Writer: Roshan Setlur is a freshmen in high school, who is an avid member of his Model United Nations Club and wishes to use his voice to make a change.
Escaping a Nightmarish Reality
The Difficulties that Pose Refugees when Escaping
Escape. Escape is the only sliver of hope refugees can grapple for in the terrible situations they face in their home-nation of Syria. With the issues in Syria stemming from violence between Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and military groups, many citizens of Syria have no other option but to flee and start their lives anew. The violence is only being perpetuated by the forceful arrival of the Islamic State in Syria’s eastern parts. Over 250,000 people have lost their lives to violence in the Middle-Eastern nation according to CBBC and the over 22 million people that still reside in Syria are continuously vying to refrain from becoming a part of the former statistic. However, escaping the conflicts of the nation entails its own myriad of dangers.
According to the office of the UN Higher Commissioner for Refugees, there were an estimated 4.6 million registered Syrian refugees in countries bordering Syria. Though it may seem like a large amount, that is merely one drop compared to a vast ocean of refugees. Many nations such as Germany and France, although they have contributed to the cause by accepting refugees, have set ambiguous caps to the amount of refugees they will accept, due to the lack of infrastructure to allow for the great influx of refugees and growing fears of terrorism; as a result of the attacks on Paris conducted by the Islamic State in November of 2015. On the other hand, some nations are not taking in any refugees at all, leaving them destitute and devoid of hope. To make matters worse, there are very few legal methods for refugees to be transported from Syria to neighboring nations such as Greece. This is essentially due to the fact that the Syrian government under Assad does not condone the escaping of refugees and is cracking down on it. This is one of the most pressing issue that refugees face and leads me to the focus of this article: many refugees turn to smuggling as a means of escape. As stated in an Al Jazeera article, refugees are not only willing to risk thousands of dollars; equivalent to their entire family's yearly salary, they are willing to risk their lives for freedom. Due to the smugglers’ lack of infrastructure, refugees are forced to board inflatable, rubber dinghies the size of a large dining table in hordes. Many times, families are separated from each other with parents sacrificing themselves to send their children on the raft to allow them to seek a new life for themselves. The use of dinghies is very unsafe and such rafts commonly rupture and topple over in bad weather. The whereabouts and other information about smuggling companies is unknown, but what is evident known is their blatant infringement of basic human rights that are etched into the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. To them, it is just a money-making business regardless of whether or not they are exploiting people susceptible to the outside world. With the average cost of $3,000 USD to reach Europe for refugees, the Syrian-refugee smuggling industry generates about $26 billion USD each year. One direct victim of this smuggling was a boy who captivated news headlines across the globe. His name- Alan Kurdi. Born in northern Syria into a Kurdish family, Alan spent most of his short-lived life in Turkey escaping attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State. Hoping to join his sister in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Alan’s father applied for refugee sponsorship in Canada but was rejected by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada after the family members were denied an exit visa by Turkish authorities. As a result, the family had no other option but to turn to smuggling to reach the Greek island of Kos. After boarding a rubber, inflatable dinghy, in Bodrum, Turkey, three-year-old Alan and his family embarked on a journey of hope. However, about five minutes into their journey, their boat capsized and at least 12 out of the 16 passengers on board drowned. When Alan’s dead body washed up on a Turkish beach, it was photographed and the picture spread like wildfire on social media across the globe, as a reminder of the dire situations millions of refugees are in. It is appalling to think that this event could definitely have been prevented if the international community paid more attention to the safe passage and harboring of refugees. The best way for us to contribute to this cause and instigate change is by educating both the children and adults of the world to empathize with and raise funds for those refugees less fortunate than us.