3 June 2021

"Refugees need daily structure"

900KB Jeyani Thiyagaraja February 2021 Basel Photo Samuel Rink ZVg Tdh Switzerland
900KB Jeyani Thiyagaraja February 2021 Basel Photo Samuel Rink ZVg Tdh Switzerland

Media release - Swiss asylum and refugee policy is often the subject of heated debate. The people at the centre of the debate hardly get a chance to speak. The First Swiss Refugee Parliament wants to change that. The first Swiss refugee session will take place in Bern on 6 June. Jeyani Thiyagaraja from Basel (picture taken in February 2021), Participant in a project for refugees by terre des hommes switzerland, is involved in the health commission of the refugee parliament. In the video, she tells us what concerns she will take with her to Bern.

"Usually, people in Switzerland talk about us refugees," says Jeyani Thiyagaraja in the Video in High German and English. "It's important that we talk ourselves when we talk about ourselves to others."

On 6 June, Baslerin from Sri Lanka will take part in the first Swiss Refugee Parliament in Bern as one of over 70 refugees from 19 cantons and 15 countries around the world. Behind this is the First Swiss Refugee Parliament, an initiative of the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) Switzerland. terre des hommes switzerland supports the network organisation, NCBI Switzerland.

"I hope that people in Switzerland will learn more about us and that Swiss politicians will discuss these important issues with us and stand up for them," says Jeyani Thiyagaraja. "I hope that politicians in Switzerland will hear our concerns and support them."

Jeyani Thiyagaraja serves on the Mental and Medical Health Commission of the First Refugee Parliament. "The refugee session is an important step in the right direction," she says. "We have organized ourselves, which is a success." "For me personally, it's a success that I, as a woman with a refugee background, am part of the Refugee Parliament."

Day structures and interpretation services

"I would like to share two issues from the health group," says the Basel refugee parliamentarian from Sri Lanka. "First, there is a need for day structures for people in the asylum process and for people with a negative decision." This includes leisure activities such as community gardening or workshops in painting and drawing, she explains. "If refugees don't have a day structure and have to sit in the camp or in their room, they can get psychological problems. A day structure can help prevent such problems."

Refugees in Switzerland, regardless of their residence status, should have the opportunity to participate voluntarily in activities that give them a daily structure and help them overcome their social isolation.

Secondly, she says, language support is needed for health checks: "Everything that is relevant for refugees in the health sector must be translated if possible. Jeyani Thiyagaraja: "For example, if I have a severe flu and am new in Switzerland, I need an interpreter. Only then do I know what health problems I have and what I can do about them."

About Jeyani Thiyagaraja and the MePower project

Jeyani Thiyagaraja completed a Bachelor's degree in sociology in Sri Lanka and worked at an international research institute. She came to Switzerland alone and has had recognised refugee status for a year.

Jeyani Thiyagaraja is involved in the MePower project of terre des hommes switzerland for young people with a refugee background. This includes a monthly regulars' table among young migrants and two workshops lasting several days a year, during the summer holidays and between Christmas and New Year. "We all come from a different place and have our own values and ideas," she says, "yet I feel an enormous respect among us. MePower makes me more confident. I've made important friendships and can develop my personality in a safe environment."

"Encouraging Women"

Jeyani Thiyagaraja, a refugee parliamentarian from Basel, says: "I know that I cannot change the world alone. But I want to use all my means to stand up for social justice and encourage women in particular to voice their concerns. I want to continue to be courageous and to be a good role model, empowering other people to say what's important to them."

Video Statement Jeyani Thiyagaraja: https://youtu.be/uhAVN2kyyO0

MePower and the topic of migration at terre des hommes switzerland: https://terredeshommesschweiz.ch/migration

External Links:
NCBI Switzerland: https://www.ncbi.ch/de/
Livestream Refugee Session: Sunday, June 6, 2021, starting at 1:30 p.m. on NCBI Switzerland's Facebook page and via: https://diaspora-tv.ch

Refugee Session: NCBI Switzerland, Ron Halbright, ncbiron@sunrise.ch, +41 76 490 10 50
Topic Migration and the MePower project of terre des hommes switzerland: Sylvia Valentin, Development Policy Campaigns, sylvia.valentin@terredeshommes.ch, +41 79 663 06 72

Media contact:
Anna Wegelin, Media and Communication, +41 76 588 30 06, anna.wegelin@terredeshommes.ch

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