World Refugee Day 2022
On the occasion of World Refugee Day 2022, Lucy Ray, JRS Ireland Fáilte Project Officer, reports on the latest initiatives of JRS supporting newly arrived protection applicants and promoting understanding of refugees within the increasingly prevalent context of Climate Change.
An Ecological Mouth of a Shark
Climate Change is becoming the main driver of forced displacement. As we mark World Refugee Day 2022, it is becoming increasingly clear that the impacts of climate change will be felt by all those on the move – whoever they are; wherever they come from; and whenever they are forced to flee.
And so, for everyone to release the right to seek safety – celebrated this World Refugee Day as a non-negotiable right by UNHCR – we need to broaden our thinking around protection. Although things are shifting rapidly, the poet Warsan Shire’s words “No one leaves home/ unless home is the mouth of a shark” still ring true, and the current system simply won’t suffice.
Reflecting on this shift, JRS Ireland is implementing projects that align with the ethos of Earth Stewardship, encouraging Climate Action and developing compassion for refugees.
Climate Change has caused environmental disasters that have forced many to flee their homes and cross borders, in search of habitable ground. It has also acted like lighter fuel thrown on conflicts, igniting further violence and a greater need for people to leave home. It is noteworthy that 19 countries with the highest number of environmental threats are among the world’s least peaceful countries, including Afghanistan and Syria.
This September, the next iteration of the JRS CHANGE project will deeply explore these phenomena with secondary school students across Ireland and encourage them to take collective action in support of refugees. The original CHANGE curriculum was designed by JRS Europe and has already been running for two years in Irish schools. Huge engagement from Society of Jesus schools has enriched the project in Ireland. This September, it will be relaunched with a critical focus on Climate Change as it becomes increasingly essential for understanding the modern refugee context.
We have also begun to weave these learnings into the Fáilte Project. The JRS Fáilte Project supports international protection applicants’ orientation and wellbeing at Balseskin National Reception Centre in Dublin. We decided to consider the natural world within the project as humans’ connection with it is so fundamental to our wellbeing. But also, we have a responsibility to open discussions about the effects of Climate Change with young protection applicants, as the reality is that they very often are arriving from countries that are witnessing the effects now to a much greater degree. We have also found that art and re-claiming space with colour, brings joy to an otherwise turbulent and challenging time of seeking international protection.
And so, last month thanks to funding through Fingal County Council, we organised for the teenagers in Balseskin to take a space of their own and send a loud but beautiful message of the importance of biodiversity, bugs, and all!
The teens spent three weekdays creating the beautiful piece [pictured]. They built friendships and deepened their knowledge. Despite this positive experience, JRS Ireland remains concerned that due to the current transitory nature of accommodation and other issues facing protection applicants, these young people have spent four months in Ireland with no access to school. Every child has a right to education regardless of their colour, creed or status. While the outpouring of public support for Ukrainian refugees and the urgency of the State response to the crisis is to be commended, we must avoid a two-tier system of welcome in Ireland and ensure the full participation of all persons in the life of the community.
Projects like the Biodiversity Art Camp and CHANGE will plant seeds in the minds of young refugees and Irish citizens alike, to grow an understanding of this new age of refugees and to inspire action. We will be eagerly awaiting their sprouts! This World Refugee Day, as adults, as stewards of the planet and all its life forms, we must also act and act with radical care.