Right to Refuge: Keep Families Together

Zahra* and her baby brother, Iraq


It’s our worst nightmare – having to flee for our lives because of war, persecution or disaster, only to be torn apart from our family and loved ones along the way.

When it is dangerous to go but deadly to stay, people are faced with impossible choices. Across the world, families are forced to leave everything behind and embark on perilous journeys to reach safety and dignity. Many get separated by the desperate situation they’re fleeing or while on route – husbands and fathers torn apart from their wives and children, grandparents left behind and young people unable to reunite with their parents and siblings. 

Tell your government to protect the right to refuge and keep families together:  

Nimo* in a refugee camp in Greece
One of Zeinach’s four children Nimo* (8) pictured in a refugee camp in Greece as the family waits to be reunited with their father. Photo: Aubrey Wade/Oxfam

Zeinach* (36) fled Syria with her four young children after their house was destroyed. She remembers clearly the day they left home – jets were firing overhead and that had been going on for 20 days.

Zeinach’s husband had travelled ahead to find a safe place for his family and managed to reach Germany. But now the rest of the family are in Greece, living in a refugee camp.

Zeinach says: “I want us to be able to join my husband, to be safe. But then for us all to return back home to Syria and help rebuild the country. I miss my husband and the children miss their father.”

We can do more for families like Zeinach’s. People have the right to safety and dignity. Governments must ensure that those fleeing the horrors of war, persecution and disaster can escape safely and legally, rather than being forced into the hands of smugglers or into unsafe boats. Governments must also make it easier to bring families torn apart back together and start a new life. 


An unprecedented crisis

We all deserve to live in safety. And we all have the right to refuge when our safety and dignity is threatened. Worldwide, 65 million people are on the move, trying to escape conflict, persecution and disaster. They are ordinary people forced to flee for their lives because of circumstances beyond their control. Instead of shelter and safety, too often they are confronted by exploitation, trafficking, police brutality, barbed wire and human rights abuses.

Last year, Oxfam launched the Right to Refuge campaign to put pressure on governments ahead of the first UN summit on refugees and migration. An incredible 32,000 people from across the island of Ireland joined us by signing our petition calling on the Irish and UK government to do more to protect refugees and migrants.

At the summit, world leaders agreed on a new global response to the migration crisis. Commitments were made but what we urgently need now is action.

The latest tragedies at sea reinforce that world leaders are failing to protect people or solve this crisis – and people are paying with their lives. Desperate people need action – action that upholds their rights and ensures their safety.

We’re expanding our Right to Refuge campaign to call on governments to do more to ensure people forced to flee can do so safely and legally and to reunite families torn apart.  


Zahra* (12) from Iraq
Zahra* (12) and baby Rasan* (14mths) from Iraq. Zahra and her family were forced to flee when ISIS took control of their village and burned their house. They lived in camp for displaced people until it was safe for them to return home. Photo: Joey L/Oxfam

Stand with us and change lives

At a time when refugees are in urgent need of aid, you can help our work on the ground.

Oxfam is on the ground in nine out of the 10 main countries of origin for refugees in the world including Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as in neighbouring host countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, along with supporting displaced people in countries like the Central African Republic.

In Europe, our programmes are in Greece, Italy, Serbia and Macedonia.

In Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, we have reached over 1.6 million people with life-saving clean water, sanitation and vital support for families who have lost everything.

We’re also helping families get the information they need about their rights and connecting them to special services such as legal aid.

In Europe, we are providing basic needs like food, warm clothing, blankets and housing, and personal hygiene kits.

We are also providing legal, psychological and health assistance and protection or guardianship for unaccompanied children, along with language classes.

Help us to do more. With your support, we'll be able to respond immediately during disasters, while also supporting people’s efforts to lift themselves out of poverty over the long term.

Around the clock and around the world, we’re working tirelessly to right the wrong of poverty and injustice.