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“In a refugee crisis, a little compassion can go a long way”
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“In a refugee crisis, a little compassion can go a long way”

Shiboni D’Souza, 23, a Correspondent from Bangalore in India, writes that refugees, throughout history, have brought a great deal to her homeland. How citizens respond to the latest influx of refugees, however, will be the true test of her country’s national character.

The global refugee crisis has been a hot topic for debate on all sides of the political spectrum. I believe the refugee crisis is a test of our character. Over the course of history, many great intellectuals have advocated that one’s society is only as strong as its weakest member. That hypothesis holds true in my homeland.

India has been protecting Tibetan refugees for over 50 years, and in that time, Tibetans in India have added to our culture, traditions, and tourism. India has refugees from Tibet, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Burma. There are several Tibet settlements in India, including Bylakuppe which is also known as ‘Mini Tibet’. Following in the footsteps of the 14th Dalai Lama more than 150,000 Tibetan refugees have fled to India during the past 50 years.The Golden temple is a popular tourist destination in Karnataka, India.

The idea that refugees are a drain on the resources of a nation is an all-too-common narrative espoused by critics. However, as with the case of the Tibetans in Karnataka, have they not added value to the regions by making it a tourist attraction? The magnificent golden temple is a sight to behold! The Government of India has built special schools for Tibetans that provide free education, health care, and scholarships for those students who excel in school. There are also a few spots reserved for Tibetans in the fields of medical and civil engineering.

Throughout history, culture developed and spread due to the inclusion of other cultures within one’s own. Although taking in refugees will cost the nation in the short term, ultimately, they will make the region a little better over the long haul.

There are many examples in India where refugees are doing well and adding value to their adopted nation. In recent times, however, this issue has become highly politicised. Very seldom has the talk addressed the refugee crisis as a human rights issue. Instead, talk has centered on how refugees are perceived as ‘threats to national security’.

As human beings we should at the very least extend a humane welcome to people in need. Amid all the unnecessary hate and vitriol, we forget the very human nature of the people in question. We fail to put ourselves in their shoes, and imagine what it must be like to have your home, city and everything you have ever known torn apart. Just when you see a small ray of hope, you realise you have stepped into an unwelcoming, hostile country. It is something no one can be prepared for.

Providing shelter to refugees is  the compassionate thing to do. Scoring political points by painting an untrue, hostile picture of people in need is a low blow. An important thing to remember is that many people who are now seeking refuge because of war, turmoil, and political instability in their own nation were once, not a long while back, normal people. With normal jobs, doctors, engineers, lawyers, bankers and investors. They have lived their lives earning for themselves and their families, what will stop them now if they are part of a different country? What is missing in the current landscape is the humanisation of the faceless, voiceless people we call ‘refugees’.

Photo credit: Mayank Nagori.

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About me: My passion is writing. My love for reading started in third grade with the Harry Potter series. I was in the founding team of TEDxBMSCE (https://www.ted.com/tedx/events/18607) and was on the core committee of our college’s national level technical fest. I have also been involved in a major college fest in Karnataka. I am an Industrial Engineering Management graduate now working as a business analyst.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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