Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Letter to The Straits Times: Europe's refugee problem needs resolution

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter was published on Saturday 21st November 2015.

Like many others, I was shocked by news of the terror attacks on France said to have been committed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

The killing of innocent people has angered the French government into going on the offensive
to conduct air strikes on ISIS targets and hunt down and bring the perpetrators to justice (“French jets pound Syrian city” and “France on big manhunt for terror suspects”; both published on Tuesday).

However, is this the best solution? There is likely to be retaliation (“War not the solution, address root causes” by Ms Maria Loh Mun Foong; yesterday).

Europe is already grappling with a refugee crisis, with hundreds of thousands fleeing places like Syria and Iraq and seeking asylum in European countries.

If these problems escalate, we will be faced with a refugee crisis which is bound to cripple the economies of many nations which are already struggling to stay afloat.

The international community and political leaders need to provide humanitarian aid to the growing number of refugees. For a start, there is a dire need to provide them with shelter, food and clothing.
Dutchman Johan Huibers has built a life-size Noah’s Ark that is three storeys high (“Unlike Noah’s, this ark meets fire safety standards”; May 31, 2011). Brunei also has its famous Floating Village.

As a temporary solution, such arks could be built to provide shelter for these refugees.

Philanthropists, the community and world-famous performers can help raise funds for this humanitarian purpose.

Next, countries could consider accepting refugees who can be trained in skills so that they can become self- reliant.

The Buddhist charity Tzu Chi Foundation had an excellent “cash for work” scheme in the Philippines, where Filipinos affected by Typhoon Haiyan were given cash in return for helping to clean up the community and rebuild their homes. A similar scheme can be put in place for refugees.

If humanitarian support is given to those who need care and love, perhaps one day, we could see the end of terrorism.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

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