Risking it All to Run: World needs to welcome refugees escaping unexpected atrocities

By: Tana Gam-Ad

Waves meet the rocky shoreline of a Turkish beach. As the waters touch the ground time and time again, it leaves behind remnants of what has washed away — driftwood, glass, sand, seaweed … and a body. A small lifeless body face down in the wet sand.

The body belongs to a 3-year-old boy, a refugee who had been running away from the foul and bloody civil war of his home country, Syria. Photos of the tragedy have been going around the globe, touching people, opening their eyes and hearts to those who have fled their countries in search of better lives. People everywhere are seeing the photo of an officer carrying a child on a beach, and knowing that when the camera shutter had clicked, the poor boy was already dead.

Refugee crisis. A popular word nowadays. You hear it on the radio. You see it on TV. You barely register the words while falling asleep listening to current events in history class. More specifically, the European refugee crisis.

But this is not a recent event; it’s been going on for a few years. The difference this time is that the world is finally starting to open it’s arms to those in need. Due to war, conflict and instability in many countries, swarms of refugees have been flooding the European continent’s gates looking for a safe place. They come from many different countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan and other places as well. They run from their countries hoping for something better.

These refugees risk everything to escape. They run from their pasts hoping for a brighter future, but most find there might be no hope for any future at all, seeing as the road to “better” is much more dangerous. They have been through much. Too much, in fact. They walk large distances, ride buses, trains or boats. They are even smuggled over borders; all the while only carrying the bare minimum needed to survive and having the lowest chance of survival. Seeing as they are either put into camps or turned away at country borders and transport stations, many even die during the travel such as the poor Syrian child on the beach.

People everywhere are anxious and aware. Aware of the change that is happening and the impact it has on the world. Change makes people feel various things, both good and bad. A clear example of the bad is the event that happened on Sept. 1 when, after hundreds of migrants crowded onto trains bound for Austria and Germany, at a central Budapest station, the Hungarian authorities decided to close it to migrants. Riots occurred as those seeking asylum were blatantly denied access into the country.

This truly surprised me as I had just spent the summer travelling through Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary. After hearing the stories of these suffering people and being immersed in such a clean, generous and hospitable culture that belonged to none other than Hungary itself, I couldn’t help but wonder. I couldn’t help but think about how fast the world changes. It may be fear or some play on politics that is keeping the migrants out, but I still can’t help but feel for them, and I can’t help but find myself going back to every time I took the subway or rode a bus in Budapest, and how so many poor people have literally died to be in my position. I think about the people I’ve met and the sights I’ve seen, and I find myself hoping that one day the refugees get to see them too. I think back to boat rides I took, and how lucky I was to be there — because they were on boats too. The difference is the boats I was on … didn’t sink.

There is bad, yes, but there is also good. And at times like these, sometimes we have to see the brighter side of things. Like how Germany is opening up it’s doors. They chose to suspend the Dublin rule and decided to consider asylum cases from the majority of Syrian applicants. The country has also stated that it would accept 800,000 refugees (equivalent to about 1 percent of its population) in 2015.

Many countries may have slowed the influx of accepting migrants into their borders, but they still try. Greece is accepting thousands of refugees, and people often stand on shore waiting and watching for any sign of life, hoping they make it to land so they can help those who have been through a lot. Earlier last week President Barack Obama ordered the United States to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the fiscal year 2016.

It’s going to be tough for everybody. Taking in large numbers of refugees is going to require accepting that those refugees might bring changes to a nation’s identity or culture. It means having to modify your vision of what your town and neighborhood look like, and having to widen the definition of your community’s culture. That’s not bad, at all; at least it shouldn’t be because I’m pretty sure it’s a lot better for them. It’s a big change for us, but a bigger change for them.

I can’t do anything about a refugee crisis. I’m just me, and I’m just here. I was where all of this is going on, but I’m here now, and I can’t change any of that. If I was there now, I don’t think I could change anything at all, but I’m glad the world is starting to  move. I’m glad that slowly everyone is starting to do their share. Politics are complex, but human empathy and moral ethics are simple. You see, you feel, you do; that’s all there is to it. “Doing what?” you ask. Anything, from signing the petition to accepting those asking for asylum, clicking share on Facebook to spread awareness, to praying and hoping for the refugees to stay safe. These people were forced to leave everything they’ve ever known or loved. They took an unexpected journey to look for something new, something good. I hope they make it through because good is what they deserve after everything else.

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