21 October 2015

“Silent Heroes” – Civil Society and the Refugee Crisis









On 15th October, Youth Delegates of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and Germany convened at the German Mission to the United Nations for a panel discussion regarding the current plight of refugees and the “silent heroes” who are helping.

The panellists discussed the power that grassroots civic organizations can have to assist those seeking asylum, the legal rights and representations of refugees seeking asylum, as well as refugees and the United Nations and future decision making. One panellist, Ellie Alter noted the global nature of this issue, that ‘the refugee crisis is not just a European crisis’.

It was also voiced that awareness has significantly grown in the past few months, with Brett Stark, Equal Justice Works fellow at Catholic Charities New York commenting ‘only when the poor meet the backyard of the rich do people start paying attention’. Brett, as a lawyer and someone who provides direct representation to unaccompanied immigrant youth emphasized there needs to be a recognition that children require different treatment to adults: ‘When their feet don’t touch the ground and they have no right to legal representation something is wrong.’

The panel also included a digital exhibition of real life stories from refugees, and the assistance they’ve received, as well as  stories from people who have helped in the crisis and what they’ve seen. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of how civil society and refugees interact, and also, to make the global refugee crisis more ‘real’ than simply hearing about it through media outlets. 

By UN Academic Impact Intern Laura Phillips.