The realness in the refugee crisisThursday 14 January 14:27
I sense that a lot of people struggle to judge what is real in the refugee crisis and whose information is to be trusted. Right wing extremist may want us to believe that we need to make one choice regarding the refugee crisis: Us or them. Do we want to give up our standards of lives and culture to become New Arabia, or do we protect the borders of Fortress Europe to keep refugees out of our territory? At the other side, cosmopolites are welcoming refugees, because it is the right thing to do, meanwhile trying to sell refugee camps as happy places and refugees are all good-doing people.
I find it hard to continue to completely position myself completely in the cosmopolitan camp, as I cannot close my eyes for a lot of problems. If you are fleeing from war, you will probably be traumatized. If you were to stay for a long time in an overcrowded refugee camp without any prospect, you will be desperate. And yes, if you are coming from an Arabic country, I believe norms need not be but probably are different from ours. On both extremes of the spectrum, news is either covered or blown up to support the rightness of our claims. Believing that sheltering refugees is the right thing to do, I tried to play down the problems, but by doing so I might have contributed to worsen the problem.
The problems are real and they need to be acknowledged. Europeans believing in the importance of human rights are suffering from a paradox: refugees from have the fundamental right to ask for asylum, but meanwhile it is not granted that these refugees themselves respect human rights. By covering op the latter, we do not serve the first, as people who witness problems, even though they are often way smaller than portrayed, stop trusting positive information, as they sense these stories have been polished. If we only share the good news, of which there is plenty, people distrust us.
It seems the only right thing to do is to address above mentioned problems of individual refugees, instead of addressing the refugees themselves as a problem. Due to so many refugees entering Europe and still more people arriving, the relief locations are often greatly scaled. This disables the possibility for customized care and meaningful day activities, where they can get in touch with their new local environments. In such an environment without any perspective, I would not be sure what I would have done. I hear reports concerning the safety of LGBT asylum seekers in these camps and concerns for the respect for women, intensified after Köln. These refugees may be in Europe, but if they are put together in great shelters, they have no chance to adapt to other norms than the ones of their camp.
If we let far-right politicians monopolize the information on the problems that refugees bring, we allow them to abuse these problems to label refugees themselves as the problem. We should address the problems, but place them into context and come up with solutions. Providing meaning in the lives of refugees by letting them help the local communities that shelter them would be a great start. It provides occupational therapy for the people that have fled and allows them to get to know our beliefs and values. It serves the local community as they are having people to help with revive issues that long had to be tackled and they get to know the people. Most of all, it serves society, as the stories we hear from each other are and will be the stories that we trust most.