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Governments completely out of touch with citizens on refugee issues, new survey reveals

    August 28, 2017
    Nearly three-quarters of young people globally would welcome refugees into their countries
     
    A new survey released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on young peoples’ attitudes towards refugees exposes just how out of touch governments are with their citizens, Amnesty International said today.
     
    According to the Global Shapers' Annual Survey, the vast majority (72.6%) of people aged 18-35 would welcome refugees into their countries. More than a quarter (27.3%) say they would even take refugees into their own homes.
     
    “People fleeing violence and persecution around the world have repeatedly had doors slammed in their faces by wealthy governments who claim they cannot help them. WEF’s research shows that young people aren’t buying it, and are dismayed by the heartless attitudes of their leaders,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
     
    “Almost two years after the tragic photo of Alan Kurdi shocked the world, many governments are still failing to live up to even their own paltry resettlement commitments and 2017 looks set to be the deadliest year on records for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean. But it doesn’t have to be this way - all too often laws and policies are the main obstacles to the compassionate responses of ordinary people.”
     
    Last year, Amnesty International published its own survey as part of its I Welcome campaign, which found four in five people would welcome refugees to their countries. The WEF survey results show little has changed.
     
    When asked what governments should be doing about refugees, more than half of respondents (55%) say they believe that governments should “try to include refugees in the national workforce”. Only 3.5% believe that governments should “expel/deport” refugees.
     
    Significantly, in the US a huge 85% of young people say they would welcome refugees to their country, an increase of more than 10% on last year’s survey.
     
    “This gives the lie to Donald Trump’s claim that his hateful anti-refugee rhetoric represents the US population. It is encouraging to see how many young people are resisting President Trump’s poisonous narrative – and shows how vital it is that their voices are heard,” said Salil Shetty.
     
    Amnesty International’s I Welcome campaign continues to mobilize public pressure to call on countries to do more to welcome refugees. As part of the campaign, Amnesty International and Sofar Sounds will hold concerts in over 200 cities around the world on 20 September in aid of refugee rights. Called ‘Give a Home’, the gigs will see major artists like Ed Sheeran joining forces with refugee musicians to perform secret concerts in ordinary people’s homes.
     
    The date marks the one year anniversary of the 20 September Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York in 2016, where world leaders made pledges that fell dramatically short of what is needed to address the global refugee crisis. 
     
    For more information, please contact Sue Montgomery, media relations for Amnesty International Canada, at 613-744-7667 ext 236 or smontgomery@amnesty.ca
     
    Background:
     
    Amnesty International’s ‘I Welcome’ campaign calls on all governments to do more to ensure refugees are protected and able to enjoy their human rights. The campaign also aims to build grassroots solidarity with refugees, including through community-led programs to sponsor refugees.
     
    As part of the campaign Amnesty has collected stories of people who are welcoming refugees into their communities. Below is an outline of some of these stories:  
     

    I Welcome Case Studies

     
    The Alftih family
     
    Mohammed and Randa Alftih and their four children were resettled in Peterborough, Ontario, with the help of community sponsors, after fleeing war in Aleppo. The family have settled in well, learning English and opening their own Syrian restaurant; but Randa’s sister and her family are still in Lebanon, and she is desperate to be reunited with them. The same community sponsorship group who helped bring the Alftihs over are now helping to bring Randa’s relatives to Canada – with the help of some generous children.
     
    When a third-grade class at a local primary school heard the Alftihs’ story, they organized a range of fundraising activities to help bring Randa’s sister and her family to Canada. They hosted a yard sale, selling items donated by local businesses and artists; they held pizza parties, selling pizza in the school for a dollar; and several children even asked for donations instead of birthday presents. It paid off – the pupils raised the final $5,000 needed to bring over Randa’s sister and family.
     
    Ahmed’s family and Debbie Rix
     
    Debbie Rix, from Toronto, says it was the image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying lifeless on a beach in Turkey that moved her to take action. She set up a sponsorship group of around 50 people, and in less than a year they had raised thousands of Canadian dollars and navigated a bureaucratic maze in order to welcome a family from southern Syria: Ahmed* his wife Razan, their children Aya, seven, and Raed, five, along with Ahmed’s sister Hoda, her boys Louai, 17, and Wael, 13, and grandma Khadija.
     
    Ahmed owned a restaurant in Syria, and he is now attending a six-week hospitality training scheme along with his nephew Louai at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto, specifically designed to equip refugees with crucial work skills. He hopes to open a Syrian restaurant in Toronto one day. The other adults are learning English and the children are thriving, including seven-month-old baby Adam, who was born in Canada. Debbie describes her connection to the family as a lifelong relationship, and says: “We're all the richer for it.”
     
    Mohamed and Yahya
     
    Mohamed, 27, from Somalia, and Yahya*, 26, from Sudan, are sponsored by a group which consciously decided to sponsor young, single African men, who have less of a profile in the media. Mohamed found a job at a health clinic in Toronto in less than two months, which he credits to the ongoing support of this network of sponsors. He thinks other countries should follow Canada’s example of sponsorship: “This is a successful project,” he says. “It's a unique thing.”

    “There is a proverb in my culture which says an open heart is entered but not an open door. So if you see an open door you will not enter it, but you will enter it if the person who is there has an open heart. I think having a great heart, it's the first thing that is encouraging people to sponsor other people.” 
     
    Alan and Gyan
     
    Alan and Gyan Mohammed, diehard Real Madrid fans, both worked as teachers in their hometown of Al Hasakah in North Eastern Syria, before they were forced to flee IS in 2014. The brother and sister both have muscular dystrophy and use wheelchairs, and their harrowing journey to Europe involved being strapped to the sides of a horse as they travelled through mountains, and being rescued from a sinking boat by the Greek coastguard.
     
    After a journey of almost three years, Alan and Gyan now have refugee status in Germany, are starting to learn German, and are surrounded by their family as they await specially adapted accommodation. And earlier this year they got tickets to the Champions League Quarter Final in Munich, where they watched Cristiano Ronaldo score his hundredth goal. Alan described the experience as a dream come true.
     
    Lesvos residents Stratis and Giorgios
     
    Stratis Valamios is a 42-year-old fisherman and lives with his family in the small village of Skala Sykamias, which has been at the forefront of the refugee crisis. Stratis also works in a restaurant during the summer. In the last 20 years Stratis has saved thousands of refugees arriving on Lesvos by boat, and participated in search and rescue operations during shipwrecks that resulted in the deaths of many refugees, including children. Some of the things Stratis has seen have been traumatic, but he is determined to keep helping. He says:  ‘‘Humans must see other humans like human beings. They should not be scared. Thousands of people arrived here and no one has harmed us.”
     
    Giorgos Sofianis, a 55-year-old farmer, also lives in Skala Sykamias. His sheep farm is next to a beach where thousands of refugees have landed. Giorgos has been helping refugees who arrived in front of his farm since 2008, providing them with shelter, food, and warm dry clothes. He says he is proud of his island and the help that its people have offered to refugees.
     
    *Names changed to protect identities
    rights