The refugee crisis: what can we do?

 

Allow me to get serious for a bit.

The world refugee situation.

It’s something that has concerned me for a long time, but recently it feels like more and more people are finally starting to say enough is enough. The images of the body of a small child washed up on a beach seems to have been the tipping point where we, as a society and as a global community, have decided that something has to change.

It’s one thing to get teary and vent about the governments that allow these things to happen on two levels: contributing to the conflict in these people’s homelands and then refusing them asylum when they have no option but to flee. But what can we actually do?

I could keep shaking my head at the people I know who quite simply do not give a shit about the welfare of humans that they have decided are somehow lesser than themselves. I could waste my time pointing out to these people that their own parents or grandparents came to Australia as refugees. I can continue to wonder how, as parents if nothing else, they aren’t swayed by images of a dead child. I can grit my teeth and swear and shake my head and rage and cry to my husband at the indiscriminate injustice of it all. Or I can choose to act.

Today, I chose to act.

I have begun by getting online to find out what refugee and asylum seeker services exist in my city. I have started to read about what they do, and how I can get involved. And there are so many ways: you can donate {money, goods, food, vouchers}, you can volunteer, you can work for them, and you can support them in spreading the word.

You can sign a petition calling on world leaders to make the changes that will stop people from dying as they try to get to a safer place.

You can donate cash that will go towards providing resources such as legal aid, education, job training and placement services, and even little things like international phone cards.

You can find out if there are any protests or demonstrations planned for your nearest city. It seems like people used to protest a whole lot more in years gone by, it was such a effective way to force change. As a teenager I remember protesting the war in Croatia, calling on the Australian government to get involved to help stop the conflict. It can be surprising what can be achieved by large numbers of people coming together to show that something really matters, that change is needed. People power, folks.

Because here’s what baffles me about people who are opposed to welcoming refugees: that could be any of us. Just because you were born in Australia or the U.S. or Canada or Germany or the U.K. or any other developed Western country does not mean that you/we/I are any better or more deserving of a nice life than the people who flee from countries torn apart by war, terror, or hunger. You are where you are by nothing more than a fluke of birth. You did nothing to earn it.

But you can give back.

All any refugee wants is a chance. I am the granddaughter of migrants, some of whom were refugees. They came to this country with pretty much nothing more than the clothes on their backs and what they could carry. Which is still more than what most refugees today are able to leave with. All my grandparents asked for from the Australian government of the day was a chance. An opportunity to settle in a country they felt could offer their own children a better future than the country of their birth. They were prepared to work hard and pay their taxes, and wanted simply to be able to educate their children, for them to have a full belly and a roof over their heads, and have them grow up in a place where there was promise and opportunity.

Not so different from what most people want for their family.

Who are we, who is any government, to decide that the refugees of today are not worthy of the same opportunity?

Yes, there are practical considerations for any government. Where to house the vast numbers of refugees? How to best “process” each family or individual? How to fund the community and legal services needed? How to best assimilate them into society? How to address the emotional as well as physical needs? How to speed up the process and make it less traumatic? And on and on and on it goes.

But it’s not that hard either.

Because at the end of the day no human deserves this:

Police throw food to caged refugees. Image: www.itv.com

I cried when I watched the news footage this morning, of police throwing food at refugees in cages.

This was followed by footage of police in Macedonia lashing out at refugees with batons.

They didn’t ask for this.

To find out more about what you can do to help, head to any of the following websites:

A little less than twelve months ago I asked you all to help me support the Frocktober fundraising initiative into finding an early screening test for ovarian cancer, and you all blew me away with your generosity. Together we raised just over $1100. Today I’m not asking you for a donation, but I am asking you to do whatever you are able to. It could be as simple as sharing this post so that we can reach as many people as possible {and is easy as pie to do}, or it can be signing a petition, finding a demonstration in your town or city, or donating clothes, food, or money. It can be signing up for a newsletter to stay informed. It can be writing a letter to your local member of government asking for change. There are so many small things we can all do which add up to a lot of voices calling for compassion and change.

Every refugee is you and me.

And every child deserves a chance.

Thanking you in advance,

Ana.

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