The Pain Of Not Belonging- The Plight Of The Refugees From Syria
The grief of losing the land of your forefathers is as intense as losing someone close to you. Every refugee is a bereaved person and no amount of comfort or opportunity in a new land can compensate for what they have lost. Most are too old to start afresh. Their freedom tainted with too much sorrow, too many regrets. The tale of every refugee is a tragic tale of being intimated, coerced and driven from their land, having seen their loved ones raped and murdered, enduring an inhuman journey only to end up in a hostile land where they are looked down upon just because they are different. The plight of the Native Americans throughout the American Continents, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq, the list is endless and the madness continues to this day. This time it is Syria, home to one of the greatest civilizations and one of the most stable democracies in the world, reduced to a killing field.
But hope floats. From the youth across the world who see with their compassionate eyes what the adults refuse to. Transition students of a college in Northern Ireland choose the plight of the refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria for close to a decade, as their project for the transition year. The project called We Are All Human focuses particularly on the new community of refugee and seeker of asylum in their town.
At a time when the older population across Europe have been wary and at times downright hostile to the refugees, fearing that they would prove a burden on the local community, even suspecting them of harboring terrorists, these children have shown once again that it is the youth who will always be at the forefront of the fight against inhumanity.
Not another ghetto
Their project focuses on the effort for inclusive space for the Syrian community within their town, not create a ghetto, stockade or a settlement, all fancy names for a concentration camp. Their approach was in contrast to the measures taken by the administration to indefinitely confine them to camps. It demonstrates the resolve of the youth of the Irish town to take a more humanitarian approach to the crisis. It proved itself to be an exemplary region in the quality of its response
You Only Leave Home When Home Will Not Let You Stay
The project demonstrated that becoming refugees is not a matter of choice. These Syrians were hounded out of their homeland and fleeing was the only option besides falling into the hands of the ISIS. Most refugees hold out for conditions to turn favorable before returning to their native land. And the few who choose not to do so realize that they have nothing left to return to. The students pointed out that over 68 million were forced to seek asylum in an alien land which had little similarity to their culture, victims of wars, ethnic violence, natural disasters, and political persecution. But they had little choice. They drifted to where fate took them.
By December 2018, the reception centers in Ireland was home to 6,000 refugees. Some were recognized as refugees but were forced to stay in the camp because of the lack of housing. After Warsan Shires and her powerful poem, it was the turn of a young Syrian Student Lilav Mohamed, to recount her and her family’s ordeal in Syria
The whole family comprising Lilav’s parents, her elder sister and her immediate family had initially moved to Turkey. While Lilav’s made it to N. Ireland, her sister, husband and their two daughters stayed back at Turkey. And then they returned to Syria again to Syria having received news of the demise of Jihan’s brother-in-law and were trapped. Deprived of even the basic amenities in war-torn Aleppo, life turned extremely hard for Jihan and her family. Their hope of joining Lilav and her parents in Northern Ireland in were dashed as they had lost their identity papers. They would have to travel to Aleppo to obtain a copy but it became impossible in the war-torn city. The chance of Jihan and her family making it to Northern Ireland is turning bleaker by the day. The cost of escaping is prohibitively high. Lilav’s story is only one of the numerous tragedies of war, of families torn apart. The We Are All Human project was inspired by her story.
From Monaghan County Council, Brenda Clerkin sourced the funds. To spread the initiative they contacted local businesses in Clones by distributing welcome mats. The people accepting the mats pledged their allegiance for people fleeing persecution worldwide. A book named The Gingerbread Man’s Flight became a test case. Ciara Moley illustrated the book. A board game named Lilav’s journey enlightening children about the family’s journey across Europe. Monaghan Welcomes You provides essential information on services offered in their county. It is refugee-friendly as there are options for 7 different languages. The students participated in St Patrick’s Day parade and held interviews. They hosted an event in Clones where the issues faced by refugees were discussed. They are also writing a script on the predicament of Jihan.
At the Young Social Innovators of the year award 2019, The students also received two awards- The Overall Silver Award and the Global Citizen’s Award 2019.
But Jihan and her family still remain trapped in Syria, separated from their family members in Clones. The Administration is still dithering on creating an atmosphere conducive to families torn apart by war. They are eager to return to their homes when things return to normalcy. But Ireland owes it to them to remain their guests till that really happens. A little nudge in this direction could mean much for these refugees. It would also set a fine example to the youth of Ireland that this is one nation which stands by the refugees of the world. The matter needs to be addressed before it is too late.