“Parallels of European and US Refugee Crises” by Jaileane Aguilar

Along the border between Mexico and the U.S., many migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are seeking asylum in the U.S. as an attempt to escape crime and poverty.

Because of the devastating wars and dangers occurring in countries including Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, many migrants are fleeing their homes there and moving to Europe to seek political asylum or simply a better standard of living.

Despite Europe and the US occupying separate continents, both struggle with the same political issue of immigration. 

The European refugee crisis began in 2015. According to the UNHCR, by the end of 2016, nearly 5.2 million refugees and migrants reached European shores.  Refugees are mostly coming from the greater Middle East, Asia and Africa.

In terms of their routes, most migrants that go to the U.S. travel through land, straight up.  But European migrants have to navigate through many different routes and face various levels of danger.

Nazarim, a 15-year-old refugee who fled from Afghanistan was taking an English class in June at Stand by Me school near the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos Island.  She had been living in Moria for five months, after traveling to Greece with her mother and father.  She said the family fled the Taliban.

“My family paid for a smuggler and we were able to get here by boat,” Nazarim said. “It was very dangerous and scary.” And the misery continues for many refugees after they make the risky voyage.  They must wait in overcrowded camps to be processed in an overburdened asylum application system.

In the US in recent months, the Trump administration has instituted a policy called “metering,” reducing the number of people allowed to petition for asylum.  This means that instead of staying in the US, migrants are at the border in Mexico, managing their own waitlists.

While the application process in the US and Europe is often frustrating, many migrants say they had little choice but to make the move.  It was a matter of life and death.  Hassiam, a 22-year-old woman from Afghanistan, said she fled to Pakistan, then Iran, then to Lesvos in order to escape her brother and family who are still searching for her and her husband because they fled their home country. 

“I escaped from Afghanistan to Iran. I lived for four months in Iran and then my brother found my husband and tried to kill him. That’s how we got here,” said Hassiam. “I want to have a normal life, where I can live and be safe, so I don’t know what’s going to happen for my family and me.”

“I want to go to another country because of our future to make our future better,” said Nazarim, the 15-year-old refugee at the Stand by Me school. “I want to work and make some money, because Moria is no good.  I want to study and learn not just the language English but other classes also.”

At the end of the day, Nazarim returned to the Moria camp, as she has done every day for the past five months.

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