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A focus on World Refugee Day

20 June marks World Refugee Day, this international day is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees around the world. More than ever before at this time, there are now over 70 million people displaced globally.

Written by Lucy Bodenham |

Refugee with a back pack
Amir: "Literally I was nobody in a new land."

World Refugee Day helps to focus global attention on the plight of millions of displaced people fleeing conflict or persecution. Activities and events are held on the day to create opportunities to support refugees.

To highlight the day we spoke to one of our students currently studying Postgraduate Laws under challenging circumstances and about their experiences of being a displaced person.

Persecuted on religious and activist grounds Amir had to flee his home country with his young family in tow. He speaks about his experiences.

“It was like a ’miracle’ in my life. When I left Pakistan with my family, I left everything behind.

Literally, I was nobody in a new land. It was difficult to communicate with people as English is a rare language here."

Despite daily hardships involving demanding manual shift work which makes it difficult to study Law, Amir supports other refugees with his legal background.

“I work with an organisation which serves refugees, we help them to cope with their traumas, find temporary shelter and jobs. As a foreigner, I have an edge that I can speak seven different languages which most of the people around the world can understand, especially English which is not widely used here.

I help refugees when they need to apply for asylum or they need advice on the matter of appeal or other legal matters, sometimes the local owner doesn’t pay their wages and exploits their position or visa status.

The small town I live in is an attraction for refugees because it’s cheap and there are people from 106 countries are living here.”

As a way to empower himself and help others Amir is studying a Master of Laws (LLM) and he wants to become a human rights lawyer.

“The LLM programme has opened a new horizon for me. It has enlightened my vision and thought. It has changed the way I walk, talk and think. It is helping me to help others, especially on asylum case matters and other refugee rights. Now I feel that I am someone and what I am seeking is their right.

My first course was international criminal law; the second one is international refugee law. I want to specialise in international criminal and human rights law. To advocate before the international platforms and international community on behalf of the voiceless where their governments are not listening and regimes are involved in heinous crimes against their own people.

I want to support the capacity building of the members of suppressed and marginalised communities, the victims of such atrocities, so they may stand by themselves and speak for their rights and justice on the national and international level."

“My neighbour is a refugee as well and we always talk about the challenges facing refugees to settle in a new environment and how many refugees lose their professions as a result of the new situation and end up doing a job or work that has nothing to do with their previous experience.

Both of us agree that refugees who used to do professional work and enjoy social status get frustrated and depressed easily.

Educational opportunities like the one that University of London offers can become an eye-opener and it has helped me get back some sort of normal life.”

If you want to gain a global perspective of who refugees are, or delve into features of the global systems for refugee protection and consider related solutions there is the free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) you can join. Refugees in the 21st Century is a six week course which will could help you decide if this is a career you are interested in.

You can then consider MA Refugee Protection and Forced Migration. Currently this is the largest programme on forced migration in the world and last year it was awarded the prestigious Roger Mills prize for innovative online learning and teaching.

Some useful organisations

  • World Refugee Day - The global UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) marks the day with events.
  • UNHCR - This global agency lists scholarships for refugees.
  • Asylum Access - Focuses on the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, and gives tools for refugees to advocate for themselves.
  • Norwegian Refugee Council - Works to protect the rights of displaced people.
  • Amnesty International - support and petitions to help displaced people.