Families are a critical source of care, love and wellbeing for people around the world. Whether they are chosen family or relatives, family serves to build strength, fortify resilience and inspire hope.
For forcibly displaced people, family can give a much-needed sense of protection and comfort in times of uncertainty, and support to confront challenges. Family can also provide a feeling of ‘home’ for those who have been forced to leave their own.
On this International Day of Families, we highlight a few of the many refugee families whose strength in unity has helped them confront the unique and grave challenges of forced displacement.
Franyelis and Antonio
Franyelis, 23, Antonio, 28, and their three children, aged 6, 4 and 1, endured a perilous journey from Venezuela in search of safety in Ecuador.
Describing the reasons they were forced to flee, Franyelis said, “In Venezuela, living was a danger. We didn’t feel safe, especially for the children who couldn’t play outside because at any moment there could be a murder. It was a danger. That’s why we decided to leave the country.”
After walking for more than a month, they reached the southern Ecuadorian city of Cuenca with nowhere to stay, before finding the UNHCR-supported Posada San Francisco shelter.
“We had nowhere to go, but luckily we found the shelter. If it weren’t for that, we would have had to sleep on the street. We adults can cope, but for the children it is more difficult, because of the cold and how dangerous it is to sleep on the street,” Franyelis added.
Now, they use cash assistance provided by UNHCR and its partners to help pay rent for a room of their own and buy books for their children’s schooling.
They continue to return to Posada San Francisco every day to share a meal in the community dining room.
Merhawi and Genet
Merhawi, Genet and their son, Ftsum, endured a long and treacherous trek to seek protection in Europe.
After fleeing persecution and violence in Eritrea, Merhawi was separated from his wife and son by smugglers in Libya. He was eventually evacuated to Niger through UNHCR’s Emergency Travel Mechanism and was later resettled to Belgium as a refugee.
Following his relentless 2-year search for the rest of his family, his wife and son were located in a detention centre in Tripoli, Libya.
UNHCR managed to evacuate them to Rwanda, where they were able to complete their family reunification application and reunite with Merhawi in Belgium a few months later.
Raeefa and Aqil
Raeefa’s story demonstrates how the love and support provided by family extends beyond bloodlines.
As an older refugee hailing from Syria with no relatives, Raeefa settled in Lebanon alone. When she couldn’t pay her rent anymore, locals from the host community Aqil and his mother graciously invited her into their home to live with them instead
Along with monthly cash assistance from UNHCR to cover her medical expenses, Raeefa and her Lebanese family share what they have to support each other during tumultuous times caused by a simultaneous economic crisis and pandemic.
Raeefa has been living with her host family for several years now.
The importance of families being together is shown through the love, care, hope and support that they provide. Through family reunification, cash assistance and other initiatives, UNHCR works around the clock to bring families together and ensure they have the help they need.
You can help UNHCR support families around the world by donating on our website here: https://donate.unrefugees.org.uk/general/~my-donation