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Helping Refugees from Conflict Areas, Human Initiative and UNHCR Establish Strategic Partnership

Kompas.com - 22/12/2020, 09:22 WIB
MoU signing ceremony and donation handover between Human Initiative and UNHCR (Doc. Human Initiative) MoU signing ceremony and donation handover between Human Initiative and UNHCR

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - The Human Initiative (HI) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have formed a strategic partnership to help refugees from conflict areas.

The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was held at Takes Hotel, Jakarta, Thursday (17/12/2020). The event was attended by President of HI Tomy Hendrajati and UNHCR representative Ann Maymann.

Tomy explained that it is a pleasure for HI to collaborate with UNHCR. The issue of refugees has been part of the organization’s focus, shown through immediate assistance in several domestic and foreign areas.

"Through this collaboration, we can maximize our efforts to help refugees. We create protection and solutions for a better life for them,” said Tomy.

Tomy added that the strategic partnership with UNHCR was built on the same vision and mission to help refugees. In addition, collaboration with various parties is also part of HI's motto and mandate, namely Collaboration for Humanity.

"This means that HI must provide solutions to humanitarian problems by working with governments, organizations, the private sector, and other stakeholders," continued Tomy.

According to him, the collaboration between HI and UNHCR is not entirely new, having collaborated prior to the signing ceremony. This latest collaboration is a continuation of the strategic cooperation between the two parties.

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Meanwhile, Ann also admitted that she was very happy with the cooperation between HI and UNHCR. She hopes to start a new journey to aid the refugees.

"We hope that through this collaboration, more comprehensive solutions can be found as part of our goal of strengthening refugee protection and finding long-term solutions," said Ann.

Ann added that there are four forms of cooperation that HI and UNHCR will undertake. First, education. HI and UNHCR will provide Indonesian and English lessons to refugees.

"Second, shelter. We know that refugees really need a shelter to accommodate them,” she said.

Third, protection of refugee children. In every refugee camp, there are children whose rights must be fulfilled through child protection programs.

Fourth, related to health. The Covid-19 pandemic situation is also a serious problem for refugees. Moreover, they experience a lack of health services, sanitation, and isolation rooms in refugee camps.

“UNHCR is highly committed to handling Covid-19 among refugees. We have taken several steps, such as providing education about the symptoms of Covid-19 and its dangers, as well as health protocols," said Ann.

Ann added that UNHCR has distributed masks, hand sanitizers, and vitamins to maintain the refugees' immune system.

"Finally, if refugees experience symptoms of corona, we take them to the local health center to access Covid-19 related treatments," said Ann.

Serious problem

Based on data from UNHCR released on Thursday (6/18/2020), until the end of 2019, the total number of refugees worldwide reached 79.5 million people. This means that there is one refugee in every 97 population of the world.

Of these, 13,747 of them take refuge in Indonesia. Tens of thousands of refugees came from 40 countries.

"They live in several cities in Indonesia, such as Aceh, Medan, Tanjung Pinang, Pekanbaru, Jabodetabek, Surabaya, Balikpapan, Medan, Manado, Kupang, and other locations," explained Tomy.

He said that the refugees were driven by fear to leave their home countries. They were avoiding acts of persecution caused by race, religion, nationality, and so on.

He further explained that the number of refugees could increase in the future. Armed conflicts are still happening even now, while long-term problem-solving solutions are still limited.

Educate the public

Of all the asylum seekers worldwide, Tomy said that 60 percent of them come from Islamic countries. For this reason, UNHCR has initiated Islamic-style philanthropy since 2013 in the form of zakat. As it turns out, the initiative is growing rapidly and can help refugees globally.

Tomy added that this example is proof that in overcoming refugee problems, HI and UNHCR cannot handle it by themselves. The public needs to get involved in overcoming this matter. However, public awareness of refugee issues is still low.

Tomy explained that HI has taken steps to build public awareness. One of which is to form a special team.

This team, he continued, is tasked with creating creative ideas to reaching a wider community, and in turn increasing the awareness of the refugee issues.

These creative ideas will be included in the refugee assistance program, one of which is related to raising refugee funds from the public.

"We will prioritize a social media approach in a creative way. For example, cooperation with marketplaces in Indonesia, such as Tokopedia, then friends at Bukalapak. Alhamdulillah, it has been very effective in raising public donations," said Tomy.

The education also aims to prevent conflict due to the arrival of refugees. For information, the arrival of refugees has the potential to trigger social jealousy. This could lead to horizontal conflicts between residents and refugees.

To minimize this, HI always coordinates with the local government. For example, when solving the problem of the Rohingya refugee conflict in Aceh.

"As experienced in Aceh some time ago, there was social jealousy, but then we intensively collaborated with the government to deal with this situation. Alhamdulillah, the situation was minimized by distributing aid for refugees and its benefits for the locals," said Tomy.

Tomy hopes that the collaboration between HI and UNHCR can strengthen socialization and education on the problem of cross-border refuge in Indonesian society.

"That way, the process of raising awareness among the Indonesian people (towards refugees) can continue smoothly," he said.

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