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Joining our call to world leaders to make an effort to take in refugees are 47,685 Cambodians. Photo supplied
Joining Oxfam's call to world leaders to make an effort to take in refugees are 47,685 Cambodians. Photo supplied

Keeping our hearts and doors open to refugees

By Solinn Lim, Oxfam country director for Cambodia

#JuiKNIA campaign is personal to me. Forty years ago, a bloody civil war and genocide brought by the Khmer Rouge killed nearly 2 million people, a quarter of the population back then. Many of us were fortunate to escape and start a new life in another country. I was raised by a group of women – my grandmother, my mother and aunts, the women who were spared by the cultural revolution to raise the next generation of the “Angkar” (the Khmer Rouge leadership).

Any Cambodians can tell their family first-hand accounts of the impacts the Khmer Rouge atrocity on their family. Many Cambodians know what it’s like to flee horrifying violence and persecution. Millions of us experienced having to leave our homes and our memories behind, driven by fear and persecution. We also know what it’s like to be warmly welcomed by strangers in distant countries.

One of the first Oxfam staff to begin humanitarian work in Cambodia with the then-People’s Republic of Kampuchea in 1979 was Eva Mysliwiec, who wrote a book called Punishing the Poor: The International Isolation of Kampuchea, published in 1987. In this book, Mysliwiec described one aid worker observation of Cambodian children who were born in refugee camps when he “asks a five year old girl where rice comes from and all she knows is that it comes from home on her mother’s head every Tuesday morning from the UN rice distribution lines or that water comes from trucks every week”.

This helps picture the universal suffering experienced in refugee life and how relevant it is to today’s refugee crisis.

This is why Oxfam, along with our friends and allies, launched the #JuiKnia campaign on March 31, to send a strong message to governments around the world to step up and do more to help refugees and migrants.

With this campaign, we wanted to share the stories of hope and kindness from our own past, as a way of calling upon world leaders to once more open their hearts and doors to those in need.

Today, over 65 million people over the world have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence and persecution. They are among the most vulnerable in the world – they are also incredibly resilient, as millions of us were. They persevere and fight for a better future for themselves and their families, despite the precariousness and insecurity marking their lives.

But what if the world had shut the door on us during our time of crisis?

We were welcomed as migrants and refugees by so many individuals and communities around the world. Slowly, we recovered, many to return back home to help rebuild. Our stories bring us together like nothing else. Our Cambodian values are universal values. We help each other – #JuiKnia.

We understand the difficulties and the concerns that host countries can face when they open up to refugees and migrants. However, shutting out millions of families and children in need only causes further suffering and insecurity. We lived through this.

Oxfam has gathered together our stories of hope – #JuiKnia – to help leaders around the world remember that their countries welcomed refugees down through the years. By greeting today’s refugees and migrants with the same open arms that welcomed Cambodians decades ago, we can avert further crises, instability and division. We must #JuiKnia. We must #StandasOne

Joining our call to world leaders are 47,685 Cambodians. This year, important discussions are taking place. Out of the New York Declaration last year came two very important processes, the development of a “refugee compact” and a “migration compact”.

We hope that our voices will be heard by world leaders, as we collectively urge them to do more. Collectively, we must ensure that these processes develop a concrete, fair and humane way to share and improve how countries receive, protect and help refugees.

We want our leaders to end xenophobia against refugees and migrants, and to expand safe and regular pathways for refugees to be admitted, and for families to be reunified.

Thank you for standing with us. Thank JuiKnia partners, Bophana Center, Politikoffee, Cambodian Living Arts, Phare Ponle Selpak, Khmerican, Cambodian communities around the world and non-Cambodians who are compelled and care for raising your voice to call on world leaders open their doors and hearts to refugees and migrants! #JuiKnia #HopeReturns #StandasOne.

For more information about the campaign, please visit http://cambodia.oxfam.org/juiknia

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