I was talking to my mum this afternoon over lunch at Cafe Sim, a 10 minute walk away from home. We go there at least once a week, though just a couple of months ago it was 2-3 times. The little, homey Thai restaurant with creaky yellow fans and plastic tables stained with dirt from years of use. This is my favorite place to eat.
And no, not just because they started to serve my lime juice in a pint-sized glass after a couple of months (mkay fine maybe that’s why). But it has the simplicity of where I live, Penang, etched in the concrete floor, and the ease of a close family brunch on Sundays in the air. So after ordering two plates of Bee Hoon, a fried noodle dish, and a couple of Te Ices, we started a conversation of the utterly devastating trials that countries are going through in Europe and Middle East. Italy, Germany, France, all are being affected by the constant overflow of refugees, human beings who are running from handicapped countries for safety, for opportunities, and to just live.
*Edited* The United States accepted less than 2,000 Syrian Refugees this year (Recently upped to 10,ooo for next year ), even Malaysia houses 3,000 a year. In total the United States has accepted 70,000 refugees, when countries 1/50th our size are accepting 30,000 over 2 years like France. Millions of people are pouring out of Middle Eastern Countries, searching for some place to survive. But what can we do about it, those who aren’t burdened with life threatening occurrences on our front doorstep or a government who doesn’t give 2 cents about us? What are possible solutions?
One topic that surfaced was the amount of money invested into housing people and providing food, jobs, and hospitals, could instead be put into the source of the problems. Why don’t we invest the money into the war-torn countries directly, to try to achieve peace before they’re left barren and wasted? While some may say that Middle eastern countries have been fighting for a very, very long time and could never achieve peace, Western European Countries were fighting amongst themselves not even 80 years ago. No, Europe can’t hold millions of new refugees estimated to be coming over the next few years. 1,500,000 more refugees are estimated to go to Germany alone just this year.
What we’re doing right now seems like a temporary solution to an ever-growing problem.
We then moved onto Refugees who, well, aren’t exactly refugees. Some people unsatisfied with opportunities presented in their own countries, applying for refugee status in another, more promising country. Knowing that as a “refugee” they can be let in as their documents are processing and stay illegally when they aren’t actually legal. Even those that are accepted seem to be misusing the system, taking advantage of it.
One opinion to acknowledge was the fact that these people could be seen as lazy, that they should stay where they are and work hard to succeed there instead of running to someplace easier.
But I don’t agree. It sounds too entitled, as if being born in a country that is well-developed is “destiny”, and as if we are not all human beings. The moment we start saying who deserves what is when we start judging people for not who they are, but what they are. Why are places like the United States, started by entrepreneurial dreamers, trying so hard to keep dreamers out? People came to North America when it was the Land of Opportunity, yet too many people who live there now act as if the privileges were something they personally worked hard to build over centuries, not handed to them through chance of birth. Not a gift, given by people who spent their whole lives creating a nation for the hard workers, for the dreamers. Not for just Americans, not just for people who live on the same plot of land, but live on the same Earth, breathe the same air, and need the same things. Food, safety.
Sometimes you need to appreciate what you have, and then look at someone without it to really understand what it’s worth. But so many people are telling those with nothing already, what they shouldn’t have.
Hopefully this stops. Hopefully we help each other instead of ourselves. Hopefully, one day, I won’t need to hope about it. But until then, let’s work towards it until we achieve it.
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7 thoughts on “Fried Rice and Refugees”
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I applaud your compassion, and I hope that it leads you to be concerned also with the causes of these situations. Those who “tell those with nothing” what they shouldn’t have are first and foremost the rulers of failed states. While we should not be arming such nations, the sad fact is that it doesn’t take modern weaponry to terrorize a populace.
Secondly, when conflict and poverty that generates mass migration arise, there are international agencies that can authorize intervention to control the spread of misery. The UN is foremost among those that manage intrastate conflict. There are nations that have veto power in the UN Security Council that exercise it because they are engaged in violent repression within their own borders. The leaders of those nations should be held to account for their actions, perhaps even being drummed out of the Security Council.
Finally, there are those nations that fail to support local relief efforts, such as those in Jordan, forcing refugees to seek relief thousands of miles from home. Perhaps preoccupied with instability in Greece over the last few years, the European community could have done far more to finance and create safe havens in the Middle East. That might have been a wise investment on their part.
There are no silver bullets here. Refugee camps have, in the past, become hot-beds of guerrilla activity, endangering non-combatant refugees and foreign operators. This has even occurred in refugee communities in Belgium, as reported by authors such as Hirsan Ali and evidenced by the attacks in France.
In the US, certification as a refugee is an incredibly rigorous process, limiting the number that can be admitted. However, the US does house a huge number of refugees in our borders, most of them as illegal immigrants from Central and South America. Given the political challenges we have had in creating a legal framework for their protection, it might actually be to their benefit for the Syrian refugees to seek relief in Europe.
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