The Palestinian refugee crisis is the longest running refugee crisis in the world, and unfortunately it is far from the only refugee crisis in the world. From Eritrea to Afghanistan, from El Salvador to Syria, there are millions of people who have been forced to leave their homes and their lands to find safety and security.
The UNHCR estimates there are over 59 million refugees in the world, and UNRWA puts Palestine refugees at over 5 million. An estimated 1 in 4 refugees are of Syrian origin, and this includes Palestinian ‘double refugees’.
At Interpal, we know that these people are not numbers, or faceless statistics. We know that leaving your home and starting again is not easy and we strongly reject and refute the many negative stereotypes permeating public discourse at this time. Whilst the word ‘refugee’ itself can be dis-empowering, and has many negative connotations, including the idea that people do not belong where they have ended up, in reality it is a word that describes some of the bravest people in the world.
Palestinian refugees understand the pain of being forcibly displaced, of being unable to return home and the indignity of being denied basic human rights. They know what it is to be dehumanised and underestimated.
Palestinians have shown us what it means to struggle and how unjust life can be as a refugee. The life of a Palestinian refugee is characterised by restrictions, and yet they have raised families, maintained their culture and continue to work towards bettering the lives of their children as best they can.
We at Interpal have been privileged enough to meet and speak and work with Palestinian refugees from across the world. We have seen beyond the simple definitions and stereotypes and we celebrate their resilience whilst acknowledging that their situation is unjust and avoidable.
During this week, we urge everyone to think about how they would cope with the situations and choices that people from Palestine, Syria, Somalia, Eritrea and other places have had to make. It is time to replace the fear and shame we often see attached to refugee-hood with empathy and respect.