Not Forgetting the Refugees

March 6th, 2020


As countries around the world are grappling with containing the coronavirus as the latest health emergency, one crisis that has not diminished but continues to persist is the plight of refugees. According to the UNHRC, we are now seeing the highest levels of displacement of people on record.

Here are a few facts as reported by UNHRC:

  • An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home.
  • Nearly 25.9 million are refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
  • There are also millions of stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
  • Nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution.

The unfathomable harrowing journeys of refugees are heartbreaking and too many to recount and stories where there are glimmers of hope for those who have found refuge and sanctuary are too few and far in between. The video shared by UNHCR offers us a glimpse into a young man’s journey from Syria to Strasbourg, France.


In the video, the actor, Theo James, shares his story that connects him to the refugee experience. His grandfather, Dr. Nicholas Taptiklis, was a physician who escaped from Nazi-occupied Greece during WWII. He made his way by boat and then overland through Turkey and sought refuge in Damascus, Syria. As soon as WWII ended, Dr. Taptiklis left Syria and started working in Gottingen, Germany with the organization that was the predecessor to the UN Refugee Agency where he fought typhoid and tuberculosis in the refugee camps.

As James says in the video “We have to remember that only two generations ago, Europeans were going the other way and people in Damascus were helping people like my grandfather.”

Putting a name and face to the plight of a person fleeing war and persecution brings their experience closer to home. It also helps us see that our similarities outweigh our differences. “One thing that struck me is how similar he was to me and how similar he was to some of my closest friends from university,” James says about Housam, the Syrian refugee he had met in Strasbourg. Please watch the video. It is brief with a poignant message.

If you wish to show support of UNHCR, click on the donate button in this link.

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