Spare a thought for refugees

The world seems smaller than ever. Perhaps it is the 24-hour news cycle that brings information directly to our TV screens; or perhaps it is social media, which allows persons to connect like never before. Whatever the case, we truly live in a global community, one in which news is shared in real time.

This feeling makes it all the more striking to read the contents of the most recent United Nations report, which states that over 70 million people were displaced from their homes by the end of 2018. As the highest number of its kind, it counts those who fled their homes because of war, conflict or economic collapse. Out of those millions, 67 per cent come from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. In Ethiopia, 1.5 million people were internally displaced in 2018 because of violence. It is so dire, the UN estimates that every two seconds, someone has to flee his or her home. It is an unfortunate state of affairs that has trended upwards in recent years, and affects the most vulnerable, young, elderly and poor in disproportionate ways.

As the report noted, the ideal method of solving the problem of displacement is to have those countries’ internal governance and situations stabilise. Unfortunately, in most cases, such would not be achieved without further bloodshed, insurrection and violence. It does not help that Western governments, some of whom have taken in refugees, are also at the root of some of the conflict and violence experienced.

Regionally, it takes just one storm or violent event to impact our countries’ stability. As Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley noted recently, Caribbean people have experienced displacement, with Montserrat and Barbuda as the most extreme cases of a majority of the population having to leave the island because of natural disasters.

If nothing else, these commonalities of tragedy remind us that we are Caribbean brothers and sisters first and foremost and any courtesies that are to be extended will come from our regional family first, such as the outreach and response for those nations devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

World Refugee Day is a sobering state of affairs on how the world’s peoples are still exposed to frightening circumstances, fleeing persecution, violence, with literally nowhere else to turn. A few years ago, Save the Children released a striking series of public service advertisements from the eyes of a child in an unnamed, Western country whose life dramatically changes from normalcy to terror after she and her family have to flee their home because of war. It is a reminder that all too often, those who are nameless and faceless in the media were once like us, passing our daily lives in relative peace. That is the true challenge in meeting the needs of the displaced – to recognise that they are just like us, want the same things we do, and deserve to have piece of mind and security in their lives.

To recognise those is need is simply to extend the Christian principles and values touted by this nation, a notion that is captured well in the parable of the Good Samaritan. As other countries around the world open their borders to those seeking sanctuary, we too in the region should continue to provide the help we can, as we so often have done in times of need.

Barbados Advocate

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