UNHCR is marking World Refugee Day 2022 with a clear message that every person has the right to seek safety–whoever they are, wherever they come from, and whenever they are forced to flee. The UN agency reported that by the end of 2021, 89.3 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced—leaving their homes and nearly everything else.
What people do not leave behind is who they are.
When a migrant is labeled a “refugee,” an “internally displaced person,” or an “asylum seeker,” they risk losing part of their true identity. We must remember that each person has unique interests, experiences, and ideas beyond their migration status. Among the millions of forcibly displaced people, there are teachers, doctors, artists, engineers, shop owners, scientists, students, retirees, and more. They are people—just like you and the people you know—who find themselves in an almost unimaginable position.
Our teams work with communities every day who have been displaced to ensure their safety and protection. This World Refugee Day, we want to help the world remember that being a refugee is a situation people are in, it is not who they are.
We asked members of the communities we work with in Syria, Jordan, and Colombia to share who they are and how they want to be seen.
Saida, Venezuelan – I am a “warrior woman.”
Her message for other refugees: “Do not give up. We will keep going because we can do it. (Si, se puede.)”
Eman, Syrian – I am a farmer.
“This identity reflects the bright side of my day. Yes, it is a tiring job. However, meeting with my colleagues whom I consider my friends and having some interesting conversations makes this job easier. I’m thankful beyond words for this job opportunity; it enables me and my family to meet our essential needs.”
Eman’s message for World Refugee Day: “Be patient, good things come to those who wait.”
Khaled, Syrian – I am a GIS specialist.
“Since I came to Za’atari camp, life has been hard, and the living conditions have been difficult for me and my family. Nevertheless, I did not falter or despair, and I received a lot of training to strengthen my skills and get a job. I got a volunteer job with Blumont as a geospatial information systems (GIS) specialist.”
Khaled’s goals for the future: “I have many ambitions right now, as is the case with many refugees. I aspire to a prosperous, and happy life, a clean environment, an improvement in the way of life, and access to better education opportunities – whether for me or my family – and to obtain a degree in technology.”
Hassan, Syrian – I am a farmer.
“Being a farmer is part of my identity. Since I left Syria, I have replanted myself in a way. Back when I was in Syria, I felt alive. I worked hard on my career, and after reaching the position I had been dreaming of, I suddenly went back to square one when I left my country. I felt I was buried alive with no identity or hope, as my job was my identity. I started again, building a new life, starting a new cycle just like planting a seed. Every time you plant a seed, you start a new life, a new cycle.”
His message for other refugees: “Pursue your ideas, even the ones that do not seem good enough. You may be able to turn them into a great project!”
Hiyam, Syrian – I am a mother.
“I am a quiet, married woman who can manage her home, take care of her children, and carry out her duties in these difficult camp conditions. I am a woman inside the house, and I carry out the responsibilities of a man outside. Blumont provided us with all services needed to re-adapt to life again. They helped us bear the suffering of separation from our homeland and dream about the future again.”
Hiyam’s hopes for the future: “I want to leave the camp and go home to see my mother, whom I have not seen in four years. I want to see my children getting an education and my husband going back to work.”
Jawdat, Iraqi – I am an artist.
“I used to practice drawing from my studio and see myself in every picture I drew. My goal for the future was to become a famous painter in my country. The conditions of war, destruction, and armed conflicts forced us to leave our homes and work. Now, I see in myself a man who was pushed to become harsh by the circumstances of his life, but I continue to be kind and do good to those around me because that is who I am. I see myself as a source of happiness for the hearts of all around me.”
His message for other refugees: “My message to every refugee is to live your life with dignity and self-esteem. You are a human being with rights. You have the right to live in safety and security and be optimistic about your return to your homeland and the return of the good days.”