Border Of Despair: Syrians Fear Losing A Generation To War


The migration of people tells the history of the world.

Migration has been our shared narrative since biblical times. In the Hebrew Bible, Exodus tells the story of Moses leading his people to flee bondage. In the New Testament, tradition holds that after the birth of Jesus, the Holy Family fled into Egypt to escape persecution. And immigration, including the migrant journey of the Prophet Mohammed, is a central part of the teaching of the Koran.

Closer to home, the American experience is a grand weave of migration stories from the pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in England to the successive waves of Irish, Italians, Polish, Latinos and so many others all searching for a better life. So migration is as old as this planet, and as modern as the political debate swirling around the 2016 presidential election. But there is no question that the wave of refugees through Europe this summer is modern history in the making.

Not since World War II has Europe seen such a vast wave of humanity fleeing war in search of stability and hopefully opportunity and maybe someday a form of freedom. Around the world, the number of people who have been forced to leave their homes due to war, famine, drought and a myriad of other calamities has never been higher, according to a United Nations’ report.

They come mostly from war-ravaged Syria, but also from Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and elsewhere. Increasingly, climate change is playing a role in the movement of migrants around the world through severe weather conditions such as drought and flooding, and at times resource shortages caused by climate change can also exacerbate conflict.

‘It is easy to portray refugees as the other and as invaders from a foreign land. I see it in a completely different way…’

GroundTruth Fellow Oscar Durand

The number of migrants has “far surpassed 60 million” for the first time, reads the report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR.) In a statement announcing the report, the UNHCR added, “In a global context, that means one person in every 122 has been forced to flee their home.”

This dramatic moment in history requires our craft of journalism to be better at telling the story of migrants and refugees and the complex intersection of conflict and climate change that often contributes to these mass movements, such as the one we are seeing out of the turmoil of the Middle East and into the relatively free and open society of Europe.

We, as journalists, need to be more analytical in assessing the humanitarian efforts that seek to help these refugees. Are these efforts effective? What tensions do they create in the host communities who receive them? And what could humanitarian organizations – and all of us – be doing better to help refugees fleeing for their lives.

That’s why GroundTruth is turning its focus on the stories of refugees around the world. offering a ‘master class’ workshop for two top, young journalists who have shown a commitment to telling the stories of refugees. And we plan to stay on this issue throughout the year.