Emily Towns writes for World Help, a Christian humanitarian organization serving the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world. To learn more about World Help’s work with refugees and how you can get involved — click here.
Refugees in the Middle East are being told to go home now that the fighting has died down in many previously war-torn cities. But these refugees are finding they can’t go home … even if they try.
After months in a refugee camp, a woman I’ll call Hana for her safety was one of those who decided to try.
Home was all she thought about as she wiped dust off her children’s faces, cooked whatever food she could find, and cleaned their little spot of ground in the refugee camp.
The day that the bombs fell on her city, she had found her children, grabbed what she could, and had run. It was the smart move, the only way to ensure survival. But now that the dust had settled, Hana wanted her life back.
She had no idea what had happened to her husband, no idea if her little home was even still standing. But she had to try.
Several days later, Hana returned to the refugee camp, heartbroken and defeated.
Her story is far too common.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard people ask, “Well, why can’t they just go home now?” And it’s a valid question. Many governments are asking the same thing and turning refugees away from their borders. But it’s not that refugees don’t want to go home.
The last thing they want to do is spend the rest of their lives living in a camp. These men and women want to find jobs, they want to own houses, and they want their children to go to school. Mostly, they just want the life they had before the bombs fell or the militants attacked.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to turn back time and replace what they’ve lost. And for many refugees, there’s no way to go home again.
Here are just a few of the reasons people like Hana are still refugees:
Bombs are still everywhere
Booby traps and hidden explosives were some of ISIS’ signature terrorist moves. They wanted to ensure that no matter what happened, people were hurt.
According to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), 70 percent of mines in Iraq remain uncleared. Hidden beneath rubble in cities and villages, the explosives are a danger to anyone who comes too close.
UNMAS calls Iraq one of the most “contaminated countries in the world,” and they are taking steps to clean up the cities as quickly as they can. Despite their best efforts, though, the work is slow. In the meantime, they are advocating for risk education — teaching families who do return home how to look out for danger.
But the potential explosions are enough to keep most refugees like Hana and her family away.
In comparison, the camps are relatively safe. Although necessities like food and medical care are scarce, parents at least don’t have to worry about their children accidentally triggering a bomb while they play.
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