Egyptian hospitals in Sinai on alert amid Israeli aggression on Gaza    Israel continues targeting Gaza, Palestinian resistance responds with missiles    Egypt announces Thursday 1st day of Eid Al-Fitr    Nuweiba: Egypt's paradise of serenity    Egypt's current account deficit jumps to $7.6 bln in 1H of FY2020/21: CBE    Opinion| Egypt and Human Rights    Egypt's trade deficit down 1.2% to $3.34bn in February 2021: CAPMAS    Global economic recovery to improve debt service coverage ratios: Moody's    Opinion| Biden and hate crimes against Asians    Egypt's Trade Minister outlines customs clearance conditions for imported electric vehicles    Egypt's unemployment increases to 7.4% in Q1 2021: CAPMAS    Egypt raises readiness at university hospitals for Eid Al-Fitr holidays    Egypt develops Suez Canal in line with international trade movement: Al-Sisi    Egypt's Parliament discusses abolishing imprisonment for female debtors    India to procure 300k Remdesivir doses from Egypt's Eva Pharma    Egypt will locally manufacture first 2m Sinovac vaccine doses by June-end    2021 South East European Film Festival celebrates cinematic diversity of 18 countries    Sheffield Documentary Film Festival announces line-up for June edition    Lebanese pop star Carole Samaha to release new album this summer    We want Egypt and Sudan to agree to second filling only: Ethiopia    Turkey seeks to restore 'historic unity' with Egyptian people: Erdogan    Al Ahly face injuries as they take on Al Ittihad Alexandria    Elneny's Arsenal targets 'remontada' in Europa League semi-finals    Zamalek eye return to victories at expense of Smouha in Egyptian Premier League    Egypt's CIB first bank in MENA, Africa to receive Gender Equity Seal    Egypt buys 30 Rafale fighter jets from France    Direct flights between Russia and Egypt will resume in June, Ambassador    Egypt's Ahly is establishing a new stadium, expected to be 'sports complex'    Blinken presses Ethiopia's Abiy to ensure full withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray    Forces opposed to Somali president control parts of Mogadishu    Nine people executed in Egypt over Kerdasa police killings in 2013    UEFA investigating Ibrahimovic's alleged ties to betting company    61 doctors died from coronavirus since start of April: Egypt's medical syndicate    Egypt targets 5.6% inflation rate in FY2020/21, 6% in FY2021/22    Egypt allocates EGP 132 bln to modernise railway system: Transport minister    Real Madrid not thinking about any Super League sanctions: Zidane    Total declares force majeure on Mozambique LNG after attacks    All the winners at the 93rd Academy Awards    Egypt's Ahly granted approval to build new stadium on Cairo outskirts    Aswan Int'l Women's Film Festival dedicates 5th edition to Kawthar Heikal    BREAKING: Egypt's information minister Osama Heikal resigns amid parliamentary criticism    'War was not Egypt's aim, but peace was the ultimate goal,' Sisi says on Sinai Liberation Day anniversary    Factbox: Key nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards    Old Cairo's Al-Fustat will be revamped on Egyptian President's directives    Veteran Egyptian journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed passes away at 86    Allianz Egypt partners with IGNITE to equip brand ambassadors for 2021 Olympics    Hassan Allam consortium wins contract to manage, operate Grand Egyptian Museum    Seasoned Egyptian screenwriter Wahid Hamed dies at 76    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

What an existence!
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 25 - 06 - 2009

