They say that every dog has its day—and some marketing departments take that literally. Next Friday, for example, is Pet Sitters International’s Take Your Dog to Work Day.
A quick scan of the internet tells me that Tuesday was Bloomsday (I’m listening to Ulysses at the moment as it happens). Wednesday, meanwhile, was World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought and yesterday was National Freelancers Day (I took it off work).
Today is World Sickle Cell Day. A sprinkling of sickle cell facts: sickle cell diseases are most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and kill over 100,000 people a year—but the sickle cell trait offers some protection against malaria. An iron fist in a velvet glove.
But tomorrow is World Refugee Day. Ah—that explains my headline!
Why should I care?
If you’ve ever crossed a border without being beaten up, then, in my own personal opinion, you are in credit. The closest I’ve come is a hard stare from a Serbian border guard. I owe it to my passport to care.
There are now nearly 80 million displaced people in the world, including nearly 30 million refugees. That’s a lot of people—but not in a Daily Mail kind of a way. Pretty much zero of those people have come to the UK.
Okay, not zero: precisely 0.43 percent of the world’s refugees have found sanctuary on this ‘sceptred isle’. For comparison, Turkey hosts nearly 13 percent of those humans.
Uganda, a country with a GDP a hundred times smaller than the UK, hosts ten times as many refugees. I don’t know about you, but I did not know Uganda was that poor—or the UK so rich.
I don’t think we’re doing our bit, do you?
Yay, progress! (Except not for people fleeing war, sorry)
You might not believe it from the headlines, but many indicators of global quality of life are improving: the number of people escaping from extreme poverty, for example, or the number of girls accessing education, or child mortality rates.
In fact, take a few minutes to play around with all the good news using the awesome Gapminder tools. It’ll put a smile on your face. Then come back for the bad news…
Unfortunately, for refugees, the world is a more hostile place today than it was a decade ago. As the latest UNHCR report states:
Over the last decade, only four million refugees were able to return to their native countries, compared with 10 million the previous decade. Roughly 0.5 per cent of the world’s refugees were offered resettlement in 2019.
0.5 percent?! Wow. We need more than one day to solve this problem. But let’s face it: there are other problems in the world, so…
Seeing as we’ve only got a day—let’s ride our bikes?!
This Saturday, in solidarity with refugees all over the world, Thighs of Steel and Help Refugees are riding their bikes all the way from London to Khora’s home in Athens—about 2,000 miles.
I’m asking—nay begging—for your support. As cyclists, as donors, as megaphones.
🚴🏿 If you or your friends would like to join us for the day, then you can set up your own fundraising page here: https://help-refugees.secure.force.com/aroundtheworldsignup
💚 Or you can easily join in without setting up your own page by sending your lovely donors to the main fundraising page here: https://help-refugees.secure.force.com/aroundtheworldmain
The theme for this year’s World Refugee Day is Every Action Counts. Whether you ride 1 mile or 100; whether you raise £1,000 or simply chuck in a tenner from your own pocket, every action really does count.
It’s only one day of the year, but your contribution tomorrow could make a real difference to refugees—people who truly understand the meaning of the trite saying ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’.
What will happen to the money?
We’re fundraising for Help Refugees, a grassroots organisation that grew out of the upsurge of empathy for migrants in 2015. Here’s what they say about how they spend the money raised:
Together, we are supporting hundreds of thousands of people—with access to medical care, sanitation, food, emotional support, and much much more. This isn’t the world we want to live in, and we are working to change it, but while refugees are forced to live like this, we will be there for them. Thank you so much for making this possible.
Thighs of Steel is the major donor to Khora, a voluntary organisation in Athens that exists to support displaced people, refugees, asylum seekers, homeless people and vulnerable groups in general.
During the Covid crisis, Khora volunteers have been preparing and delivering food to around 2,200 vulnerable people every other day. All this extra support costs money—as much as £24,000 per month. This remarkable act of solidarity relies entirely on money given by strangers.
I’ll finish with this little poem from Lemn Sissay, which the legends at Refugee Week are sharing as the jumping off point for the first of eight Simple Acts you can take to stand with refugees.
I will not limit myself
I will not be afraid
If it were not imagined
How else could it be made?
If it can be imagined, it can be made. Another world is possible.
This isn’t the world we want to live in, and we are working to change it, but while refugees are forced to live like this, we will be there for them.
Join us. Thank you.