Working for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) literally saved my life. I’d been diagnosed with clinical depression, and struggled with thoughts of suicide and the side effects of my medication.
It helped put my own sorrow in perspective to be surrounded by those who had lost so much – home, family and a sense of belonging. My half-year stint there tested the limits of my empathy and compassion; for that I’ll always be grateful to the refugees and my wonderful colleagues at Bukit Petaling.
But to a lot of people, refugees are considered the human equivalent of vermin.
Parasites. Burdens. Potential criminals.
We don’t want you here.
Malaysians are just as guilty of mistreating or even patently ignoring the plight of these ‘unwanted guests’ of ours.
Do you know that our police regularly beat or extort refugees for money? That our immigration officials have no qualms about dumping migrants at the border or deporting them where they face imprisonment or torture?
Refugees all long for a place called home, and given the choice would not leave their homelands. They flee and find refuge elsewhere because they simply have no choice.
Knowing my passion for refugee causes, Irene helpfully pointed me over to the latest Bloggers Unite endeavour. Today, November 10, bloggers from all over are helping spread awareness about refugee issues.
Kudo as well to Angelina Jolie for using her star power to get publicity for the UNHCR.
If you’ve got spare change, why not donate to the UNHCR online? And yes, I put my money where my mouth is and have been donating for the past year. Autodebit for the win. Even the boyfriend’s asked me just how he can donate to the cause as well.
Even if you don’t personally donate to the UNHCR or aren’t up to volunteering time to the cause, at least be informed. Understand that refugees are merely displaced individuals who cannot remain in their countries, due either to war or the threat of persecution for political/religious/racial status or views.
Malaysia still refuses to ratify the UN Refugee Convention, and when not locking them up in detention camps, letting our policemen harass and harm them, pretends they don’t exist.
I hope you won’t. Because in our uncertain political climate, who knows if you’ll know someone who might find himself running for his life to another country. It could be your priest. Your local social worker. Your father, mother, brother, sister. And perhaps, it could even be you.