The Refugee World Cup – Tuesday 17 June

Playing today – Brazil, Belgium, Mexico, Algeria, Russia and South Korea

Belgium‘s invasion in two successive World Wars led to an influx of refugees into the UK. A local newspaper reported in 1916 on the celebration in Manchester of the Belgian Day of Independence,when ‘over 700 refugees were entertained by the Co-operative Wholesale Society. They had come from various parts of Manchester and the surrounding industrial towns’.  The Bishop of Salford ‘alluded to the trials through which the refugees had passed, and remarked that that day they had shown to the British race how strongly united they were. He assured them that the feelings of the English people for what the Belgians had done in the great European struggle would be always as they were to-day’.

Algeria is ‘home’ to a significant number of Sahwari refugees from Western Sahara.  Fadala was born in the refugee camps there and now works as a community outreach officer, particularly with young people in the camps:

I am working with Solidaridad Internacional as a community outreach worker. I am in charge of awareness raising efforts about the use of water. When I arrived here, it was almost a cultural shock. The situation in the camps is extremely difficult. Especially for the youth. There are no opportunities here. If there were no NGOs here, many youths would be out of jobs and would not be able to support their families.

If I did not find this job, I would have been at home. We cannot keep on waiting to receive humanitarian assistance without doing anything. Until when? The humanitarian assistance will not last forever.

I am very concerned about the dependency of Sahrawis to foreign aid and I would like to be a motor for a change in my community. My dream is to work one day as a journalist, to be able to convey the difficult life conditions my people are going through.

Brazil was the first country in Latin America to offer humanitarian visas to Syrian refugees.

Mexico – Martin Gottwald, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Colombia, shares his story for World Refugee Day here.

Russia – after the Revolution, from 1917-22, more than a million people left Russia.  Refugees moved eastward to Manchuria and China, via Vladivostok to Canada and the US, and westward, via the Balkans and the Baltic states, to Western Europe, particularly France.   Irene Nemirovsky and her family were amongst those who took refuge in France.  Irene, who became a highly successful writer, was still there when France was occupied by the Nazis.  As  a Jew, she was deported to Auschwitz where she was murdered, along with her husband, in 1942.  Her final, unfinished book, Suite Francaise, was published in 2006, after her surviving children read the manuscript and realised its importance. 

South Korea – Hungarian journalist Csaba Lukács tells his story of Soon-Sil Lee, a North Korean refugee

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