You are adrift at sea in a boat with 500 strangers. It’s been 20 days since you’ve last eaten, and you’ve resulted to drinking salt water from the ocean. Your mother and siblings were left behind in your home country and you’re not sure when you’ll see them next. Every day tens of dozens of emaciated corpses are thrown off the boat into the water and you feel the end is near. Finally! A large military boat comes to the rescue. They tell you they can’t help you, but they manage to pass along 2 handfuls of rice before they sail off and away into the distance. You remain adrift, helpless, and unsure of the future.
This situation is not just a theoretical occurrence, but a serious reality for thousands of individuals fleeing persecution. This specific example is drawn from the experiences of refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh who endured treacherous voyages through the sea before seeking shelter in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand in May of 2015.
Throughout these refugees’ journeys, naval forces from Malaysia and Indonesia aimed to turn away migrant ships from the country’s waters in order to “protect” their borders. As a result, thousands of refugees remained adrift in the “Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca without food or water, turned away by nations that [didn’t] want to appear welcoming to poor, uneducated migrants”.
Hard to stomach?
This unimaginable humanitarian crisis is a testament to the implications that can arise from restricting and resisting aid to individuals seeking refuge. The refugee crisis has been brought to the forefront of our media in recent news because of President Trump’s latest executive order to halt the current refugee resettlement program and ban potential immigrants and visitors from the 7 Muslim countries of Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Iran, Libya and Sudan. Through his actions, Trump is building a culture of intolerance and racially charged discrimination that will undoubtedly influence the entire nation.
My challenge to all of you is to imagine yourself in the shoes of someone who is fleeing from their home country in fear of violent persecution. What would you do if you had nowhere to go? For thousands of individuals who dreamed of resettling in the US, that possibility is now a reality.
Where do we go from here?
Take action. Discuss this issue with your friends, family, and peers. Educate yourself and research on ways to oppose this ban. Simple steps include:
- Calling your state representative to denounce the order: Call Congress
- On a more local level – talk to our city council to make Harrisonburg a sanctuary city: Sanctuary City
Lastly, empathize with these individuals and listen to their experiences. Refuse to accept this culture of intolerance and most importantly: erase indifference.