The Reality of the Syrian Refugee Crisis

By Jenny Lee, Contributor

“71 dead refugees found in a truck in Austria.” “34 refugees drown as dinghy capsizes off Greek island.” “Inhumane Treatment of Refugees at EU Borders.”

For the past few weeks, I watched newspaper headlines like these pop up on my computer screen at work, one after the other. At the time, I was pulling together an analytical report on the European refugee crisis for my internship in Brussels. As I read countless articles about the crisis, personal interviews with refugees, statistics on death tolls and migration routes, I have a better and more holistic understanding about the crisis. It was easy, then, to picture the chaos and feel the tension that would have been happening on dinghies, on the island of Lesbos, by the Hungarian wall and within Munich. But as I looked around me, sitting within the comfort of my office, the scenario I envisioned seemed unreal, and I realized that I had snapped back into reality.

But was I really in reality? The environment of my office and the chaos happening on the border of Hungary and the beaches of Greece, as contrasting as they are, are both very real. My surroundings were no more real than the surroundings of the refugees and those of their relatives they left behind in the war-torn countries.

Reality is a spectrum and I daresay we live on the privileged end of it. We cannot look at the surroundings amongst us, which is only a portion of reality’s spectrum, and claim it to be the entirety of what is happening here and elsewhere. The comfort of my office desk and of Furman’s campus is not the whole of reality. If we fail to see beyond the horizon of our own environment and venture, even in imagination and sympathy, into another, our lives and viewpoints can only be a representation of being partly real—the other half is simply nonexistent.

Reality is also a historical spectrum. The entirety of a situation must be encapsulated by both history and the present instead of solely focusing on what is current. This needs to be recognized by not only the European governments but also the United States government. The Syrian civil unrest is linked to and rooted in the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. The irony of the situation is the countries who are currently refusing to take in refugees are the countries that were a part of the “Coalition of the Willing,” countries who participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

We have to understand that it is not just what is in front of us that is real, and that we live an unusual lifestyle, one not filled with conflict and terror. It is ever so critical that we continuously keep ourselves informed of world events that happen and, in turn, use our knowledge of the situation to realize that we have an obligation to be a part of the solution, both Eastern European countries and the United States. Mark Berfgeld, contributor for the RT, writes, “Where is the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ when it comes to refugees?”

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