Alaa Salem

Written by

June 26, 2020


Last week marked Refugee Week, a time to highlight and celebrate the challenges and achievements of refugees all over the world. And it’s very much needed…

With an estimated 26 million people living as refugees, the physical, psychological, social, cultural and political barriers that they face is unimaginable.

The challenges and struggles that refugees face go beyond mere definitions or statistics: behind every story is a human being with needs and desires like everyone else.

Refugees are among some of the most vulnerable people in the world, and their lives are marred by struggles.

A refugee’s journey starts when they make that critical step to flee to a safe country. The next step is seeking help in their new country. However, their difficulties don’t simply end there.

It’s merely the next step, on a very challenging path.

Marking Ramadan as a refugee: Offering critical help

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Some of the 23 refugees we were able to help during Ramadan.

One of the incredible refugee stories we discovered this Ramadan during our Covid-19 response work was of a group of 23 refugees from various countries across Africa.

They’d walked 16 km to the nearest mosque to simply ask for help.

Alhamdulillah, thanks to our donors and our partnership with the local mosque in Piacenza, Italy,  we were able to provide them with enough food to break their fast during the holy month.

We had the pleasure of discovering their stories during one of these food distributions.

Originally from a range of countries across Africa including Ghana, Gambia, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone, they’d fled war and poverty, leaving their families behind.

In search of security, they’d crossed the Mediterranean Sea, undertaking what is sadly known in Italy as “il viaggio della morte (the journey of death). The tragic name is owed to the many victims it takes away every year.

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A rubber boat in the Mediterranean Sea, often used by refugees fleeing to safety.

This year alone, over 22,000 people have arrived in Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta by taking deadly routes across Mediterranean waters.

In just under six months, a staggering 5,643 have crossed into Italy, from North Africa and Greece. To date 750 of these have been declared dead or missing…

With such risks, leaving your own home and loved ones is never an easy decision to make. Even more so, when also you don’t really know what will greet you when you arrive in a safe country.

However, extreme poverty, conflict and difficult living conditions can push men, women and children to risk their lives and undertake dangerous journeys in search of safety and a better future.

Mohammed’s story: Hoping for a new life in Italy

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The prayer room Mohammed and his friends have built inside the refugee shelter.

Just one of the thousands of people who’d risked their lives to reach Italy is Mohammed*, who we’ve been helping through our sister agency, Islamic Relief Italy.

Arriving at the mosque in Piacenza where we’d arranged support for vulnerable people during the month of Ramadan, we discovered that Mohammed was in critical need of support.

He didn’t share much of his own personal story and journey with us. And we understood why.

When he mentioned that his last African stop-over was in Libya – we knew the difficulties he’d have faced…

A living hell on earth for refugees, stories abound of the abusive practices of modern slavery and sexual violence against refugees crossing through – and then trapped –in Libya.

Now on Italian soil after leaving their home countries in search of safety, Mohammed decided not to give voice to his painful memories, but to focus instead on his new life in Italy, despite the many challenges he is still facing.

He showed us the shelter where he and his friends live with other refugees – his new home.

It offers shelter and some sense of security. Mohammed described how it was a blessing after such a long painful journey through Italy, from the region of Calabria in the deep south to Piacenza in the north of Italy where he now lives.

Before we left, Mohammed insisted on showing us their prayer room, where he and the other 22 people living with him gather to pray and remember Allah (SWT):

This is our prayer room, where we are praying taraweeh every night, during the holy month of Ramadan, and [this is] where we will pray for you and for the people who supported us with these food packs.

Alhamdulillah, to offer such support is a blessing.

We learnt a lot from Mohammed and his friends. Their faith, positivity and determination inspired us to continue doing all we can to support the vulnerable refugees who fled their homes searching for safety and a dignified life.

Islamic Relief is helping millions of refugees and displaced people worldwide, and today we urge you to continue supporting our life-saving projects.

Mohammed and many other people like him deserve to have food on their tables, a roof over their heads and something worth living for and dreaming of when they go to sleep.

With your help,  we will continue supporting refugees and other vulnerable communities here in Italy, the UK and worldwide.

Thank you for your continued support. You are life-savers.

 

*Name has been changed to protect the individual’s identity

© Copyrights 2020 Islamic Relief Worldwide, Inc. All rights reserved. Registered Charity No. 328158

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