WHILE GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE WORLD ARE AMBIVALENT about the refugee crisis, individuals and organizations in Europe and Canada are stepping in to take care of those who desperatly fled their war-torn and/or poverty-stricken countries.
Thousands of refugees, often with their children, come by boat (dinghies, really) to the coasts of Europe every week, sometimes in terrible health conditions, in the hopes of being welcomed and protected by European governments. According to the CBC, “A hundred and fifty thousand refugees [mostly Syrian] have arrived in Hungary this year alone hoping to find a safe haven in the European Union”, mainly in Germany where “as many as 800, 000 refugees are expected this year”.
When refugees finally reach their goals (Germany, the UK, France, Italy, etc.), they are usually settled in mass accommodations for long periods of time. Some are not as lucky and sleep on the streets. Unable to work, often not speaking the language of the country they are in, and without proper accommodation, their integration is slowed and one can only imagine that their morale is low.
Berlin-based couple Mareike Geiling and Jonas Kakoschke wanted to provide a better option for asylum-seekers and launched Refugees Welcome, a website that matches refugees with people willing to share their homes with them. The website has been so successful that, according to The Guardian, “other EU countries, including Austria, Greece, Portugal and the UK, are setting up comparable schemes”. In France, for example, a similar project named CALM, Comme A La Maison (like at home), has received more than 200 offers in the past three days.
But the objectives of these projects are not only to provide a place to stay; it is to welcome and create a support system for those who need it most.
Residents of Iceland are also asking their government to take in more Syrian refugees — the number of refugees to be accepted is currently limited to 50. More than 16,000 people are now part of the newly-founded Facebook group “Syria is calling” to provide assistance to Syrian asylum-seekers and put pressure on the Icelandic government to open the gate for those in need. Many of them have also offered to accommodate refugees in their own homes.
These compassionate endeavours are also taking root outside of Europe. The Ripple Refugee Project and Lifeline Syria are Canadian initiatives aimed at sponsoring Syrian refugees to immigrate to Canada.
The picture of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian child who drowned in the Mediterranean and washed up on a Turkish beach while attempting to reach Europe to later immigrate to Canada, acted as a jolt to all those comfortably watching the issue unfold in the media. The refugee crisis has a face now and the world has finally realized that it very much deserves our attention.