Like many people around the world, I am heartened by the international response to the Syrian refugee crisis that is gripping world attention. World leaders from Europe to North America are standing up and opening their borders to provide a new life for these people in need. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission and the highest official of the European Union, has proposed to welcome 160,000 Syrian refugees among E.U. members with every country playing a role.
But as world leaders reach out to welcome Syrian refugees, I am asking a basic question: Where are the Africans?
Five months ago in mid-April the world was witness to another tragedy. More than 800 Africans from several countries fleeing terrorism, chaos from near failed states and forced conscription drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when the boat they were traveling in capsized. Although Italian officials worked to save the passengers, they could only save a fraction of the people who were on the boat.
In response to this tragedy United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson Adrian Edwards remarked this was also a “refugee phenomenon” and said the world needed to come to together for the simple reason that “there has to be some alternative to having to cross the Mediterranean in smugglers boats.”
However, world leaders did not come to an international consensus on how to help, even though the number of refugees taking off on boats to cross the Mediterranean to Europe is largely African. However, the focus of both our world leaders and international media outlets has been overwhelmingly on the plight of the Syrian refugees.