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How you can make a difference this Refugee Week


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Refugee Week, a yearly tribute to the contributions of refugees to the UK, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The event comes as U.S President Donald Trump faces searing condemnation for his decision to forcefully separate children from their families at the US-Mexico border.                 

In a recent alarming report, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stated that a record high of 68.5 million people have now been displaced, two-thirds of whom come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

In 2017 alone, an estimated 44,500 individuals were displaced per day - likely escaping war, persecution or poverty - with over half of them being children.

While the world seems to be going crazy, it is in these moments that we also see the best of people. Many have expressed a desire to help refugees, both in the UK and the wider world. The National Education Union have gone further by becoming an official partner of Refugee Week this year, sharing a list of '20 Simple Acts' in the hopes of encouraging others to take action.

With all of this in mind, here are some practical ways to make a difference this Refugee Week:

1) Raise awareness: amplify refugee voices

We are constantly seeing headlines about refugees, but how often do we hear from them about their own experiences?

Statistics alone do not do justice to the horrific situations many have had to face, and dehumanising language has become widespread in this era of Brexit and Trump.

We can change this. Reading and listening to real-life stories will enable us to learn from them. Share these stories on social media to restart the conversation about refugees, this time based on mutual respect.

If social media isn't your thing or you're more of a bookworm, why not read an exile book? Learn about the struggles they have faced and encourage the publishing industry to keep providing a space for refugee voices to be heard.

2) Donate: support pro-refugee initiatives and give to charity

There are hundreds of events happening throughout the country in solidarity with refugees. Find out what’s on near you.

If you live in London, pay a visit to the British Museum for a day of performances, films and workshops, including a free screening of Ai Weiwei’s eye-opening documentary ‘Human Flow’ in the BP Lecture Theatre.

To see how you can offer help in your local area, such as making clothes and toy donations, use this simple Help Refugees tool on

If you want to raise money for a particular charity or cause, try crowdfunding through JustGiving or GoFundMe. Although organising a fundraiser seems like a lot of effort, it can be done quite easily. Rather than donating £5 alone, try to persuade your family, friends, neighbours and social media followers to donate £5 with you - explain to them what moved you to take action and why they should too.

If you don't have a lot of money why not do something simple like bake a cake, make a gift or make refugees feel welcome by learning a few words in another language.

3) Volunteer: welcome refugees to your community

Your time is as valuable as your money, and taking a few moments to make refugees feel welcomed in your community may have a greater impact than you think, especially for those that have had to leave friends and family behind. Find a guide to extending a welcoming hand here.

You can also get involved in a refugee welcome group near you through Citizens UK or find other volunteering schemes with your local volunteer centre.

Any football fans could get involved in an organised football project. There are many around for Refugee Week and beyond! The Hope Festival in Plymouth is just one example, bringing thousands of people together for a special football tournament in honour of Refugee Week. 

Keen to go further? You could help a refugee resettle in your community and find them a safe home through Citizens UK’s Community Sponsorship programme. 

4) Take action: up the pressure on your government

 Signing and sharing a petition takes less than a minute. Start out by signing the UNHCR’s #WithRefugees petition to ‘send a clear message to decision-makers that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility.’

Writing to your local representative is another way to hold those in power accountable. Find the contact details for your MP and demand change - whether that be to increase the UK’s resettlement quota, or change how the Home Office treats vulnerable asylum-seeking children so that we can reduce the number of underage suicides.

Refugee Week runs until Jun 24th. Find out how to get more involved here.

Lead image by Freedom House.

Featured image from Wikipedia Commons.

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