The whole world was shaken as the image of a cute little boy named Aylan appeared and circulated through social media in the past weeks. His little body, found by a Turkish soldier on the shores of Bodrum, made a profound impact upon the whole world. Many governments or peoples who were indifferent to the civil war in Syria and who largely turned a blind eye to the poor refugees escaping from this horror finally focused on Syria after a long time. Aylan was a symbol of humanity; everyone felt empathy imagining that Aylan could have been their own child. His cute photo haunted everyone, and even government officials who were ignoring the demands of refugees accepted the Syrian refugees with tears and applause. This tragic event is not something one would ever want, yet this cute little boy showed once again that there is still humanity left in this cruel world we are living in.
The conditions in the neighboring countries
95% of the people fleeing the warzones in Syria took refuge in its three neighboring countries: Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, all of which embraced them even though their economic situation is not very developed. They believe it is a humane and religious obligation to welcome those in need. However, as the war is still continuing and indeed, escalating, families keep on leaving their homeland by the thousands. Yet the problems of these people who sought refuge in other neighbor states do not end by only leaving the war. Some begin to live in refugee camps that are in very harsh conditions and others live in other unstable and unsafe environments. For example, refugees in Jordan can’t find aid due to the fact that the UN has run out of donations. If refugees can’t find the necessary funds to survive and to feed their children, then they will move to other areas. Thus, they are forced to make very tough decisions, not with great expectations, but with the hope of finding food and a shelter for their families. If they get a sufficient amount of assistance and have a stable life in these countries, they would never leave. But they are crossing the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas on a deadly journey to reach Europe as the ultimum remedium. Additionally, some families prefer to return back to Syria at the potential cost of their lives and the figures returning to war zone doubled since the cuts began in Jordan.
Difficulties refugees face in Europe
The difficulty does not end for these people who decide to move to another country. They have to start a long journey with no guarantee of reaching to the European shores alive. It is very disturbing to note that during the last two years, of the asylum seekers who fled to Europe by boat, many lost their lives to the sea. The fortunate ones who are able to put their feet on the European shores are not always welcome by some of these European countries. We have all seen many disturbing videos about the way these innocent people are treated by some Westerners in the social media lately. In Hungary, a camerawoman kicked and tripped a Syrian refugee carrying his child; this caused great anger in the public and she had to apologize for her actions and was ultimately fired from her job. It is not the only embarrassing footage we saw in the media; hundreds of refugees have forced their way through police lines near the Serbian border with Hungary where they were forcibly held in camps and were fingerprinted by the police, even though all they wanted was to cross the border to reach Germany or Scandinavia, where assistance for refugees is considerably higher. What's worse, the Hungarian officers were filmed throwing sandwiches over the crowd of refugees and forcing them to scramble for food. It is injurious to contemplate the mistreatment shown to these needy people.
To crown it all, some states in Europe, namely Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and France, are building razor-wire fences to prevent the refugees from entering their countries. Keep in mind that these refugees are not dangerous terrorists or vicious criminals, and all they want is to stay alive. We have to put ourselves in their own shoes. They are running away from war zones with the hope of surviving in other countries but what happens when they get there is unacceptable. Even though a very small amount of refugees compared to Germany and other nations were asked to stay in some of the Eastern European countries, they are not pleased with this decision. While Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban calls this crisis a “rebellion by illegal migrants”, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico says they would only accept Christians. It is surprising how the Europeans easily forget the refugee crisis they experienced over history owing to the wars in Europe. They faced the same problems these poor, innocent people experience now. For instance, in the Thirty Years' War, probably one-third of the population of the Czech lands fled to other parts of Europe and certainly during the World War I and II vast numbers of people were internally displaced.
An amicable solution for the refugees
An amicable solution is necessary for this problem; building walls and razor-wire fences trying to keep people out will not generate a positive solution. It is important to form public consensus because people at the grassroots level can make an enormous difference now through social media as we saw in the example of England. At first, the government did not want to take in any refugees but due to the influence of public opinion, it changed its policy very swiftly. Nowadays people can influence their politicians in democratic ways and use their rights to protest in a positive way. Thus, it is essential to raise awareness in the public. The international asylum act seems quite reasonable - theoretically - but it is not as it seems when it is put into action because every member state of the EU does not act in the same way and when there is no cooperation, we cannot have a sound result. There is no doubt it is essential to hold official meetings and discussions in order to formulate the laws in terms of refugees to provide them the proper assistance and protection. But what is more important is to remember that it is a human duty. Refugees should never be considered as a burden but rather as guests from God. They have no other option but to leave behind everything they possess simply to save their lives. Furthermore, it would be a great contribution to make donations to the UN so that those taking refuge in neighboring countries will indeed get the aid they need to survive. It is also important to allow them to get to work so that they may be able to carry on their lives in a positive fashion. We must bear in mind that refugees would not leave those neighboring countries they've sought refuge in if they had stable lives. Of course, beyond all that, if we join forces to stop this calamitous civil war and establish peace - especially in the Middle East - then none of these refugees would be experiencing any of these difficulties.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Tehran Times: