MavsACT Program director Uzma Khan assembled a meeting filled with presentations, speakers and video footage to raise awareness on social injustice, zoning in on refugees and the path of resettlement.

As a part of UTA Volunteers' Social Justice Project, “No Human Illegal” brought speakers Monday to the Carlisle Suite in the University Center.

The refugee crisis in America has sparked an outcry of injustice, leaving more than 65.3 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, said Samira Page, refugee advocate and executive director of the Gateway of Grace, an organization designed to aid newly relocated refugees.

Of the 65.3 million displaced, 21.3 million of those people are refugees, and 10 million are left stateless, having been denied citizenship.

MavsACT members in UTA Volunteers have made it their goal to raise awareness on social justice and the issues refugees are faced with by arranging presentations from organizations such as the Refugee Services of Texas and the Gateway of Grace, as well as international students sharing their own stories.

Page, also the founder of Gateway of Grace, shared her story and some of her darkest memories about the journey relocating from Iran to the U.S. more than 19 years ago.

“I grew up during the war during Iraq and Iran,” Page said. “It was a horrible war. I remember being bombed, we would be at school and the sirens would go off, we’d have to run into the basement.”

With no documentation and no money, Page and her family traveled from Iran to Turkey to Mexico City. Page said she recalls walking through the river and crossing the border near Laredo into the U.S. 

“We had a very difficult journey; we had to walk through the mountains for over two nights with two children in the snow,” Page said. “We nearly froze to death.”

Page said her goal in speaking on this social issue is to shed light on the trauma and persecution that refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants endure.

Not only is Page an Iranian refugee, she’s a Christian. Her religion of choice has caused her to be vulnerable to much discrimination.

“Christianity is a persecuted religion [in Iran],” she said.

Page said Sunnis are also highly persecuted, with Shiite being the most popular branch of Islam there.

From war clips shown on TV to films such as The Stoning of Soraya M., the media highlights only a piece of what life is like as a refugee. Page referred to the media as an ‘assorted cheesecake,’ explaining how news outlets have the same job, yet are biased and do not speak on issues they’re unaware of.

“If you watch FOX News, you may get chocolate, if you watch CNN you get strawberry, but nobody gives you the whole.”

With recent terrorist attacks and the nation's Muslim Ban scare, the refugee crisis is at an all-time high.

“The media offers a picture of refugees, particularly Muslim, that is just not fair,” Page said.

The Refugee Services of Texas intern and spokeswoman Ayesha Hassan said that they see a lot of refugees from Burma, Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo and Syria.

The average relocation rate is seven years for one person; large families could be on the waiting list for years.

The Refugee Services of Texas provide relocation programs in 26 different countries world wide, placing 587 relocated refugees in homes as of 2016.

@DemetriaLesterC

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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