‘I wasn’t born a refugee, did not choose to become one’


This year’s annual Kartepe summit on global issues took place last weekend. An important number of international participants, including academics, representatives from nongovernmental organizations, people from intergovernmental organizations and politicians came together this year to discuss immigration, refugees and humanity. One of the purposes of the summit was to produce a comprehensive report to be distributed to foreign governments, parliaments and international organizations.

Participants have discussed these sensitive subjects for three days, and emphasized how complicated the refugee crises are. This is obviously a multilayered, multidimensional and multiplayer issue that needs to be addressed with tact.

Besides, the matter is not theoretical, but about people’s real lives, and that is the reason why a Syrian refugee girl’s speech about what she has been through in Syria and in Turkey touched every participant.

“I was not born a refugee,” she said. This short sentence sums up what people who had to leave their countries, their hometowns, their regular lives to seek refuge in a foreign country feel. These are people who have lost everything they had previously. The people we call refugees, asylum seekers or immigrants, are often analyzed as if they constitute ahomogeneous group. First of all, these are people who have lost their connections with their homeland, but could not find any other country who would embrace them as their own. They have not chosen to become refugees, but they remind us that anybody can become one. What they have been through is sad, aggravating and shameful for the entire international community.

These people are often the victims of their own governments. They had to change where they live, because they were unable to change their own country. That’s why, as it has been pointed out during the summit, the solution is not limited to taking care of the refugees in their new countries; but to seek durable solutions in their own countries.

The root of the problem is of course in their country of origin, and this should be addressed. However, taking care of the root problem, which will take considerable time, is not an excuse for not dealing with the problems the refugees are facing today. In other words, it is not enough to say “we will stabilize Syria and then all the refugees will be able to return home.” Syria’s stabilization is indeed necessary, but it is also necessary to address today the problems of the refugees who struggle in Turkey, in Europe or in other Middle Eastern countries

Sometimes, to say that the refugees will have to return to their home country means we are not going to do anything for them here until that time.

Countries are often willing to benefit from an international crisis, but they are nowhere to be seen when it comes to dealing with the problems their policies cause. It is obvious that the refugee waves will continue in the near future, and no measure is efficient enough to stop people who are fleeing for their lives. Closing the borders or building walls will not make the refugee problem disappear. Besides, no country has the luxury to say that the refugees are someone else’s problem.

The solution is to beef up international cooperation. Maybe a brand new international organization is needed to assure that. Moreover, countries must come together to negotiate new internationally binding treaties on refugees, as the existing texts do not work anymore. To create an international refugee fund is perhaps a good idea, too.

The refugee and immigration problems are no longer local or regional; they have an impact on the entire international system.

Countries must act as soon as possible, before these refugee crises make the relations between neighboring countries and nations worse




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