The blogging community has been actively engaged in the ongoing humanitarian crisis across (and beyond) Europe.
On the Run: Blogging the European Refugee Crisis
People all over the world were horrified last week when they saw the picture of a dead Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, being picked up from the beach in Turkey. His family’s attempt to escape the brutal civil war in their country had ended in tragedy.
From Calais to Kos to Lampedusa, the blogging community has been following the refugee crisis in Europe — as well as the conflicts that feed it — as it rapidly escalated over the past two years, and especially this past summer. Here are some of the most powerful voices we’ve come across weighing in on this massive humanitarian disaster.
In a post full of tragic irony, a writer contrasts the plight of a refugee mother with the sanctimonious complaints of a mother who’s safe at home with her kids:
Dear Irresponsible Migrant Mother,
What exactly were you thinking when you woke your children in the dead of the night, picking up the baby still asleep? Don’t you know how important it is for children to get enough sleep?
That baby you’re holding needs to be warm and comfortable, cocooned and safe, like a tiny bud, waiting to bloom in the morning. Those toddlers won’t be able to walk the miles you want them to in the black night in worn out shoes without a good night’s sleep.
Lionel Beehner visited the Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan, back in 2013. He described the chaotic scene he’d encountered there in vivid detail, and his dispatch is even more haunting today, seeing that the plight of Syrian refugees has grown dramatically worse in the past two years.
Ali Criado-Perez is a registered nurse who has worked with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders since 2007. She recently took off for a rescue mission in Malta, one of the Mediterranean islands that sees the highest numbers of refugee boats off its shores. Here are some of her words on the eve of her departure:
I don’t know exactly what lies ahead of me. I hope I’m prepared, physically and mentally, for this trip. I’ve done a fairly arduous sea-safety training, which entailed me leaping from a height into water, dressed in a survival suit, and clambering into a wobbly life-raft. But I don’t think anything — not even seeing people dying miserably from Ebola — can prepare one for finding 52 people dead in the hold from asphyxiation, as my colleagues did recently.
Quartz, an online business magazine, has put the spotlight on the refugee crisis in its Borders “Obsession” (a collection of related stories). It’s a place where interested readers can find the latest coverage of the news, including some of the more offbeat stories that might get buried in more traditional media outlets — like this one, on an Egyptian billionaire who proposed to buy a Mediterranean island on which to welcome refugees.
Moved by horrific scenes of chaos and dispair in the French coastal town of Calais — a gateway to Britain — a group of writers joined forces to share their poems in solidarity with asylum seekers. Here is an excerpt from Nina Simon’s poem, “Refuge”:
On an airless summer evening
I sit in the garden
we came with nothing
but the clothes we wore
to an unfamiliar address
scrawled on well-thumbed paper
dreaming of safety,
a city paved in freedom.
When you talk about “encouraging more of them to come”, you have no idea what you are talking about.
In Sweden, British expat Helen Jones makes the case for the #refugeeswelcome movement, calling on Europeans to educate themselves on the causes behind the influx of refugees into the continent, and to find practical solutions to lessen the suffering of those who keep arriving.
This site is run by activists who support the cause of refugees in Calais. It’s used, among other things, to document the hardships suffered by those still stuck in the no man’s land that the city’s refugee camps have become, including their mistreatment by local officials and police.
Europe is itself made of transplants, migrants, and refugees — this is a point powerfully made by scholar and writer Claire Squires in her essay, where she recounts the history of her family (her mother’s side had settled in France to escape political turmoil in Algeria), as well as her childhood memories from visits to Calais, currently one of the epicenters of Europe’s refugee crisis.
Russell Chapman, a freelance photographer and writer, recently helped a family of Syrian refugees to safety, accompanying them from Greece through Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary into Western Europe. Read his post for an unfiltered, ground-level account of the harrowing trip through Europe’s eastern refugee corridor.
If you’ve read a powerful take on the crisis by another blogger, please share it with us in a comment.
Thanks, for sharing these powerful posts. The written word can change people’s lives.
I’m ashamed of the UK’s stance and have written to my MP to press the prime minister to do more. I’ve signed petitions, posted on social media, donated – small things but together with others maybe all the small actions will make a positive difference. I live in small, remote Scottish community but even here there’s a collection being made of items much needed by the refugees in Greece. Everyone who can is giving, collecting, sorting and packing, and as soon as the lorry is full, these items will be driven from here by local people to Greece.
WordPress bloggers too can make a difference – make people think, educate them, move them to help their fellow human beings. #refugeeswelcome
Writers all over the world can use their skills. Not only to touch people’s hearts but to email and write letters to politicians and those who have the power to change policies that are inadequate and in many cases appalling. This tragedy is a global responsibility, a world crisis that can’t be ignored. To seek asylum a human right and to respond with aid and support a human responsibility. Thank you for all the positive action everyone is taking. There are many people working here in Australia to try and get major political parties to have a more humane attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers. Sadly, mandatory offshore detention and a policy to ‘turn back the boats’ exists here. I have read my poetry to others and published it on my blog. I also engage with people in shops, at bus stops, in cafes – wherever people gather to make conversation. To make people aware that we must all speak up – open our hearts, our doors and our wallets.
I have posted my own thoughts, after several days of thinking about what I could possibly add to all the coverage of this immense crisis. I think the most important realization I had in thinking about this human tragedy is that “migration is neither new nor novel” and in fact traces back to the earliest of humans. We have always been migrating. Here is a link to my thoughts, Migration and New Year: http://thewalkahead.com/2015/09/08/migration-and-a-new-year/
Its heartbreaking what is happening to the world today. Humanity should be our foremost virtue yet politics takes over. its takes the tragedy of a child for the world to wake up.
As a mother I don’t know what to say. I recently read a piece that I found poignant and hope you find it too….
How inhuman and the countries are doing good job in taking care of refugees leaving Syria. Let the best brains from all communities huddle together to find a permanent solution to this problem otherwise the growing number of refugees is going to imbalance the political and public structure of those countries which are rehabilitating the refugees
The UK isn’t stepping forward either, although a groundswell of people collecting clothing etc. has dragged our PM kicking and screaming in the vague direction of making an offer to a small group. I expect he’ll be forced further.
On the positive side, the grassroots support has been heartening. Our tiny rural village has one person gathering clothing etc. for the refugees in Calais on her own and a second small group planning a fundraiser. They’re both small efforts, but there are hundreds–maybe thousands–of them.
Heart touching posts! Now Australia has also joined in by accepting the Syrian refugees.
Funny and intuitive it now seems to me that some time ago, just out of the blue, I had expressed my thoughts about Syrian children in one of my random posts. And now we heard about one of them dying like this, while many others are suffering:
God bless them!!
Thanks Ben for this roundup. I liked reading Russell Chapman’s account particularly as it really made the refugees’ trek across Europe come to life.
In response to hadeshy0806’s question about refugees blogging, I can’t give a first-hand account of the issue myself but am trying to do the next best thing, by publishing a three-part interview with a Syrian refugee who came to Canada three years ago. The first part (focusing on why he left Syria) is up now on the blog:
I’ll publish the next two parts (on his experience/challenges with the Canadian refugee system, and reflections on what Canada can do to help) in the next week. This is an important issue to understand from the refugees’ perspective, and I’d also enjoy reading other first-hand accounts on the issue.
This one was written by one of the bloggers I follow. Her husband is a humanitarian aid worker.