Program Directorstates that “the temporary shelter places there are collapsed.”

At the moment in which people arrive from another country and “verbalize that they want to request international protection, they go to an initial assessment phase which is the first reception in the different territories and delegations in which we are.” Within the asylum programs of CEAR, “people from Ukraine continue to be the main nationality.”

The important thing about our work as an NGO is the defense of people at the individual level, without distinction

After spending years alongside refugees, Santos confesses that “you never get used to horror and the suffering they experience”, which is why it emphasizes accompaniment and support during their inclusion process.

Immigration grief and the importance of accompaniment

In reception programs, psychological support for asylum seekers is vital. Valeria Moriconiexpert professional in grief Official College of Psychology of Madridhighlights that it is important “to make the population understand that grief does not happen just because someone dies, it is something that we also experience when we lose our language, culture, values ​​or habits.”

Therefore, the call immigration grief Refugees have a first step, which is legitimation, “they find themselves facing an ambiguous loss because they move because they are going towards something better.”

People evacuated from Kharkiv, northwest Ukraine | Europa Press / Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy

Arriving in a new country fleeing, Moriconi points out that these people are “alone, with a feeling of abandonment, of helplessness.” As a society, it recommends facilitating and minimizing the dangers they may suffer, such as discrimination wave marginalization.

You don’t have to be a health professional, just a human being sitting in front of another with interest and respect.

Sometimes, he says, they are small gestures with which we can contribute “sitting down to eat their food, listening to their losses, learning about their cultures, that’s how you can start.”

Conflicts and forgotten refugees

On this World Day we must also remember those who, due to the lack of information coverage and diplomatic commitments, are forced to forgot.

A few weeks ago, the annual classification of Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) put on the table the crisis of internally displaced persons in Burkina Faso, the most forgotten today. A country in which violence by armed groups caused more than 8,400 deaths in 2023 and has more than two million displaced people, almost a tenth of the total inhabitants in the area.

Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Nigeraffected by the advance of jihadism, are other conflicts referenced in the ranking of the Geneva-based NGO, abandoned by the international community.

https://muslimprofessionalsgh.org

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