When I assumed my new role as UNHCR Canada Representative at the beginning of 2020, I couldn’t have anticipated after returning home how much Canada and the world as we know it would change so significantly in the coming months — and for the foreseeable future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible imprint on daily lives and routines. We are wearing masks, regularly washing our hands, and doing everything within our personal power to keep our families and communities safe. Imagine how difficult it would be to not have ready access to health care, a safe place to live or to physically distance, or to have essentials like soap and clean water to practice proper hygiene. This is the reality for refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and other people of concern who are already struggling for their daily survival in the face of conflict, violence, persecution, economic uncertainty and food insecurity.
Even in the face of a historic public health emergency, the daunting and difficult task of providing humanitarian support remains at the core of UNHCR’s work.
Together with the support of governments and local partners, our colleagues continue to stay and deliver vitally needed assistance to refugees and other people of concern — often under extremely trying circumstances. As UNHCR’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Bureau, I covered operations in North Africa, including Libya, the Gulf countries, Israel and Yemen. I was proud to be a part of a dedicated team providing life-saving aid to displaced families, and was able to see the powerful impact your donations can make to individuals forced to rebuild their lives.
Now that I’m back in Canada, I am deeply honoured and humbled to be able to carry the mantle for UNHCR in my home country. During my time away from Canada, I have proudly watched the country uphold its strong tradition of embracing refugees, whether through resettlement, private sponsorship and economic pathway programs, or providing emergency humanitarian aid in times of crisis — most recently in the aftermath of the devastating Beirut explosion.
During my time away from Canada, I have proudly watched the country uphold its strong tradition of embracing refugee
In this unique time in our history we have seen how truly interconnected the world is, and how crucial it is to help not just those within our own households or social bubbles but the wider global community.
You continued support of UNHCR is a lifeline — now more than ever. Thank you.
Rema Jamous Imseis
UNHCR Canada Representative