A “Mock Refugee Camp” was held this week between February 27 and March 1 in the lower atrium of the Nest. The event featured eight stalls representing the various challenges faced by those living in refugee camps such as the lack of food and water, the lack of infrastructure and insufficient medical aid. This project was a collaborative effort between the UBC Friends of MSF (FoMSF), the Red Cross, Engineers Without Borders, Oxfam, SASC and Refugee Relief, but was run under FoMSF’s banner.
The event, now having been conducted for the second year in a row, was conceived as a way to raise awareness about the refugee crisis among the UBC community.
“Our purpose was to ... allow for a space where UBC students could kind of engage in conversation with each other,” said Vivian Huang, director of advocacy for FoMSF.
“We mainly try to highlight issues that [Médecins Sans Frontières] is working on,” said Semipe Oni, co-president of FoMSF. “For us, it’s mainly to educate the UBC community to what the refugee crisis is.”
Addressing the possibility that the name of the event could be misconstrued as undermining the severity of the refugee crisis, Oni said the word ‘mock’ “in no way reflects [our event].”
“We are not setting up a mock refugee camp,” she said. “What we are doing is simply raising awareness about certain themes that [refugees] encounter. We are deeply sorry, as it has offended a lot of people because that was in no way our intention.”
It would be hard to obtain a solid figure regarding attendance at the event. However, according Oni, the organization hoped to engage at least 100 people over the course of three days.
“Just to have the event where people can see that this is going on could create a positive impact,” said Huang.
Considering that the duration of the event was extended to March 1, Sunaina Narula, another co-president of FoMSF, estimated the turnout to be higher than that of last year’s event.
Speaking to those that attended, reactions to the event seemed positive.
“When you look at what the refugees have been through ... you realize that they’re trying to escape their conditions for a better life and I think that that’s something people need to realize,” said Ali Sayani, a fourth-year student.