Refugee crisis: we are all human beings

A UNHCR staff member holds a young refugee boy in a blanket, after his boat landed on the Greek island of Lesvos. ; In 2015, 1.2 million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe fleeing war, poverty and persecution. Of these, 850,000 came by boats landing on Greek islands – mostly in Lesvos. In 2016, numbers dropped off somewhat, but arrivals continued at unprecedented levels. Greece has been at the centre of the escalating refugee crisis since 2012. On the island of Lesvos alone, record numbers of refugees and migrants have arrived as conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq uproot people from their homes.

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Chiara Ercolini attending the 4th grade in medical school from Udine, Italy. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

When we come to describe topics as those discussed in this article, first we have to define what we mean by saying European. This sole word can convey multiple meanings ranging from a mere political setting where people who are perceived to be far from our everyday life decide what the rules of our common living will be, to a mindset which makes us share similar values, goals and desires.

This last conception of the term brings us to our daily environment where our small deeds can make the difference even though they are not directly connected to any precise political commitment: indeed some values that are considered to be at the core of our “being European” are solidarity, a strong sense of union and acceptance of our dissimilarities to build a shared world.

In this context, regardless of the current institutional response to the ongoing refugee crisis, anyone can do a small deed to improve the sorrow of these people. One of the main problems they face is racism, due to the fact that our brain is geared to respond in a defensive way when it confronts something it is not familiar with.

Though, when we overcome this primitive response, we can find a different narrative, from which we can learn ourselves to enrich our view of the world, and can discover that those people whom we feared are instead in search of the same things we are looking for, since everyone yearns for love and it has no boundaries nor races.

Again, this word, love, has, like the previous one, a wide range of conceptions that can be conveyed by uttering it, but in any of those it is concerned with happiness, social connection and social awareness: when there is any kind of bond to any person in the place of arrival of the refugee, he or she will have an easier time trying to build a new life and contribute to our society, staying out of those criminal nets that are so feared by European population when the theme of migration is brought about.

Not everyone is able to provide material support to those people, like food or medical care, but anyone can make a difference by very simple actions; helping people in need is also concerned with teaching the local language, as some people normally do when there is any new foreign friend around: this is something that can lead to mutual exchange too.

If you are not familiar with foreign languages, grammar or anything like this, there is something much simpler: a smile, a chat or a basic “hi, how are you?”. Marhaba, kif ek? Salām, chetori? Oraz pakheir, tsanga ye?

What is this? It is a contact, a first warm approach which can even lead to a long lasting relationship. These words and gestures suppose you have put away any prejudice you bear against a person and you have opened your arms.

About the author

Chiara Ercolini was born in 1999 in Udine, a small town in north-eastern Italy. She studied classical languages at high school and there discovered her interest in geopolitics and history. She is currently attending the 4th grade in medical school, which lasts six years in Italy. She loves reading and writing and has published several articles related to global health in a personal Telegram channel. She can speak six languages: Italian, Friulian (minority language spoken in autonomous region Friuli-Venezia-Giulia), English, Spanish, Russian and Persian.

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