In Australia, Sept. 4 marks Father’s Day. While many of us will spend the day in the company of our dear dads, millions of families around the world will have a very different experience.
The refugee crisis is worsening, with 2015 seeing the highest levels of displacement on record according to the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR.
The emotional pictures and accompanying personal stories below, shared exclusively with Mashable, are a tribute to all fathers. They capture just a few of the struggling yet still hopeful refugee dads out there, doing their best to care for their families in incredibly tough conditions.
Ramadan holds his 3 year old son Yousef in his arms, shortly after the family was re-united having been separated trying to cross the Evros river from Turkey into Greece.
Ramadan and his partner Shireen were attempting to reach Greece from Iraq with their four children, when their group scattered in the forest. A man travelling with them was holding Yusuf, and he reached Greece while the rest of the family was left behind in Turkey.
Yusuf was placed in the care of a shelter for separated and unaccompanied youth in Alexandroupoli, run by the Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS), a Greek non-governmental organisation. Staff managed to locate and contact the family in Turkey before finally re-uniting them with Yousef.
Ibrahim Issou, 45, is a father and husband who usually lives in Djabal camp in Chad. When the rainy season arrives, it’s time for he and his family to work in the fields, 22 kilometres (14 miles) from the camp. This annual migration prevents his six children from attending school.
“No one could accept not to send his kids to school. But I have no choice, our situation is critical. We barely have enough food. If I could get some help, like a money loan, I would start a small and better paid business.
“In that way, my kids would be educated, find a good job and support me when I am old. They would also help rebuild our country if peace comes back.”
Bayan is one of Hassaka’s five daughters with whom he escaped from Syria.
Like thousands of other refugees and migrants, they’re being held in a field in Rigonce, Slovenia after crossing the border from Croatia. The family will later be walked to a transit centre, emptying the Rigonce site just before the next train full of passengers arrive. More than 5,000 new arrivals are being recorded daily.
Mahmoud, 26, is a refugee from Raqqa, Syria. His extended family now live in an informal settlement in Saadnayel, near Zahle in Lebanon.
Mahmoud suffers from a back injury and a chronic urinary tract infection, so it’s hard to find work that he’s able to do. He has run up a sizeable debt at the local food store, owned by Lebanese business man Abou Yacoub. Abou Yacoub loaned Mahmoud money to pay the hospital fees when his wife gave birth three months ago.
“I can do some jobs like work in a shop or something,” Mahmoud said. “But when you are paid so little it is not enough for the family. I stop and go to work in construction, my health situation deteriorates, I stay at home a bit.”
“Life’s beauty is in family and kids. I fear for my children. If I die, who will take care of them? How will they live without a father?” said Seoud, a Syrian refugee living in an Iraq camp, who sold everything he had for his cancer treatment and has now run out of money. He is unable to get free treatment due to local medical facilities no longer servicing severe conditions for refugees.
His parents were forced to sell their family home in Al-Hasakah, Syria, in order to afford the expensive private treatment their son needed for his condition. Due to his inability to work or help care for his family, Seoud’s wife took their three children and went back to Syria to live with her parents.
Syrian refugee Mouadar and his four children settle into their sunny apartment in Nouakchott, Mauritiana, with the UNHCR’s help. Though grateful to be safe, Mouadar longs for his homeland.
“The only hope for my family and I is to be able to return to Syria one day,” he said.
Janna and Amira’s father was killed by militants in Mosul, Iraq, and it’s one of the reasons their family left the city. Their grandfather Fares now cares for them, in addition to his own children.
Fares sought refuge in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq with his family and two grandchildren. They now live in the Baharka Camp for displaced persons. Fares does repairs around the camp for money and his wife Bushra runs a small shop. They have a tent and single room in the camp.
“I left Syria for my children because I was afraid that they would come back and kill us all,” said Kareem, 65, who had worked hard all his life to build up a successful construction firm and provide for his 14 children.
After armed men came to his house and threatened to kill his family unless he handed over his savings, he made the gut-wrenching decision to leave everything behind, becoming a refugee.
Adjusting to life in a camp has been difficult. To entertain his grandchildren, he constructed a large model airplane using the only materials he could find offcuts of foam insulation, wire and string. “I used to travel a lot for work. I loved travelling on planes,” he said. “Sadly the last time I saw planes is when they came to bomb us, so I made this to remember the planes I used to love.
“When I see my grandchildren playing with the things I make, I become very happy. My stress goes away; their pleasure is its own reward.”
Mahmoud has lived in this tent with the rest of his family since they crossed the Hungarian border from Serbia on Sept. 13, 2015. Mahmoud said he “didn’t want to wake up in a tent but in a bed like a real person.”
“The only people helping the whole way are UNHCR. At different points we have been given food, blankets, and sleeping bags. It has been a great help. This is the first sturdy tent we have stayed in.”
You can help support fathers across the globe while you honour your own dad this Father’s Day. Australia for UNHCR are offering alternative gifts for fathers that will mean he’s effectively donating desperately needed items such as tents, survival kits, tools and stationary to less fortunate refugee families in need.
Check out what A$12, A$85 and A$125 dollars will get a refugee family right here.