Rising number of climate-refugees is one of the most important issues nowadays

What will be the big challenges regarding climate-change refugees in Europe in the next 50 years?

The topic about the refugees has always been and will be a burning problem. And, we can say that the rising number of climate-change refugees is one of the most important issues facing our society nowadays. We live in such an age where many people are free to choose a better way of living. Yet, some are forced to make the decision to leave their homes due to political clashes. “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of shark” (Warsan Shire, 2011) – by ignoring the trend of the fleeing refugees, the world leaders have now allowed one of the largest global humanitarian crisis to unfold. Nevertheless, the situation can be kept under control by taking actions.

Let us take a look at the extreme weather events such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes that are quite common and recurring. Climate change worsens the consequences of those events and it should not be a surprise that people strive to inhabit areas with a pleasant and temperate climate. People are suffering and have no other choice, but to leave their homes. The economies of the countries destroyed are extremely unstable and the population is more prone to fleeing. Every year around the globe millions of people are forced to move due to this major reason.  Furthermore, large segments of the population deciding to migrate are the ones with higher standard of living. Fleeing is inevitable; however the world leaders should find ways to solve the world refugee crisis. For instance, they should aim to provide the basic essentials for the suffering – for example a standard apartment meeting the basic human needs such as hot water and food.

According to the UNHCR, the people, who are forced to move, need some form of international protection since their own governments fail to keep them safe.

The refugee issue is painful to society these days – many people around the globe think that they are a “nuisance”. Not many people realize that all these refugees are actually one of us and that they are forced to leave their countries.  According to recent forecasts, the number of those likely to relocate because of the climate changes is 350 million by 2050, compared to 65.3 million in 2016. This may lead to building walls instead of opening the market between the nations. Unfortunately, most people do not approve of migration. Yet, helping the refugees requires a clear definition of the matter before taking any steps since many people do not indeed know what a climate-change refugee is facing. On the one hand, refugees are people left homeless, who are looking for a better way of living. On the other hand, in modern society’s eyes they are a nuisance, which may destroy their established world. Yet, not everyone is humane enough to face the reality and do something about the refugee issue instead of isolating them and treating them as criminals. There are many ways to integrate them into our local communities. For instance, a solution could be finding job places for them, incorporating them into local activities and dividing them out per capita in every city in the country. The result would be that no one would feel different, rejected and intimidated.

According to recent forecasts, the number of those likely to relocate because of the climate changes is 350 million by 2050, compared to 65.3 million in 2016.

We live in the 21st century and the standard of living is supposed to get better and better. With the increasing number of extreme weather and political events, a concern of the international community about the consequences of migration is also growing. Around 1,700 refugees died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in the period between January and April 2015. According to the UNHCR, the people, who are forced to move, need some form of international protection since their own governments fail to keep them safe. Hence, the attention is rising to the pledges such as countries like Norway or Switzerland are trying to find a better way of protection for climate change affected people. For example, Norway joined a special recognition procedure in 2005, which includes approval of eligibility of foreign qualifications provided with applications for jobs or studies. It is an attempt to integrate the refugees in the day-to-day life.

To sum up, refugees are people with a decent opportunity for a better life. The foreign governments play an important role in helping them. Unfortunately, the way all of them are treated is not the one they deserve to be. People can find many ways to make their stay more pleasant. Each of them is trying to remain alive and they are looking for a safer place where they will not be mistreated. A couple of countries have already thought of solutions to the refugees’ crisis and so can the others. And the more humane people are, the happier their lives will be.

About the author:

Zhaklin Dimitrova Yanakieva (17) took part in the My Europe Workshop in Sofia on 28-29 November 2016 and won the first prize of the writing competition.

 

Viviendo con Donald

 

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La victoria de Donald Trump ha generado muchas reacciones en las capitales europeas, desde la sorpresa, pasando por la alegría de algunos, hasta el estupor. Muchos han sido también los análisis y las explicaciones que han intentado que comprendamos mejor un resultado que no era el esperado, y sobre el que las encuestas han fallado estrepitosamente. Para los europeos es difícil entender los movimientos y los cambios que se están produciendo en la sociedad estadounidense. Se ha hablado de raza, de sexo, de edad, de clase social y de distribución geográfica para intentar explicar esta victoria. De todas ellas, el análisis más interesante es el relacionado con la globalización.

