We can all do something. This was the message delivered by the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars at the Social Justice Colloquium on February 27th. Faced with the near endless barrage of crises visible to anyone with a television or smartphone, these young scholars sought to encourage action in whatever way possible to address the current refugee crisis. In light of recent political actions taken in our country, it is imperative that those who seek to alleviate the current catastrophe both understand the situation and commit themselves to making a difference.
After providing a brief history of the Syrian Civil War that began in 2011 and has fueled the refugee crisis, the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars described the role transit routes and national boundaries have played. The Balkan Route—originally the most frequently used avenue from Turkey to Germany—has been the focal point of several aggravations to the crisis. The route runs through Greece, both amplifying the pre-existing financial stresses in the country as well as provoking refugees to continue on to countries such as Germany where they are more likely to find employment. This route has been made particularly impassable since the border between Macedonia and Greece has closed, resulting in many deportations which in turn simply add to the growing crisis as those people attempt the same journey a second, third, or even fourth time.
The lock down of so-called transitory states such as Greece has created a scenario in which the number of stateless persons has grown to an estimated 10 million individuals, with roughly 300,000 refugees arriving every month in Greece. As more and more people pour into the country refugee camps have grown exponentially, and on a trip to one such camp the Frederick Douglass Scholars saw up-close the terrible conditions and lack of aid present within these camps. Having gained access to the camp through the U.N., the scholars sought to provide aid in whatever way they could, and learned a lot about the crisis first hand as well as how to help those in need. Yet, the message they came home with was to never do what they did.
Rather than attempting to serve through a large NGO or the U.N., both legitimizing their lack of direct action and granting support to that sort of organization, the Scholars suggested everyone find a way to support smaller grassroots groups. One grassroots group mentioned several times was the Elpida home, and in their conclusion the Scholars called for anyone who could to offer support from where they are. Although visiting these camps by volunteering for the U.N. can give good face time to some organizations the groups suggested some more effective methods for aiding in this crisis. Offering volunteer support to local refugee organizations or providing monetary support to overseas, grassroots organizations truly seeking to change the current state of affairs and grant relief to the millions of refugees desperately in need of something different might actually be more helpful than traveling to the camps themselves. As legislative action taken by the current U.S. administration continues to aggravate the crisis, effective action is needed, and all those who can help are being called to grant support to those who are already trying to change their own lives for the better.
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Meet the Writers: Joshua Schea is a PhD. student at American University researching urban private schools. His research is focuses on the question of how private schools address the issue of inequality as it exists in their surrounding environment. Joshua is currently in his second year at AU