September 21, 2016

Reflections on the Refugee Crisis from the UN General Assembly Week

Written by Tilde Holm

This post originally appeared on Girls’ Globe. Reposted with permission.

I live in Sweden and naturally, the refugee crisis has become a very important matter to me. There has been a lot of hate among the Swedes, which mainly has its origin in incorrect data and fear of the unknown. After spending a day at the UN Headquarters, I have gained a lot of important insights on the matter. I will share some of my highlights of the day, interviews from inspiring and influential people and important remarks and perspectives on how to approach this complex problem.

The refugee crisis is often regarded merely as a humanitarian problem. It’s about vulnerable people that need humanitarian aid in terms of shelter, food and water. But the fact is that these peoples’ needs stretches way beyond that. Humanitarian aid is temporary, and what we really need is long terms solutions. Like Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees put it;

“We are treating the refugee crisis as a humanitarian problem, which it is, obviously, but we can’t solve it with only humanitarian resources.”

The next big challenge for us is to find a way not only to make their long and daunting journeys safer, but also to actually find a sustainable solution for the integration process and the continued lives of the refugees. If we succeed, it’s not only a big win for the migrants, but for the whole community. Here I’d like to quote the Deputy Secretary-General at the UN  Jan Eliasson; “We must not make migrants and refugees  a problem, but rather a challenge.” That statement really carries something important. If we change our mindset, we will be able to turn the horrifying consequences of war into something productive and sustainable. Challenge accepted.

In order to ensure a bright future, we must focus on the children. Today, migration often equals giving up your childhood and growing up too early. There is a huge problem in demanding kids to become adults too soon. “They are still kids. We have to give them back their childhood. It’s not enough to give them food and shelter”, said Carolyn Miles, President of Save the Children, at the UNGA event Accountability for Success in Reaching the SDGs and Strategy Goals. But Miles also pointed out that this might have a simple solution. “Sometimes it is enough to bring children together so that they can play.”

I had the privilege to meet two amazing young girls, Minahil Sarfraz and Natasha Maimba, who had to go through what no child should: escape from war. During a panel discussion, Minyhil highlighted the importance of education. “When you’re at school, you immediately feel like a child again.” I managed to get two interviews with these very inspiring girls, and the positivity and hopefulness they carry really got to me.

If we want to get everyone onboard, we need not only grassroots movements but also global leaders to act. Therefore, I would also like to feature an interview with Jan Eliasson. He encourages all of us to collaborate in order to make a difference. In the end, we can’t reach the SDG’s or help all the refugees as individuals. Together we are the strongest change makers. Let’s work together, for the refugees, for the children, for the world.

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