World Refugee Day (June 20) offers a special occasion to do what we must do on every day of the year, namely to consider, and alleviate, the plight of the growing number of the world’s refugees – people driven from their homes by conflict, and caught up in armed disputes that are not of their making. Our organization, the Universal Esperanto Association, is concerned, in accordance with our primary purpose, with efforts to ease the language situation of these refugees.
Refugees have lost more than their homes and their livelihoods: they have also lost the communities and cultures that supported them. The languages of those communities are often not widely spoken in the places where they find themselves. In such circumstances, it is all the more difficult to explain their situation to others, to understand even sympathetic responses from the people they encounter, and to deal with the officials who often hold their futures in their hands.
We accordingly urge on the United Nations to do all that it can to ensure
1. That communication with refugees takes place in languages they can understand,
2. That the officials dealing with refugees receive training in these languages,
3. That special services be established to listen to, and act on, the refugees’ stories and concerns in their own languages,
4. That educational services be provided in appropriate languages for refugee children whose schooling has been interrupted and whose futures have been put in jeopardy.
Compassionate attention to the language needs of refugees is not only an issue of principle but also of good practice.
Written into our Association’s constitution is respect for the rights of all as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we regard as “an essential condition for our work.” Social justice and linguistic justice go hand in hand. We should all remind ourselves of this fact every day of the year – but especially on World Refugee Day.
Gazetaraj Komunikoj de UEA
(with thanks to Veronika Poór (UEA) for the English version of this article)