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There are 60 million refugees in the world. This is just statistics, just a number that means absolutely nothing to most of us. It doesn’t unveil the individual’s struggles; the horror and challenges each person goes through to end up a refugee.
The migrant crisis in Europe has been the center of media attention as thousands of people fleeing their war torn countries seeking refuge end up on the shores and scattered across borders in Europe. Even though the situation seems out of control in recent months, many experts have warned EU countries that this would happen. It is their slow reaction has now caused chaos across borders.
While Germany has stepped up and opened its borders receiving a comparatively massive number of migrants, other countries such as Hungary as well as Nordic countries have come under fire for failing to react and share responsibility. Other countries such as Saudi Arabia also remain unmoved by the humanitarian crisis despite their direct involvement in another migrant crisis waiting to erupt in Yemen.
The problem with all of us is that we always grapple with, and fail to understand that the world is a very small place. What happens in one corner of the world will, sooner or later, affect the seemingly unaffected. We have seen this with terrorism and with the out break of Ebola, just to mention a few examples. When we hear of a new threat or a disaster, we don’t think to do something immediately. Instead, we wait, and wait until the problem comes right to our doorsteps.
Right here in Ethiopia, the fact that we have and continue to have an open-door policy to refugees is really something that makes me feel proud. Of course, Ethiopia is not alone in handling the largest population of refugees in Africa- 800,000 refugees- fleeing from countries like South Sudan, Somalia as well as Eritrea.
The country has been able to handle this situation with the help of several humanitarian organization s like the UNHCR and IOM, to mention some among many. These NGOs and organizations receive funds from developed countries, especially from the EU.
All this doesn’t mean the Ethiopian government has not contributed its own resources in welcoming and sustaining the lives of refugees. The government and the communities around the refugee camps have been working relentlessly to accommodate the ever increasing number of people crossing the borders.
Why does Ethiopia bother? Why take on the responsibility and burden of receiving refugees? Surely it can’t all be because it is really the right thing to do on a moral ground; the world doesn’t work that way. The way I see it, Ethiopia understands that what happens to its neighbors will ultimately threaten its own peace and security. And not just what happens to neighboring countries, but the rest of the continent as well.
With the current migrant crisis, if the humanitarian story doesn’t appeal to countries in Europe, at least the economic and peace and security aspects of the crisis should be of some interest. The crisis is not going to solve itself, migrants will not stop going to Europe, controlling borders and putting up wire fences will not match the sheer will of the people making a life and death journey to reach Europe.
The word solidarity seems is lost on all of us. We think that we need to take care of our own first, forgetting that there is really no such thing; we are all our own. The world is an extremely small place and with all the absolute horror and cruelty engulfing people’s worlds; solidarity is not just a question of moral, it is a question of survival.