Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 5:02 PM

World Refugee Day

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

More than 120 refugees are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean after a boat sank off the Libyan cost on Friday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said. …

At least 1,850 refugees have lost their lives on the dangerous crossing so far this year, says the IOM. …

After drifting for a while, the boat, believed to have been carrying 130 refugees — most of them of Sudanese and Nigerian nationality — capsized.

(London Independent, June 20, 2017)

Refugees no longer get headline coverage, but they are still fleeing chronic strife for a better life.

But I appreciate the compassion fatigue and feelings of fecklessness that cause so many to ignore their plight. After all, I’ve been pleading their cause to no avail for over a decade. In fact, I refer you to such commentaries as “Europeans Erecting Fences to Maintain Good Relations with African Neighbors,” October 8, 2005, “Compassion Fatigue for Haitian Migrants,” July 31, 2009, “Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” October 7, 2013, “Migrants Still Turning Mediterranean Sea into a Cemetery,” June 1, 2016, and “Groundhog-Day Famine in Africa,” March 20, 2017, to name just a few.

As it happens, this last commentary features my despairing concerns about Sudanese refugees. Syrian refugees were making headlines at the time, but the Sudanese seemed bound to outnumber them 10 to 1. Today’s report is just the latest since then to justify my concerns.

Nonetheless, I urge you to bear in mind that mere accident of birth explains why most refugees find themselves in such dire straits. I am a person of African descent; therefore, I am particularly mindful of this fact. I have duly noted it in many commentaries, including most recently in “French Forgiving Haitians like Germans Forgiving Jews,” May 14, 2015.


Post-colonial Africa seems fated to loom amidst the continents of the world as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous, and ultimately dysfunctional mess. So, notwithstanding slavery, blacks born in America and the Caribbean should probably thank their lucky stars that neither Abraham Lincoln nor Marcus Garvey succeeded in ‘repatriating’ us to Africa. In other words, thank God we are here and not there!

I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.


But even informed and conscientious people of European descent could readily concede that, but for the grace of God, they too could be among latterday huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Of course, this is even more the case with anyone living a charmed life in the developing world. Never mind that the serendipitous accumulation of wealth has caused many of them to forget where they came from.

All of that is why I find this so poignant:

A Syrian artist has re-imagined US President Donald Trump and 10 other world leaders as refugees in a series of paintings currently on display in Dubai.

Abdalla Al Omari, who has refugee status in Belgium, says his own experience with displacement prompted him to create ‘The Vulnerability Series.’

‘Being a refugee is like having a new lump in your body that you had nothing to do with, and it will stay until the last day, so you better deal with it,’ Al Omari told CNN.

(CNN, June 16, 2017)

The message of Al Omari’s series is obvious. It says that a little empathy would go a long way towards helping our fellow human beings deal with the strife that compels them to become refugees in the first place.

A record 65.5 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2016, according to a UN report.

This is the highest figure recorded by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) since the organization was founded after World War II.

(USA Today, June 20, 2017)

It’s easy to indict the myriad forms of man’s inhumanity to man, which are the root causes of this migration crisis. But Al Omari’s evocative images show how our collective failure of empathy indicts us all.

Related commentaries:
Compassion fatigue
Europeans erecting fences
French forgiving Haitians
Lampedusa tragedy
Mediterranean Sea
Groundhog Day

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