Kuala Lampur: H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and his wife, H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, visited UNHCR’s Harmony Refugee Learning Centre in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, on Wednesday.
During the visit, Sheikh Sultan stressed the importance of the international community’s attention to the suffering of refugees around the world and the need to move seriously towards providing them with the requirements for a dignified life, including shelter, food, health and education. He emphasised that everyone in this world, whether governments, institutions or individuals, are required to play an active role in the protection of refugee families, especially children.
At the Learning Centre, Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi and Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi met Richard Towle, UNHCR Representative in Malaysia. They discussed the situation of refugees in the country and UNHCR’s efforts to support and help them overcome the trials and challenges of life of exile. Sheikh Sultan and Sheikha Jawaher inquired about UNHCR’s needs to be able to continue providing support and assistance to refugees residing in Malaysia, specifically displaced Rohingya Muslim families from Myanmar.
The meeting was attended by James Lynch, UNHCR Regional Representative for South East Asia; Richard Towel, UNHCR Representative Malaysia, Yante Ismail, UNHCR Associate External Relations Officer in Malaysia; Houssam Chahin, Senior Private Sector Partnerships Officer in UAE, UNHCR and Ayat El Dewary, Associate Private Sector Partnership Officer, UNHCR. Also attending were Badr Jafar, Chief Executive Officer of Crescent Enterprises and founder of Pearl Initiative; Noura Al Noman, Chairperson of the Executive Office of H.H. Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi; Ameera BinKaram, Deputy Chairperson of Nama Women Advancement Establishment; Erum Mazher Alvie, Senior Advisor at HH Executive Office and Mariam al Hammadi, Director of ‘Salam Ya Seghar,’ an initiative of the Big Heart Foundation.
At the Learning Centre the Ruler of Sharjah and Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi met Rohingya refugee families from Myanmar and listened to the details of their arduous journey to asylum. They also met a number of students who receive education at the Centre.
Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi commended UNHCR’s efforts to protect refugees across the world and provide them with their needs. He stressed that helping one another is a human imperative that cannot be sidelined or abandoned. He called for raising the level of cooperation by both the public and private sectors in all countries to provide more support, rehabilitation and care for refugees living in Malaysia, especially with regards to education.
The Ruler of Sharjah said the future of coming generations will be compromised if we fail to invest in our children’s education. He called for coaching and mentoring programmes for young adult refugees to ensure that they can acquire the professional skills that enable them to earn and support themselves and their families.
Sheikha Jawaher reiterated her commitment to closely following up the issue of Myanmar refugees, especially children, who account for 20% of the total refugees in Malaysia, according to UNHCR data. She underscored the need to reunite children who have been separated from their parents, in addition to urgently providing them with education and healthcare.
She indicated that she will coordinate with the UNHCR through the Sharjah-based humanitarian initiative The Big Heart Foundation to explore new mechanisms to expand the scope of services provided to refugees, so as to ensure they enjoy their fundamental rights.
Sheikha Jawaher urged all refugee children to pursue their education and to focus on academic achievement more than any time before and think ahead. She encouraged the girls to focus on their education and to refuse early marriage or sitting at home without studying. “My dear daughters, the future still lies ahead. With education, you can build what was demolished and help yourselves and your families. You will grow to become physicians, engineers, teachers and leaders, don’t accept early marriage for any reason, you are the future and with education and knowledge, you will be tomorrow’s builders and future leaders.”
During the visit to the Learning Centre, Sheikha Jawaher distributed schoolbags containing school supplies and books to the children there. She urged them to look to the future with hope and optimism, saying, ” The entire world is morally bound to protect the future of Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees.” Sheikh Jawaher added “We are with you with our hearts and our actions. We came here to assess your conditions on the ground and listen to your requirements and needs. I will continue to work with UNHCR, with the support of Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, to mobilise support and provide you with your needs to live a dignified life until you return to your home country”.
In May 2013, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, appointed Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi as UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children in recognition of her efforts to raise public awareness about the problems faced by refugees and to mobilise support for them.
Sheikha Jawaher is one of the main supporters of UNHCR’s humanitarian work, having contributed to launching and supporting many initiatives to support Palestinian Syrian and Somali refugees, as well as Rohingya refugees.
The Big Heart Foundation, the global humanitarian agency launched by H.H. Sheikha Jawaher, allocated AED1 million to help Rohingya Muslim refugees in response to UNHCR’s 2015 appeal to organise an urgent relief campaign to support displaced persons and help improve their conditions.