By Celine Schmitt and Rachel Jenkins in Paris | 19 Apr 2020
The COVID-19 crisis sparked a wave of solidarity from people around the world and this includes refugees, eager to help in the countries where they now live. Many refugees in Europe involved in medicine in their countries of origin are finding new ways to use their skills to help those in need. Here are two examples from France.
Mohamed, 39, worked as a doctor in his country of origin, Libya, and was in training to become a surgeon until violence forced him to flee to France in 2016. The difficulties of the sea crossing did not have not diminished his desire to serve and pursue his career.
He passed the French language exams required to start the registration process as a doctor and completed internships where he followed senior doctors in hospitals in the city of Rouen and Limoges, in the north-west of the country. . He has also volunteered for French charities, including “Les Restos du Cœur”, and is ready to go where he needs to.
“My dream is to work as a doctor. It’s my life. It’s my oxygen, “said Mohamed.
When the COVID-19 crisis started in France, he immediately entered the emergency file set up by the Ministry of Health to support hospital medical staff.
“Refugee doctors can help support and fight the virus. I’ve seen that in other European countries, refugee doctors are also called upon to work and help in emergencies, “said Mohamed.
“I am ready to do anything to help. I can work in the emergency room of a hospital at any position. I can be a nursing assistant; I can help give information. For all these positions, it is very important to have hospital staff who know how to deal with such a situation. You have to be very careful, even when you take out the trash, ”he said.
Mohamed says that his experience of the war in Libya has taught him to remain calm and focused in difficult situations.
“An epidemic can be stressful, but it’s nothing compared to war. I am not afraid. I am ready to go anywhere in France to help, “he said.
Before leaving Somalia three years ago, Yasin studied medicine and obtained his medical degree. When he arrived in France, he was looking forward to continuing his work as a doctor. In this case, he could not find a job and ultimately spent time living on the streets of Paris.
Without being discouraged, he founded an NGO, Network of Exiles in France, to make a difference in his new country of origin. Refugees and asylum seekers are heavily involved in the organization, participate in language exchanges and volunteer to translate documents.
The pandemic gave the charity the opportunity to contribute directly and also made it very busy.
Before the COVID-19 epidemic, volunteers translated around 10 documents per week, mainly to help asylum seekers in the asylum process in France. Now they are translating documents that provide information on locking in France and advice on who to contact if you feel unwell. In total, they translated more than 220 documents.
“Hospitals, charities and shelters sent us documents, certificates and flyers, and we translated them for free,” said Yasin. “Some asylum seekers don’t understand the lock, so we help explain in their own language.”
“In difficult times, the language barrier can become frustrating. We want to help. “
Once the lockout is complete, Yasin and the other volunteers plan to chart a new course, but for now, they have a simple message:
” Stay at home. Stay strong, ”said Yasin.