“One person being forced from their home every two seconds. Displacement is ultimately about people, about lives disrupted and opportunities denied.”
This was the message from Misean Cara CEO, Heydi Foster at the ‘Tackling Forced Displacement: people, poverty & rights’ seminar on Thursday 25th October 2018 at Wood Quay Venue in Dublin.
The seminar discussed forced displacement – of refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and migrants, in different contexts and locations – as well as related rights and advocacy avenues in Ireland and internationally, through which Ireland and the European Union could scale up their commitments and response.
Forced displacement denies development opportunities to millions of people, causes poverty and erodes human rights. It is a major obstacle to efforts aimed at ending poverty. This seminar on ‘Tackling Forced Displacement’ comes just a week after the UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, held annually on 17th October. This year marked the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and addressed the fundamental connection between poverty and human rights, with people living in poverty often disproportionately affected by human rights violations.
Welcoming attendees to the event, Heydi Foster, CEO at Misean Cara acknowledged the expertise of Misean Cara members in this field, and spoke of the projects funded by Misean Cara which support refugees, migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) worldwide. “Many of our members are experts at supporting forcibly displaced people. They know first-hand the stories of families uprooted by violence or otherwise forced to leave.”
An example of these first-hand stories is Hidaya from Syria. While she and her family were fleeing the fighting in Syria in 2013, her mother was killed when a missile hit their vehicle. Hidaya now lives in the Abra shelter in Beirut and attends the Children’s Club at the Fratelli Centre on Saturdays. The Club is run jointly by the De La Salle and Marist Brothers and caters for vulnerable children and youth who come from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Sara Amarillas from the Fratelli project spoke at the seminar of the hope the project brings to children such as Hidaya. Despite a tough life, Hidaya has big plans for the future and wants to be a doctor when she grows up.
Ms. Foster also spoke about another project supported by Misean Cara that she recently visited in the refugee camps of Maban County, South Sudan. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), with support from Misean Cara and the Irish Jesuit Missions, is working to bring some normality to people’s lives through education and psychosocial support.
Ms. Foster recalled her experience: “I witnessed extreme levels of suffering. Imagine fleeing violence in your home country only to find yourself caught up in a civil war. Many children have grown up in this dire situation. Not knowing a normal childhood, and never experiencing life beyond the confines of the camp.”
“One particular story comes to my mind that is Ganun Butros Wadko. Ganun has been made a refugee twice in his life. He most recently fled to the Doro Refugee Camp in Maban on foot. It took a month for his family to walk the distance from their village in the Blue Nile region of Sudan. They had to carry the children.” Ms. Foster went on to explain that Ganun is now in charge of the JRS Home Visitation Programme at the Doro Refugee Camp and makes weekly visits to the homes of other displaced people that are particularly vulnerable, including widows, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual violence. “Ganun is helping people every day. The people of South Sudan have been left behind, especially those in the refugee camps. Ganun helps to bring hope to the community.”
In the course of the seminar, Ms. Foster called for a renewed commitment to those forced to flee their homes. “Figures from UNHCR in June 2018 tell the story: 68.5 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, the highest levels of human displacement on record. This is clearly not a sustainable situation. It is incumbent on us all to know the issues and to frame a response.”
Featured Image (L-R): Séamus O’Gorman, Deputy CEO & Head of Funding, Misean Cara; Nick Henderson, CEO, Irish Refugee Council; Sr. Denise Boyle, Global Action, Mercy International Association; Heydi Foster, CEO, Misean Cara; Sara Amarillas, Volunteer, Fratelli Project; David Moriarty, Assistant Director, Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland.