Don’t close doors to refugees, help them

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ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia): Countries and their peoples should not close their doors to refugees, and accept them with open arms, says Berlin state parliamentarian Carsten Schatz.

Speaking to FMT on the sidelines of the 11th Asia-Europe People’s Forum, the German lawmaker shared his community’s experience in helping Syrian refugees who had fled to Europe.

He said last year, the people in Berlin were only given a two-hour notice that the refugees were set to arrive in Berlin.

“Immediately, people volunteered by the dozens, to spruce up a school gymnasium where the refugees would be sheltered and helped build beds for them,

“People are still volunteering, from giving German lessons to the refugees to help them integrate, while others are providing logistical support in terms of preparing and distributing meals to the refugees.”

Schatz said that even during Ramadan, the locals would prepare sahur and buka puasa meals for the refugees, a majority of whom were Muslims.

He added that the local church community even organised an art exhibition, featuring the artworks of the refugees, which people could also purchase.

Schatz said that the local community were not xenophobic nor suspicious towards the refugees, and that their main concern was to help the refugees integrate into society.

“Naturally, you will have people asking a lot of questions about the refugees, such as how long they will stay, why are they here, are they going back and so on, but if you let the refugees tell their story, people would understand,

“These are people who have travelled thousands of kilometres, having to walk for most of the way and also faced the trauma of seeing many people die.”

He said the refugees were not in their predicament by choice, and this was why people and governments should be empathic to their plight.

“If I were in their shoes, I would want people to help me.”

Schatz said this was why it was crucial to organise dialogues between local communities and refugees.

He said a vast majority of the refugees wanted to return home to Syria as soon as peace returned, as they were used to the weather, language and culture there.

On the role of governments in the crisis, Schatz said it was crucial for them to screen and register the refugees.

He said that some held the false belief that many refugees were terrorists, but in truth, terrorists were just using the crisis as a way in because there were weaknesses in the registration and screening of refugees.

“If governments address these issues, then the terrorists would not try to enter, as they would not be willing to take the risk of being detected.”

Last year, Germany took in over one million Syrian refugees who fled after the outbreak of a civil war in their country.