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20 June 2017

Six Famous People You Didn’t Know Were Refugees

Muslim Hands

Today is World Refugee Day, a day when we remember the 21.3 million refugees around the world who’ve been forced to flee their homes in search of safety and security. The staggering size of this population is actually equivalent to around a third of the UK population. But how much do you know about refugees?

Well, here are six famous people who left their homeland in search of a new life. Prepare to be surprised!

1. Albert Einstein

After being accused of treason by the Third Reich in 1933, who also burnt his books, German-born physicist Albert Einstein fled to the United States. Once in the US, he used his financial and social position to help other refugees.


2. Rashmi Thakrar

Originally from Gujrat, India, Rashmi Thakrar lived with his family in Uganda before the Ugandan-Asian expulsion in 1972, when the Thakrar family moved to the UK. This child refugee then went on to set up the multi-million-pound company Tilda Rice with his brothers Vipul and Shiele which sold for an estimated £217 million in 2014. 


3. Jackie Chan

Born in Hong Kong in 1954, Martial arts legend and actor Chan Kong-sang, aka Jackie Chan, fled with his family to British Hong Kong during the Chinese Civil War. Chan was sent to a Peking Opera School where he excelled in martial arts and acrobatics, which helped him enter and enjoy great success in the movie industry in both Hong Kong and Hollywood.    


4. Moses

The story of Moses and the great exodus out of Egypt is one which we see across all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Held as slaves in Egypt by the Pharaoh, the Israelites were led out of Egypt by Moses, crossing into the Sinai desert as free people. 


5. Omid Djalili

British-Iranian comedian and actor Omid fled Iran with his family to escape religious persecution and settled in the UK, later building a successful career as a stand-up comedian, actor, writer and TV producer. 


6. Mo Farah

Olympic gold medallist Sir Mohamed Muktar Jama Farah, more commonly known as Mo Farah, is originally from Mogadishu, Somalia. Now the most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic Games history, Mo’s father is a refugee who fled to the UK. Aged eight, Mo later left Somalia during a period of political instability and conflict in Somalia to join his father who was then settled in the UK.

These celebrities are just a handful of people who come from refugee backgrounds and have flourished to become successful entrepreneurs, actors, academics and writers. When they fled their homes, they were able to prosper and build better lives for themselves without the stigma of being refugees.

Today, millions of people are in the same position as they struggle to survive, having fled war zones such as Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. At present, as a result of the ongoing Syrian crisis, 4.9 million Syrians have fled their country in search of refuge, meaning more people have fled Syria than any other nation.  

At Muslim Hands, we believe that everyone should have a safe, happy home and the opportunity to create a bright, successful future for themselves. That’s why we’ve been providing a range of lifesaving aid services since 2012 to help Syrian families through this difficult, traumatic time of their lives. In addition to our work inside Syria, we’ve also been working in neighbouring Lebanon, supporting some of the estimated 1.1 million Syrian refugees living in the region.

This Ramadan, we’re collecting donations and food items for our Big Aid Convoy to bring vital food aid to displaced Syrian families in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Click here to find out more about how you can donate essential food items or donate to our appeal below.

This Refugee Day, please don’t forget these families. They urgently need your help.


Image credits: Gage Skidmore (CC), The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (CC)


Muslim Hands UK

Established in 1993, Muslim Hands is an international aid agency and NGO working in over 50 countries worldwide to help those affected by natural disasters, conflict and poverty.

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