It’s Monday, June 20, 2016… World Refugee Day.
What’s that? You haven’t heard of world refugee day? Wait a minute, check your [insert name of social media platform here]; there, that’s better. Now you know. Make sure you write a “heartfelt” status update about the refugee crisis. Now you are a concerned “global citizen.” Don’t you feel better now? Yes, now back to the newest episode of Game of Thrones.
Sign the petition! The quintessential liberal method of activism! Yes! Now I feel better, I signed a petition showing all of my Facebook friends that I care! See, all of my favorite celebrities and politicians want to help refugees too! Forget about the fact that many of these celebrities support the underlying polices (such as, say, humanitarian intervention and neoliberal policies) that result in the same refugee crises that they rail against. But, who wants to actually address the facts anyway... more empty platitudes!
But, for a moment, a brief interlude for some seriousness…
On June 18th 2016, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visited the Greek island of Lesbos to see first-hand the conditions of refugees on the island and to speak on the crisis in general. He noted that the responsibility to take care of refugees is one that is shared between call countries. He continued with:
“That is our political and moral obligation. That is our humanitarian imperative. It is what we must do as a human family. One of the most beautiful words in the Greek lexicon is philoxenia -- friendship towards strangers”
Now, this is all well and good; a statement that one would expect from the largely ceremonial (at least it has been this way for some time now) post of UN Secretary General. Within this statement one can tease out the tension between liberal ideals (that of openness, mutual-respect, etc.) and the actual situation on the ground. In Greece, for example, many citizens sympathize with the terrible situation that refugees are in… but they have their own problems as well (namely economic, stemming from the financial crisis and troika imposed austerity measures). This tension is difficult to reconcile, but it is important to keep in mind when trying to understand the refugee crisis (especially before resorting to empty statements about “coming together,” etc.).
Anyway… Happy World Refugee Day! Let us all pat ourselves on the back and let the world know that we are making our voices heard and that refugee crises will never happen again.
And remember. #WithRefugees
Written by: Mikael Erwin