At home and abroad, the West is failing refugees

argues that domestic politics have distracted us from the tragedies of the refugee crisis

The plight of refugees is often repeated in the mainstream media in the view of the government’s immigration policy, but it is usually pushed aside and overridden by issues such as Brexit, or is made less impassioned by apathetic statistics. For example, it is safe to assume that relatively few people were aware that on 30 August, 6500 people were rescued in 40 separate locations. This is a mere fragment of the true episode, as 63.5m people are forcibly displaced worldwide, which is just under the population of the UK (64.1m), with 26 per cent in the poorest countries in the world, such as Eritrea and South Sudan.

More action needs to be taken to ensure that refugees are well looked after during this traumatic episode in their life, particularly as in its “Assessment of Mental Health and Psychological Support Needs of displaced Syrians in Jordan”, the World Health Organisation discovered that 31.7 per cent suffer from severe depression. In addition, at a recent Student Action for Refugees (STAR) conference in London, numerous refugees spoke to delegates and STAR York joint-chair Lucy Shearer, who attended the conference, commented that “each refugee was connected by a petrification of water due to the crossings that they have to take to achieve a life free from conflict”. It is clear why these people are so scared of water, as the number of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean is rising from approximately 3771 in 2015 to 4271 in 2016, despite fewer people fleeing, raising the possibility that smugglers are condensing a greater number of people onto smaller and more dangerous boats.

Nonetheless, statistics give little individual, emotional value and do not cause the shock and awe needed to generate popular support for refugees. This is epitomised in ‘The Lightless Sky’, the story of author Gulwali Passarlay, who as a 12-year-old was forced to flee Afghanistan alone and travel 12 000 miles after the murder of his father by the Taliban. Furthermore, refugee camps in South Sudan and Egypt are continually attacked by mercenaries and warlords from the unstable, power vacuum of SubSaharan Africa. Refugees are also likely to end up in torturous camps where they are often enslaved, raped or mutilated. Moreover, even if the refugees make it to western Europe, they are often subjected to hate crimes, which have risen in accordance with the rise of populism. Amnesty International has reported that by 2015, the number of hate crime cases in Germany reached 16 times what it had been in 2013. These cases range from homes being burned to verbal abuse in the street, where refugees are often told, “go back home”, which is often exactly what they want to do, if their country was stable enough.

The way in which the western community have treated the largest refugee crisis ever, building walls and deporting people at mass rates, is sickening. The treatment of these people is dire, with many children subjected to abominable conditions while their asylum applications are processed. The centres on the island of Nauru and Manus off the coast of Australia, which holds large numbers of asylum seekers from Papua New Guinea, were compared to “an open air prison” by critics as many people have attempted suicide at the prospect of indefinite detention. Thus the ill-treatment and destitution of refugees worldwide is a modern day crisis, which is being met with medieval solutions as refugees are left insecure, entrapped and destitute, while the world’s richest nations continue to play war games, and the right wing describes the migrants and refugees as the root cause of all problems.

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