Refugee Week 15th June to 21st June 2020 – IMAGINE

Refugee Week 15th June to 21st June 2020 - IMAGINE

By Osama Qashoo

Salamat and my name is Osama – and I am from Hiba – a family run restaurant business in London. I am a Palestinian refugee, one of 70 million people worldwide who has been forced to leave my home due to war, violence, persecution and/or fear of death. One third of all refugees have had to leave their own countries, such as myself, and find a new home elsewhere until it is safe to go back.

This year the theme for Refugee Week is imagine – imagining ourselves in others’ shoes to helps build empathy and understanding. So I invite you a journey. Being a refugee is synonymous with poverty, hardship and fear. However, in my humble opinion, refugees are the strongest people of peoples. Look at what we do. We are forced to flee our homes with little more than the clothes we have on our backs and a few keepsakes. We lose loved ones along the way. We move from country to country, picking up different languages and cultures along the way. We learn about geography, linguistics, sociology, anthropology, financial management, psychology and emergency response – without sitting in a classroom! In every country that has accepted refugees, the contribution made by ‘minority’ communities exceeds that which they take from that country. For example, the young Turkish men invited to Germany in the 1960s to fulfil a shortage of cheap labour in a booming post-war economy, are now an integral part of society. In fact, Germany consume 2 million doner kebabs a day – courtesy of the Turkish fast food industry!

On reflection, everyone has had a taste of being a refugee during the COVID-19 pandemic. The restriction of movement by confinement to your homes, loss of freedom to travel and visit family and to be with your loved ones when they die. The silent frozen fear when money becomes scarce and you are just not sure that you can put food on the table for your children – so you go without. In London, some food banks saw an 80% increase in people needing basic food due to hardships -and of course some of the worst affected people due to this virus globally are refugees and asylum seekers. We never forget our family and friends back home.

Forced into an alien lifestyle due to COVID-19, people have allowed their minds to become fertile once again, and have become creative and innovative. Instead of boundaries we have seen opportunities and have jump started technological processes so that we are using tools that may have developed in 2025-but were fast forwarded due to necessity. This is the mindset of refugees – how to make the situation they are in – work.

So whether you commemorate refugee day, refugee week or if refugee day is every day for you, we can work together and imagine better days for us all.

Osama Qashoo is a father, film maker, activist, community organiser, humanitarian observer, philanthropist and friend of Hello World.

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