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Refugees run from hell, others worry about their holidays

The biggest responsibility European countries face is to accept that these refugees are first and foremost human beings

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

Earlier this week, the European Union proposed a commission to annually take in 40,000 refugees who arrive in Italy and Greece, and redistribute them throughout the EU. The countries that take refugees in would be paid 6000 euros per refugee per year. The proposal comes after hundreds have already lost their lives attempting to make the journey.

While this is still a proposal, and governments are weary that tackling immigration policies, specifically to take more immigrants in as asylum seekers, may affect their popularity, we must remember that the issue of refugees is a worldwide humanitarian crisis. These people are not coming to Italy and Greece on a cruise ship, they are risking their lives and leaving all that they know behind for a chance to survive.

Refugees aren’t running towards a holiday, they’re running from hell

Britain’s government is yet to accept taking part in this proposal. Its newly elected Conservative Party stated its intent to limit net migration into the UK, meaning it is likely to put up a fight if the EU tried to force the UK to take immigrants in.

However, perhaps most shocking was an article in British newspaper, The Daily Mail, highlighting what I believe to be a display of white privilege. The article claimed that the arrival of refugees to the Greek island of Kos was a “nightmare for British holidaymakers.”

The biggest responsibility European countries face is to accept that these refugees are first and foremost human beings

Yara al-Wazir

This article is a reflection of tourist reactions, so one cannot place full blame on the publisher. Still, I find these reactions shameful – saving refugees’ lives is not an inconvenience by any means. A little perspective is needed – consider Syrian refugees torn between joining ISIS, being killed for refusing to join ISIS, or fleeing on a boat to Greece and causing mild inconvenience to holiday goers until their papers are sorted and clearance comes through to leave Greece for another EU country. Which option is the lesser of three evils?

And Kos doesn’t exactly epitomize a ‘luxury holiday.’ It is a holiday destination predominantly aimed at young adults. It’s marketed for its parties and alcohol, so peace and quiet may be off the table anyway.

What else can the world do?

The biggest responsibility European countries face is to accept that these refugees are first and foremost human beings. Refugee integration into local communities is the key to progression, and in giving refugees a chance to thank their host country for accepting them, and to become less reliant on aid.

Accepting refugees into the local community doesn’t exclusively mean providing refugees with homes – that’s basic. Rather, it includes teaching refugees the local language, local customs and community duties.

Syrians have a long-standing history with tourism and hospitability; so ending up in Greece may actually make for an excellent match.

At the end of the day, refugees don’t solely depend on governments for monetary aid. Silent aid can be offered by media organizations around the world just by humanizing refugees. This comes in the form of telling their stories, their potentials, instead of attempting to paint a picture of refugees as getting in the way of things.

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Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir


Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.