Thursday, May 23Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have calculated that over 59.5 million people have been displaced globally, with Syria being the world’s largest source of refugees (in 2014) and overtaking Afghanistan, which had held the position for the last 30 years. These statistics are staggering and really hit home how many people are currently in need after being forced to flee. It is therefore not surprising that there has been much talk about the refugees and the conflicts which are causing them to leave their homes, and more importantly, what those in more fortunate positions can do.
In 2014, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) gave over €854 million, equivalent to 70 per cent of its annual humanitarian aid budget to projects helping refugees. This money is essential in providing for these displaced people but this should not be the end of helping. Arguably, the ability for wealth countries such as the United Kingdom to contribute in monetary form means that they are unwilling to help in other ways, which are equally useful (sometimes more so).
We, as a whole country, have forgotten the more basic forms of kindness and help and are not willing to provide homes for those in need because it takes away too much from our generally elaborate livelihoods. As a student, it does not always feel we are fortunate, especially when it comes to money, but we should all take this as an opportunity to be grateful for what we have and more willing to help others (refugees or closer to home).
Looking at Syria in more detail shows how little this country has done to help those in need, with the UK only committing to take 500 refugees out of nearly four million. To put this into context, Germany has committed to help resettle 30,000 refugees and even smaller countries such as Sweden and Norway have offered more places than us. When put in those stark terms, there is a lot more that could be offered if we, as a country, were truly willing to. That isn’t to say that the UK has not done anything, with specific individuals travelling out to provide humanitarian aid, alongside the government’s financial aid.
Even the majority of media outlook has been concentrated on those going to join ISIS and those creating terror, rather than those victimised by these conflicts. Whilst it is important to update as events unfold, groups such as these are strengthen by this continuous media attention and spread fear rather than sympathy for those traumatised by such groups. Even when refugees do make the news, it is often not to show upset at their situation, but rather that they are ruining holiday destinations. This extreme lack of empathy is worrying as many dismiss the pain and trauma other human beings have gone through.
At this time, those who are healthy, sheltered and with family should reflect on how lucky we are. Many other people do not have these luxuries and need the care and help of others at this time. Do not turn your back. Do your best to help others in the next couple of days, in big or small ways, it could make a significant difference, and as is the case for many refugees; the difference between life and death.