The refugee crisis is not only a political and economic crisis, above all it is a humanitarian one. Media reported vastly on dangerous journeys, tragic occurrences, logistical problems of host countries and the responses of the host countries governments and civilians in the face of an ever increasing wave of immigration. There are big debates about cause and effect in the displacement of humans in conflicted areas. How much responsibility do the international actors bear in these crises that now expand beyond the conflicted zones in the form of migration waves? Is it a moral imperative and human duty to receive and accommodate migrants? Will those who actually finish the journey and arrive to the desired destination, be accepted to the host country at all? I do not want to answer these questions. Any judgement is beyond my capabilities and beyond my knowledge of the matter. Instead I would like to shed light on another issue: What happens when a migrant reaches his or her destination? How can we assure that their lives will not be dominated by feeling displaced and being unable to actually have a good life under safer circumstances?
Many are probably familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow is a psychologist that developed ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ in 1943. I would like to use it as a lens to look at the issue. Maslow states physiological needs such as nutrition, water and clothing as the most basic ones to human existence. They are followed by the need of safety; The reason why people turn into refugees. Their own home is not safe. Uncertainty about tomorrow due to violent attacks, arbitrary and inhumane treatment force many to leave their birthplaces, their homelands. The feeling of belonging and home does not matter anymore in the face of threat of life. When a refugee is accepted, the two basic needs are covered, but what about the remaining ones? The need for love and belonging, the need for esteem and self-actualization?
A migrant faces a myriad of new problems. In many cases families have been torn apart, friends left behind. The whole social system that one, once belonged to is part of the past. This does not only concern the people left behind, it is about culture, language, food, religion, habits and the accustomed environment in general. The host country is a whole new world. Fundamentally different cultures, a foreign language that constitutes a barrier to communication and understanding. And this is not even taking into account the hostility and xenophobia refugees see themselves confronted with often times. I am German and I am appalled by the kind of opinion that I involuntarily encounter on the internet. I encounter lack of empathy, greed and above all fear of the unknown. What horrifies me the most is that these fears translate into ignorance and hatred.
We do not choose the setting and the circumstances we are born into. Neither in the least amount of cases can we individually influence global stage politics. Keeping this in mind, all those lucky to live in countries safe from violence and oppression should not consider their carefree lives a matter of course, to live and be brought up in a peaceful place is a gift. But we do not own this gift. It is meant to be shared with those who were not lucky enough for their country to be stable.
Of course, this sounds very naive. It sounds gullible and myopic. The migration of such big amounts of people embodies big challenges to infrastructure, administration and finances. Thorough and above all long term planning are mandatory. How can refugees and migrants develop a self-determined life independent from external help? What does it need to enable them to do so and not end up in a lifelong prison of dependency on benevolence? These are crucial questions to be answered when aiming to create a prosperous future for both host and migrant. Fears on both sides need to be smoothed out. The dilemma is that it was already too late for long-term planning when the refugee crisis set off. Essential tools to be given to refugees are language classes, the opportunity to exchange and communicate with locals to rule out fears of the unknown and access to jobs that do not require extensive previous education.
At this point I would like to appeal for empathy, cooperation and support. The job is not done with welcome signs in places where refugees arrive, it is not done with entertainment for the children among the refugees. Rather, we need an honest and sincere accommodation of refugees into the new home. It is not about absorbing them in the majority culture. It is about allowing human beings to live in a place peacefully striving for the Common Good for the all of us. If you are affected by the refugee crisis, there is something you can do: Show your genuine and serious effort to end the journey of terror and uncertainty with the arrival to the host country. Go out and talk, do not be afraid to communicate and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Svea Freiberg #Team Skies
* This is a sneak peak of the upcoming November issue of the Magazine. Stay tuned!
Copyrights of Featured Image belong to Freedom House (2012)