Closed Borders and the Refugees
Closed Borders and The Attitude to Refugees
When you view the entire world from the perspective of space, the idea of borders hardly comes into mind. The image of one world, one people, one life. We are all connected. I have seen many times the power of positive and negative thought processes and attitudes towards other people and marvelled in the effects of such a ''simple'' human power. We substantially underestimate the way that we view the world and our attitude towards the ability of change. When we look at the new Trump initiative of closed borders with 7 Muslim targeted nations, a harrowing feeling is imposed on relationships;the hope for a better world; the war and even the economy. Looking at Forex trading, it has been revealed that even a speech by a politician stating an opinion or simply routine chatter has had a profound effect on national currencies. For example Boris Johnson giving a short speech on how he supported the Brexit initiative caused the pound to be shorted immensely. This was in 2014 before the separation ''brain child'' had even been fully birthed. One word from a politician that many of us take to be- let's face it; a bit of a joke, affected the entire country's economy in only a few minutes. Words cause fear. A signed legislation by the most powerful man on Earth has caused billions of hearts to sink in a great sadness and loss for the future. The economy of hope has plummeted in the past two days.
An entire generation of children has already been traumatised in the severity of their losses. Home, Family, and an entire country bombed over and over again. The nightmare of it all never seems to end. The initial shock caused the world to reel in confusion and blame. Who can we blame? The Assad regime? ISIS? The Russian intervention? America? My answer is that we are all to blame. We are all citizens of this Earth and we have sat and watched children blown up, trapped under rubble, waste away in freezing camps or drowned in an ocean only to wash up on a beach that many people would rather holiday on than to think to clean up a mess such as this. It is easy to submerge in the bubble that we call home; but I cannot seem to ignore that hundreds of thousands have lost their own homes. People may say that if it was us in their position would they have helped us? In my heart I know that even if that were true, why should it even matter? Why should we propagate this type of selfishness that allows the planet Earth that we call home to fall into a progressive destruction by our own hands. ''Any human being no matter what side they are on, it is our duty to help them''. These are the words of a Syrian member of the White Helmets. A civil defence team formed of 2900 civilians since 2013 comprising of former tailors, blacksmiths, fathers, brothers and sons. The men that chose not to take up arms but rather to save lives. No matter who they are. That is their beauty. They do not see the borders between death, they unite against it.
When I think of the privileges of children in my home country, I recall students screaming at teachers, teenagers being rude to the elderly on buses and my own peers bullying others for being teacher's pets. Of course many are kind and respectful, but I have never heard of these levels of disrespect in an African,Asian, Arab or a Middle Eastern country. Children value and respect their peers, teachers and treasure education. Michelle Fleming (Spokesperson for the UN Secretary) told of a Syrian boy called Hanni, who when his home was being bombed, he risked his life to get one thing from his house. His High School Diploma. When someone asked him why he did that, he responded that his life was worth it. Because every day that he was shot at by snipers on the way to school, everyday he walked through a war zone, everyday his mother prayed for him not to go to school anymore, he knew the value of such knowledge. Because with great knowledge comes the ability to make a change, the ability to teach, the ability to be something greater. Such things are worth dying for. In past conflicts the burning of books has been a common practice, such as in communist China and Nazi Germany. The government regimes understood the power of such words, the power of such knowledge and most of all the power of an idea. An idea is like dropping a pebble into the water and watching the ripples grow larger and larger touching the corners of the pond. ''If I am not a student. I am nothing.''
Islamic State on the ground and Russian planes above the Syrian people. What could we possibly do? People should be watching birds in the sky not cowering out of fear of a plane. A white Helmet member said that his two year old recognises the sounds of war and every time a military plane flies by the little one jumps into his lap and says ''Daddy, a bomb''... Do you have a child. You are somebody's child. Can you even imagine it... 200 air raids a day. 200. Entire neighbourhoods. All the hospitals in Aleppo and Idlib bombed in one day.
''Tomorrow will be better. We are always optimistic that what's to come is better. Justice will prevail one day'' - Mohamed Farah, White Helmet/ Syrian Civil Defence.
What are these men fighting for if just for the people they save from rubble and death are then trapped again? What are the options for these families? The current refugee system currently works on three options. Option one is to enter a refugee camp where you are subjected to economic constraints and limited education for a minimum of 5 years. Only 9 percent of Syrians choose this. Option two is to enter the urban areas of Amman or Beirut, where the refugees sink into urban destitution due to the lack of rights to have work, approximately 75 percent has chosen this. Or option three, undertake the perilous journey of travelling to Europe in the search of a better life for one's family. These options are not options.
