March 16, 2017 by Evan Glazman
The global refugee crisis is considered the greatest humanitarian disaster of our time. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, over 65 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015. That's a staggering 1 out of every 113 people globally. 24 people were forced to flee their homes each and every minute.
In 2017, with the escalation of atrocities against civilians in the Syrian Civil War, as well as ongoing instability in East Africa and other regions, those statistics are sure to have ballooned even more.
"The West," as it is often characterized (generally meaning the nations of Europe, the United States and Canada), is tangled up in the controversial topic of how (if at all) to help these millions of displaced people who are only seeking what most of us take for granted every day: a warm place to sleep, some food and clean water for their families, education for their children, perhaps a decent paying job.
The rise of far right politics across "The West" has cast a shadow of doubt onto the futures of these refugees. Donald Trump campaigned, and now is governing, with an explicitly antirefugee agenda, stoking fears that those refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. are potential terrorists who can't be trusted in our communities. Across Europe as well, the all too real threat of terror attacks has led to similarly reactionary anti-refugee pledges, and the mainstreaming of ultra-right, white nationalist politicians like Marine Le Pen in France.
Amidst the chaos and all the political noise, we've lost sight of the basic humanity of these people. Daniel Huang's photography aims to remind us that refugees are just like the rest of us in the most fundamental way, and that their plight can no longer be ignored.
The Greek islands have become ground zero of the refugee crisis, a sort of buffer zone for mainland Europe that remains skeptical of welcoming displaced people into their countries. Daniel Huang just so happened to be on the island of Chios in January documenting the Souda refugee camp amidst an unusually frigid winter on the exact date that President Trump signed his much maligned (and now suspended on the basis of illegality) travel ban. Huang was spending time with the roughly 1200 refugees living in the camp on the exact moment that the White House told them they officially weren't welcome into the land of freedom and opportunity.
The resulting photos are an important historical document, and should serve as a real gut check for anyone currently sitting in the comfort and stability of "The West". Have we all turned our hearts away from these people? While we sip our coffees, dreading our daily morning commutes to work, these refugees are wondering how much longer they'll have to raise their young children in makeshift plastic tents, living in an imposed purgatory.
Daniel Huang's beautiful and heartbreaking photography makes a forceful case for rejecting xenophobia.
There are no quick and clear answers to solving the worsening refugee crisis, and no relief in sight for these displaced people. The best option they have is to hope for asylum in Germany or Canada, probably the two nations currently most open to welcoming refugees within their borders.
What we can do is search within ourselves for empathy and understanding: the understanding that all humans deserve a home and the serious concern of the international community. We can use our votes against politicians who would build walls and issue blanket travel bans, who stoke the flames of fear rather than projecting messages of unity and hope. We can also give material support to organizations such as Unicef, the UN Refugee Agency and the International Rescue Committee, who are all doing incredibly important work for these refugees who so desperately need our help.