Earlier this week, Turkey announced they were reaching the end of the road for being able to accept refugees. With Assad relentlessly shaking Syria like a piggy bank, Turkey is struggling to cope with the 2.5 million refugees spilling over onto its soil. Perhaps what is most disheartening, is seeing this group of people, the majority of whom are professionals, stigmatised. With an influential few in the media keen to establish a ‘them and us’ narrative, a feeling of foreboding is being cultivated alongside the possibility of refugees coming to Britain. With most, their lives have been put on hold by the civil war that continues to cripple their country and many just wish to continue their studies or profession.
This week Turkey rebuked the international community for not doing their part. Indeed, central Europe is being called upon by the UN to take more responsibility in this escalating crisis. David Cameron’s promise to resettle 20,000 refugees over five years has been branded by many as “inadequate”. This certainly seems to be the case when you see the conditions of the sprawling refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Recent drone footage taken by the Turkish Humanitarian relief foundation gives a sense of the vast scale of the situation at the Turkish – Syrian border.
If alleviating the pressure from Syria’s neighbours isn’t reason enough to welcome refugees, the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions on the arduous journey they face surely must be. Back in September we all saw the image of the motionless Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi. So often, glib headlines spinning tales about the ‘immigrant problem’ detract from the reality of this being a humanitarian one. The turmoil this summer so tragically highlighted the fragility of life, and how war could just as easily reach our ‘sacred’ shores. In light of our Government’s response to the refugee crisis, I fear to think how we would be treated in a similar situation.
According to the UN more than half of all Syrian refugees are under the age of eighteen. Many have been deprived of the joy to learn, and owing to their transient status never quite settle into a community. With children being the main victims of warfare, it is more than our duty to simply ‘relieve’ Turkey. Solely down to its geographical situation, Turkey has unfairly shouldered responsibility for navigating the crisis and President Erdogan is understandably feeling the pressure.
Refugees are often victim to the most callous of smugglers, they are simply hedging their bets on the best way to survive. It is perhaps time that we stopped expecting gratitude, and started treating them with the dignity and humanity that they have so far been deprived of. It would be a privilege to welcome a cohort of such resilient and talented people. Back in September with our own university joining campaigns across the country to proclaim that refugees are welcome, now more than ever is a time to take that promise seriously.
Naomi De Souza
Image courtesy of Osman Orsal/Reuters