This article appeared in the June 17, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Who will take note of World Refugee Week?

Luc Gnago/Reuters
O'Plérou Grebet, an Ivoirian student, created Zouzoukwa emojis, which represent African lifestyles, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Nov. 26, 2019. Mr. Grebet also designed the 2020 World Refugee Day emoji.

What would you grab if you had to flee your home?

Amid World Refugee Week, it’s worth pondering. By 2018, more than 70 million people had been forcibly displaced – a record, and a sharp increase from 43 million in 2009. About 41 million were displaced in their country, while nearly 26 million are refugees. Many leave with virtually nothing. And in 2020, they might pose another question: Have we been forgotten? 

Even before the pandemic, the refugee welcome mat was disappearing. (The top host countries in 2018 were Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Sudan, and Germany.) And amid a tumultuous 2020, focus has been only intermittent on the needs of those for whom perilous paths into the unknown seemed the only answer to violence, war, and famine on their doorstep. 

But many people are working to show they do, in fact, remember.

From Amman, Jordan, where brothers Mogtaba and Ahmed Fadol learned to sew so they could give 1,000 face masks to refugees in Egypt, to Cambridge, England, individuals and groups are helping and donating. Refugees are paying it forward: In Turkey, Afghans are producing face masks and soap for hospitals, while refugees in the United Kingdom are frontline pandemic workers.

Ivoirian artist O'Plérou Grebet, profiled last year in the Monitor, is joining in with an emoji of a heart formed by two hands that appears alongside refugee hashtags. “Refugees are people just like us,” he says. “I try to showcase diversity so we can better understand each other and achieve greater solidarity.”

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This article appeared in the June 17, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 06/17 edition
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