Take a walk in refugee shoes

 Migrants making the trek from Serbia at the border near Roszke in Hungary. Photo: Reuters
Migrants making the trek from Serbia at the border near Roszke in Hungary. Photo: Reuters

Columnist Ian Munro considers the plight of refugees.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

Imagine setting off this coming summer from Bluff with the intention of walking your family to Auckland.

A stroller for the toddler and a front pack for the 6-month-old, good walking shoes and backpacks for the 7-year-old, yourself and your partner.

It would be a long, hard walk, even in summer, and the crossing of Cook Strait in an overloaded rubber dinghy in a strong southerly would be both foolhardy and perilous.

You probably wouldn't do it if you didn't have to.

But maybe you would, if staying where you were had become so risky life for your family had become untenable, and walking your family from Syria to Germany was the only way you could see to give your kids the sort of future you would want for them.

And we are watching this very situation unfold each night on our TV screens.

Ordinary Syrian families no different from ordinary Kiwi families: you, me, our neighbours and workmates, with jobs, homes, children in school, living in suburbs and towns, getting in the groceries from the supermarket, washing the car.

And there they are, walking, walking, walking; travelling unsafely at night across water; and scrabbling under razor wire.

Globally, according to United Nations figures, one in every 122 people is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum.

The sheer scale is hard to comprehend.

But we can comprehend a father's grief on losing his wife and two sons: the very reasons the family set out on this journey in the first place.

Little Aylan Urdi, in losing his life, has put a real face to the situation. His death encapsulates the crisis facing these tens of thousands of people.

Tens of thousands is a mass, one brave little three-year-old could be our son or our grandson.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, you will have heard that the Government, having done its polling to see which way the popular wind is blowing, has determined it would be in its interest to take some steps to provide assistance.

Sure, it's a little more complicated than letting bars stay open for Rugby World Cup games and changing the flag. But as a nation we can do this.

We've done it before: there are the Polish children, the Hungarian refugees in the 1950s, the Tampa boys and their families and the Afghani interpreters. It just requires our Government to show some initiative, some leadership and actually deal with a real problem.

We may only be able to assist 100-200 families - just a drop in the bucket.

But what would it mean to you if, in different circumstances, one of those families was yours?

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