I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated over the past couple of months with the narrative regarding refugees and this ridiculous word being thrown around – “migrant”. Let’s turn to our old friend Webster for the definition.
a person who goes from one place to another especially to find work
I had the honour of visiting the refugee camps in Jordan, hearing only small pieces of the indescribable pain these people have gone through. Let’s go through a few quick scenarios.
A person whose home is lined with barrels packed full of C4 and then summarily bombed is not a migrant.
A family who cannot leave their home without fear of being shot dead in the street are not migrants.
A single mother who has lost her husband to the war, and her eldest son to sniper fire as they tried to cross the border, is not a migrant.
These people are refugees. They are recognized as refugees under the Geneva Convention on Refugees internationally, and to portray them with the disrespectful word “migrant” is frustrating beyond words. They are not “short on work”, or thinking maybe life will be slightly better over somewhere else. They are running for their lives, carrying with them whatever they can from their old lives. They are human beings like you and I – used to modern amenities, home owners, business owners. Just people. What is wrong with us that we can’t recognize this??
What does it take?
Well apparently it takes a picture of three year old Aylan Kurdi washing up dead on the beach, trying to reach a world where he didn’t live under constant threat with his family. It’s heartbreaking, and I can’t look at the actual image for too long so I’ve used a drawing of Aylan by a UNHCR case worker named Yante for this post instead of the real, horrifying picture of Aylan lying face down in the sand with the waves washing up around him. And yet while this has raised awareness, we’re still not doing enough – and our politicians are doing next to nothing but trying to save face.
So is there a core problem here that we should be doing more to resolve? Yes – this war is out of control. I don’t know the answer to that one, and neither do these refugees. When I asked them what it would take for them to be able to go back to their country – because they truly love their country, and their homes, and want to go back – they said it would take a miracle. An act of God. They can’t even imagine a solution right now.
Can we do something in the mean time? Yeah we can. Let’s not make these people take little dinghys to neighbouring countries risking death at sea. Let’s take them in. We are a rich country, and we are rich in large part due to the many cultures that have settled here in Canada. And I frankly don’t care about the economics. This is the human thing to do. Canada needs to step up and do our part, and so does everyone else.
How can we stand by and do nothing? And how is it that a three year old has to wash up dead on a beach for us to take notice in the first place?
The word heartbreaking is all I can really think of. I think of all the people I met in Jordan and their stories, and all of the children impacted by this ridiculous waste of human life and it’s sad, and it’s frustrating and horrible. Just horrible. So I had to write this out. All I can say is I hope you will carry this message forward. And you know what, I hope you’ll give up some cash too.
The UNHCR does more for these people than any one or thing else. It’s the only life line a lot of these people have. So yes, let’s donate some money.
And please read this Op Ed by Angelina Jolie, one of the fiercest advocates for refugees.
Let’s not let Aylan die in vain. He was three years old.