His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated on Wednesday the first day of the “Investing in the Future Conference — Protecting Refugee Children in the Middle East and North Africa (IIFMena)”.
The two-day conference held at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre in Sharjah was attended by Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr Nabil Elaraby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, Lynne Featherstone, DFID minister, UK in addition to Ministers from the UAE, GCC countries and refugee host countries and more than 300 regional and international VIPs concerned with refugee children affairs.
In his inaugural welcome speech, Sheikh Sultan stressed the importance of the conference is to protect and offer all kinds of support to refugee children and women who are living in very harsh conditions while finding innovative solutions to the refugee crisis.
“This is not the first time of organising conferences highlighting the hardship and challenges faced by refugees who have abandoned their homes in a bid to escape being killed in armed wars of groups who are really forgetting and not abiding by all the Islamic morals and teachings and legalisation. We have to really work hard to protect and support the innocent refugee children while offering them all kinds of support in education, health and rehabilitate them to become better members of the society”.
Sheikh Sultan added, “We have to find means to protect and empower children and I believe that partnerships on a local and global scale can assist in this issue. Refugee children must be provided with basic rights such as food, shelter, and education and are facing serious challenges that can be tackled through the cooperation of various countries to encourage initiatives supporting refugees.”
Sheikh Sultan praised the great role played by Queen Rania who spares no efforts in supporting and offering help to refugee children and Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, the first Eminent Advocate who played a leading role in organising the conference.
Emphasising the challenges and hardship faced by refugee children, Queen Rania stressed the ordeals faced by refugee children who were deprived of living a peaceful childhood and instead are living in harsh conditions that deprived them of their basic rights in living safely and peacefully while being educated and playing.
“I express my gratitude to the UAE and to Sharjah for hosting such an ambitious conference that aims at bringing an end to and offering solution to the daily challenges and sufferings faced by refugees. Various Arab countries are facing instability and innocent people running away from their homes to protect their lives from the bloody wars and Syria is one of the most affected countries with an increasing number of refugees.
“Refugee children are living a very miserable life as they are deprived of their education and they need to be supported in all aspects. The war life has slapped them with harsh life conditions and catastrophes of seeing destruction and their loved ones dying. The best support we can offer is to endeavour to alleviate their suffering and offer them education that can assure them a better future to build themselves and their country,” she said.
Queen Rania added, “Refugee children are living desperately while hoping to survive and we hope firm actions should be taken to end the increasing number of refugees increasing every second. We have to endeavour to decrease the harsh life of counting the numbers and get back to the life of having a strong country and nation.
“We have to study ways of working together to improve the living condition of the refugees while protecting them from the dangers of exploitation.
“When a person is forced to leave their homes and their beloved country, they turn from a person living a dignified life in his home into a refugee with a number given at the camp offering shelter. It’s sad that he becomes only a number that eats and drinks living a hard unsettled life rather than a person living a safe stable life that he was living before the bloodshed currently faced in Syria, Iraq and other countries.
“We are aware of the catastrophes and we need all efforts to end the suffering of the refugees who flee to neighbouring countries. 85 per cent of Syrian refugees flee to neighbouring countries including Jordan and despite the fact of being a small size country, this does not hinder us from acting chivalrously in embracing them and offering them all kinds of support. We cannot accept humiliation to any Arab national and Jordan is a very reliable country and stands by the side of countries facing hard times and instability and we are determined to continue our supportive role till stability is regained.”
Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that he was pleased to join the first-of-its-kind conference and expressed his sincere appreciation of Sheikh Sultan in embracing and supporting various humanitarian issues and that Sharjah is now becoming a symbol of leadership.
“We have to thank Sheikha Jawaher who is the first eminent advocate who played a leading role in organising the conference and is trying by all means to offer a supportive hand to refugee children who are living a very harsh life and are daily facing the displacement challenges and death every day. The ongoing war in Syria has resulted in 3.2 million refugees being displaced and reaching the borders of the neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan who are hosting the refugees’ struggles and offer support and aid to them.
“Syrian refugees are becoming vulnerable and they are forced to flee their country and the impact is enormous as they are forced to abandon everything they know and leave their homes to save their lives and they are daily facing the brutality of the war and are living separately from their families and are suffering from poverty. During a recent visit to a refugee campus in Lebanon, I met a 12-year-old Syrian girl who is the breadwinner of her 7-member family. Maha, another young Syrian girl who fled and settled at a campus in Jordan, was only dreaming of becoming a doctor and was forced to marry a person who is 10 years older than her apart from being forced to leave their homes.
“Refugees are facing violence based on sex and special agenda and we have to work hard to stop their daily suffering by protecting them, which is a core responsibility in addition to providing them with quality education. We have to resolve the conflict that forces them to flee,” he specified.
Nabeel Al Araby, secretary-general of the League of Arab States, said that in Syria there are 13 million refugees which is considered more than half of the population in Syria.
“The fights in Syria must immediately end as it’s totally unacceptable to see the mushrooming number of refugees. I praised the great effort and hard work of Sheikha Jawaher at the Big Heart campaign and who always stressed the importance of nurturing and educating the refugee children as education is fundamental as the air we breathe. The Arab League is fully aware of the challenges facing the refugees and we are working hard to guarantee the rights of refugee children. The ongoing black terrorism, bloodshed, terrifying massacre must immediately end in all the Arab war-torn countries,” he said.
“Its heartbreaking to discuss cases related to refugee children and their protection as children are the future hope and its builders. In Syria, Libya and Yemen and other countries there are fountains of blood resulting from terrorism and war and we have to bring back the solidarity spirit and work hand in hand to protect children who are the victims of the war. I believe a new profound political solution must be found offering a profound vision to the whole area. In the recent Israel strikes on Gaza, 600 martyrs were children in addition to thousands of children who sustained permanent disabilities during the war. Children are paying the hefty price of black terrorism and we have to work hard to protect them and offer them all kinds of support.”
He added while noting that every minute there is one more refugee added and that civilians are always the victims of wars and that by all means war should stop.