JOB POSTING: REFUGEE
Written by Elizabeth Thayer
Photography by Kristi Burton
Qualifications: be a person that lives in a country. You may be in any profession, social status or income bracket.
Previous experience: None required, though most people apply having had years of violence, threats, warfare, natural disasters, discrimination, loss of family members, oppression, and/or limited freedom of speech, religion and happiness.
Education level: no minimum, no maximum.
Job description: Travel required, sometimes illegally, usually at night, in the cold, when you are sick, scared or lost, or crammed so tightly in a vehicle that you can barely breathe. You will have to carry all luggage on your back, and realize that it very probably will be taken or thrown in the water when crossing the sea.
You must be prepared to risk not only your own life, but that of your spouse, children and sometimes parents, siblings and other extended family. Be willing to sell all you have, leave behind homes, jobs, colleagues and friends, to pay all your money to unscrupulous individuals
that will take your whole future and gamble it on illegal chances. Understand that such individuals may have no qualms about leaving you to die, should their own safety be threatened.
Length of job assignment varies. In most cases, it will not be less than a year. It may last your entire lifetime. While holding this position, you may not at first assume any citizenship, have any guarantee of other job opportunities, be certain of consistent financial aid, schooling, or any
kind of permanency. Upon being granted asylum, you will usually be required to learn a new language and adjust to a new culture, climate, social customs, professional requirements, and health, transportation and education systems within a short amount of time. Your status will be
Wages: There is no guarantee of a happy ending. Your life and the lives of your family are at stake. Your children may suffer lasting mental, physical, emotional and social harm. After all your risks, suffering and enduring you may be sent back to the danger you fled. If you are extremely lucky, you will be given the chance to start your life over, usually in the lowest income and social bracket, but with relative freedom and safety. And it will be worth it.
To me, the label “refugee” is a badge of honor. I invite you to honor and celebrate refugees and welcomers with me this month and to meet some of these heroes at TSOS's Virtual World Refugee Day event on 17 June.
As we strengthen our relationships with resettlement agencies, friends, and community partners, we are discovering that the work doesn't have to be big to be important.