Refugees and Us

By James Lim. James, 19, lives in Singapore. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

The journey from Syria to Europe takes weeks. During this period, from trafficker to trafficker, from violence to violence, from fear to fear, it would be your life, as you struggle from one region to the other, always on the run. During this period, you would experience the best of humanity, the worse of humanity, and every shade in between. You will go into hell. Worse of all, you will only be a child when you do so.

No parent wants to part with their children. It is the most excruciating, heart-wrenching act a parent could do, to separate their hands from their own flesh and blood. To cast them into the unknown, helpless and alone. A part of them dies when they do so. Yet, in the thousands, they cast their children away, while they stay behind. They willingly do so, with hidden tears and false smiles, as they send their children away. Why?

There is only one answer. The alternatives they have are worse than hell. Leaving means a chance, no matter how small, of surviving. Staying? Death. Death and worse fates than death. That is what compels a mother to send her child away. The child is bearing the hope that she gave as she sends him away leaving her to die in what is left.

Privilege as we are, it can be hard to conceive of such a situation. Sitting in the comforts of our own home, surrounded by peace and prosperity, even desperation can seem miles away. We take what we have for granted. The world has progressed tremendously over the past few decades, yet recognize that not all places are enjoying the fruits of that success. To us, the lucky ones, immigration the likes of what they are doing is lunacy. To them, emigration is the only choice. What could actually make them choose that?

Genocide, for one. Rohingyas, living in the outskirts of Myanmar, are one of the most prosecuted people in the world. Denied a state, a citizenship, and a home, they are currently being wiped up by the Myanmar government for the sin of being alive. Bullets, bombs, executions, rape, torture, horrors beyond what you could imagine, that face a Rohingya every day while this article is typed. That, for one, could compel any parent to send their child away.

Despair about the future could be another factor. In some countries around the world, people live a life barely above sustenance with no hope for the future. Their lives are trapped in a poverty cycle from which none of them could escape. Every day, they live life not knowing whether they will be alive the next day. A chance to get away is a no-brainer to them. With that spirit, thousands march across the US-Mexico border, smuggle in through the customs, for the chance of getting a better life. Hope, after all, is better than never-ending despair.

Who bears the burden for these sins then? Who created this hell for them? All of us. We all are responsible, to some extent, for their anguish. In our ignorance, our blatant avoidance of their plight, we aided and abetted the conditions that lead to their hellish existence. Covering up our tracks with excuses and shifting responsibility, we have collectively abandoned most of them to where they are. We, in our willful blindness, are an unwilling accomplice to an injustice on a global scale.

There are non-governmental organizations that are attempting to help, but their power pales in comparison to those powers wielded by the state. The only entity that can significantly change the status quo is the state. The state is in the best position to help other states, for they have resources unavailable to us, as citizens. States, countries, have a moral and practical obligation to help poorer nations, which we, as citizens, must force them to uphold.

The current refugee crisis, for example, was created as a result of the destabilization of the Middle-Eastern region by the European nations in the aftermath of the events of the 20th and 21st centuries. The seeds of chaos were sowed by them, starting perhaps with the invasion of Iran. Yet, in the current political climate, they seem to be attempting to abdicate responsibility. We created the chaos, but we refuse to pick up the pieces. Anti-immigration sentiments are on the rise. We are turning our backs to the children that come knocking on our borders. Our amnesia to the sins of our past is appalling, to say the least.

The consequences of us doing so will become apparent as time progresses. We will have to pay the consequences of mass abandonment as we did many times in the past – we seemingly have not learned from our lessons. Perhaps it is the nature of humanity to continue to make the same mistakes again and again, doomed to repeat tragedies we faced. First the Jews, now the Syrians, the Rohingyas – who else is next?

It benefits us all to make the world a better place for everyone. The lesser instability and hell exist on our planet, the further we can progress as a collective human race. We are only as far as our lowest common denominator. Only by making a world where parents are not forced to give up their children can we make a world worth living for. We are human, first of all, before our race, language and religion. We are all fellow brothers and sisters in a collective humanity.

Children represent the future of our species. The next decades will be created by the children whom we are sending to risk their lives escaping hell. When we refuse to protect them, to make their lives better than the ones we have, regardless of where they come from, we are destroying the future of the world we live in. We are depriving the future of the potential it may have had.

A call to action must be heeded to vocalize support for those who are most vulnerable. Each of us, when we play a part individually, can be the force that engenders the change we are looking for in the world. To be the force that creates a world where parents would not have to tear their child from their arms and cast them on a boat.

Vox populi, we are able to change the behavior of the states we live in to increase their support for poorer nations and refugees. Chinese, Indian, European, American, race and nationality do not matter. We all can play a part. If each nation lifts up a little of the burden, the world would be a better place.

One comment on “Refugees and Us

  1. Topie Tamaa Abdul Wahid on

    A thought triggering write – up. I enjoyed reading it. I think we are in a way paying no attention to no other person except ourselves. What is happening in Syria and Burma is an insult to every human integrity. It must stop.


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