On the humanitarian crisis:
The Syrian conflict has been going on for four years. This means that it has taken us four years to wake up and realize that there is a humanitarian crisis happening at our doorstep. On the 3rd of September, when the international media published the dead body of the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, an even more amplified uproar echoed locally and globally. It was as if the moment of truth has finally set in.
Last May in Istanbul, I had up-close encounters with the Syrian refugees- babies in their mother’s arms, toddlers roaming the busy streets of the cosmopolitan city looking at passers by, hoping that they would be given some lira. There were also a group of older Syrian refugees waiting outside the gates of the Swedish Consulate, waiting for their names to be called. In Turkey, the contrasts were already present. There were Syrians who have chosen to take the legal way of coming to the EU, while the others wait for their luck in the street.
These contrasts are also reflected in the choices that the refugees made when they paid organised human traffickers to take them over the seas to the EU. The ugly truth is that people are earning on the unfortunate circumstances of the refugees. But how much can we blame the traffickers?
Two years ago, the Swedish government announced that the Syrian refugees who have already made it to the country would be given permanent residence permits. A few days ago, Angela Merkel made a decision to suspend the Dublin regulation and welcome the refugees to Germany. From these political decisions, the acknowledgements of the plight of the refugees were put in the spotlight. However, there were still discussions on sharing the responsibilities within the EU member states, a proposal that was not met with open mind by most of the member states. The president of Hungary has so far expressed that they do not want to have anything to do with the crisis, since it is Germany’s problem, he also added that the Muslim culture will be clashing against Hungary’s Christian beliefs.
One other aspect that we should also consider that is not widely discussed by the media is if Sweden and Germany were true to their advocacy of helping the refugees, then they should also be finding ways of bringing the refugees in to these two countries instead of making the refugees risk their lives by crossing dangerous pathways. Refugees are welcome, but you have to come at your own risk. Raoul Wallenberg was a notable Swedish diplomat in Budapest who helped save thousands of Jews in the city. He provided shelter to refugees claiming that the establishments were extensions of the Swedish government, therefore the buildings should not be touched by the German Nazis and Hungarian fascists. This he did to save as many people as he could. It was a brilliant strategy; it would still be a brilliant strategy… among other possibilities if we begin to list down what should be done for the sake of saving lives, but it seems that it is easier to send out navies to countries at war than to send them to places where the refugees are.
In the future, when we look at this moment in history, we would ask ourselves the same questions we had on the holocaust- how can two worlds exist? There are actions and inactions. The international community can not just be upset, sad, or mad about the whole circumstances, we should make our own little contributions, push policy makers to act on the problem as fast as they can.
Hopes are given, risks are taken.