Thoughts about…World Refugee Day

On the occasion of the World Refugee Day 2017, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounds like the audio-version of Yves Klein — all even, all blue. His speech is a compressed version of the commonly used narrative to construct an intellectual peace with forced displacement in 2017. The terms ‘nightmare,’ ‘heartbreak’ and ‘loss’ belong to what the Refugee has left behind. Their dreams are their key selling point: In spite of their loss, they are still full of hope and needs support and solidarity. A silent observer will find it inspiring, and, at best, worth their money to witness the courage and compassion of all parties involved. The integrity of the intention to sustain a protection mechanism in terms of the UNHCR mandate is unquestionable: After all, we all strive together for a better future.

In the meantime, while being a refugee undoubtedly sucks, working with refugees — Sucks, too. These days, virtually everyone has to “deal with” forcibly displaced people, i.e. refugees, asylum seekers or economic migrants. According to Guterres, mere solidarity is what the Refugee asks for. Mostly, UNHCR asks for it on their behalf, and mostly, people hand out cash to express their empathy. What’s new is that many people ‘get active’ and volunteer — in refugee homes, soup kitchens, and law clinics. They join UNHCR staff and other professionals in their battle on the side of the deprived, on the side of those who have lost and will lose. They’re realizing that it’s all mixed up: The nightmare continues, the Refugee has to bury what’s left of their self-esteem and feeling of autonomy instead of their loved and lost ones. Many dream of going back — right now — as the war continues; as not much is inspiring hope in their current environment. No one can protect them from irresponsible governments, neither in their country of origin nor in their host country. And the World Refugee Day is just another day in what they’ve become — a separate category of human beings, Refugees before anything else — citizens, family members, men, women.

Happy World Refugee Day, folks! Don’t worry about being uncomfortable with it — for most of us, it’ll pass. Just like yesterday’s International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict and tomorrow’s International Day of Yoga.