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On Sunday, Europe’s police agency, Europol, reported that over 10,000 refugee children have gone missing on the continent. This was said to be a conservative estimate of the number of children who have gone missing, and many fear that these children have fallen into the hands of human traffickers.
This isn’t the first time thousands of children have gone missing. In Italy in 2015, according to The Telegraph, more than 5,000 refugee children disappeared without trace after arriving in smugglers’ boats from the coast of North Africa, raising fears of their vulnerability to exploitation and prostitution.
Some of these children may have been lucky enough to have reunited with family members, but the majority most likely have terrifying, unimaginable fates lying ahead of them.
According to the United Nations, more than half of Syrian Refugees are under 18. Therefore, this is a child-related crisis. These children had absolutely no control over the country they were born in, and they have very little control of where they are going to end up. If we don’t feel empathy towards children, we aren’t going to feel it towards anyone.
Instead, we read these articles about the utter horrors going on thousands of miles away from us while comfortably sitting on our Apple laptops and smartphones, maybe eating some overpriced almonds or sipping on our freshly squeezed kale-apple-ginger-beet juice. The thing is, these people aren’t much different from you and me. Besides the clear fact that they are human, they put their underwear on the same way as us every morning, and they’d probably laugh at Donald Trump, too.
The only way these people are different from us is in regards to the country they were born in. The childhoods of the young refugees will not be happy ones to reminiscence upon. They will remember suffering the consequences of their own government turning against them, as well as the trouble with an extremist hate group out to get them.
Remember the things that made you smile as a child? The silly games you would play with your siblings or at recess that would sometimes result in battle wounds or a timeout? The books your parents would read to you before bed? The excitement you would feel when you saw snow outside and your sled in the garage? Or the feeling you had when you would open your lunchbox at school to see that your mom packed you your favorite lunch with your favorite snacks?
These seemingly minuscule moments are nothing but a fantasy to refugee children. Their thoughts are about when they are going to get their next meal, their exhausting work schedules that allow no days off, or how they are going to stay safe from airstrikes and bombs.
There seems to be a lot of resentment and apathy towards Syrian refugees. More often than not, this stems from preconceived negative stigmas of Arabic people. So what can we do? Donating is extremely helpful, and so is volunteering. It’s not always feasible for everyone. Yet empathy is free and effortless. And empathy can change the world.