Politically abusing the experiences of refugees will only worsen the crisis
This statement was uploaded on Instagram by Angelina Jolie, days after the horrific death of 78 refugees outside of Greece. As many times in the past, political parties will use this incident to push their agendas and personal ideologies. The political abuse of refugees’ tragic experiences will further polarise political discourse.
No refugee risks his life unfoundedly
Many people criticise refugees for taking dangerous trips to reach a save country. Especially when they are also putting their kids in danger. This argument is also being used by politicians to politically abuse refugees and their experiences. Those people need to understand that no refugee leaves his or her country by free will. Wars, economic crises, persecution, and political instability are forcing people to leave their home country. Majority of those fleeing would gladly stay at home knowing that things will change in the near future. Unfortunately, future prospects do not look good, that is why they decide to leave behind all of their belongings, pay their last money for transportation and find a save place to live.
The Root of the Problem
We should ask ourselves why so many people from specific countries leave. Certainly, life conditions are not only bad in those countries, but unbearable. Ask yourself, “What would it take for me to leave my comfortable life in my country and go live somewhere else?” When one lives in a stable country, it is easier to find another country to live in after having finished the bureaucratic procedures. Furthermore, we need to understand that it is easier to move out of some places. Ukrainian refugees can more easily arrive in Germany than Syrian refugees. Many of the refugees coming from African or Arab counties, in order to arrive in a safe democratic country, need to cross many undemocratic ones. Oftentimes, in those undemocratic countries, political and physical abuse of refugees also takes place. One example is Turkey, that threatens the European Union of letting refugees pass European borders if the EU does not give them money.
Majority of refugees that finally make it to Europe have already tried to take refuge in countries that are near to the one they fled out of. To their bad luck, they were not welcomed in those countries and faced discrimination, physical and mental abuse. For this reason, they had to flee again.
Taking those arguments into consideration, we can clearly agree that there need to be brutal reasons for somebody to take on such a life threatening and dignity degrading adventure. Therefore, one should not see refugees as the problem but recognise the real reasons that create those refugees.
Shift of perspective
A perspectival shift needs to happen in the narrative around and the treatment of refugees. Countries that take in refugees need to actively work with them. In other words, refugees have first hand experience of the societal and political structures that forced them to leave their countries. This knowledge can help politicians try to find a solution to the real problems of their escape. Sovereign democratic countries need to work together to pressure the countries the refugees are coming from. This is easier said than done. This leads to the question of whether some highly influential and powerful bodies in the west cannot pressure people in positions of power in those countries, because they have their own benefits maintaining those regimes.
Reasons for Political Abuse of Refugees
The political abuse of refugees that creates a “us-vs-them” mentality is purposefully done to divert the attention of the general public from the real issue which is the maintenance of power. Who benefits from the maintenance of those regimes and the crises that force people to move? Not only now, but who benefited in the past? Who benefited from the underdevelopment of some countries or even whole continents? Those who benefited have the highest obligation now. The obligation to help refugees but also to try and fix the root of the problem in the underdeveloped countries. Help build institutions that will make life there worth living. Because refugees would much rather live in their home country than risk their own and their children’s lives to live somewhere else.
“Who wants more power and who wants to maintain power?” The answers to those questions will guide us to a solution to the refugee crisis. Who benefits from the underdevelopment of some countries and who works with the autocratic regimes to keep them in power? Until we can answer those questions and someone comes along to solve the problems, we should treat each other with respect, understanding, and sympathy. Refugees are not our enemies. Powerful players use refugees for their own agenda.