In her debut article for E&M, our author Emily Clarke argues—when it comes to Europe’s refugee crisis—enough is enough; it’s time to uproot our collective passivity.
“These aren’t people, these are animals.” A quote from 1930s Germany? Or one, from across the pond, almost 90 years later?
You would be forgiven for thinking the former. Yet, in an era where the Holocaust is still in living memory, such an assertion came from the POTUS of our times—Donald Trump, speaking on immigration.
Such rhetoric, though, has not been constrained simply to a man known for his xenophobia. Long before the thought of Trump in the White House was even conceived, others—like David Cameron—were likening migrants to a ‘swarm’. The refugee crisis—and the controversy surrounding it—is not a new phenomenon. However, particularly in recent weeks, it feels like nothing has changed.
It is high time that we uproot our collective passivity and do as much as we can to support those who have nowhere to go
Overfilled boats are being heartlessly turned away from Mediterranean countries, children are being torn away from their parents and kept in cages, and at least 34,361 people have died in recent years trying to reach safety in Europe. World Refugee Week, just a fortnight ago, was marked by such tales of anguish—and yet instead of acknowledging the screams of people who have been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster, there were still individuals such as Nigel Farage, telling Trump to turn a blind eye to the “screams coming from the liberal media”. Literal and metaphorical screams are being ignored, the world over.
There are more refugees worldwide than at any time since the Second World War. Yet this time, there are no trains waiting to escort escapees to safety, as there were for the children of the Holocaust. Instead, refugees are camping on the railway tracks themselves, wading through rapids with their belongings, and catching scurvy on smugglers’ boats. It is a reality that is difficult to align with the 21st Century. Yet the truth is that refugees are simply an anonymous mass to many—victims of not only what they are fleeing, but also an epidemic of compassion fatigue that has seen the world become immune to human suffering.
Images of refugees are not new to us. Almost every day we are presented with news reports of boats laden with people in orange lifejackets on the southern shores of Europe, but with 65 million individuals having been forcibly displaced worldwide—the same number as the entire UK population—the crisis is certainly not getting any better.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall—a symbol of the divisions that sliced through Europe in the 20th Century—four times as many border walls exist than did in 1989. Yet with the world bearing witness to the countless journeys of refugees, it is high time that we uproot our collective passivity and do as much as we can to support those who have nowhere to go. There is no place like home—but for those who have no choice but to leave theirs, the least we can do is help them; just like we did for the victims of the Holocaust.
Feature image courtesy: Emily Clarke. | An Ai Wei Wei installation in Copenhagen provokes reflection on the humanitarian side of the crisis.