The World Cup Finals and the Refugee Experience
This Sunday, the World Cup will come to a close with a European battle of wills: Spain and the Netherlands, two teams that have never won the championship, will fight it out to see who can make history first.
Both countries are known for partying hard, and the celebrations of either team’s win will likely last for days.Among the celebrants: the refugees who are making Spain and Netherlands their homes away from home.
European countries are having immigration problems similar to those in America. Many Americans worry about illegal immigrants coming over the southern borders from poorer nations, seeking jobs and the chance for a better life.
Similarly, Europeans also worry about their southern borders. But not only do their immigrants come from poverty seeking work – many also come from genocide, rape, torture and famine, seeking asylum. Compassionate Europeans get caught in the crossfire of desperate people from Africa and the Middle East and worried citizens who fear losing their jobs and adding to the continent’s economic problems.
Spain is looked upon poorly in other parts of Europe for the amount of immigrants pouring onto its shores, regardless of the country’s efforts to control the numbers. Many immigrants from Morocco and the Middle East get sent back immediately if found. But Sub-Saharan Africans can often attain residency permits because of their status as asylum-seekers.
After attaining legal residency it is still an uphill battle for refugees in Spain. Indistinguishable from illegal immigrants, they can be subject to abuse and violence. The vast majority would rather be at home, of course, eating dinner with their families. But their families are dead and their homes have been burned down or overtaken. It is difficult to express this to the host country’s most angry citizens when you don’t know the language yet.
Things are a little simpler in the Netherlands, if only because their borders don’t touch the Mediterranean. Refugees are selected from their camps by Dutch missions that give extra attention to individuals needing medical care and to women at risk.
Many of their current refugees come from Afghanistan, then Iraq, and lastly the former Soviet Union. Thousands more come from African nations, Former Yugoslavia, Iran, China and other countries.
But even in the Netherlands, some asylum-seekers enter illegally and fear deportation back to their very dangerous homelands if caught. Even legal refugees are at risk of violence by groups that ironically blame refugees for increases in crime.
The refugee experience amazes me. In the brief time I have worked with refugees, I am always amazed by their incredibly hard work, their willingness to learn the language around them, and their desire to pick up the pieces and start a new life.
But, then again, as any great World Cup team knows, sometimes it is worth everything just to survive.
The World Cup Championship Game airs Sunday 7/11 @ 2:30 ET/1:30 CT on ABC
The Third Place Game airs Saturday 7/10 @ 2:30 ET/1:30 CT on ABC.
Will you be watching Sunday? Who do you want to win the World Cup?
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