Meeting Nujeen: the face of the Syrian refugee crisis
22 June 2017
You might remember seeing Nujeen Mustafa - the 15 young Syrian woman in a wheelchair interviewed by Fergal Keane on the BBC as she landed on a Greek beach. I certainly do. Who wouldn't be impressed by this bright, articulate young woman, explaining that she'd never had access to schooling because of her cerebral palsy, but who'd taught herself English from books.
Meeting Nujeen in person this week in Brussels, she’s even more impressive in real life, reciting the names of all British monarchs back to William the Conqueror, telling me of her love of books, of Jane Austen, of films, of her interest in space travel. I also learned more about Nujeen's story: her family's flight from Aleppo as war broke out, her year as a refugee in Turkey before her parents' difficult decision to try to get and her sister Nasrine out to join their older brother 3,500 miles away in Germany because they couldn't afford to all leave together as a family. Why the risk? "Because I could see no hope, the war was going on and I wanted a future", Nujeen told a major EU conference on migration yesterday.
It's inspiring to see how Nujeen Mustafa is using her experiences to show the world that refugees are more than statistics or numbers. You can learn more about Nujeen and her work here. As many of us set off on holiday this summer to the Mediterranean, thousands will try and make the perilous journey across that same Sea. The death toll from these crossings still remains very high- over 1000 people have lost their lives since the start of the 2017. Finding political solutions to reduce this human misery was the focus of our conference yesterday. In this week where communities throughout the UK came together to remember Jo Cox, as people from every community and all walks of life rallied to help the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and as we mark World Refugee day, stories like Nujeen's remind us of our shared humanity and that we really do have more in common.