Editorial: The Year of the Refugees

Many of them were received with fear, rejection and lack of compassion.

The image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, lying face-down in a Turkish beach in September, directed the world’s attention to the drama of millions of Syrians trying to escape their country’s bloody civil war. The Middle East is today the primary source of refugees, but we have seen the same story of men, women and children fleeing persecution, violence and poverty from Central America to Asia and Africa in 2015.
The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that nearly 60 million people were displaced this year. That means that, each day, around 42,500 were forced to leave their homes and find protection elsewhere.

The sheer size of this humanitarian crisis puts the world’s compassion to the test – not only to express sympathy but also to help them, -especially because the possibility of returning is getting more complicated. According to the UNCHR, the chance that a refugee will return home is the lowest it has been in the past 30 years.

Close to a million  refugees from Africa and Syria arrived in Europe. The exodus of hundreds of thousands of people crossing European borders to seek refuge is the Old Continent’s biggest challenge in decades. Germany has greeted them, looking at the upside of the incoming young people who will update an aging workforce. Others, like the Czech Republic, saw it as an “organized invasion.”

In our country, Syrian refugees were unfairly associated to out fear of terrorism. Even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that he would not even admit “orphans under age 5,” citing security reasons.

But, in the U.S., we did not have to look to the Middle East to see refugees. Tens of thousands of mothers, children and unaccompanied minors arrived fleeing violence in Central America. Instead of receiving the appropriate treatment as refugees, they endured a shameful legal process, and now there are plans to deport a large number of them in an escalation of raids.

Refugees should not be seen as a threat to our security or way of life. They are just people who are leaving fear behind to rebuild their lives and contribute to the new land that welcomes them.