In the modern world, violence is inescapable and inevitable. From the Middle East to Venezuela in South America, totalitarian and despotic regimes are coming up across the world and the people are fighting back. In this struggle for relevance, for the right to rule yourself, and for the right to live a free life, millions are putting their lives on the line and millions more are losing theirs. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the globe, as of 2017, has 65.6 million refugees. These are people who have suffered through the brutalities of war and have driven out of their homes by conflict. Around the world, men, women, and children alike bleed. These people seek to escape persecution and run from their homelands in search of respite from their desperate circumstances. It is clear that we are in the midst of an unprecedented refugee crisis.
Refugees aren’t a recent byproduct of human society. From the almost 1.5 million people escaping the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia to between 7 and 11 million refugees being displaced from their homes in Europe after World War 2, modern human history is littered with such incidents. Yet, there is an appalling sense of apathy when we look at the rhetoric surrounding the crisis. The rise of isolationist right-wing regimes in the Global North has resulted in an increasingly hostile attitude towards those that are seeking refuge. Often, public sentiment has been wilfully turned against these people who are treated as ‘criminals’ that are in search of ‘free benefits’.
This blatant disregard for the human condition is worrying. Serena Parekh, associate professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University sums it up when she says, “Rather than objects of fear, refugees ought to be objects of moral compassion.” We must not fear these people simply because they come from a far off place. Even as crises like the Rohingya genocide escalate, it is the moral responsibility of global citizens and governments to not turn a blind eye to suffering. While we must ensure that despots are held accountable for their actions, this does not mean that we stop caring about those suffering in the interim.
These people have lost their homes and everything that was dear to them. They have been forced to leave their familiar surroundings and reside in an alien land. At this juncture, with the refugee crisis spiralling out of control, the last thing they need or deserve is more hostility. We must treat refugees with care for they need it now more than ever before. Repatriation comes later, compassion and empathy must come now.