Day after day thousands of refugees cross the Aegan Sea in search for a better life, and just from 2015 to 2016 there were a total of 600,000 people/refugees who crossed the Syrian borders. Children hospitals are filled with refugee children with no parents, and families are separated.
On the 13th of April I attended an international event called “Journey to Europe: Perspectives on the Refugee Crisis,” which was a Film Screening of 4.1 Miles followed by lectures with Dr. Mitchell Smith, Dr. Mark Raymond and MAIS Graduate Student, Stefanie Neumeier. The short film portrays a Greek coast guard captain who was given the task to save thousands of refugees who are crossing the Aegan Sea. This award winning film was shocking to me, mostly because what I was able to see something that I never imagined could be happening on the other side of the world.
Dr. Smith was the first expert to speak after the film was presented, and he noticed how the entire room was speechless. It was hard to formulate words, but Dr. Smith specifically caught my attention when he said that the film “powerfully humanizes the refugee image in a world where we are threatened by our own security.” He spoke about the security of Europe, and how the EU is trying to reduce the flow of refugees. Security is one of the most important factors a nation faces, and Smith asked the question, “why are we so obsessed with our own security?” Although he gave us a few seconds to think about it, he quickly responded by saying that “our perceptions are based upon populous politics” and that “politicians take advantage of the people’s fears.” But Dr. Smith did provide an answer, which is that there needs to be a call for leadership and courage from every individual. Germany is experiencing a lot of criticism in regards to refugees and opening up their borders.
Dr. Raymond was the second expert to speak, and he wanted to echo what Dr. Smith said but he also wanted to focus on more of a historical perspective. Human history is a history of migration, and we have been migrating ever since the dawn of human rights. He focuses on the fact that what is new now is that we tightly control migration and borders, and it mostly has to do with nationalism and the technology we have present. Dr. Raymond specifically caught my attention when he stated that fleeing is one of the worst situations in the world, and 145 of 195 countries are parties to the 1951 International Refugee Treaty. Dr. Raymond said that a refugee is someone outside of their own country and cannot return to it due to a well founded fear of persecution due to gender, religion, race, etc. It is primarily due to this that there are 21.3 million refugees in the world. He ended his lecture by speaking about the help that the United States is giving and that “we are allowing the burden to rest on some of the poorest countries in the world,” and because of this we are being short sighted, selfish, and foolish. It is a humanitarian failure.
Furthermore, it was an amazing lecture and it has made me want to research the refugee crisis more. I hope that one day there will be peace in the world.