Refugees From Syria

What does a refugee show you? They reveal what it needs to be a true survivor. You have probably read the news about how war refugees from Syria have persevered and laid the bricks of the future in an alien land. A land they are not quite comfortable with. All because what they called home for generations has now turned against them.

They got driven out or killed as the war in Syria compelled them to leave shore for a foreign land. Their grief at giving up the land of their ancestors is as compelling as the loss of a family member.

Students and members of the Irish legislature gathered in the AV room of Leinster House. The students of Largy College in their hometown, Clones, County Monaghan put together a compelling presentation.

The encouragement of human rights for the asylum seekers and the refugees was the students’ project for their transition. These transition year students took up the case of Clones’ new communities, in the presence of members of the Oireachtas, the legislature in Ireland. They have named the project ‘We Are All Human.’

Rising To The SDG Challenge, a session at The Wheels Summit 2019 opened with a performance by the students of this college. Through music, drama, art and the spoken word, they turned the spotlight on the pain of displacement affecting innumerable war refugees.

The young students have demonstrated that they are more tuned to the world outside. They have been compassionate about the war refugees waiting at their doorstep. Their presentation is more of an appeal to create space for the Syrian refugees if they were to survive.

 

war refugees

The students focus on the view that people left their land out of compulsion. They escaped to survive as they saw their homes bombed, their friends and neighbors and family members shot dead. Their nation lay in total ruins. Many are too old to start afresh.

The invaders intimidated and drove them from their land in Syria, home to a great civilization and once a vibrant and stable democracy. All of it reduced to a brutal killing field.

These youth have proved that the youth have always been at the vanguard in the struggle against injustice and inhumanity. This is particularly heartening. Richer countries across Europe with vast resources at their disposal have been distrustful of the war refugees. At times they have been even downright hostile. They fear that these people would be a burden. They even suspect the war refugees of sheltering terrorists.

We don’t need a ghetto

The students have been particularly focused on creating space for refugee communities within Irish society. They are not okay with the idea of a settlement. They feel these are concentration camps with a fancy name. They differ from the approach of the administration that confines them in settlements. They have resolved to treat the crisis with more compassion.

war refugees help

Credit: Caroline Reid, Irish Refugee Council

Most war refugees wait in the hope to return to their land once the tide turns. But for many, there is nothing left back home to go back to. The students divulged that 68 million people sought asylum in alien lands. The culture there was vastly dissimilar. There were refugees from wars back home, victims of ethnic cleansing, political persecution, and natural disasters. They ended up in places that were never their choice. The refugees drifted around as deadwood and ended up where the tides of fate took them.

Ireland had around 6,000 refugees by the end of December. Some of them received the status of refugees. But lack of housing forced them to stay back at the camp.

Warsan Shires’s powerful poem was a powerful opening to their gathering in the presentation hall. Next, it was Lilav Mohamed’s turn, and the young student from Syrian gave a firsthand account of the horror of the situation back in Syria.

Lilav recounted her family’s tribulation. The family comprising her parents and others had at first escaped to Turkey. Lilav moved to Ireland, while her sister’s family returned to Syria after receiving reports of her brother-in-law’s death. They could not get out of Aleppo. Things turned worse when they lost their papers and their chances of returning became worse each day. The cost of getting is beyond the means of most refugees. It costs anything between €7,000 to €15,000 for each person to get out of the war-torn country.

Lilav’s narrative is similar to the story of perhaps every refugee as their families got torn apart and trapped in different lands. Her account inspired the We Are All Human project.

Brenda Clerkin of Monaghan County Council supported the students in sourcing the funds. They got in touch with local businesses and gave out welcome mats to spread the initiative. People who accepted them pledged to stand by the fleeing refugees. A book, The Gingerbread Man’s Fight to Freedom, became a precedent. Ciara Moley is the illustrator of the book. This interactive and enlightening book has an engrossing board game that traces the journey of Lilav Europe.

Monaghan Welcomes You is an app provides the information necessary for getting around in the county. The app is quite refugee-friendly and has an option of seven languages. The students even took part in St. Patrick’s Day parade and gave interviews. They even organized an event where they discussed the various issues that refugees face. They are even working on a script that details the dilemma faced by Jihan.

The students received the Overall Silver Award, 2019 and The Global Citizen’s Award, 2019 at the Young Social Innovators of the year award, 2019.

The administration continues to dither about creating a conducive atmosphere for the families torn apart in the war. They long to return when things become normal. But till that happens it is up to Ireland to treat them as honored guests. Any move in that direction will mean a lot for the tormented refugees. This would at the same time set a fine precedent for the youth of Ireland. It will prove that this is a nation that supports the world refugees.

Powerful nations have failed miserably on that count. We need to give the subject its due urgency even as conflicts around the world create more refugees.