The refugee plight knows no borders

28 July 2011, 1:17 PM

The UN counts nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees, and Tareq Altamimi, a Palestinian youth leader, counts millions more. So when he was asked to lead a workshop on Refugee Realities in Belgrade, Serbia, he jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the plight of refugees in another land.

children smiling

Palestinian children at the Baqa'ah refugee camp, Jordan's largest. 

As a Palestinian youth leader, Tareq Altamimi knows something about refugees. The UN counts nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees stemming from the 1948 war with Israel, and Altamimi, like most Palestinians, counts millions more. “There are almost 8 million Palestinian refugees whose families left their homes due to the Israeli occupation," he said.

So when he was asked to facilitate a week-long seminar on Refugee Realities in Serbia, a country whose own post-war refugee population, at 300,000, is among Europe’s largest, he jumped at the chance to learn more about the plight of refugees in another land. He and two other members of his URI Cooperation Circle, Volunteering for Peace, made the journey to Belgrade in April, 2011. The seminar, sponsored by the European Commission’s Youth in Action Programme, in partnership with two local organizations, brought together 30 youth activists from 10 countries to talk about immigration and refugee issues in East Europe and beyond. It included presentations by participants on refugee work in their home countries and a visit to a camp for internally displaced persons.

“I learned about the power of youth and civil society organizations in making change,” said Altamimi, who is also a URI Global Council Trustee. “What moved and touched me were the stories from the various countries and the similarities and differences they have with our own refugees. 

In June, Altamimi was able to share his experiences in Serbia with colleagues in the Middle East at the URI-Middle East and North Africa conference on the integration of immigrants. Click here to read about the conference.

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View the full July 2011 issue of InterAction