Giving refugee children an identity, recognition & protection
Did you know that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of refugees in our midst today? Who are these refugees? Where did they come from? Why are they here?
Refugees are people just like you and me. The only difference is that they are forced to flee for their lives from their country of origin because they have been persecuted on the basis of their beliefs or ideology or dissent. They do not choose to come to our country to live off our prosperous economy; they come here in the hope that their lives will be safer than it was back at home. Their stay is temporary and they hope to return when peace and democracy returns in their homeland.
However the safe of the refugees in their ‘temporary abode’ remains questionable. Article 33 of the Geneva Convention asserts the principal of non-refoulement, that is, that signatory states must not forcibly return a refugee to a country where “his or her life of freedom would be threatened”.
SHELTER has over the years, provided a safe heaven for a great number of refugee children through our refugee schools. In September 2009, we launched an operation to enhance the protection of all refugee children studying in these schools by issuing identity tags to those between the ages 4 to 17.
The SHELTER Identity Tags clearly show the SHELTER logo, the child’s photo and a very short description on their place of origin.
The children are well aware of the importance of these identity tags. “it is good for our own safety and protection. When we set out from our school and home environment, we could be arrested by the police or RELA (volunteer police) for not having an ID. This SHELTER ID tag will help protect us”, said the children.
Security is the most important thing in the lives of our refugee. While many of them re-settle to a different country, those who are held back will have to face a certain level of insecure feelings and the ID tags are seen as a way to help refugees enjoy their rights and a tool of protection. These identity tags not only give recognition to the individuals but also help provide security and increased access to service.
Currently, SHELTER co-sponsors five Refugee Schools in four different locations. The schools start in the morning and ends early afternoon. Our objectives are to provide better access to basic education in a proper conducive environment with basic facilities. We also encourage school-going children to continue schooling rather than start working prematurely. We also ensure that the children are cared for and not left loitering during the day time, especially when their parents are at work. We provide an avenue where the children can learn basic language skills which will help them to integrate better when they are relocated in a third country.
Our community schools cater for children from 5 to 17 years of age. At present, we have 300 over students. Classes are conducted strictly within the premises. Many volunteers have come forward and offered their services to tutor the children.
SHELTER is also actively involved with projects that provide humanitarian assistance to refugee children who require specific care and support. In addition to the refugee community schools, we also follow-up on cases of unaccompanied minors, children separated from their parents and children affected by detention. We also help to enhance their living conditions by distributing donated material in the form of foods and clothes.