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Refugee Crisis – How Can We Help?

I’m pretty sure everyone in the UK has seen the awful pictures of Aylan Kurdi, the three year old Syrian boy who drowned along with his five-year-old brother Galip and their mother, Rehan while trying to escape Syria and join relatives in Canada.

I sincerely hope that everyone else who saw these pictures was as upset and angry about it as I have been. As a father of two, one of who is three years old, it made me cry. It also made me want to do something about it. I started with signing the UK Parliament petition for the UK to take more refugees. If you are a British Citizen or resident please do the same.

Refugees not Migrants

Language is important. We have a global refugee crisis. The people we see trying desperately to come here are refugees, not migrants. It might sound nit-picky, but the words have power. People work on a them and us group basis, you read ‘migrant’ as someone who has a choice, where ‘refugee’ is a person escaping danger. So let’s call them what they are. Refugees. We must help deal with the refugee crisis.

Amnesty International wrote about this a month ago, it’s worth a read Calais migrants: the dangerous link between rhetoric and policy

BTW – I think we should make it easier for people to legally come to live and work in the UK, we’ve got an ageing population and we need more workers and taxpayers. Also making it easier for people to come here would put the human traffickers out of business. No one should be forced into the hands of organised criminals.

Global Refugee Crisis

global refugee crisis, UK MInister talks to refugees in Tunisia
UK International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, talks to migrants at a transit camp near the Tunisian border with Libya. More than 100,000 people have crossed the border from Libya in the past week. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This not just about Syria, there is a global refugee crisis. People are fleeing from all sorts of places because their countries are unstable. By unstable you can read that as not having a consistent rule of law. Countries with civil wars clearly fall in here. So do places where the Government’s writ doesn’t run all the way through the country, like Pakistan.

None of this should be a surprise to anyone who has read the news, and certainly not to Government Ministers or MPs. I expect them to be briefed by people who have a real grip of world events. The current refugee crisis has been brewing for years, and we’ve mainly stuck our heads in the sand. Some of this has been capital P Politics. Certain parties pander to the anti-immigration lobby and others run scared from it. This is really not helpful and has lead to the infamous “Refugee crisis? What refugee crisis?” attitude. Although thankfully this seems to be changing.

We Can Take More Refugees

refugee crisis from the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s
Refugees arrive in Travnik, central Bosnia, during the Yugoslav wars, 1993. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In context, in the 1990s we were taking 50,000 more refugees seeking asylum than we are now. At that time the Home Office worked out that the optimum level for encouraging assimilation was one refugee per 200 people per year. On that basis the 64 million residents of the UK could assimilate about 320,000 refugees. Currently we’ve had about 25,000 in the last year, about 1 for every 2,500 UK residents. That’s less than a twelfth of the number the Home Office said we could manage.

Let’s start by taking refugees at the rate we did in the late 1990s. The infrastructure to support that level of throughput is still there. Although it might not be for much longer. The Spending Review is targeting 25%-40% cuts in non-protected Government Departments. The Home Office is not protected.

Help Relieve the Refugee Crisis

It takes concerted international government action to help solve the problems that cause people to become refugees. Weaker states can be encouraged and supported to strengthen their legitimacy and ability to govern their entire country. This could be international aid, seconded police officers or civil servants (in both directions), pressure to legislate for equality or anything else that is pragmatic.

On a personal basis we as citizens can still help. Here are some ideas.

  • Lobby your political representatives for change to accept more refugees and help stabilise where they come from
  • Give appropriate clothing and other items to charities that help refugees (and if you can afford it give them money)
  • Use the correct language to describe refugees, and correct others where they fall into the rhetoric of the anti-immigration groups
  • Read the news from multiple sources and do your own background using the internet to get a better understanding of what is really going on (clue: the media coverage is part of the problem)

If anyone has any other helpful suggestions please leave them in the comments. Note: comments suggesting there isn’t a problem, or that it is economic migration, will be summarily deleted. This is most definitely a refugee crisis, and we need to help other humans.

One Reply to “Refugee Crisis – How Can We Help?”

  1. Well said, James. Agree wholeheartedly.

    As you know, I taught refugees in Glasgow in 2000/1 and I heard their stories first-hand and most were harrowing, so I have probably more empathy than most.

    In the 1970s we welcomed the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ to the UK and I can’t help but notice the difference in the how the media portrays the Mediterranean ‘boat people’ now.

    As our FM said yesterday: this our problem, not someone else’s – we cannot “walk on by on the other side”.

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