As the world marks World Refugee Day, Islamic Relief pays tribute to the strength of refugees, many of whom have overcome so much to bring themselves and their families to safety.

As little as three years ago, 50 per cent of refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) were based in Muslim countries. With the escalation of the crisis in Syria, the current proportion is likely to be greater.

Islamic Relief works with refugees in four countries and IDPs in ten countries, with programme focuses including health and nutrition, education, shelter, and psychosocial support.

Sadia Kidwai, policy and research analyst at Islamic Relief, has been working with our offices around the world who are supporting refugees and IDPs.

She said: “Refugees are often depicted as passive individuals who have arrived in a country where they are considered a burden to host communities and have nothing to offer. This interpretation is very restrictive and very disempowering for refugee communities. At Islamic Relief, we are guided by our faith. In the Quran, refugees are not passive, powerless, de-politicised figures. They are instead individuals who have taken an active choice to preserve their life, relocating their families and often overcoming severe obstacles to do so.”

Islamic Relief’s paper The Rights of Forced Migrants in Islam outlines Islam’s teachings on forced migrant protection, duties and responsibilities.

Changing perceptions

The teachings are shared in our advocacy work across the world. In South Africa, for example, Islamic Relief has been engaging youths on the issue of xenophobia. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) around 60,000-80,000 foreign nationals seek asylum in South Africa every year. They are calling on people to embrace migrant communities, lobby the government to ease restrictions on refugees entering the countries, and report incidents of xenophobia to the authorities.

Members of Islamic Relief will also be attending the UNHCR Annual Consultation with non-governmental organisations in July and will be discussing the needs of people in conflict. Over the last 30 years, Islamic Relief has collected more than GBP £113 million for projects for refugees. Islamic Relief will be highlighting issues such as access to affected communities, coordination with other organisations and self-protection measures for affected communities.

The Quran also calls on Muslims to “give what is due to… the wayfarer” (Q30:38; Q17:26). Through zakat, Muslims give a percentage of their annual savings as alms to help vulnerable people, and this includes “travellers in need” (Q9:60).

Sadia Kidwai added: “There are numerous references in the Quran to using zakat to provide food, shelter, clothing and transportation to travellers in need. Money raised during Ramadan will go towards some of our work with refugees.”

Islamic Relief currently runs programmes with refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Kenya. IDPs, people who have been displaced within their home countries, are also in need of support and Islamic Relief works with them in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Gaza, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria.