Israr Khan did not let the sweltering heat at the end of November stop him from walking in solidarity with refugees.

A former refugee himself, he walked 85,301 steps – or 65 kilometres – in 42-degree heat as part of the global 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety challenge.

The challenge asks people to walk or run in solidarity with the thousands of refugees who are forced to flee their homes and set out on a difficult, dangerous trek to safety. Each year, refugees travel around two billion kilometres in search of safety.

Throughout November, Israr walked more than one million steps.

Now the National Training and Development Manager at Australia for UNHCR, Israr understands the need to seek a better future. Growing up in Pakistan with a family history of persecution, he left his home country to study International Law and IT Law in Norway and eventually sought asylum in Australia. 

“Before I was born, my mother and family migrated to central part of Pakistan due to religious persecution. Brutal riots were ignited by the local mob who attacked our house and killed my elder brother and uncle,” Israr says.

“My mother and other family members escaped, luckily, but they were on a continuous journey for days, often barefoot and without food and water, until they found refuge in a safe place.

“This was a very tough time for them, especially for the kids because they did not understand why they were running. They were frightened, cried, screamed and missed all of their friends and their home which was looted and burnt to ashes.”

Throughout the month of November, Israr reached over a million steps as part of the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety challenge. © Supplied

“With this challenge, people can open their hearts for refugees and recognise their difficult journeys.”

Israr grew up in Pakistan but sought asylum in Australia in 2011 amid fears of persecution. © Supplied

Israr says while the journey for most of his family is now over, with many finding asylum in Canada and Germany, some still live with the fear of persecution. He hopes that one day, his extended family left behind will reach safer places.

On days when Israr was struggling with the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety challenge, he would find motivation from his family’s stories including his nephew who walked almost the entire way from Pakistan to Germany to seek safety.

“Because of these stories, and because I have a refugee background as well, I relate to the challenge,” he says.  

“Refugees don’t know when they are going to be reached with aid and support or when they are going to get their next meal. I think it is very important for us to feel that journey of what they are going through.”

This year more than 730 people in Australia participated in the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety challenge, walking more than 71,500 kilometres and raising more than $70,000 for refugees. 

“The most important thing is sending that help to refugees who have left behind everything,” Israr says.

“With this challenge, people can open their hearts for refugees and recognise their difficult journeys.”

 

You can help

Whether you’re a walker, a jogger or a passionate athlete, you can join this truly global effort and make every step count for refugees. 

Step with refugees.

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