CCS event sheds light on refugee plight
by Amaia Horyna
The safety of refugees is a global crisis. Countries all over the world have been working rigorously to find homes for the millions of displaced individuals who have fled from their home countries. Many of these countries, such as Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan are in the midst of civil war, genocide, or government instability. Most refugees take shelter in refugee camps until they are granted admission into a safe country. Often times, refugees live in these camps for as long as thirty years before finally reaching asylum.
On Thursday September 27, Catholic Community Services (CCS) held an event called Forced to Flee: A Refugee Journey. At the event, refugees that work with CCS shared their stories and walked participants through the hardships of the life of someone staying in a refugee camp. Before the commencement of the event, the Bishop Oscar Solis of the Salt Lake Diocese spoke to the crowd about the importance of refugees in our community. Utah is home to about 60,000 refugees and Catholic Community Services is one out of two institutions primarily aiding them in resettlement. Representatives from CCS spoke about the effect of President Trump’s travel ban with solemnity as it has dramatically decreased the number of refugees they have been able to assist this year. It is disheartening to know that many individuals that they could have helped by now are still waiting in camps to be resettled.
The first stage of the journey was understanding the living conditions of people in the refugee camps. Every family, no matter the size, is given a small tent in which they live. Many sleep on the floor and are lucky to get blankets or pillows. Security is nonexistent therefore many items are stolen and residents are constantly on edge due to the conditions. Then, CCS informed us of the weekly rations received per person. The food and water is extremely scarce, which directly leads to malnutrition, dehydration, and many other devastating diseases. Education is rare and, if available, is often provided by unqualified adults. Additionally, little learning actually takes place in these makeshift schools because too many children attend for the adults to adequately control.
A young woman who had experienced going to primary school at a refugee camp shared her story on Thursday. She recounted the chaos of classes and her painfully long walks to school. She said that she disliked the walks the most because of the distance and the repercussions were harsh if she was late. In addition to these conditions, little to no health care is available in the camps. The Red Cross provides as much help as they can, but most people do not get the help they need.
Catholic Community Services brought a lot of attention to how refugees directly impact our community here in Salt Lake City. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to assist, learn from, and be inspired by these individuals. However, it is important for the people of Salt Lake City to keep in mind those who have not yet reached asylum. Small actions can make a big difference. So get involved and do your part in maintaining our reputation as a welcoming city for those looking for a home.