By Lubna Abdel-Aziz
Millions of helpless, homeless, stateless souls wander aimlessly, hopelessly, carelessly, while the world celebrates their existence on foreign land. They only dream, if they can still dream, of returning to their homeland. World Refugee Day, celebrated June 20th, found the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) jubilant over the fact that the number of refugees worldwide has reached a 26-year low. Cause indeed to celebrate, or to lament? Yet UNHCR lost no time in qualifying their declaration, adding that their annual global count of uprooted people rose last year to 21 million, and 6.6 more millions are now Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in 16 countries. Living as refugees within your own borders is not deemed as refugee status. Afghans (2.9 million), Columbians (2,5 million), Iraqis (1,8 million), Sudanese (1.6 million), Somalis (839,000), are referred to as "uprooted people of concern." The question is whose concern? By dividing the numbers into several categories gives reason for the High Commissioner Antonio Guterres, to breathe easier, even to celebrate World Refugee Day. For the rest of us, we have one more reason to feel the wrenching heartache over the plight of our fellow man.
While emigrants indulge themselves in dreams of a glorious life in the land of their choice, a refugee is by contrast compelled to breathe no more the air of his native land.. The definition established in 1951 in Geneva by the Refugee Convention describes refugees as those who are forced to leave their habitual residence "owing to fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social or political opinion."
The term "refugee" comes from the Latin word "fugere," meaning "to flee." Wandering away from his native land in search of food, freedom, and survival is no easy matter. Refugees are thrust into a life of longing, loneliness, and uncertainty, as well as discrimination, deprivation and often destitution. What an existence!
Once confined to refugees from war-torn Europe, such as dissidents from the Soviet Union, according to the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951, it was extended by a 1967 protocol to include refugees anywhere entitling them to the protection of the 147 countries that signed the convention. By and large refugees find themselves unwelcome by host countries. Some countries, such the UK have established refugee camps and detention centers causing major discontent. The UNHCR cites three solutions: 1.Permanent residence in the host country; 2. Resettlement in third countries; 3.Repatriation to the country of origin. The third option is most desirable, yet 2 million Afghans have been refused repatriation to their homeland, and remain in Pakistan to the dismay of both guest and host.
History has witnessed the flight of refugees since the ancient Egyptians and Greeks without the benefit of conventions or protocols. Flight to a holy place was considered sacred, and harming any refugee was feared to invite divine retribution. The first to legalize refugee status was King Ethelbert of Kent (600 AD). Seeking asylum in a church or a holy place became a right, protected by law. During the Middle Ages similar laws were implemented throughout Europe. The concept of exile as punishment also has a long history. The great Roman poet Ovid (Publius Ovidus Naso (43 BC -- 18 AD)) was banished from Rome to an isolated city on the Black Sea. Ovid's poetry happened to have offended Emperor Augustus, and exile was the severest punishment next to death and prison. The poet's pleas to return to Rome were denied, and Ovid died in exile. On offending a nobleman French writer Francois Marie Arouet, (Voltaire -1694-1778) was allowed to choose between continued imprisonment at the Bastille or exile. Voltaire lived in England for 3 years. It is said that Voltaire went into exile a poet, and came back a philosopher.
A mass refugee movement started around WW-I (1914- 1918), a long precession of Jewish refugees fled pogroms and persecution in Russia. 1.5 million Russian aristocrats fled the Russian revolution and the subsequent civil war (1917-1921) fleeing the communist regime. In 1923 over one million Armenians left Turkish Asia Minor following the Armenian genocide. Greeks also fled Turkey, leaving the League of Nations with their hands full. Unable to deal with the numbers, it appointed the famous Norwegian explorer and scientist Fried Gof Nausen, as special commissioner to help the refugees.
The number of refugees continued to rise before and during WW-II. Millions of Chinese fled Westward after the Japanese invasion in 1937. During the Spanish Civil War, 340,000 Spaniards moved to Southern France, while hundreds of thousands of Jews fled from Nazi Germany. . Wars and revolutions keep creating more refugees. An estimated 80% are women and children who often carry the heaviest burden of survival. Condemned to a life of misery, women are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and rape. Children and youths comprise 50% of all refugees,. More than 43 million children living in conflict-related areas do not go to school.
The UNHCR may well deserve the two Nobel Peace Prizes received in 1954 and 1981, but its estimate of the number of refugees falls rather short from reality. The US Committee for Refugees and Immigration gives the world total as 62 million refugees, and estimates there are 34 million more who are considered Internally Displaced Persons remaining within their national borders. You must cross the borders of your native land in order to be legally classified as a refugee.
The tally by any organization does not include the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees, who separately fall under the Authority of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine. They are the only group of refugees whose descendents are also considered refugees. Who would wish upon their descendents the suffering, displacement and persecution? What children would be protected by, dislodged, dispersed, dispirited, displaced and depressed parents?
What is the solution? Who has the answer? Where does it lie? With host countries? With the refugees? Or within the hearts of each and every one of us? Mankind allows them to live such lives. Mankind allows them to undergo such suffering. Silence reigns!
Close to home, we have watched the Palestinians struggling for over half a century for the right to return, but their right to repatriation has been categorically denied. Others - foreigners, incomers, imposters, have claimed their homes and lands. From a distance, from poverty-stricken, shabby camps, tents and shelters, they sigh and they cry. So far and yet so close to home. The rest of us are able to live, to eat, to laugh, to sleep, while Palestinian refugees cannot fund clean water to drink. How often can a human heart break!
What greater grief than the loss of one's native land.
Euripedes (485 -- 406 BC)

Clic here to read the story from its source.