#RefugeesWelcome

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This is one of the powerful statements made by Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Union President, in his State of the Union speech of yesterday.

Politicians’ speeches do not reach me often because they are mostly meaningless and lack authenticity. This one though, was objective, factual and heartening, and I felt it genuine. Particularly the words used to discuss the current refugee crisis, are certainly calling the European leaders and citizens, to look at themselves in the mirror, and hopefully, restore their memory, and their humanity.

I am not an European citizen by birth. I didn’t arrive here as a refugee. I didn’t leave my birth country as an economic migrant. I love my country and what brought me here was my adventurous spirit who made me accept a corporate expat assignment from my Swiss employer.

I have lived abroad since 1994. I moved from Brazil to Switzerland, then to the USA and finally to The Netherlands, always due to my corporate job. I made friends, I integrated, I learned the local languages. No one has ever asked my religion or beliefs. No one has ever asked about my family background and upbringing before accepting me as ‘one of them’.  Because that is how I feel.

No one rejected me in the Old Continent because I settled here, and never returned to my country. I was never told I took a job from an European citizen. I surely did.

Is the acceptance stemming from the fact that I migrated as a tax payer and not depending on the State’s welfare? This obviously plays a role in people’s mindsets and attitudes towards people like me.  But this is not all. There are many fears at play, which are driving the opposition and negative reactions.

Apart from extremists neo-nazis, racists and religious fundamentalists, which are a class of people I abstain from understanding their motives, there are other people who oppose the arrival of refugees because Europe has changed their lives for the worse, since the start of the Economic and Financial Crisis. There is poverty, homelessness, joblessness, despite the existence of a generous social policy.

There are also differences among the countries in the European Unions. They are all equals when belonging to the European Union, but some countries are more equal than others, as they are more mature and developed from an economical, social and financial standpoint.

This is a very complex issue and I won’t try to simplify it with emotional statements. This is a time to have a cool head and take distance from heated discussions. The best way is to try to be better informed about World’s history and events before voicing an opinion about them. And I am not saying that we get informed by reading personal opinions on the internet. We need to read books, if we have time, or credible papers.

How about starting to learn about European history and its waves of migration, which formed nations like Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, US, South Africa, etc. If we are really honest, we know that Europeans migrants have displaced the ‘locals’…

I will share with you a very important part of Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech,  which brings us to become aware of the need for historic fairness.

“We Europeans should remember well that Europe is a continent where nearly everyone has at one time been a refugee. Our common history is marked by millions of Europeans fleeing from religious or political persecution, from war, dictatorship, or oppression.

Huguenots fleeing from France in the 17th century.
Jews, Sinti, Roma and many others fleeing from Germany during the Nazi horror of the 1930s and 1940s.
Spanish republicans fleeing to refugee camps in southern France at the end of the 1930s after their defeat in the Civil War.
Hungarian revolutionaries fleeing to Austria after their uprising against communist rule was oppressed by Soviet tanks in 1956.
Czech and Slovak citizens seeking exile in other European countries after the oppression of the Prague Spring in 1968.
Hundreds and thousands were forced to flee from their homes after the Yugoslav wars.
Have we forgotten that there is a reason there are more McDonalds living in the U.S. than there are in Scotland? That there is a reason the number of O’Neills and Murphys in the U.S. exceeds by far those living in Ireland?
Have we forgotten that 20 million people of Polish ancestry live outside Poland, as a result of political and economic emigration after the many border shifts, forced expulsions and resettlement during Poland’s often painful history?
Have we really forgotten that after the devastation of the Second World War, 60 million people were refugees in Europe? That as a result of this terrible European experience, a global protection regime – the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees – was established to grant refuge to those who jumped the walls in Europe to escape from war and totalitarian oppression?”

What is happening in the Middle East, already for many years, has created lasting consequences, which are shaping one of the largest humanitarian disasters since WWII. Can we ignore it and just turn our face to the other side? Of course we can. Will that make the problem disappear? Nope.

Do you know that nearly 500,000 people have made their way to Europe this year? Do you know that the majority of them are fleeing from war in Syria, the terror of the Islamic State in Libya or dictatorship in Eritrea?

Would you still say that this “illegal” people are coming here just for the fun of taking your job and enjoy your social benefits? Would you ever travel with the help of smugglers, who are selling “first class” tickets in dinghies to cross the sea, for a journey which ends not at the destination, but as a one-way ticket to death?  Have you ever thought that what drives people in war-torn countries, is their will to live and protect their families?

I will share again some words of Jean-Claude Juncker:

“Yet, in spite of our fragility, our self-perceived weaknesses, today it is Europe that is sought as a place of refuge and exile. It is Europe today that represents a beacon of hope, a haven of stability in the eyes of women and men in the Middle East and in Africa.

That is something to be proud of and not something to fear.”

Let’s conquer our fears and just remember that we are all humans. This is a crisis that asks us to show humanity and compassion. Giving refuge is an obligation to comply with the fundamental right to asylum.

I truly hope that Europeans look at the refugees in the same way they looked at me when I arrived here. Like a human being…and as one of them.

Who could better put humanity into perspective than Carl Sagan’s speech at Pale Blue Dot’s video?

“The distant image of our tiny world, underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the only home we have ever known: The Pale Blue Dot.”


This post goes to Colleen’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday!

Posted by

Sharing my views and experiences with words and photos - taken with diverse angles - influenced by the multicultural countries I have lived and worked. I studied Psychology and have an MBA. After working for corporates, I became an entrepreneur and consultant. Cycling, hiking, windsurfing, cooking, reading, yoga, writing and photographing, are no longer just hobbies listed in a resume.

