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Why should we protect refugees?

September 11, 2017

Refugees are forced to flee from their homelands but often bring with them many skill sets through which they can contribute to their country of asylum.

COMMENT

refugee-malaysia-unhcr-1By Roslan Mohamad

Refugees are just normal human beings like the rest of us. Many of them wish that they did not have to leave their home country and family members behind. However, most of them have no choice but to leave their country and escape to neighbouring countries or any other country that will take them in.

Refugees are always seen as poor, uneducated and unable to cope with local culture, among many other accusations hurled at them. Many of us are afraid to approach them in the first place and have all kinds of negative assumptions about them due to our lack of knowledge.

Most refugees have to leave everything behind when fleeing their country. The moment they are awakened by bombs exploding in every corner, all they are able to think about is immediate evacuation to safety.

Who is a refugee?

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a refugee is a person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country” (Article 1, 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees).

Some of us have failed to differentiate refugees from economic migrants. In a simple understanding, refugees flee from their country because of fear of persecution. Meanwhile, economic migrants are those who leave their country in search of better opportunities, lifestyles and futures in the form of occupation or studies and are able to return to their home country at any point in time.

Regardless of their nationality, race, ethnicity or religion, we as human beings should always lend a helping hand and allow the safe passage of refugees into any country where they can seek refuge.

Many people flee their home country when they are unable to seek or or obtain any kind of protection by their own state and government. In worst-case scenarios, the authorities who are supposed to protect their own citizens are also involved and contribute to this factor. Sadly, there are over 22.5 million refugees worldwide and the numbers are increasing every minute.

Many countries argue that they have not signed the Refugee Convention. They use this as an excuse to ignore the plight of refugees without realising the benefits and good potential refugees can bring with them.

Refugees are an untapped resource. Many of us have failed to realise how refugees can help and contribute to their country of asylum and to the people of that country. Many refugees are qualified teachers, scientists, football coaches and chefs, alongside other valuable professions that can contribute to the development of their country of asylum.

If any country or its citizens use their abilities to provide services through which they can contribute to improving and fulfilling our needs, why can’t we work with them? Refugees need protection in countries of asylum due to their inability to return to their country of origin. They do not choose to be refugees.

Let’s change our perception about refugees and help them the best way we can. Listen to their stories and understand why they had to leave their country. Believe in them and we can make a difference. After all, together we share every single resource on this planet.

Roslan Mohamad is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


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