Home » The refugee crisis highlights a sharp contrast between governments and people
The refugee crisis highlights a sharp contrast between governments and people
Humanity is all about caring. It is the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and try to understand how they are feeling. The empathy that one human being can show for another can make the lives of both people infinitely better.
And now, more than ever, the qualities of humanity and empathy are vitally important; because citizens of the world are in need of help than at any time in the 21st century. War torn Syria has caused the displacement of millions of people who have fled the regime and left behind them the ruins of the lives they had built previously; and now they need a leg up. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the end of 2020 more than 82.4m people had been forcibly displaced and more than a quarter are refugees.
The UNHCR states that more people have fled Syria than any other country while its neighbour, Turkey, has accepted more refugees than any other territory. And now war in Ukraine has resulted in the forcible displacement of almost 5m people since the country was invaded in February. Mostly women and children are now seeking shelter and protection, and the doors of Western Europe are (mainly) open.
More than 200,000 households in Britain have offered to open their homes and, finally, Ukrainian refugees have reached our shores and those who have successfully navigated the complicated VISA system are finding temporary accommodation. But the outpouring of generosity from the British public is hardly matched by the government; which is no surprise at a time the Home Office is straining to get its Borders and Nationalities Bill through the House of Lords.
And while UK householders reach out a hand of friendship to those in need, the Home Office, last week, revealed its plan to move single men who have arrived in the country ‘illegally’ 4,000 miles to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed.
Rwanda isn’t a country celebrated for its human rights record, with Amnesty International recently criticising the government’s intolerance of dissent, while LGBT Rwandans were reported to have been harassed and even arrested by Police under ‘morality laws’. The country has recovered, to a degree, from the 1994 genocide when over half a million Tutsi were killed. And now it sees itself as a stable, emerging economy which has welcomed refugees before. In 2014 it signed a deal with the Tel Aviv government to take African refugees and, in 2019, agreed with the UN to take asylum seekers from Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The Home Office plan to use Rwanda as a dumping ground was savaged by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in his Easter address when he insisted that as a Christian country the UK should not sub-contract its responsibilities. The resettlement plan does seem to be unnecessarily cruel but, either way I bet the Archbishop has been axed from the Home Secretary’s Christmas Card List!
Imagine how it feels to have risked everything, including your life, to cross the English Channel only to be shoved on a plane and flown half way around the world to fill out the paperwork. It isn’t as if the refugees are getting humane treatment from the French either. The European Court of Human Rights has ordered the French government to pay tens of thousands of Euros in damages to men who have been abused, while police have been accused of attacking migrants in the streets.
Aid workers claim the French police regularly raid migrant camps and the violence meted out is another factor which persuades them to make the perilous trip, in substandard boats, in an attempt to reach England.
Why then would anyone deny the beleaguered traveller some comfort?
Call it what you like; humanity or empathy but, basically…it’s common decency.
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