In an attempt to further understand the refugee crisis in Europe, I did a quick google news search for ‘Refugee Crisis”. Immediately, I was presented with a collection of headlines including:
“The Horror of the Calais Refugee camp: ‘We feel like we are dying slowly’” The Guardian – 7 hrs ago
“Refugee crisis: Pressure grows along the migrant trail close Europe’s open borders” Independent UK – 19 hrs ago
“Refugee crisis: Austria hardens law; Greek morgues overflow” The Globe and Mail – 23 hrs ago
This is just a small sample of titles that attempt to summarize the unrest and horror happening in Europe. I jump in, reading article after article, coupled with heartbreaking pictures of undernourished children with dull eyes and crudely constructed shacks made of thin wood and plastic, the articles explain the situations refugees face while seeking asylum.
In the most striking piece, a Life in refugee camp Calais is retold by a visiting journalist, Amelia Gentleman. The feature unfolds to tell of the camp’s overpopulation and lack of leadership. Pictures show tents and makeshift shelters sprawling for miles. There is one store and one medical structure staffed by volunteers. Used to the biggest effect were the personal stories of the refugees. Stories from parents of young children, young well educated men, and pregnant women. The people of the refugee camp were educated; they were the doctors, engineers, translators, and teachers.
One that stood out to me was the story of Dirik, a new resident to Calais refugee camp. According to a The Guardian article, Dirik is an 18 year old mechanical engineering student from Syria. Gentleman writes, “He has only been here for 24 hours and talks happily as he waits in line for food about his desire to bring his skills to Britain.” I know 18 year old mechanical engineering students, we all know 18 year old mechanical engineering students.
I knew I should not have felt surprised, but I was. When a person becomes a refugee they lose their identity. It is easy, too easy, to look at news of the crisis and lump the thousands and thousands of people together and call them refugees instead of Diriks. But we need to remember that their stories, though similar, are unique. In that one camp alone there are 6,000 stories that are unfolding. The testimonies in the articles are progressing. Even though I move from article to article skimming snapshots of their lives, those are their lives. Dirik is still trying to get to Britain and exists outside of his paragraph appearance in The Guardian.
From miles, time zones, and what seems like worlds away, the refugee crisis doesn’t seem real. It is all too simple to close my laptop and forget that the other half of the world exists.
The best way for me to help from Valpo was to get informed. Simply attempting to understand the crisis and the landscape of the EU concerning refugees can spark inspiration and activism. If you want to know more, the Refugee Passion Group will be hosting a documentary and discussion program Thursday November, 5 in Neils 234 at 7pm. It is a great opportunity to watch part of the documentary God Grew Tired of Us about the Lost Boys of Sudan. There will also be a discussion with Dr. Saul Ebema who will recount his experience as a refugee and give personal narrative to the crisis.
Trailer to God Grew Tired of Us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32IxyvoSZKo