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.  


Oxfam in Greece: refugee children's paintings
Oxfam are providing child friendly spaces for children seeking refuge in Greece Photo: Oxfam

Oxfam’s work with refugees and migrants

At a time when refugees are in urgent need of aid, Oxfam is taking action.

We are 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 Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, we have reached more than two million people with life-saving clean water and sanitation programmes.

In Europe, our programmes are in Greece, Italy, Serbia and Macedonia. On the island of Lesvos and across the Northwest Epirus Region in Greece, Oxfam is supporting over 3,000 people in six camps providing clean water, sanitation, shelter, food, and non-food items such as hygiene kits, tarpaulins and blankets. We also provide psychological and health assistance, as well as guardianship for unaccompanied children.  

Working with local partners, we help refugees get the information they need about their rights. This includes connecting families torn apart with legal services so that they understand the options available to them and can take the first steps to reuniting with loved ones.

Across Europe, we are campaigning with local and European organisations to raise the voices of migrants and refugees so that European leaders act to protect and uphold their rights. We are advocating for more safe and legal routes to protection, so that families are not forced to make the deadly journeys that pull them apart in the first place.