Probably every week since the beginning of the year, sometimes more than once a week, there is a new article regarding the migrant issues in Europe. Often times, it’s a similar story--migrants being rescued in the Mediterranean, migrants using the Eurotunnel to illegally cross the Channel, migrants flooding into Greece--and by now you might some of us would become numb to the stories. However, the more it comes up, the more emotionally invested I’ve become, and the more I’m thinking about how to help or resolve the issues, despite my being in the U.S. and physically removed from the situation.
First of all, these migrants, many of whom are asylum seekers, are desperate and fighting for their BASIC human rights. Whether they’re fleeing from ISIS or Boko Haram, they are fighting for something they should not have to fight for. To go to school, to provide for their families, to simply LIVE—who has the right to take that away from them? The children who are victims here, have had their innocence stolen from them—some in more ways than one. One young man said that he has no family and no home anymore, because they’ve all been taken away from him, so he’s seeking refuge in Europe hoping to get an education and make a better life for himself. For many of these folks, Europe is their land of opportunity—it’s their vision of hope where they can be free of the turmoil that robbed them of their lives.
This week I read that Germany is expecting 800,000 migrants this year, and they are not faltering in finding ways to accommodate and help all of them. To add some perspective to that number, last year all 28 EU states received a total of 626,000 migrants. It’s obvious that many migrants are going to head for the more robust economies in the EU, like Germany, France, and the UK, but to get to them they've got to go through all the "transit" countries. I can only imagine how overwhelming this is on the European countries, because how is it possible to support this many refugees? How? What is somewhat heartening, is that there is a push for EU countries to cooperate together to help alleviate and control the situation. This really needs to be a global effort. Our neighbours need us, so we need to figure out how to help them. More than that, if we don't find a way to help them, it will be more chaotic than it already is at many of these boarders where thousands are waiting to be let through.
One story I read a month or two ago was about a German PM who took in two migrants and helped them find jobs and got them to become active and contributing members of the community. He wanted to show others that we shouldn’t fear these migrants, and that we should integrate them rather than separate them from the rest of the community. I think what he did was incredibly noble. Of course, we cannot expect everyone to do so, even if the government subsidizes this effort in some way, but he set an important example. These people have lost everything. When a hurricane or a tornado plows down your house, you rebuild it. These people cannot rebuild their homes, which is why they’re seeking a new one. To treat them like wild animals that must be contained is senseless.
There are ways to integrate them into our communities as active and contributing members. For example, and I’ll never forget this, when I was in university I learned about a program that brought refugees from Darfur to the U.S. The program housed the refugees, helped them with groceries, and getting them settled; but they each had three months to find a job to start supporting themselves. Eventually, some of them even went on to get their university degrees, and were able to bring over their family. It was truly beautiful to see how this worked out. Again, there’s likely not enough programs or funding to integrate every refugee in this way. I mean, even with these refugees from Darfur, you saw that only so many were selected at a time, and the rest waited, hoping it to be their turn one day.
Moreover, what many of these people need is to feel safe again. The children likely need therapy—some more than others—they need to go to school, and frankly, they need love. My heart breaks when I read about how many people and how many children have been displaced by war in their countries. What can we do though? We must work together to be good neighbours. It’s not easy and it’s not convenient, but I don’t see any other way.
There was another article this week about Slovakia refusing Muslim migrants, and only accepting Christian ones. The Interior ministry spokesman said, “Muslims would not be accepted because they would not feel at home.” He said, “We could take 800 Muslims but we don’t have any mosques in Slovakia so how can Muslims be integrated if they are not going to like it here?” I do not know much about the people of Slovakia, but I am fairly certain he and the Slovakian government are not motivated by how the Muslims will feel if there are no mosques for them to go to. Stalin canceling religion across the country didn’t keep some Russians from continuing with their religious practices—it didn’t even stop some Russians from realizing that he banned religion across the country in the first place. On the other hand, if Slovakians really would be so averse to receive an influx of Muslims into their country, then he may have a point. Perhaps the Slovakian government knows its people well enough, and knows that on top of taking in refugees, they do not want to cause unrest in their own country. I’m not saying it’s right, and like I said, I’m not too familiar with Slovakia in that sense, but if I’m correctly reading between the lines, then I think Donald Trump might take a lesson on how to address sensitive issues like this.
All in all, I hope that we are able to make at least a pan-European effort to support the current migrant situation, and to keep in mind that it’s not just about finding a place for these folks to sleep and handing out rationed meals. The bigger pictures is ensuring there’s not another crisis on top of a crisis—which involves ensuring their physical, mental, and social health. We should take the lead of the German PM and what we were able to do with some of the Darfur refugees. It's a community effort that reaches to even how we educate our children.
I don’t think national identity will every lose its significance, but a global identity is also very important. Love thy neighbour.
BIG LOVE & HUGS