The past decades have been tumultuous for people in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Armed intervention in Afghanistan after 2001 led to ongoing violence in that country, often spilling over into Pakistan and other neighbouring states. From 2010, the “Arab Spring” protests gave way to destabilization and civil war to countries like Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Elsewhere, rebellions and violent crackdowns on dissent created crises in African countries like Eritrea, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria.
Deadly civil wars, human rights abuses, and economic collapse have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes and seek shelter in places like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraqi Kurdistan, where they live in homes and refugee camps, often eking out a living on the basis of others’ generosity or struggling to find day-to-day incomes. The desperation of trying to continue to live with such uncertainty has driven many to make hazardous crossings of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, or to press their luck in finding a route to another country where they might settle and find a better life.
Canada has opened its doors to many of these people – tens of thousands of them have been resettled in this country over the past two years. At the end of the refugee highway they have found refuge in our neighbourhoods and communities. Though the actions of governments and the refugee experience have framed much of their lives in recent years, their future depends on new relationships and experiences that they are encountering today. Today’s refugees are part of the future of Canada – and the world.
- Written by Paul Rowe, Professor and Coordinator of Political and International Studies at Trinity Western University