Refugees Are the Strong and Brave, Says UN Commissioner on World Refugee Day

June 20, 2017 Updated: June 20, 2017

When the horror of war arrives, it devours many things once taken for granted: the quiet of night, walking calmly on the streets, an invisible sense of safety and hope.

For others, the spectre of conflict has been with them so long that crumbled buildings and a stomach full of fear are normal.

And yet, these people know there are places like Europe and North America where people walk the streets calmly, going about their business, building lives and raising families.

In those places, when a bomb goes off and kills 22 people, or a madman drives his vehicle into a crowd, the deaths are not routine. Bloodshed is not the norm.

It is only sensible to seek out those places. Millions do, especially people from Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan, where life and death flicker so suddenly and so often.

But crossing an ocean and building a life in a new country brings its own challenges. Today is the day the United Nations marks that challenge, said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.

“On June 20, World Refugee Day, we honour the resilience and courage of more than 65 million people who have been forced to flee war, persecution and violence,” said Grandi.

“But it is also a moment to recognize those communities and people around the world who receive refugees and the internally displaced in their midst offering them a safe place and welcoming them in their schools, their workplaces, their societies,” he said.

Those new societies offer what many take for granted, described Kurdish refugee Ahmed Al-Dalawi, now in Germany.

“Security, peace, the feeling of being safe. That is, when I go out, I don’t think that somebody might be about to come and kill me. You go out and feel safe,” he said.

There are problems getting settled in, the challenge of getting much needed social welfare to stabilize themselves and learning the language, but for those fortunate enough to leave war-torn countries, places like Germany offer a new beginning.

For people like Khalaf Darwish, a 37-year-old Yazidi from Iraq, it’s a chance he is thankful for.

“I’m very grateful to Germany and to the people in Germany, who helped us escape war as refugees,”  he said.

Darwish came to  Germany with his wife and seven children a year and a half ago after crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

Rocco Priewe, the manager of the refugee accommodation where Al-Dalawi and Darwish live, said the language barrier is the biggest challenge for many, though young people learn quickly.

But for some refugees, the intangible damage of what they’ve seen and experienced in their home country takes time to recover from.

“We get families who have been through really awful experiences. But because we are one of the best facilities here, it’s important to the authorities that we do our best for the families. And we can do that here,” said Priewe.