I have seen a few articles doing the round about what practical action you can take to help refugees. Though they seem to be well written and well intentioned, I could not help but feel there are a few key things missed off the list. Yes donating cash, time and resources may help the immediacy, but how can we prevent this being a repeating story? I think there are three key things you can do to help.
Let’s talk about racism
Be under no delusion that local racism is not linked to global racism. When Farage courts the media with such ease and Cameron drops words like “swarms” into sentences with no shame, with the rise of the far right across Europe and the fact that it took a picture of a dead child on a beach for people to acknowledge thousands of others - let’s not pretend this is not a race issue. If the people fleeing horror in boats had been white, this issue would probably have been solved before it started.
It is the duty of white citizens to educate themselves about racism. Why white people? Because of basic privilege. If this word feels like a personal attack, or you just need somewhere to be able to start to understand this issue, I’d recommend the widely referenced paper “Unpacking the invisible knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh
Campaign against arms trade
It is a strange equation, but if you bomb and arm countries of oppressive regimes, people don't want to live there. But perhaps with the UK arms trade generating approximately £16 billion in 2014, that basic equation is easy to ignore. A report from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills showed in the first six months of 2014 the UK granted licences worth £63.2m of arms sales to 18 of the 28 states on its official blacklist, countries which the Foreign Office say have the “most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns”*
And there are people working very hard to change this. Support them.
Campaign against arms trade https://www.caat.org.uk/
War on Want http://www.waronwant.org/
To name just a few.
Do your research
Team up with people who are already working to support migrant rights. I have seen a lot of posts over the past few days about how people turning up in Calais with resources, is in fact not very helpful.
Don’t link to the Daily Mail even if they write a good article. They profit from Xenophobia, racism, hatred and division the rest of the year, and your links help pay the advertising revenue that supports that.
Start conversations. I know it sounds basic, we are not going to change the world over night, but you do have the chance to change your environment with every person you meet. Instead of walking away from bigotry, maybe it is time to try to stand up and make that person hear that their view may be lacking in understanding and compassion. Ignoring a racist rant from a taxi driver isn’t going to help him make the world a more caring place. The root of this hysteria is fear. Try to engage in a way that uproots that fear and humanises those being “other”ed.
Stand up, speak out, make the words you use ones which create a more united planet.
This issue is human made and it is human solvable. Not immigrant made, or asylum seeker made, or even refugee made, but human made. Let's treat those who are suffering in the manner we would hope to be treated. We all have the chance to make a difference. Let's engage in dialogues and actions which create a world which is safer and more peaceful for us all.