This summer, one story has dominated the headlines. In the past few months, hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic migrants have left their home nations to travel to the European Union in search of a better life. Travelling to their final destination is gruelling and potentially life-threatening , can cost thousands and take weeks. It is not one something people do for fun.
Given this, it is staggering to see that the issue has, in the last few months, been perceived as a largely trivial matter; an attitude of ‘this is our country and we don’t want you here’ has seemingly prevailed over a compassionate view that highlights that these people, who may be labelled refugees or migrants, are, like us, people, and have risked everything they have to escape war and poverty.
Let us reverse the roles; if you lived in a country struck by war, had seen friends or relatives die, would you do everything you could to escape and pursue a better life? Likewise, if you lived in dire poverty, and heard about great prosperity in foreign lands, would you not risk the journey over watching your family starve? The fact that the horror stories of journeys via boat, lorry and train have not deterred the thousands is proof of the desperation of these individuals.
It should not take a picture of a dead child lying face down on a Turkish beach to change public perception. It should not take the changed minds of tabloid editors to instigate a flood of compassion.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. Whether you argue the West is partly the cause of the Middle East crisis or not, it cannot hide away that millions have been either displaced or have died. It’s a catastrophe, and one that will not be solved quickly. This wave of people of fleeing is not the first, and will certainly not be the last.
If a migrant, refugee, or whatever label you are to put on them, wishes to travel hundreds of miles, to reach your country, the chances are they will not sit back and ‘scrounge off the state’. They have something to offer, and it’s about time we stopped vilifying them and gave them a chance.