European refugee crisis hits home

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watch Staff Writer

follow At this moment a refugee crisis is overwhelming much of Europe. We have seen the images and videos of desperate people running from border police, packed on trains bound for Europe, begging for help. Most recently, however, much more media attention has been brought to this pressing issue because of children: victims of a conflict they had nothing to do with, born in the middle of warzones, running from a desperate situation, only to perish along the way and wash up on beaches in foreign countries. For some of us, it is difficult to relate to these situations happening in countries so far away. We are often left asking ourselves, “What can I do? How can I help? Why should I care?”

lasix order online without prescription For others, the conflict is more real than you think. While most of us might not feel the impact, there are some important humanitarian issues to consider that affect all of us… even here at UWF.

Kinan Ghibih, a freshman at UWF studying computer science, was born in America but his family’s native country is Syria. While he was a child, his family returned to Syria to be with family for a time before returning to America.

“I have family there (in Syria) that have been suffering due to the unwillingness of most countries in the region to accept refugees,” Ghibih said.

Ghibih’s aunt and uncles are still in Damascus. “They are still there because they can’t get out. They have already lost homes, and any financial assets are gone at this point,” he said.

Some countries in the EU are welcoming these refugees and have pledged to do more in the future. So far, Germany has been the most outspoken and generous of these European nations, welcoming thousands of people into their country.

“I think it’s incredible that they stepped up and did something like that … that made me really happy,” Ghibih said. “When that news came out, I instantly called my cousin, who is living in Lebanon right now. He was allowed in (Germany) two years ago when the conflict started getting really bad. I told him he should think about going to school there because they offer university to all students for free.”

Some people in the U.S. already have strong opinions about immigration into our country and are making comparisons between the refugee crisis in Europe and the legal and illegal immigration into America. But are they the same thing?

“I can understand the similarity, but the thing is, this is more urgent for the Syrians,” Ghibih said. “Their homes are in complete and utter chaos. Just a week after my family got out of their home, the whole building was destroyed, and that is happening to many families there.”

The same question is being asked of European nation leaders as well as the U.N. “Are these people migrants just looking for a new life, or are they refugees?” said Jacob Shively, assistant professor at UWF in the department of Government, during a discussion on the difficulties in classifying this massive movement of people.

Not all countries are willing to help these people, however, and some are being abused and mistreated while fleeing. The most outspoken of these countries is Hungary, which has made it clear that they do not want refugees in their country.

“It’s sad. I have nothing to say to them. If they can’t understand the situation, I can’t make them; it’s just a flaw of character,” Ghibih said. “When I see other countries who are stopping these people, I just don’t understand why. Honestly, I think they are just scared.”

But every sovereign nation has different motivations and scenarios to pay attention to, and nothing is black and white when the topic of a mass migration of refugees is concerned.

“I think a lot of citizens from those countries (EU) find it difficult … I don’t know if some people (Europeans) will let those civil liberties go and move into humanitarianism,” said Rachel Errington, director of the International Student Office.

But the burden is not only on European countries. This crisis has been affecting other nations for years now.

“In Jordan, for instance, there are maybe 1 million to 1.5 million refugees, which is far more than what Europe is looking at,” Shively said. “The real crisis is still in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where most of these refugees are going. One-fourth of the population is dead or has left because of the civil war.”

The conflict in Syria has been going on for more than four years now. So why all the attention now?

“Some prominent events have brought it to public awareness, but this has been building in the Middle East,” Shively said.

“Everyone has seen the picture of the little 3-year-old boy by now … it’s super sad but maybe it’s the way of awakening,” Errington said. “There are little kids who are completely innocent to this situation. They don’t even understand what religion is at this point, they don’t have anywhere to go, and they are being found on beaches because their mothers would rather take the risk of going on a boat to find refuge than stay in a country where they are probably going to die anyway. Only now, when people see images of the kids, do people start feeling it, but worse stuff has been happening.”

It is also important to remember that many of these refugees are coming from other places with completely separate conflicts, some of which the U.S. has a direct involvement. Many people are asking, do we (Americans) have a responsibility to help more than we are?

“If our government tried to intervene, tried to supply the rebels and tried to help overthrow Bashar al-Assad … why not be a part of it now when it’s about saving the people?” Ghibih said. “It’s not even about saving the country anymore. We should be accepting more refugees.”

As this crisis begins to reach a tipping point, it seems inevitable that the U.S. will become more involved and maybe reach out to welcome more refugees. But when and if we do, how will refugees be received by average Americans?

“I would like to think that the majority of our country will respond to it positively, mainly because younger kids now are starting to be more tolerant, accepting of different cultures and more aware,” Ghibih said.

There are many issues to consider in this debate and many different perspectives, but Ghibih said it was important to pay attention to the big picture.

“The one thing that should really outline this whole thing is that people need to be a little less concerned about what part of the world Syrians are from and what religion they might belong to, and remember that they are humans and they need help, and that innocent people are dying daily. People who have no say or opinion in the conflict, it’s not their fault. They had no hand in it, and now they are being affected. They want to live, why are we denying Syrians the right to survive?”