Los estadounidenses blancos de clase media y trabajadora han sido muy golpeados por la Gran Recesión. La deslocalización de las grandes industrias, que se han asentado en mercados donde los precios son más competitivos, ha dejado a una masa de trabajadores en paro y sin expectativas de futuro.

Muchos de estos trabajadores recelan de las políticas aperturistas y tolerantes de Barack Obama. Se oponen a la inmigración y a la acogida de refugiados por miedo a perder sus trabajos, y se agarran a un sentimiento nacionalista para reafirmar sus convicciones. Sienten además un profundo rencor contra las élites económicas del país, a las que culpan de su situación.

Este análisis también puede relacionarse con la victoria del Brexit en el Reino Unido, un resultado asimismo inesperado. El mensaje es sencillo: “retomemos el control” clamaba Boris Johnson en los debates previos al referéndum. “Construyamos un muro, hagamos a América grande de nuevo” afirmaba Donald Trump sin tapujos. “Votadme, no tenéis nada que perder”. Sin entrar a valorar lo histriónico y polémico de su persona, Trump ha conseguido representar ese resentimiento contra el establishment. Y también ha despertado las esperanzas de estos votantes que, en efecto, pueden llegar a sentir que no tienen nada que perder, que el sistema no tiene nada más que ofrecerles.

Los recelos sobre la globalización son legítimos. Lo hemos visto en Europa en los últimos meses, con la firme posición que ha mostrado la región de Valonia en las negociaciones del tratado de libre comercio con Canadá, o las manifestaciones que se han visto por toda Europa en contra del TTIP. Los efectos que pueden tener estos tratados sobre las condiciones laborales de los trabajadores europeos o sobre sus consecuencias medioambientales son cuestiones que deben estar presentes en el debate. No obstante, el auge de la xenofobia o el cierre de fronteras no van a solucionar estos problemas, sino más bien los agravarán. El cambio climático, por ejemplo, sólo se puede combatir si los Estados cooperan, si comparten objetivos, si tienen una visión global del problema. El aislacionismo y el odio no pueden ser la salida.

El resultado de las elecciones estadounidenses, junto con la futura salida del Reino Unido de la UE y otros ejemplos, como las elecciones presidenciales austriacas, confirman el vaticinio de muchos expertos. Nos estamos adentrando en un nuevo clash cultural, que tiene como protagonista a la globalización y a sus consecuencias. Se ha creado un nuevo conflicto ideológico a ambos lados del Atlántico, el que enfrenta por un lado a los defensores de sociedades abiertas al mundo con aquellos que propugnan sociedades cerradas, proteccionistas y en muchos casos contrarias a la diversidad cultural. Es en este segundo bando donde se encuentra Donald Trump, y su nacionalismo populista.

¿Qué puede hacer la Unión europea ante este nuevo escenario? Para empezar reafirmar su voluntad de integración. Los líderes europeos deben defender propuestas audaces y realistas que profundicen la integración en materias como la defensa, la lucha contra el cambio climático, la política exterior o la creación de oportunidades para los jóvenes. Y deben tener presentes ahora más que nunca los valores fundamentales de la Unión. El proyecto europeo siempre se basó en la tolerancia, la solidaridad y el respeto a las diferencias culturales. La crisis de refugiados ha puesto en cuestión estos valores. Las sociedades europeas deben ser capaces de progresar en su integración, y de aprovechar las ventajas de la globalización, sin que esto suponga un aumento de la intolerancia o el odio, o una desprotección de sus clases trabajadoras.

El reto es enorme, y para superarlo serán necesarias altas dosis de habilidad política y de convicción. El discurso populista y xenófobo debe ser combatido con ideas, propuestas y a través de un debate cargado de contenido ético.

Los populistas se han cobrado ya dos importantísimas victorias, y este año pueden consolidar su triunfo en las elecciones presidenciales francesas. No hemos sido capaces de percibir los peligros de su discurso hasta que no hemos visto a uno de sus principales valedores entrando en la Casa Blanca. Esta va a ser la disyuntiva que marque los próximos años y quizás las próximas décadas de nuestras vidas.

