Category Archives: Refugees

We Need a Refugee Plan

Scanned from The Post Standard

Innocent people, families, women and children, even men and boys are risking their lives to escape the chaos in the Middle East. Some refugees are unable to leave and they have to live in makeshift housing and be a burden on the nations who host them. This would describe the plight of many of the Syrian refugees. People who find themselves up against ISIS sometimes find themselves with nowhere to run, which in this case can be deadly.

Since ISIS has started to be active in Libya people are trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in boats to get to a small island near Italy. Unscrupulous people with access to boats overload those boats for profit, but often with tragic results. We saw one capsize very recently and many people trying to escape death by terrorists found it anyway through greed.

Before the refugees from the Middle East there were refugees from “thug” activities in Africa and refugees from Nepal and Bhutan and even refugees uprooted by natural disasters. The world has been a place of upheaval forever, although these days world chaos seems greater than ever and the number of refugees keeps escalating.

I don’t understand why, when we know that there will almost always be refugees, we don’t have a refugee center for all the world’s refugees, or even several refugee centers. We could administer it/them through the United Nations or any of the aid groups that already help people uprooted from their lives. If we had such a center or centers we could offer housing more comfortable than a tent. We could offer food, clothing, schooling, and language lessons. Perhaps refugees could even get job training by holding jobs at the center/s.

These centers would offer permanent housing and services but any particular group of refugees would not stay there forever. They would be assigned, as nearly as possible, to the country of their choice or moved into various nations so that no nation would be overburdened. People who wished to assimilate into another nation might be sent from the center; those who wanted to go back to their homes at the end of crisis could be trained to man the centers. I’m sure people who have expertise in this area would know how to set this up better than I would.

I am also sure that this plan is naïve in too many ways to count. Humans are problem solvers. When we encounter a bad situation that occurs over and over again we think that we should come up with a plan. The more the problem upsets us emotionally the more certain it becomes that we will want to find a good or a better resolution. I cannot think of too many circumstances more traumatic than having to leave your home with next to nothing in your possession, to be forced to depend on the kindness of strangers (or fend for yourself) and to have no clue if or when you would ever be able to return home. There is no place like home. I’m sure that Dorothy, that fictional character in The Wizard of Oz, is not only one who knows this piece of folksy wisdom. Imagine that things could be even worse; you might not even escape with your entire family intact.

I have met a number of refugees in my small city whose parents were sent far away from them. These refugees must have sponsors and each sponsor can only support a given number of refugees. The people I met did not know our language and they had to send their children to school and get to the market and learn a whole new culture in a total immersion fashion that is obviously quite stressful. And yet these refugees smiled and were so gracious. I try to put myself in their place but I cannot imagine that I would be able to keep my anxiety and frustration to myself. If people went to a center first where they were taught some of the language of their host country, where they learned how to shop, and budget their money, and use public transportation, life in their new communities would be so much more comfortable and so much less confusing.

Then we might not have to watch people who were just trying to get to safety drown in an angry sea. All lives matter.

By Nancy Brisson