When a million refugees arrived on the shores of Europe in 2016, we all stopped and finally realised the scale of a problem that had been steadily growing before our eyes. In 2006, 38 million people has been displaced from their home due to conflict or persecution, and in 2016, that number sat at over 65 million – equivalent to the population of the UK. A lack of unified response and a subsequent growth in populist parties has exacerbated the problem, with people either welcoming or shunning the incoming persons. Whilst many people are pushing for values of tolerance and openness, many others are full of fear, afraid of the arrival of many people from different cultures, faiths and continents. Despite this, there are many people asking what they can do to help, one tiny person in a sea of humans, in their everyday life. Whilst it’s not plausible for everybody to potter down to Calais to help at the camps, or head over to Lesbos to hand out clothing and food, there are organisations and projects you can support at home that help build the resilience and improve the livelihoods of many refugees across the world.
Learn a Language
One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions (besides losing weight, saving money and travelling more) is to learn a new skill, such as a new language. We all want to increase our employability, our cultural capital and impress our friends with the skills we accumulate, and in a more globalised world, languages are one of the most impressive skills to make you stand out from the crowd. Whilst we know of all the common language learning courses such as Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, how about one with a human touch? Programs such as Chatterbox and NaTakallam connect you with an expert refugee coach who can deliver tailored language learning, from common languages such as French, Spanish and Arabic, to more localised languages such as Bengali, Somali, Persian and Swahili.
Each year, more and more Brits make the choice to travel more, book more flights and see more cities. There has been a growth in organisations concentrating specifically on involving refugees and displaced persons in their supply chain, to both aid in the integration of refugees in society and create opportunities for refugees to showcase their experiences and culture. Locally in Oxford, the Pitts River Museum has launched the Multaka-Oxford project, which creates volunteer opportunities for refugees to work in the museum and host multi-lingual events, tours, blogs and displays. If you’re headed to Brazil, Migraflix is a growing organisation that supports activities for refugees to teach and share their culture through cooking classes, music, dance, art, cultural fairs and themed evenings. Or if you’re heading somewhere closer to home, such as Berlin or Copenhagen, you can explore the city through the eyes and voices of refugees in the city with Refugee Voices Tours.
Hiring Refugee Talent
If you’re in the fortunate position to be seeking new talent for your company or organisation, why not tap into the huge talent and skills that refugees can provide? Finding employment is not only essential for building economic resilience for refugees, but it also helps improve language skills, increases cultural awareness and builds local and social networks. Platforms such as Seek or Transitions London are a great way to find hidden talent, whilst also being socially responsible. Many refugees, even after being granted the right to work are struggling to find employment in the UK due to unconscious bias, lack of access to opportunities or information or inability to provide documentation of qualifications despite being highly skilled.
Published by the Oxford Human Rights Festival 2020