Thursday, October 22, 2015

Humanity, Migration and the Consequences of Standing By: Lunch & Learn Tackles Immigration to Europe

A Hellenic Red Cross volunteer helps Syrian refugees
arriving by boat (photo credit: Reuters)
The movement of migrants from the Middle East to Europe and the West has been deemed an international crisis by media, government leaders and social media – where the hashtag #migrantcrisis has arisen to tag stories, images and discussions.

In the second of a two-part series on humanitarianism and migration, the Red Cross of Colorado will host a Lunch and Learn on Oct. 28 featuring Dr. Nader Hashemi, director of Middle East Studies at the University of Denver's Korbel School for International Studies, and Mark Owens, Restoring Family Links caseworker for the Middle East and Asia. The discussion will focus on the protection of humanity amid what has become an immigration crisis.
Dr. Hashemi co-edited the 2013 book, The Syria Dilemma, a collection of essays shedding light on the geopolitical importance of the Syrian conflict. A nationally-recognized authority on the subject of Middle Eastern politics and culture, Dr. Hashemi has spoken extensively for both lay and academic audiences on the impact of the devastating civil war in Syria, the rise of ISIS and other current issues in the region. For Dr. Hashemi, the Syrian war is one of global importance.

"Not only has it destabilized the Middle East but now Europe is being affected," he said.

Although immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan are also arriving in Europe Syrian refugees have far eclipsed the populations arriving in Europe from elsewhere. According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, nearly 4 million refugees have fled Syria, and more than 7 million have been internally displaced by the conflict. For those choosing to leave Syria, the unclear future outside of their homeland's borders is a vastly better option than the humanitarian crisis within them. Dr. Hashemi said that Syrian residents are enduring a variety of violations of International Humanitarian Law within their country.

"This includes the deliberate attack on civilian targets, use of chemical weapons, barrel bombs on cities, attacks on breadlines, torture on a massive scale, etc.," Dr. Hashemi said.

Despite the conflict in Syria, most who have fled Syria express a desire to return to their country when it is safe to do so. For Dr. Hashemi, the solution to the Syrian refugee crisis needs to be the solution to the Syrian Civil War: an end to aggression and an opportunity to rebuild.

"What fundamentally needs to happen is for the war to stop and for a political solution to be found so that Syrian refugees can return home," Dr. Hashemi said. "Most of polling says Syrians don't want to go to Europe but want [to] return home. Until a political solution can be found, the main reason why Syrians are fleeing in such huge numbers needs to be addressed."

Though it can be hard for Americans to see a way to help those affected by the faraway crises in Syria and in the European countries to which they are migrating, Dr. Hashemi says that Americans can help through democratic channels to affect change. 

According to Tim Bothe, Manager of International Services for the Red Cross of Colroado, Americans can also take these steps to make a difference:
1.     Support humanitarian organizations in their efforts to aid the refugees. Until a solution- political or otherwise- can be found, humanitarian organizations are working across Europe to manage the needs of refugees, providing medical care, food and shelter while people continue to migrate by the millions. In addition to providing basic needs like food and medical attention, the Red Cross is also offering Restoring Family Links services to reconnect displaced persons with loved ones as they resettle in Europe. Find out more and support the work of the Red Cross by visiting
2.     Commit to protecting and advocating for the humanity of refugees. Speak about refugees as individual human beings, advocate for humane treatment,  and confront hate and bigotry that demeans humans’ intrinsic value. Those wishing to help the International Federation of the Red Cross protect the humanity of immigrants and refugees are encouraged to sign the petition to stop indifference, to be presented at the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva this December.

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, Oct. 28, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, by clicking here. Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

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