- Date published:
4:02 pm, September 6th, 2015 - 90 comments
Categories: aid, democratic participation, Ethics, human rights, International, Media, Social issues, Syria - Tags: refugees, solidarity, syria
I wonder if the current public outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees is nought but a ‘fashion’, or whether it’s the beginnings of a renaissance for internationalism.
My cynicism whispers to be mindful of the fickleness of any collective ‘social conscience’ and the ephemeral ‘humanity’ that momentarily throws money out over wringing hands in an exercise of self congratulatory conscience salving.
Before pictures of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, drowned and lying face down on a beach, occupied the front pages of major newspapers and various internet ‘feeds’, where exactly did the humanity of most people in the relatively safe haven of ‘the west’ register? There are many good people among us, no doubt. But if newspaper headlines and previously successful political campaign strategies are anything to go by, the majority opinion and attitude towards refugees is, or has been, rubbing the fucking ground.
So how long will it be I wonder, before it’s reported – of course in full blown sordid technicolour detail – that a refugee or some refugees have committed some heinous crime, and for that to precipitate all the ‘good folks’ to go scurrying back behind the barricades and into the sanctuary of their comfortable small world, from where they can decry the collective evil they’ve unwittingly delivered upon themselves? I can almost hear it coming down from the future as I sit here and type – the earnest and veiled yet hateful protestations that, ‘we’ would never behave like ‘that’… to be followed quickly by how ‘they’ are so ungrateful and undeserving afterall. Then a potentially fucking awful backlash begins…
My cynicism, loud through weariness, suggests I won’t be waiting too long.
My hope, quiet, is merely hanging by a slender vibrating thread that would rather I believe we’re witnessing a genuine, nascent internationalism.
So, as far as Europe is concerned, the likes of the UK will work to accommodate some 250 000 of the current 2 million refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan.
Down this way, the likes of Nauru and Manus Island will be emptied in the near future as NZ, pulling it’s weight, commits to a refugee population density way in excess of the current 1 refugee for every 3 700 residents (UNHCR figures for 2013). As a matter of priority, NZ will bolster existing frameworks and develop new ones where necessary, to ensure that future intakes of refugees can be handled effectively and smoothly.
Okay. The reality will likely be paltry action from government coupling up, by and by, with major media seeking to wean us from any ‘misguided’ or ‘naive’ sense of humanity. But headlines that talk in terms of ‘swarms’ or of us being ‘swamped’ and such like, or articles that suggest refugees are just cunning economic migrants, these things must never work again; must never have us being in any way indifferent to men, women and children, either traveling over land in search of sanctuary or who risk drowning at sea in search of sanctuary. An enduring solidarity towards all those ordinary people, who only find themselves in a precarious position due to extra-ordinary circumstances, would be a bedrock, a beginning.
I guess we’ll know where we’re all at on this in about six months or so…
Meanwhile, here’s a link to the poem “Home” by Warsan Shire, a Kenyan-born Somali poet living in London.