It’s interesting that when there’s a war somewhere else, it doesn’t matter. I always remember hosting Jaz and Nils O’Hara of the Worldwide Tribe at the Financial Services Club in 2016 talking about the Calais Jungle. Do you remember that? All those migrants and desperate people who had been displaced and were living in terrible conditions in France? Jumping on trains and hiding on lorries, trying to get to the UK? Did we care? When there’s a war in another continent, do we care so much? It’s far away. When there’s a war on your own doorstep – Ukraine – maybe you care more. Maybe you care more because the next target could be you. Regardless, we should care.
None of us cannot have felt touched by the terrible picture of the two-year old Syrian boy drowned on a boat trying to reach Greece in 2016, but did we care about his mum and dad, and why they let their son to take such a risky voyage? Do we know what happened to them and their family? Do we care that these people are affected by war, famine and poverty?
I watch the Ukrainian fight and live next door to it in Poland. We have many Ukrainians living here and I understand the background and issues. However, whatever you consider of refugees and war, we should all ask ourselves: what happens to people who lose everything?
Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and a bomb had landed on your neighbour’s house. You realise you have to move, and move fast. What would you take? Where would you go? How will you survive? Can you get food and shelter?
You suddenly give up on the exotics of life – can I get a nice cocktail? – and focus on the basics of life – can I make a Molotov cocktail?
So, what does being a refugee mean and how do they survive?
According to the UN Refugee Convention, the definition of a refugee is someone who: “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
All well and good, but it’s not for, once you live in a refugee status, you have to seek asylum.
“The definition of an asylum seeker is someone who has arrived in a country and asked for asylum. Until they receive a decision as to whether or not they are a refugee, they are known as an asylum seeker. In the UK, this means they do not have the same rights as a refugee or a British citizen would. For example, people seeking asylum aren’t allowed to work.”
Some key facts:
- At the end of 2020 around 82.4 million people were forcibly displaced across the world. Of these, 26.4 million were refugees, whilst 48 million were internally displaced within their country of origin
- In 2020, more than two thirds of the refugees across the world came from just five countries: Syria (6.7 million), Venezuela (4.0 million), Afghanistan (2.6 million), South Sudan (2.2 million) and Myanmar (1.1 million)
- 42% of displaced people across the world are children
- 86% of the world’s refugees are living in countries neighbouring their country of origin, often in developing countries
- 76% of all people seeking asylum wait longer than six months for a decision
- 41% of initial decisions made in the year ending December 2020 resulted in a grant of asylum or other form of protection
- Banned from working, vulnerable families struggle to survive on around $7 a day
There are a number of myths about refugees.
MYTH: Refugees Do Not Pay Taxes.
FACT: In most countries, refugees are subject to the same employment, property, sales, and other taxes as any citizen. Refugees cannot vote, however.
MYTH: Refugees Take Jobs From Our Workers.
FACT: Recent evidence by the U.S. Labor Department says “NO” to this myth. Refugees are not provided any special treatment when obtaining employment. They must apply and compete for jobs the same as any citizen. Refugees often enter economic sectors currently unable to supply adequate numbers of native workers. Refugees and immigrants also create jobs for U.S. workers because they have a high propensity to start new businesses.
MYTH: Refugees Receive Special Money From the Government to Purchase Homes, Cars, and Other Items.
FACT: In most countries the government does not provide refugees with money when they arrive but just minimal benefits for emergency situations and medical needs. The refugee must apply for these benefits and meet income and resource standards to qualify for any assistance.
MYTH: Refugees Do Not Contribute or Participate In Society.
FACT: Refugees contribute a great deal to society through the sharing of their talents, skills, cultures and customs. History indicates that some of our most significant contributors to many countries has been from refugees and immigrants.
This is why, as pointed out by The New Humanitarian, accepting refugees in an investment, not a cost.
“Refugees often arrive destitute, sometimes in need of counselling and with little knowledge of the local language or culture. It may take some time before they are able to become net contributors. But taking a longer view, there is no reason to view refugees as a cost: they can be a benefit to their host countries, not a burden. Spending money on refugees is an investment, not a cost.
“Many refugees are well-educated … many arrive with professional qualifications, potentially saving their new country the cost of training people from scratch to become nurses, engineers or other professionals … unlocking these skills will benefit society both directly and through their tax contributions.”
However, we don’t treat it that way. In the UK, for example, displaced people can submit “a claim for asylum with the Home Office [and are] initially entitled to just under £40 a week from the government and access to accommodation. After being granted refugee status, they then have four weeks to find a home and employment or apply for mainstream benefits. But many new arrivals end up destitute.”
If you want to help refugees and other displaced peoples, there are several ways:
- The Joint Council for The Welfare of Immigrants
- City of Sanctuary
- Safe Passage
- Refugee Action
- Refugee Council
- The International Rescue Committee UK
Meanwhile, from my friends in Ukraine, here’s an easy, bare-minimum guide for businesses around the world on how you can support Ukraine and help stop the war, without firing a bullet.
1. Blue-and-Yellow logo
2. Official company statement
3. Inform your customers
1. We ask tech companies, large and small to put a Blue-and-Yellow ribbon on your logo and a statement on their website as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine. For example, here’s how my company did it: https://petcube.com/
2. Make an official statement from your company, condemning the war. Share a list of resources that anyone can use to donate to Ukraine’s civilian and armed forces. Example: https://lnkd.in/ezCvm54Q
3. Send a newsletter to all of your customers or clients sharing the statement you’ve made. Share the same information on social media. Add a banner on your front page and link your Blue-and-Yellow logo to this statement.
In this situation – silence is an endorsement of Russia’s actions.
Please, demand the company you’re in to implement this guide.
We want all the companies – from Apple and Google to the smallest coffee shop in your town to show solidarity with Ukraine and the free world. It can be done with a simple gesture, just as we use the red ribbon for AIDS awareness sign, or show solidarity with LGBTQ+ community using a rainbow flag.
Spread the word:
Finally, if you want to donate to help Ukraine, here’s a quick link.
Related: The Zelensky Lesson