Since 2011, more than 11 million people have been affected by the civil war in Syria and it is now the biggest humanitarian crisis this century has ever seen.
Before civil war broke out in Syria 6 years ago, it was already a country on its knees. With high unemployment, widespread corruption and state repression under President Bashar al-Assad, it was only a matter of time before an uprising would occur.
It was only in October that two men attacked a police station in the Syrian Capital of Damascus where their double bomb attack killed 17 people. These people have now been added to the estimated 475,000 already dead. Attacks like this happen on a daily basis and the death toll rises every hour of every day. This country is bleeding dead bodies.
Naturally, the effects of this bloodshed, endless fighting and fierce violence have been felt not only within Syria but across Europe. ‘The Syrian Refugee Crisis’ is an issue surrounding the millions people who have fled Syria since 2011. This country is also bleeding vulnerable yet hopeful refugees.
But what is your true opinion of ‘The Refugee Crisis’? Is it a crisis that is being ignored by the public and politicians? Have people’s opinions been decided or influenced by media and politics? Is it selfish that some people do not want refugees in our country to live and work? Or should it be that society unites and strives to help these hopeful refugees?
In September 2015, the image of 3 year old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body, washed up on a Turkish beach changed the world. It was this one image which impacted public and political opinion so much that it was only then that the West woke to the urgency of the Syrian Refugee Crisis – 4 years after it had begun.
Public concern was marked by the immense social media campaigns which followed as ‘#RefugeesWelcome’ was used at least 20 million times the following year.
Weeks after this image went viral, the British government announced that 20,000 Syrians would be resettled within the UK by 2020 and so far 6,000 have been.
Recently, I began watching Educating Greater Manchester; a channel 4 documentary which each week focuses on issues and stories that surround everyday school life from teachers, pupils and parents’ points of view. Cue the ‘terrible teens’, oversized tie knots, untucked school shirts and a whole lot of shouting (not just from teachers).
Episode one delved straight into the adjustments that staff and pupils in school faced due to the large influx of foreign pupils. It focused on the challenges which the modern, multicultural school faced when Syrian refugees – who often spoke little English, joined the vast array of existing pupils and staff.
For me, Rani’s story made the episode an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish as we saw how he attempted to navigate his way through a new school life in Greater Manchester. A language barrier saw the 11 year old placed into a remedial class where he had the opportunity to learn English and attempted to make friends. In this heart-warming class, Rani explained to his new classmates and teachers where he was from and how sometimes he would see people being shot dead on his way to his old school in Syria.
However, it was the genuinely moving tale of the blossoming friendship between Rani and local lad Jack which captured mine and the nations hearts as they vowed to stay friends for life. There was a lip-wobbling moment when Rani graduated from his remedial class into mainstream lessons and could sit next to new pal Jack. Jack explained when he realised Rani was struggling to settle in, “I can see it’s difficult for him because he can’t bond with other people.” But by the time the hour long episode was over the pair were ‘brothers’ and Rani had made a best friend for life. Rani explained, “He is not like a friend, I think he is a brother”.
Despite the delight I felt for Rani, this episode still highlighted the struggles which another Syrian pupil named Murad met within the multicultural school as he came face to face with ‘Islamophobia’. Murad confronted hurtful and upsetting comments from his peers who hurled playground insults at him, comparing him to a terrorist and Osama Bin Laden. This emphasised the huge challenges which refugees are so often subjected to and unfortunately abuse like this is hugely popular inside and outside of school for refugees of every age.
This programme proved that schools in particular are playing a vital role within society to not only help young refugees but also educate the British public about the blight which refugees have faced and the challenges they meet in attempting to make a better life for themselves. Teachers and pupils alike in this programme are not ignoring the crisis but are instead helping to develop pupils – who have come as refugees, into happy, well-educated, confident young people. Subsequently, we as the viewing public can take lessons of our own away from Jack and Rani’s friendship as they proved how easy it is to accept others into our society, no matter where they are from, what religion they follow, what colour their skin is or what language they speak.
Lauren Hill is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-hill-a7807a151/