“Very cold, very cold, very cold.”
I read these words in the New York Times article “Greek’s Island of Despair,” by Ilania Magra published at the end of March. They were spoken by a man from Iraq who fled after his brother was killed by ISIS. He is now waiting for asylum in the Moria detainment camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where overcrowding is forcing people to endure the winter conditions in mere summer tents.
I read the article a few days ago, and I can’t forget the man’s words: “very cold, very cold, very cold.” Nor can I forget the story of the woman who was raped several times while fleeing Afghanistan and then raped again in the Moria detainment camp, where the conditions are so awful that upon arrival she said, “I wanted to kill myself.”
Reading these stories made me sad and upset. I started to blame the Greek government — how can they refuse asylum to all these people? Why can’t they provide better conditions in the interim? But then I remembered that Greece has been in financial crisis since 2009. This doesn’t excuse them from responsibility, but the rest of Europe shouldn’t be forcing Greece to bear the brunt of the crisis.
So then I got mad at the rest of Europe. How can they just stand by and sign the EU-Turkey deal and force back into Turkey? But then I remembered how many more refugees European countries have accepted than the US. 50,000* was cap number of refugees allowed in 2017. Compare that to Germany’s 186,644 (and that’s a fraction of the number they accepted in 2015: 980,000), and Germany’s population is four times smaller than the US!
Not to mention that a mere eleven refugees from Syria have been accepted into the US thus far in 2018. That is shameful.
So then I blame the American government — why are our leaders so unwilling to welcome people escaping from awful situations? But then I remember that the power of the US government comes from individual Americans, like myself — what have I ever done to tell my representatives I care about this issue? How much do I care about this issue? Enough to make actual sacrifices, if that were ever what made it possible for the US to accept more refugees? Or just enough to read articles from time to time?
Every group I named in my blame-game has a responsibility towards these refugees: the Greek government, the EU, the American government, even the American public. But these groups are all made up of individuals.
And as individuals, we need to care more that thousands of people are displaced from their homes and living in a freezing camp.