It’s difficult to imagine a place where normal life is unsafe. It’s difficult to imagine your childhood being disrupted. It’s difficult to imagine living in fear. For the Afghans, Syrians, and other people that are uprooted from their homes, they have no choice but to experience this suffering. According to the European Commission, approximately three million migrants will likely arrive in Europe by 2017. This important statistic has characterized both the decisions governments in the European Union have made and the situation of the migrants.
Hannah ’17, the president of MER-C service club, has had some first-hand experience in working with children and teenagers who are affected by this crisis. “MER-C’s purpose as an (ISKL) club is to spend time with refugee teenagers (from countries like Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and more) and try and give them normal, teenage experiences that differ from their otherwise less than ideal living conditions. By participating in activities with ISKL students like football, board games, learning about one another and becoming friends. We try and give these kids an enjoyable, carefree hour each week where they can be the smart, fun kids that they are.” MER-C has quite the responsibility in providing a basic human service to these kids. The ability to interact and give them some peace of mind is something so genuine and necessary for those in need.
Although recently there has seemed to be a sudden outpour of news regarding the migrant crisis, migrants from the middle east and other regions of the world have been seeking asylum in Europe for many years. Political instability, war, economic disadvantages––these are only a few of the reasons as to why multitudes of people have been streaming in. The main nationalities of the millions of people arriving on the Mediterranean Sea are Syrian (52%), Afghan (19%) and Iraqi (6%).
The term “European migrant crisis” was popularised when five boats carrying almost two thousand migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea in April 2015. With a combined death toll of approximately more than 1,200 people, the world realized that the situation of these asylum-seekers was more dire than ever reported.
The countries that have been accepting or seeing the highest influx of migrants are those who were hit the hardest by the EU economic crisis. Countries like Greece and Italy, also coastal locations, provide these migrants an easier port of entry and an open solution. By July 2015, Greece had become the most popular entry point, with Frontex reporting 132,240 illegal EU border crossings for the first half of 2015––five times the number reported at the same time last year. A growing number of Syrians and Afghans traveling from Turkey and Greece through Macedonia and Serbia have now found Hungary as another point of entry. From January to July 2015, Frontex reported 102,342 illegal crossings into Hungary. This surge caused the Hungarian prime minister to set up a barbed wire fence on the border between Hungary and Serbia, sparking outrage from the supporters of the migrants but support from Hungarian nationals––46% of whom believe that no migrant should be able to enter Hungary.
As the migrants literally travel by land, by air or by sea, the psychological and physical consequences have taken their toll. According to the International Organization for Migration, up to 3,072 people died or disappeared in 2014 in the Mediterranean while trying to migrate to Europe. Overall estimates are that over 22,000 migrants died between 2000 and 2014. That staggering number should shock those who realize that the migrants are simply trying to find a safe place to live, some sacrificing their lives for their families.
In order to find a solution or even to make some kind of difference, it is important to show active awareness. Hannah phrases it perfectly. “I think we should be having open discussions about the migrant crisis, and not tiptoe around the subject. It is real and it is happening and it needs to be acknowledged. Anyone can read about the Syrian or Palestinian strife, but when you work directly with the people that it affects, it’s a different kind of awareness. A deeper, more personal one, I think.”
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