My Thoughts on the Refugee Crisis

19.5 Million.

19.5 Million innocent people on this Earth can’t go home because they may get killed, raped, or tortured for no reason.

19.4 Million of these people will spend their lives running, not focused on advancing or education or chasing their dreams.  They simply focus on staying alive.  They spend weeks or months or years in camps.  The average camp has over 11,000 people, though many have well over 100,000.  The camps are dirty and cramped and definitely not home, but they are safe.  At least, relatively safe.  These people either languish in camps or eventually return to their countries.

refugee

Just over 100,000 innocent people exhaust their options.  They will surely die- thousands of them do every year- if they stay put.  After a grueling interview and qualification process, just over 100,000 people are resettled to another country permanently.  They are the lucky ones; that is if you consider leaving your family and home to start over with very limited resources lucky.  They don’t have to worry about being attacked in their new country, but they do have to worry about how to repay the loan for their airfare.  They get 90 days of assistance once they touch down, and then they must provide for themselves- never mind that they are learning a new language, culture, work skills, and have virtually no support system.

I personally know a dozen or so of these innocent people who have settled in the Kansas City area.  They are my friends, and in some cases have become my family.

The way that they overcome adversity inspires me.

  • How can they work so tirelessly?   I don’t understand how you can work 16 hour days for little pay for years on end and not burn out.
  • How can they earn enough money on a minimum wage salary to send money back to their families?  One of our closest friends has sent home 2 laptops and just bought his family a bus they can use to make income. If they can do this, how much more can I give?
  • How can their children learn so fast?  I’ve seen first hand how quickly my adopted children have learned, but that’s with overwhelming support at home.  How can these children with undeducated parents keep up in school?
  • How can a single mom with no nearby family manage work and caring for her kids, and do it with a smile on her face?
  • How can that same single mom function when her spouse is in their home country and has been trying for years to come join his family?  Getting classified as a refugee and obtaining approval to settle in the US is a Herculean task.  It is given to only the neediest people.
  • How can these friends, who have every right and reason to feel victimized and depressed, bring me joy and cook my large family food?
  • How can they learn how things work here?  I’m pretty sure if I had to register my car or pay a bill or find a job in a foreign country I’d end up in a pool of tears.
  • How can they get by with no mental health care?  It’s not like they simply walked across a border; they escaped their countries under gun fire or by swimming across dangerous waters that claimed the lives of their friends.

These innocent people are some of the smartest, hardest working, kindest people I know.

These people are refugees, and the refugee situation is the worst it’s been since the last World War.  It’s horrible.  It’s personal to me and it makes my heart hurt, because any of the people captured at the border or drowned at the sea could have been one of my friends.  And my friends, and all of their friends, are good, kind folks who didn’t do anything to deserve this.

We’ve all heard what happened in Paris last week and it is tragic.  It’s tragic because of the loss of life but it’s also tragic because one of the attackers was a “refugee” who really wasn’t.  Now, refugees have a worse name than ever before and door after door is being shut.  In the US alone, 26 governors have said Syrian refugees are not welcome.

This is not right.

Look, I’m not a politician.   I know that accepting refugees is not going to solve the refugee problem; it’s merely a band aid.  Resettling refugees tends to the symptom of the issue, not the cause. Solving the cause is a complicated issue and I don’t know the answer. We should not stop fighting to solve the cause, whatever that is, to focus on what to do with current refugees. It’s got to be a two-pronged approach.  I also understand that resettling refugees introduces real issues, financial and otherwise, that need to be addressed.

But I guess when millions of peoples lives are at stake I care a little less about finances and policies and more about taking care of our fellow humans.

Imagine a hungry, tired, worn out person knocks on your door.  They don’t ask for much, just the very (very) basic things.  In return, they will work their tails off- not because they’re likely to build a better life for themselves in their lifetimes, but to give their children and their grandchildren opportunity they never had.  Give them a chance and your return on investment will beat the stock market on its best day.

Would you open your door?

Or would you let them die?

That’s not hyperbole.  That’s reality.

refugee boy

Could have been Wiggles, if Wiggles hadn’t been born into privilege.

The overwhelming majority , by far, of refugees are like my friends.  Refugees have no voice, but we can be their voice.  And I believe history will define us by how we react.

Will we be their voice?

I will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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