A Call for Empathy

By Sophie Hudson

I am ashamed.

Part of me got swept away with the media portrayal of refugees coming into Europe. It all scared me. The hundreds of thousands crossing the Mediterranean at night, sleeping rough on the streets, trying to get into
Britain by sneaking onto the back of trucks or walking the channel tunnel. I was glad to be getting away from it.

Immigration into and around Europe is relatively common, reflected in the diversity seen in London, which I call home. Yet, in Britain, the media constantly seems to tell us that immigration is bad and that immigrants are taking our jobs, our houses and are the root cause of all the bad in society. The refugee crisis — and the subsequent influx of immigrants — is a unprecedented crisis in Europe. 12 million Syrians have fled their homes; men, women and children were forced to leave, not out of choice, but desperation. They are fleeing for their lives in extraordinary numbers. They have nowhere to go, but with increased drone strikes from the United States, Russia, United Kingdom and other European countries — as well as the rise of ISIS and President Assad’s brutal regime — Syria is no longer a place they can stay if they want to survive.

Most end up in camps across the Middle East and Europe, such as the “Calais Jungle.” That is the one I hear most about. There are over 6,000 migrants living in one place, with little water, no electricity and limited medical help. The jungle continues to expand with the influx from Syria, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries, all in the hope of entering the United Kingdom.

What the mass media portrayal has failed to notice is that these refugees are individuals.

How bad must it be — to spend all the money you have and more — to flee your home in the dead of night, knowing that over 3,700 people have died doing the same journey? Yet 920,000 did that exact thing between January and November of last year. You have nowhere to go once you reach mainland Europe; you have no status in Europe. You may have been a doctor or a teacher in Syria, but in Europe — as a refugee — that means nothing. I cannot even imagine studying for so long to be told that my education was worthless, or that I couldn’t continue studying or working.

I no longer understand people’s hesitation to accept Syrian refugees. We need to help and support them in any way we can. People fear those they don’t know. So we need to get to know these refugees. These people. Understand their motivations and their desperation. Many are just like us. They are trying to study, trying to learn, trying to create a life for themselves. We must help foster that or a country’s generation of ideas and talent will be wasted. I urge you to look up ‘Humans of New York.’ Photojournalist Brandon Stanton follows the story of 12 families who have been given asylum in the United States. You will understand the stories, the people behind the
figures and statistics and why they had to flee. Reading it was one of the most humbling experiences.

I am embarrassed because I feel like the world should be doing more. We are bombing Syria, so we need to help those who have had to run from the bombs. On Dec. 16, the British Prime Minister proudly stated that the first 1,000 Syrian refugees have now arrived in the United Kingdom. I am sorry but that is shameful. One thousand people. 12 million have fled Syria. But well done Britain, we allowed 1000 people into Britain.

I signed the petition at Go/Refuge because I want to do more to help these people. And I think we should do whatever we can. We are privileged. We get to enjoy a brilliant education. I have the opportunity to study at Middlebury for a year. My education is one of the most important things to me, as it is for so many Syrian refugees. But that has been put on hold. I truly believe if we can help them to continue their education, we will make a difference.

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