Ottawa marked World Refugee Day by hosting a Human Library event to highlight the personal experiences of refugees.

Each human "book" shared their stories with other participants. There were almost 100 personal stories, coming from all dimensions of the refugee experience in Canada, including private sponsorship, policymaking and settlement.

Efram Berhe fled Eritrea in 2009. He wanted to escape mandatory military service. “I was in grade nine and I was supposed to go the military and of course it is inhumane and it is considered to be modern slavery. “

His journey to Canada was dangerous and involved going through Sudan. He says, “if you are caught you can be sold back to the country, enslaved. A lot of life threatening risks but I knew that like in Eritrea wasn’t a choice either.”

The United Nations says in 2017, nearly 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes. More than half the refugee population is children.

The UN’s annual report also said the number of asylum claims in Canada doubled this past year.

The event was held at the Global Centre for Pluralism on Sussex Drive. It was hosted by local organizations including Refugee 613, Oxfam and CARE Canada.

Jessie Thomson from CARE Canada says now is the time for Canada to be a worldwide leader for refugee policies. Thomson says, “Canada needs to be leading especially in a time where there is xenophobia and so many places where borders are being closed and walls are being built.”

Annually, June 20th is a day to mark the plight of millions who are forced from their homes by violence or famine.