Pese a lo incierto del resultado, existen motivos para la esperanza. Ni el Brexit ni Donald Trump fueron las opciones mayoritarias entre los votantes jóvenes.

Hillary Clinton dio un discurso de concesión sosegado y solemne. Ha cometido errores en esta campaña. Muchos se han lamentado de que no haya sido capaz de romper ese último techo de cristal para las mujeres. Sin embargo, es de justicia reconocer que Clinton ya ha hecho historia, ya ha roto varios techos de cristal. Es la primera mujer que ha conseguido ser candidata a la Presidencia de Estados Unidos por uno de los dos principales partidos. Y es la primera mujer en la historia que ha ganado el voto popular en unas elecciones presidenciales en ese país. Sus defectos no deben ensombrecer lo que sin duda es una trayectoria cargada de logros.

En sus palabras dando las gracias a los que la apoyaron y reconociendo su derrota, la ex secretaria de Estado hizo a los jóvenes una última petición inspiradora: “esta derrota duele, pero por favor, nunca dejéis de creer que luchar por lo que es justo merece la pena”. Ella ya ha dejado su marca en la historia. Ahora es el momento de estar a la altura, y de empezar a dejar la nuestra.

About the author:

Nicolás - Author at Spotlight Europe

Nicolás (19) is member of the Youth Council of the Future. He participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Madrid in 2013.

The story of a Bosnian refugee

Foca - where it all beganThe town Foca

Zerina Karup is a Masters student at Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. She came to Ireland as a refugee when she was a baby. In March, she came to my school (Mount Temple Comprehensive in Dublin) to give a talk about her experience. This talk was organised as part of a series called Temple Tallks by the Mount Temple Amnesty International group.

Zerina was born in what was then Yugoslavia, a country which composed six republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro) and two provinces (Kosovo and Vojvodina). She described her life in a Bosnian town called Foca, with family around, the river nearby…it was a very normal life, which is important to remember.

People don’t leave their countries – their friends and families, traditions and customs – because they want to. They don’t go to a foreign country where they don’t know anyone, and they don’t know the culture, for no reason. People leave because they have to.

She explained a bit of background to the war: “It started in 1991, when countries started to become independent. Slovenia started, then Croatia wanted to become independent. Serbia wanted to form a new country, Greater Serbia. In addition to these different countries, or states within a country, there were also different religions; there were Catholics, Muslims, and Serbian Orthodox. So there was a lot of potential for tension and conflict.” In April 1992, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina started, and that was when Zerina’s family decided to leave. Initially they stayed within Bosnia, moving from Foca to Gorazde, but quickly realised they still weren’t safe and moved on again. They left just in time; right afterwards, Gorazde became a Serbian enclave (nobody could enter or leave the town; there was no water, no electricity, no food.) They went to Montenegro, and then after a couple of days to Serbia.

It might sound contradictory to go to the country of the aggressors. But in the beginning there was no war in Serbia, so it was safe. Also, Zerina’s family had friends who could accommodate them, because they didn’t have much money. They stayed there for two months, but then Bosnians began to be deported back to Bosnia, into concentration camps. Zerina’s parents decided they were no longer safe, and her family got a bus to Macedonia. At the border, a Serbian soldier checked the bus. Bosnians were brought outside, lined up, and separated into groups of men and women and children. All those people were deported back to Bosnia, to concentration camps. The soldier let Zerina’s family through, telling them it was only because of the young children. They were incredibly lucky.

In Macedonia the family quickly ran out of money, and had to live on the streets. They they weren’t granted refugee status, mainly because there were already too many refugees. However they had met a very kind man, who owned a shop and he gave them milk and breakfast every morning. This man brought them to a house, in a forest in Macedonia, where other Bosnians were living. They stayed there for 25 days before moving on again. They got on another bus and went through Bulgaria and Romania, up to Hungary, to Budapest where they lived on the streets. If they got hold of any money, they went to hostels for homeless people, where their only belongings were stolen one night.

Luckily Zerina’s uncle, who lived in France, was able to send some money so they stayed in a hotel for a few weeks. They then managed to get train tickets to Austria. Despite having no passports, nothing, they made it to Vienna. They stayed in a refugee centre for a few weeks: a massive factory hall, with hundreds of beds next to each other. Horrible conditions to live under for a long period of time, but fortunately they discovered that Ireland was accepting Bosnian refugees, so that’s how they came to Ireland.