In 1951, 147 governments signed the Modern Refugee Regime by the UHNCR, (the UN Refugee Agency) in the aftermath of the second World War. 147 governments agreed that back then refugees deserved the right to seek asylum and integration in times of failed state or when a state turns against it's own people. This regime seems to have lost all meaning only 66 years later. Barely just a lifetime later. Isit because Syrian blood spilt does not carry the same worth as others? Or is it because we cannot control such outcomes so therefore why should we even bother trying? Some of the best Nazis were people who simply turned their head the other way as neighbours, friends and colleagues were being dragged out of their homes and shot in the streets. Albert Einstein one of the greatest minds of humanity said that ''The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.'' It is said that the world is controlled by only 2 percent of the worlds population. So we outnumber them by..... you can imagine. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts the right of everyone to seek and enjoy asylum. Human. Just a word? No, a fact that applies to ALL. ''The real need is to find more effective ways to implement it in a spirit of international cooperation and responsibility-sharing'' - UHNCR
I believe that some of us need to get off of our high horses in the belief that our countries are so wonderful that this war is just a ruse so that we may be infected by a wave of leeches sucking dry our resources. Political propagandas have swayed our minds in this aspect and caused us to believe the lies that refugees are not useful, that they are lazy and a drain on respectable tax payers. That they will terrorise if given the chance. 86 percent of Syrian refugees are living in developing countries. Shame on us. Countries considered developing are defined as a nation or sovereign state with a less developed industrial base and a low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries. They have stepped up to the mark and are proving to be truly generous hosts. Stories of tiny villages on the island of Lesbos hosting thousands of refugees.“Can you really ignore what’s in front of your eyes? Because tomorrow it could be me. I could be on a boat with my family and I would like to be helped,” says fisherman Stratis Valamios. I have not heard a single complaint from their people. Nor have I heard of the island being bombed in revenge for helping these people. And the kind and welcoming Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister has accepted all people lovingly and without prejudice. Sadly, in the recent days a Mosque was bombed in Quebec. Many lives were taken during a time of peace and prayer, however we cannot allow such actions to scare us into being inert. We stand a better chance united as one than allowing fear to paralyse us into building walls and shutting each other out in the state of distrust. If we do that then the world may as well end there. What is the point in living in a cage? Freedom is not only a state of being, it is a state of mind. If we teach our children, our peers, our colleagues that we should be fearful of these strangers then we are limiting our own freedom. We stunt our growth by enforcing the darkness to engage in our hope and positivity and then the War wins in our hearts. After all, strangers are just friends that we have yet to make.
The evidence of positive refugee integration can be seen in Alexander Bett's studies (Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs) of Uganda, where refugees were allowed the freedom to work, rights of movement and the ability to contribute fully in society. In the city of Kampala 21 percent of entrepreneurial business owners were refugees. 40 percent of the employees are host citizens. This is a perfect example of the beauty of a symbiotic relationship where all people no matter the extraordinary circumstance can contribute to the betterment of society. Regardless of whether refugees stay or leave host countries after they are allowed to return home, it is important to remember that no matter how wonderful another country may be, there is no place like home. A man who owned the last garden centre of Aleppo, tended his flowers with joy and love, each one he believed could change the world with their simplistic beauty and symbolism of life flourishing in the arid desert. People would come to bring them to public places such as roundabouts where all could see and have hope that their country would return to normalisation. Only to realise that after this man had died in a blast, that normalisation is now the reality of death. The garden centre and the hope that the symbol of a rose carried died when there was no one else to take his place. His 14 year old son had lost his hope and would not carry on the business. I wonder what the difference would have made if he had. But it is truly sad that sometimes all we can do now is wonder. Wonder and be sad. Or is it really all that we can do?
The approximate time of a refugee in forced exile from home is 17 years. Imagine a child growing up in exile; 17 years later, who do you want that child to be? A hopeful achiever with dreams to reform his home or host country? Or a scarred and broken person seeking revenge. Refugees have the ability to end conflicts if we give them the opportunity to flourish, if we remove the stigma on how we perceive them and if we simply love and believe in them. Everybody is aware of the cycle of hatred. A boy grows up watching his father drink and beat him, 20 years later he is exerting the same actions on his son and the cycle goes on and on until we are stuck with generations of conflict. However there are hope stories. Twin boys see their father drinking every day and one grows up to be an alcoholic, the other never touched a drink. The alcoholic son claimed his actions were because he saw his father doing it, the sober son claimed the same. The power of perspective changes lives. Let us obtain the right perspective. Let us adopt it into our lives and allow it to affect our generation and our children's generations so that in 17 years those Syrian children will grow to be doctors, teachers, professors and scientists.
''All refugee children tell us that education is the most important thing in their life. Why? Because it allows them to think of their future, rather than the nightmare of their past. It allows them to think of hope rather than hatred'' - Melissa Fleming. She also stated that the western world abhors fundamentalist Islam, yet our countries have imposed inhumane fundamentalist values on the restrictions of refugee rights to the united shared responsibility.
When we do the right thing it is always difficult, for the road is narrow and hard to navigate. If it were easy then would it really be worth it in the end?Through a process of careful vetting and despite the imminent dangers of unrest in the Middle East and economic turmoils let us welcome these brothers and sisters, sons and daughters with open arms. Let us encourage their access to economic freedom, movement and education. Let us build with them and allow them to contribute to our countries the diversity that we have stated as United. Let us be able to give first in order to be allowed to receive. Let us bless others as we have been so blessed ourselves. And most of all let us truly love one another as we love ourselves so that our children's generation will not see a World War 4. We have the choice. Let us make the RIGHT one. As we watch the tears of the oppressed on our televisions or newspapers, we focus and give honour to the dead. But what about the one's who are left behind and still living? Let us honour them instead and not regret more loss of human life.
The White Helmet Motto - ''To save a life is to save all of humanity...''
(Percentages and facts subject to change, recorded from information of 2016 by Alexander Betts,Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs/ Image by the Chicago Tribune).