World Refugee Day: “We have been refugees for 71 years now”

World Refugee Day was commemorated last month on 20 June, and across the world people came together to recognise the courage and resilience of refugees.

This year, Palestinian refugees marked the 71st year of their displacement, following the Nakba (“Catastrophe”), where at least 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from or fled their homes in historic Palestine during violent events related to the creation of the state of Israel.

Four of the implementing partners of the MAP- and UNICEF-supported Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) programme in Lebanon commemorated World Refugee Day. The Najdeh Association, Developmental Action Without Borders (Nabaa), the National Institution of Social Care and Vocational Training (NISCVT) and Solidarity Association for Social and Cultural Development organised cultural and awareness-raising activities in Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon, including in Ein el Hilweh, Rashidieh, Burj el Barajneh, Shatila, Burj el Shemali, Al Buss, Nahr el Bared, Al Jalil, and Beddawi camps.

Below Hanan, Solidarity Association's MHPSS Project Coordinator, describes the importance of the World Refugee Day activities:

Hi Hanan, why is it important to commemorate World Refugee Day?

“This occasion touches every refugee around the world, especially us Palestinian refugees. We have been refugees for 71 years now!

“On this day we remind the world that we are still displaced from our homeland Palestine and that we have the right to return. We also remind the new generation of young Palestinians of our history and the importance of holding on tight to the right of return.”

Have you noticed a difference on World Refugee Day each year?

“Year after year we feel there is more awareness in the community.

“All community members want to participate in activities held on this day. They want to share their memories of Palestine or stories they have heard from their ancestors about life in Palestine and how they were forced to leave it. They want the world to know the tragic stories of how they were expelled from their homeland and how difficult life is in their country of refuge.

“The team is also gaining experience and becoming more creative in organising activities to commemorate this day.”

What activities did Solidarity Association organise?

“We organised art shows including Dabke (traditional Palestinian dance), music, theatre and photo exhibitions, storytelling by older members of the community, activities for both parents and their children and marches in the camps with community members holding messages and symbols.

“Children also wore traditional Palestinian clothes and we cooked lots of traditional Palestinian meals.”

How many people attended the activities?

“For Solidarity Association alone, around 1,000 people took part in the activities we organised for World Refugee Day.”

How were your activities received by community members?

“Community members liked the activities. They believe that it is important to commemorate World Refugee Day to emphasise that we have the right to return to Palestine.

“An old person told me that he lived his life hoping to go back to Palestine and see his village again; he has not been able to do that, but he wishes his children and grandchildren can return one day.

“Some participants reflected that this occasion is painful for them as it reminds them of the fact that they are still out of their occupied country and of the consequences they are enduring as a result.”

Thank you for talking and all you and Solidarity Association do, Hanan

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