With the migration crisis happening at the moment I wanted to talk about the people affected by it. And with that I do not mean the people in the host countries, but the refugees themselves. Leaving their countries is often not their choice, as they simply try to survive. The reasons for people having to leave their homes may vary, for example there are refugees who are economic refugees, meaning they leave their country to escape extreme poverty, and some are trying to escape wars, persecution, often for religious or political beliefs, and natural disasters. Often it is hard to completely differentiate between economic refugees and those fleeing their country for other reasons, as poverty and little prospects of economic growth often come hand in hand with wars or natural disasters. These people then leave their countries in hopes of finding a home, temporarily or permanently, where they can live in safety and may lead a life in dignity. They have to leave everything behind and often have to go to terrible length in order to escape their countries of origin. At the moment you simply have to watch the news and you’ll hear more and more heartbreaking stories every day.
One of the things that start to upset me more and more about this crisis though, is the attitude with that they are greeted when they arrive in their desired places, the places they deem safe. Some of the press and propaganda that is currently voiced in Europe, makes me question humanity. I mean, how can we resent people for wanting to have enough to eat, a roof over their heads, or a job? To me these are basic human desires and should be a reachable goal for every human being. In order to talk about the hostility brought up against refugees, I am going to look at stereotypes against refugees, to show that they do not show the reality.
One of the biggest stereotypes associated with refugees is probably that they will come and live off the benefits of the host states. However, according to one of my guest lecturers, Sir George Reid, the average refugee has a higher education level than the average American, meaning that most likely they had good jobs back at home. To me this just shows that people don’t come because of benefits, but because they are desperate and have no other choice. I saw a documentary a while back about a Syrian man in his thirties, who tried, with his wife, to get to Germany. Before the war he used to be a lawyer, with a detached house, two cars and a social life that we would see as normal for a standard middle-class family. When people like him come to Europe/America/anywhere else in the world, I doubt that they’ll be happy with a life living on benefits, they will be wanting to work to get their standard of life back. Which leads to the next stereotype: Immigrants stealing jobs. This is purely my opinion, but I hope that most of you will be able to agree with this: If a refugee, who has often the disadvantage of having to use their second or third language, can get a job that they applied for because they are qualified or because there is no one else wants to do it, it DOES NOT mean that they are stealing jobs. They are taking jobs that are available and are helping OUR economy, helping raise money for OUR welfare systems through taxes. So how is it a bad thing? Especially since we have an ageing population in Europe and in many countries we have a lack of qualified personal in many fields, so if there are people who can do the job from other countries, it is a win/win situation. Another stereotype is that immigrants, especially Muslims, are often seen as a security issue, hence as terrorists. Which I absolutely don’t get. These people coming looking for safety in Europe are often fleeing from the people, they are accused of being. And most of the times the terrorists that you can find here in Europe are EU nationals who have been radicalized by the organisations that cause people to leave their homes. The last stereotype that I am going to address is the belief that Western Countries are losing their cultures and national identities. This is for me probably the hardest one to understand. Why is it bad for cultures to get mixed and to learn about, appreciate and, most importantly, respect different cultures? In my opinion we can only win if we chose to respect each other for who we are. Also the exchange of culture has always happened. Just look at all the food we have. I mean, there are so many things that now seem to be typical for a country despite being originally from somewhere else, like pasta for example. When you talk about this amazing pasta dish you’d probably think of Italy first, however pasta originally comes from China. Croissants, who seem to be French, have been invented in Austria and Chicken that we find everywhere all over Europe is originally from South Asia. Without migration we wouldn’t be able to get Pizza, a quick Kebab on the way home, or when you’re can’t be bothered to cook a Chinese or Indian Take Away, in fact our culture as we know it today, wouldn’t be the same. Furthermore, we should also be looking at how Western Culture is often influencing the culture in other countries and we definitely have to think about who gives us the right to say that our culture is the right one to dominate the world.
Back to the treatment and the perception of migration now. When it comes to the handling and judging of refugees, especially in Europe we should be looking back at our history to see that it is more than possible to resettle a large amount of people that are in need. After World War 2 there were 40,000,000 people who needed to be replaced and that in a Europe that had a lot of its infrastructure destroyed and with a worse economic situation, however people managed and pulled through. In 2015, according to the UNHCR there were 1,015,078 migrants that arrived in the Mediterranean by sea, according to Frontex there have been about 764038 illegal border crossings on the so called Western Balkan Route and there are currently 4,5 million Syrian refugees worldwide, of which most are in neighbouring countries such as Turkey and Jordan, that need to be placed in permanent homes. Despite these numbers seeming large they are still far off from 40,000,000, so we need to ask ourselves why it seems so hard to be welcoming to these people and make them at least feel welcome in our countries. Even though for arguments evidence and numbers are important, in my opinion, there should be more focus on individual stories of refugees rather than hiding behind the numbers, as numbers make it less personal and make it easier for us to forget that these numbers stand for hundreds of thousands of children, women and men who have already lived through terrible things and now have to face a lot of hostility in a place they deemed safe. There are so many great volunteer projects out there that help refugees, may it be through language classes or something more random such as dance classes or simply by donating books, clothes, games or other things you may need in your daily life. If you want to help and support it, look for projects near you and help out. The advice given by one of my lecturers here in Scotland was, this is especially for people living in the UK, to petition your MPs to take in more refugees, as they have to listen to you. Every email, every letter may have an impact and may save lives.
Let us know what you think on social media and in the comment. 🙂
Lots of Love,
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