Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 95

Thursday, June 21, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

World Refugee Day

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, every minute, eight people leave family and possessions to escape war, conflict and persecution.

Yesterday, June 20, 2012, the international community observed the United Nations World Refugee Day. I reflected on my own experiences as a refugee and said a prayer for all those men, women and children around the world who are desperately seeking protection.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, conflict, war and violence have separated millions of refugees from their loved ones, which is indeed the most devastating fate for an individual to face. Even one family torn apart by war and conflict is one too many.

In 2011, an estimated 4.3 million people were newly displaced as refugees due to conflict or persecution. More than 800,000 people were displaced as refugees across international borders, the highest number in more than a decade. Another 35 million people were newly displaced within the border of their countries, which was a 20 per cent increase from 2010.

António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated:

2011 saw suffering on an epic scale. For so many lives to have been thrown into turmoil over so short a space of time means enormous personal cost for all who are affected.

Honourable senators, during a recent visit to Uganda I met a mother from Somalia named Fatima. Fatima had walked for literally 1,000 miles, alongside her five children, from a place near the capital Mogadishu to Dadaab in Kenya, which is the largest refugee camp in the world and is host to about half a million people. She had then found her way to Uganda in order to get away from the youth gangs at the camp.

She said that after walking for several days, her eldest daughter was gang raped by the militias while she and her other children were forced to watch. This of course traumatized her entire family. When they reached the Dadaab camp, she did receive help for her daughter. Although she was grateful for this, she learned that her sons had joined a youth gang and she was concerned for their safety.

Fatima explained to me that she and her family were living fairly comfortably before there was civil unrest in Somalia. Sadly, her husband and one son were killed and one of her other sons was missing. She fled from home with nothing but the clothes on her back as she wanted to protect the rest of her family. She told me that if she had known that fleeing her house was as dangerous as it turned out to be, she would have risked staying at home.


She had faced such horrendous difficulties, but was very focused on finding ways to help her family to resettle and for her children to restart their schooling. The more I learned about Fatima, the more I admired her. She found ways to stay strong and courageous, even in the face of extreme adversity. I will also respect the great lengths she went to protect her family.

Honourable senators, there are many courageous women like Fatima who have been forced to flee their home in dire circumstances to save the lives of their children. On this, World Refugee Day, I salute all these women and applaud them for their strength, courage and perseverance.