59 thoughts on “#RefugeesWelcome

  1. I just wrote a big post about the same topic, published, went to my reader and saw that you have done the same 🙂 It’s so obvious that we are sisters 😀 I’m so proud to have met you here. Lots of love, B

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  2. It’s a good piece because of your experience as a migrant. I was dismayed by Cameron’s initial statement: that accepting refugees is not the answer but resolving the war in the Middle East. One cannot ignore the deaths occurring right at Europe’s doorstep. It is a good speech. Now let’s hope the Europeans remember how great they once were! They’ve been trapped in their own fears for too long.

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    1. Thanks. I feel better to speak from my experience to show that people are not evil but just fearful.
      Cameron’s statements are a response to those in fear. Just fighting for his place in politics. Short term thinking though. He proves that he’s no great stature as a world leader, and choses to be just a local selfish politician. History will judge him.
      He also forgets that there are many refugees already as a result of the wars they helped creating, namely Libya and Iraqi.
      I truly hope that grass roots movements will grow so much and reach so many European citizens, and that they will press their political leaders to act.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m going to read that one. Thanks.
          Do you know why people ignore that? Because they don’t pay attention to what’s happening beyond their belly buttons. I’ve heard ignorant statements from intelligent people who are badly informed and driven by self motives. Not paying more taxes is enough to be against a refugee. They don’t realize that they will pay more anyways to finance a new war, if that’s the solution offered by their governments. And then the vicious cycle of war-displacement-refugees kicks in again.

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  3. Fantastic post, Lucile. Thank you for sharing the words of Jean-Claude Junker. There is always hope that we will be our betters selves in any moment, and turn away from fear. I’m watching the situation, the grief of the refugees, the posturing of various governments, the straightforward caring by many everyday people, and I’m wishing there was something more I could do beside witness. Thanks for adding to our awareness.

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  4. Brilliant post and one that everyone can learn from. I am certain that people don’t think beyond their own little space – and how tiny is that space compared to even that pale blue dot!?? Imagine if something browned to them and they had to flee to seek asylum! Thank you so much for sharing these words and the video. I’ve seen it before but it’s such a profound reminder, it actually had me tearing up watching it. X

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  5. Just plain awesome, and I never use that word. I use it here in its original sense.
    The pale blue dot…right. The only home we have. And yet, since forever, we treat it and each other in a manner that makes no sense…so unkind, so wicked, so wrong, so obviously “the folly of human conceit.” I admire your courage to make this post, to take a stance. But then, I would expect nothing more (rather, less) from you. You…the DOER. Doing stuff again. More stuff. Humane stuff.

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    1. Thank you. Your kind and wise words add awesomeness to this post.
      Actually, it doesn’t take much courage to act from behind a computer screen. Anyone can do that. Courage is to find ways to escape alive from a war. If one can do that, they can do even greater things.
      This ‘doer’ just talks about it and hopes that humanity wakes up.
      Thanks for being here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I’m sorry to say, you are absolutely right…again. And I don’t think we should place any bets on humanity waking up to reality and righteousness any time soon.
        And we all “do” what we do. We love what you do.

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  6. Quite a quote to begin my day, Lucile. Thanks for that. Today in the U.S., we remember 9/11, one of the instances that can harden hearts against those from other places. We have to keep a balance and try to also open our hearts and doors.

    janet

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    1. Janet,
      It’s indeed a day that touches us all. I will never forget that. My heart goes out to all of you.
      That was the day that changed our mindsets and made us become more fearful. This current crisis is turning all hearts and minds upside down. Let’s count on good reasoning and fairness as human beings.

      Warm regards,
      Lucile

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  7. Lucile, it is strange how the universe places information into our laps in a timely manner. Reading this post has uncanny timing! Someone earlier commented about our Sept 11 remembrance going on in the US all day today. 14 years later and most Americans are still raw from the events of 9-11.

    In a weird twist, today, my city here in Sacramento is honoring the three American young men who thwarted a terrorist attempt on a train from Amsterdam to Paris back on August 21. They were just visited Europe, they did not have to do anything. Yet, because they are human, they felt compelled to act. Yes, their military backgrounds certainly helped them. But the real humanity is just about the people regardless of where you live. The young men received a heros’ welcome and parade. One of them is a student a the college where I teach!

    We can all be proud of sacrifices that are made to make our lives or someone else’s life better, purely by being human. I am impressed that you have lived in several different countries. Now I know why you are so worldly and intelligent!

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    1. The Universe always know better, isn’t it?
      The Western world as a whole remembers 9-11 and pays tribute to the American people. A day that we will never forget.
      What a coincidence that they are from your city! I followed the situation with immense interest. Being married with a TV journalist makes me overly informed!
      Real heroes! Besides having the training to deal with an emergency like that, they showed their humanity too. Be proud! They even got the highest order of France, Légion d’honneur.
      Thanks for such a compliment, I’m humbled by your consideration.
      Have a lovely weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for saying so, Lisa. This crisis has been heartbreaking and there is no solution in sight yet. People are being thrown out from country to country, by bus or trains, or simply walking miles, hungry and thirsty, just to find out that they have to return. Even Germany closed the borders due to the overwhelming amount of people arriving every day. Sending them back to Hungary hasn’t resolved the issue but worsened.They are treated like a hot potato, except for they are humans.

      Liked by 1 person

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