There was a lot of media coverage at the time. Zerina’s family lived in a refugee centre for a year or two. Every family had their own room, which was, compared to Austria, luxury. Her parents were really grateful to be looked after. There were medical services, and entertainment, and volunteers who would interact with the Bosnian population there.

In the talk, Zerina said, “In Ireland, I never felt like a stranger. I always felt like one of the other children. I went to school, I had loads of friends. My parents had loads of friends. There were free English courses for Bosnian people and our neighbours would mind me and my sister while our parents were at school, so there was a great support mechanism within the community. And our neighbours, and everyone, really wanted to support us…I always felt very welcome.” Bosnians were provided with social services, community services, and training so they could get jobs more easily. There were two components. On the one hand, the Irish did a great job of integrating the Bosnian community. But the refugees were also given the chance to interact with people from their own culture. This was really important for people with a lot of traumatic experiences, coming from a war.

Going back was not an option anymore

When the war ended, every Bosnian was questioning whether to return to their country or not. For Zerina’s family, going back was not an option. Bosnia as it had been was divided into two parts: the federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Serbian Republic. Since it was one country before, there were mixed ethnicities, so Bosnian-Serbs lived in the Republic, and everyone else lived in the federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And their house was in the Republic. Zerina described going back there as being like an Irish Protestant living in the Catholic part of Belfast right after the Troubles, or vice versa. It’s just not going to happen. In Foca, she said, when you go back today, you’ll see pictures of war criminals that killed many people being praised as heroes, and graffiti saying that Bosnia belongs to Serbia.

For Zerina’s family, going back was not an option. Bosnia as it had been was divided into two parts: the federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Serbian Republic.

It wasn’t the home they once had; so they had to establish a new one. Eventually they went to Germany because they had a lot of family there and Germany is also, geographically, closer to Bosnia. Zerina went to school there, and she began to travel a lot…

When she was 15, the American Field Service, an organisation, came to her school giving a talk, after which she was absolutely convinced she wanted to do a year abroad. She got herself a scholarship and went to Argentina for a year, living with a host family – an “amazing experience”.

She returned to Germany where she started her Bachelor degree in Political Science, Sociology and Media and Communication Science, and while there she took part in an Erasmus programme. Her Erasmus took her to the University of Cadiz in Spain, where she had a great time and made great friends.

On her return to Germany, Zerina got herself an internship with the United Nations World Food programme, the largest humanitarian agency in the world. Their target is to end world hunger. She worked there for seven months and it fuelled her passion for development and humanitarian aid. And that’s how she’s back in Ireland, because she found a Master’s programme that appealed to her, in the field of development. She’s now studying a course called Development of Practice. She says she’s really happy to be back in Ireland because going to Germany was a tough move for her. This summer she’s going to Kenya for three months, again with the United Nations World Food programme, to research her dissertation on the socio-economic impact of home-grown school feeding programmes in Kenya.

Kenya 2016

Zerina says she considers herself very lucky, because she doesn’t think the life she has now would be possible if she hadn’t had those support mechanisms when she came to Ireland.

“When I see pictures like this, nowadays, it really touches my heart because that boy has the right to the same opportunities we have. Just because he’s from a different country, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be able to interact normally in society. I ask myself, will these children be able to reach their full potential, like I was able to? And if we continue doing what we’re doing at the moment, the politicians especially, I would say no. …These children can’t become the best versions of themselves if they don’t have the right support mechanisms.”

This talk demonstrated to me that support systems don’t merely allow people to survive, they allow people to thrive. They allow refugees to achieve their full potential, grow as people, and give back. It is a long-term investment.

Whether it’s in relation to the appalling Direct Provision system in Ireland today or the response of the world in general to the current refugee crisis, we need to up our game. As Zerina says, it’s our responsibility to implement a policy of zero tolerance towards intolerance.

born in ireland

About the author:

Carol McGillCarol McGill (17) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Dublin in 2014. She is a student at Mount Temple Comprehensive and loves to write, mostly short stories, in her free time. Carol also enjoys history, drama and reading. Most of all, she would like to be a writer, but is also interested to be involved in promoting human rights and reducing discrimination. More…