#NoCountryForChildren – Including Youth In The Conversation On The Refugee Crisis
“Dear President Obama,
Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to [my home]? Park in the driveway or on the street and we will be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers, and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. In my school, I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar. We can all play together. We can invite him to birthday parties and he will teach us another language. We can teach him English too, just like my friend Aoto from Japan. Please tell him that his brother will be Alex who is a very kind boy, just like him. Since he won’t bring toys and doesn’t have toys Catherine will share her big blue stripy white bunny. And I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him additions and subtractions in math. And he [can] smell Catherine’s lip gloss penguin which is green. She doesn’t let anyone touch it.
Thank you very much! I can’t wait for you to come!”
– Alex, 6 years old
President Obama shared Alex’s letter, and replied:
“Those are the words of a six-year-old boy — a young child who has not learned to be cynical or suspicious or fearful of other people because of where they come from, how they look, or how they pray. We should all be more like Alex. Imagine what the world would look like if we were. Imagine the suffering we could ease and the lives we could save. Listen to Alex, read his letter, and I think you’ll understand why I shared it with the world”
Dear world, please listen to Alex, listen to those cries, those gunshots, those screams and don’t let your kindness and compassion fade away.
Listen to that girl, who was forced to stop going to school, because of wars. She wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer and help people when she grows up but her dreams were shattered to pieces just like her house. She is forced to live under the debris, and every time she hears a noise, a chill runs down her spine.
Listen to that small child, who has nowhere to go, and is asking her dead parents to wake up and who wrote “I miss you” near his parents bodies.
Listen to that young girl’s cries when she told you that she has no rations left in the warehouses she is hiding, and who has been raped more than thrice.
Listen to the sound of innocent blood on the road, listen to the desperation and listen to the sound of pain and suffering.
We have found a perfect way of tackling this problem. We turn a blind eye and say that this does not exist. We deny the harsh reality, we deny that every day people have to flee their home and children and teenagers are the most vulnerable and unlikely to survive;those who make it, have to live in poor conditions away from their parents with no proper sanitation and hygiene, and are more prone to infections and other health issues that may also cost them their lives. Others, who might get through this crisis, are forced into prostitution, child trafficking or become child soldiers.
We must value each life. Because, from these refugees, one might be President someday, another might be the next Nelson Mandela, or even Gandhi. But if they are stripped off their rights, they might never reach their full potential. They are children first, and they do not deserve so much pain.
If you are reading this article, and thinking, ‘there is no chance of this happening to me’, then let me first tell you that no one is immune, and if not during wars, then people are forced to flee their home because of natural disasters and for many other reasons. It might be hard to put ourselves in other people’s shoes especially if you are in bed, wrapped in cozy blankets, with a warm cup of hot chocolate and a good book, but our whole world can shatter in just one second, and change our status to a refugee. Dreams are broken, families are broken, hopes, hearts and aspirations are broken. Please just take a minute to picture that.
I can already anticipate that people might comment saying that the youth do not know anything about borders, the implications, the policies – it might be true…but we do know that we must all stand together as we are all part of one family- humanity.
We have many examples of how the strength of young people changed the stories of refugees. Yusra Mardani, for example, swam for 3 hours in open water along with her friends to stop their dinghy from capsizing, until they reached Lesbos. She later became part of the Olympian Refugee team.
The Youth is in no way, incompetent, or unaware of the global migration crisis, in fact they are integral to it. We just need the chance to be at the frontline of integration polices for refugees, and we hope that the situation will improve. It has to; we’ve already lost too many lives
Photo Credits : Illustration by Banksy
Words By : Yeshna Dindoyal
Yeshna Dindoyal is a 19-year-old Youth Representative, UNICEF Voices of Youth blogger, Writer and a UNICEF climate digital Mapper. She is an advocate for gender equality, climate change, mental health, bullying, education and works to empower youth.She wants to make the world a better place, and leave a mark. She is currently a law student and likes to describe herself as a work in progress.