Freedom to Move in the Face of Danger
Today I felt like packing my bags and taking a vacation from this cold winter weather and the obscene stack of readings glaring at me. Unrealistically, I dreamed about just heading to the airport and hopping on the next flight that would take me somewhere warm. In this little fantasy of mine I didn’t worry about having my passport or needing to fill out a visa that then had to be approved— I imagined a world where these things would not prevent a person from traveling where they desired. But as unrealistic as me leaving my school work, the sheer thought of free movement around the world is all the more absurd considering today’s global climate.
Holding both a US and British passport, I feel quite lucky that I can move around the world with relative ease. However, I still don’t have complete freedom of movement; I cannot simply decide to go to some far away country and expect to be welcomed no questions asked. Nobody today has this freedom of movement, regardless of the increase in globalization. For a lot of the world’s populations, this is not too horrendous— we like where we live and we feel safe. Yet, for the many others who do not feel safe in their home country- say Syria right now- this is a major dilemma that we, as a global community, need to address. As of February 7th this year, 4,598,691 Syrians have registered as refugees (that is more than double the entire population of Toronto, just to give perspective) according to UNHCR.
Having the freedom to move one’s body and decide what happens to it (i.e. being able to remove yourself from a dangerous situation) is something that I, and probably most others, would agree is a fundamental freedom. Not to be too clichéd, but let’s imagine that you find yourself walking down a street at night and encounter a group wielding sharp knives. In this scenario, you run away from these people until you find a street that is quite populated and you feel safe. You decide to stay here until you know it’s safe to go elsewhere. No body should tell you that you cannot come to this public space; your life was in danger and the last thing you need was to get kicked out or punished for deciding you wanted to stay in this safe street. And you definitely would not have wanted to wait months to hear if you were indeed allowed to move to this safe street. After all, your life was in danger and you should be free to move yourself to safety. To relate this overly simplistic scenario to the Syrian refugee crisis- or in general any hypothetical refugee crisis- the principles still apply. The Syrians fleeing their country are in danger. Since 2011, the UN estimates that over 250,000 people in Syria have died, while the International Red Cross reported four years ago that the situation had become a civil war. The freedom to move across borders when no immanent danger is present is once thing, but when millions of people’s lives are at risk it becomes a whole different story. As a community, perhaps we should focus more on about helping the people whose lives are at risk and allowing them to move about freely in order to potentially save their lives. Although it is an extremely complicated situation— there is a simple side to it; people are in danger and need to be able to move.
With that in mind, remember to stay free folks!
“What’s Happening in Syria.” BBC News. BBC, 3 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/16979186>.
“UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response.” UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php>.