Here’s a quick rundown of the last three months in Aleppo, Syria. So back in August, chlorine bombs were dropped in a rebel-held area of the city. Yes, that would count as biological warfare. Yes, it is illegal. Moving on, in September, a U.N. aid convoy was hit in another air strike, killing twenty people and suspending any further aid from the UN for a time. Come October, innocent people are still dying as a result of Russian air strikes (backed by the Syrian government) in the city. Food and water supplies are low, buildings have crumbled, hospitals and ambulances are targeted, and people aren’t safe.
A ‘humanitarian’ pause on airstrikes has recently begun to allow evacuation of civilians and aid to be delivered, but it is a small window of time for humanitarian aid, when over 2,700 people have been killed/injured over the past month alone, really the best we can do? For the worst refugee crisis since WWII, with more than 11 million people displaced, is it okay that no plausible solution has been set into motion by the international community (where the majority, by the way, are under legal obligation to aid refugees)? At this rate, Eastern Aleppo faces total ruin. Must its people go down with it too?
As for those who have fled the country, most refugee children don’t receive an education even though they are of school-going age and adults are not permitted to work in most places. Refugee camps in surrounding countries like Turkey and Lebanon are not capable of handling the large influx of people that arrive, much less create a prosperous and healthy environment for them. Camps are in devastating conditions, despite the economic aid the EU provides.
This is the everyday life that the Syrian people face. This is what they’re going through. These are the people that politicians like the mayor of Béziers, Robert Ménard, want to turn away and warn you about in his new poster campaign saying, “The state is imposing them on us: That’s it, they are coming.”
Yes, they are coming. With degrees, with skills, they are professionals with just as much potential as you and I. Skeptical? In Uganda, where refugees are allowed to work, 21% of refugee-owned businesses in the city of Kampala have at least one employee and 40% of those employed by refugees are Uganda citizens. This creates job opportunities that could help, instead of burden, a country’s economy when we allow for their integration. There is a solution right there for the taking. Yet countries such as Hungary continue to send people into a frenzy against migrants with anti-immigrant rhetoric, so much so assimilation seems like a ludicrous idea.
With Brexit, Australian anti-migrant advertisements and Donald Trump’s infamous anti-immigrant policy, this sentiment has become a norm shared between many people. The Economist has labeled this battle the new political divide – and rightly so. The world has become divided in its debate to either open their borders or to keep them shut tight. Xenophobia isn’t rampant only in the US, but throughout other parts of Europe too.
We seem to have bought into the idea that accepting refugees is a gateway to self-destruction for a country’s overall state, despite the proof that has suggested otherwise time and time again.
News on the Syrian civil war pops up in the paper every day. We know that people are going through these tragedies but most of us shrug it off because there’s nothing we can do if we want to maintain our own security. But at the end of the day, no effective measure has been taken to help 11 million people in need.
A good first step would be to recognize that there are actions we must be open to taking. It is in our best interest to work together and end the crisis instead of ignoring it because ignoring it is not going to make it go away. We cannot buy into anti-immigrant rhetorics of politicians blindly and allow them to make the rules for the rest of us to live by.
Or is 11 million still a negligible number to you?