No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
These are the first two lines of the poem “Home” by Somali poet Warsan Shire. Fleeing war, refugees face many perils: “No one puts their children in a boat/ Unless the water is safer than the land”
Last week, the image of a dead child on a beach captured the human tragedy of the current refugee crisis. Three-year-old Alan Kurdi drowned, along with his brother and mother, while trying to reach Greece in a rubber dinghy. Only the boys’ father survived.
The family had fled the civil war in Syria with the hope of eventually coming to Canada. Alan’s aunt, who lives in Vancouver, wanted to bring all her siblings and their families to Canada, but could only afford to sponsor one at a time.
When Immigration Canada rejected the application of another of her brothers, Alan’s father felt his only option was a desperate course of action. “No one puts their children in a boat/ Unless….”
THE SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS: THE CANADIAN RECORD
The refugee crisis in Syria has been going on since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, a war that has already claimed 300,000 lives. Today, Syria is the world’s top source country of refugees. There are now more than 4 million Syrian who have fled their country’s bloody war. This figure does not include internally displaced Syrians.
5 MORE KEY FACTS AND FIGURES
- In 2013, the Canadian government committed to accept 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014.
- The actual number resettled in Canada was about 700.
- In January 2015, the Canadian government promised to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by 2018.
- 2,374 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Canada since 2013. The vast majority were privately sponsored, meaning private groups, not the government, undertook the paperwork and funding to bring them.
- Contrary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s implied claim, Canada is not the world’s largest per capita receiver of refugees. In fact, Canada ranks 41st.
MORE WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER
According to Stephen Harper, the real solution to the refugee crisis is more bombing of ISIS. In Harper’s words, “Millions of people are being pursued, slaughtered by the so-called Islamic State and its allies and we have to do something about that.”
- War is the cause of the refugee crisis. More bombs will simply mean more refugees fleeing bombings.
- The emergence of ISIS in Iraq is a direct result of the 2003 US-led military invasion of Iraq. “Violence begets violence” (Martin Luther King).
- According to a Pentagon document, Canadian bombing of ISIS resulted in the death of up to 27 Iraqi civilians in January. To date, more than 450 civilians have been killed by the US-led airstrikes against ISIS.
CANADA’S CHEQUERED HISTORY
- 1933 – 1948: In June 1939, Canada refused entry to 937 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, turning their ship, the SS St. Louis, back to Europe. A third of the ship’s passengers ended up being murdered in the Nazi death camps. From 1933 – 1948, “none is too many” was the response of the Canadian government to Jewish asylum seekers.
- 1979 – 1980: Canada accepted 50,000 Vietnamese “boat people.” By 1985, 110,000 Vietnamese refugees had resettled in Canada.
- 1999: Canada agreed to accept 7,000 Kosovo refugees.
- Today: Designed to evoke fear, the demeaning language used to refer to refugees by some of our politicians is reminiscent of the “none is too many” rhetoric of the 1930s and 40s.
2015: CANADA’S ANTI-REFUGEE POLICY
- Since 2006, the Harper government has been erecting bureaucratic hurdles before those seeking refuge in Canada.
- In 2012, the Harper government passed a bill creating a two-tiered refugee system and allowing for the arbitrary detention of groups of refugees.
- In 2012, the Harper government made severe cuts to refugee healthcare.
WELCOME REFUGEES: Germany, a much smaller country than Canada, has said it can take 500,000 Syrian refugees a year for the next several years. Let the party leaders know you want Canada to accept as many refugees as Germany.
STOP THE WAR IN SYRIA: ●Let the party leaders know you want Canada to work actively for a diplomatic resolution ‒ a peaceful solution ‒ to the war in Syria. ●Sign the Development and Peace petition: https://www.devp.org/en/emergencies/syria/petition