Josie and Lliana on the Huffington Post – ‘We Are All Victims of Terror – Don’t Turn the Refugees Away’

Lliana and Josie’s piece appeared on the front page of the Huffington Post. You can view the original on the Huffington Post here

We Are All Victims of Terror – Don’t Turn the Refugees Away

A boat of refugees sail towards what they hope will be their new land, a safe haven from the atrocities they have been enduring in their homeland. It nears the shores of it’s planned destination… but on the land the natives have a different idea. What if there’s a dangerous enemy infiltrating amongst the refugees? And how and why should our country shoulder the added burden of more refugees anyway?

The boat, full to the brim of traumatised and scared refugees, is refused entry who are told “we’re sorry, but there’s no room in the inn”. They are instead told to turn around, and sent back to their homelands to face certain death.

Sound familiar? It may do if you’ve seen the petition which has garnered over half a million signatures (and counting) asking Europe to shut its doors on the hundreds of thousands of people seeking safe refuge here.

But we’re not talking about the refugee crisis in Europe. This scenario we are describing was the famous tragedy of SS St Louis in May 1939. A boat of German Jewish refugees fleeing the holocaust, turned back from America and returned to Europe’s shores, where just under half the ships passengers would be murdered by the Nazis.

This was not an uncommon occurrence, and serves as a source of much shame and regret over the way Jewish refugees were treated, and essentially sent back to their deaths during the holocaust.

Never again, we all said. Yet here we are, facing the greatest refugee crisis since World War Two and we are once again talking about shutting our doors to the people who need our help the most.

Fear is understandable. The atrocities in Paris this weekend drove home how vulnerable we all are, and how devastating the effects of terrorism can be. The refugees know this only too well, many of them fleeing the exact same perpetrators of the horrors in Paris. But the ideologies that drive terrorism exist in our own countries. Homegrown terror and violence will sadly continue whether or not we accept refugees into our land… the large majority (maybe all) of the Paris attackers were from France or Belgium.

Refusing entry to all refugees only serves to increase the us vs. them mentality, and to condemn many people who have run away from terror or forced inscription to extremist groups back into the arms of the terrorists themselves where they often have two choices: join us or die.

Our rejection and maltreatment of refugees plays into the hands of Isis who rely on any anti-Muslim sentiment in the West to boost recruitment and incite anger. A large number of IS fighters in Syria and Iraq are from the West. Many more Westerners have gone to the Middle East to perpetrate terror than have come here to do the same.

We understand why people are scared. We are scared too, but so are the refugees. And turning them away is not the solution. We are all victims of terror now. We should let it unite us not divide us.

This weekend in the refugee camp known as ‘The Jungle’ in Calais the true nature of the refugees living there came out as they stood in solidarity against the atrocities committed in Paris. They understood more than anyone the horror of attacks like these. Several vigils were held and the refugees marched through the jungle holding candles and signs saying ‘Pray for Paris’.

We all have a choice now, whether to allow the perpetrators of terror to divide us, and force us to reject the people who are already suffering by their hands… or to choose love. Cheesy as this may sound, for us this is the only option… as Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

You can Choose Love this weekend by joining us for our Help Refugees benefit at the Kentish Town 02 Forum where Paloma Faith, Peace and special guests will be putting on a night of music to raise money to help the refugee crisis and promote unity.

Buy tickets here:

And/or by buying an exclusive Katherine Hamnett CHOOSE LOVE t-shirt with proceeds going to Help Refugees. You can buy one here:

By Lliana Bird and Josephine Naughton, founders of Help Refugees.


Image: Huffington Post coverage