Recently, it seems that all anyone can talk about is the refugee crisis. While this is a very important topic that should spark discussion about global affairs, a lot of what is being said is disrespectful, intolerant and racist.
People fleeing their countries due to civil unrest are being met with hostility by most of the countries they attempt to enter, but what a lot of people are forgetting is that these people just want homes, and peace, and safety, much like everyone else.
Imagine waking up one day and hearing an announcement that this country has gone to war. Within the next month your home town has become unrecognisable. Shops you once frequented have been abandoned by their owners, or broken into and robbed. Places of worship have been vandalized, schools have been closed, houses have been destroyed. It’s no longer safe to walk alone down your own street, and you don’t know who you can trust. Imagine entering your house and seeing your child sat alone on the floor, crying. They don’t understand what’s going on. You hold them. You wish you could explain what’s happening, and tell them it will be okay, but you don’t understand it any better than they do.
So you decide to leave, like many of your neighbours have already done. You must leave all your belongings behind; you’ll probably never see your house again. You and your family must leave. All you want is a home, peace and safety, much like everyone else. Although, unlike the majority of people, you will have to risk your life to get that. You will have to walk for days on end, through war torn countries. You will have to sneak across borders and avoid prosecution. You will have to keep going until you find a country that is willing to take you, because you know you can’t go back to where you came from.
All you need is for someone to take you in.
Britain’s response to the refugee crisis has been far from perfect. David Cameron’s ingenious idea to send millions over to Calais in order to, essentially, build a big fence, has just proved this country to be hostile and unwilling to help. Many people believe that thousands of people are risking their lives in order to access benefits provided to people in Britain. I think just by saying that aloud you can realise what an ignorant hypothesis that is.
The terminology is an important factor in this situation. If you say “70 illegal immigrants were found dead in the back of a lorry”, the general response would be against illegal immigration, and consequently against the victims of this disaster.
If you say “70 migrants/refugees were found dead in the back of a lorry”, this evokes more sympathy, but still creates a ‘them and us’ situation, by referring to people in terms that most of the western population cannot relate to.
If you say “70 people were found dead in the back of a lorry”, then people start to realise that this is a global problem which everyone must help to solve. By referring to migrants as what they actually are, which is people and children, it removes the ‘them and us’ mentality, and people can focus on us. Because this isn’t just about the people in need of help. This is about the people who have the resources to help. This is about altruism. This is about selflessly helping other people, with the secure belief that should you ever need help, others would also be there to provide it.
This is about people. We are all people.