On 20 September, across more than 200 cities in 60 countries, musicians, artists, activists and local communities came together in a statement of support for the world’s refugees.
Give a Home, a collaboration between Amnesty International and Sofar Sounds, saw living rooms across the globe play host to more than 300 special performances from some of the world’s leading musicians.
The gigs, which included performances from Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sandé, Jessie Ware, Rudimental, Sauti Sol, Freshlyground, Ludovico Einaudi, the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, Mashrou’ Leila, Faarrow and many more, were all about celebrating a single message of solidarity: Refugees are welcome.
At a time when the plight of refugees the world over is in the headlines on a daily basis, and with governments pursuing ever more restrictive policies to keep refugees out, it’s a message that’s more urgent now than it’s been in most of our lifetimes.
From the thousands of Rohingya currently fleeing Myanmar, to the desperate situation faced by those escaping conflicts in Syria and South Sudan, the world is in the grip of its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. The global refugee population now stands at more than 22 million people.
“As the Secretary General I travel a lot and meet a lot of different people. But one person I have never met is a refugee who wanted to be a refugee. By definition, a refugee is a person fleeing a desperate situation of conflict or persecution. They are some of the most vulnerable people in the world,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
Despite being one of the defining challenges of our age, the response from the international community has, for the most part, been completely inadequate.
In what Amnesty International has called a “shocking failure of leadership” governments have been intent on pursuing policies to keep refugees at bay, rather than working to address the root causes of the crisis and sharing responsibility for hosting and assisting refugees.
Of those 22.5 million, almost all are hosted outside the wealthiest nations, with just ten of the world’s 193 countries hosting more than half its refugees.
“While it’s a huge number, refugees represent only 0.3% of the world’s population. When we look at it that way, it seems crazy to me that we can’t find a home for all of them,” said Salil Shetty.
Not only are these policies wrong-headed, they are also out of step with popular sentiment, in particular that of young people. Amnesty International’s research shows that four in five people around the world are open to welcoming refugees, while a recent attitudes survey by the World Economic Forum show that a huge 85% of young people in the US would welcome refugees.
Freshly Ground playing in Cape Town ©Natasha Louw
Give a Home was a day dedicated to that spirit of hospitality and openness and to the belief that we have a responsibility to those escaping conflict and persecution.
“Give a Home is about celebrating what people can do and are doing in support of refugees. Where governments are building walls, deploying warships and closing doors, we are singing a different song: We welcome refugees,” said Salil Shetty.