Cristian, the co-thinker of Pocket Philosophies, takes a moment here to reflect on what we saw and learned during our experience with the refugees in Greece. 

I’ve been thinking about these ideas for years. I’ve worked with immigrants in Spain and have even been an immigrant myself in several countries. But the truth is that in the refugee camp north of Athens, these ideas hit hard. They strike you as you interact with any person from the improvised community in the camp. You realize that our assumptions of what is “normal” and what is the norm are off base.

Take these 5 ideas as a jumping off point to think about refugees, and not as final conclusions:

1. Our approach to human rights cannot be situational, nor can it be overrun by the limitations of selfishness. If there is no escaping our own selfishness, let’s think about how we ourselves would want our own rights to be guaranteed.

2. We cannot forget the stories and backgrounds of these people just to turn them into

Cristian’s students greet him

numbers. We need to understand each person’s diverse origins and reasons for ending up here.

3. It’s a life or death decision situation that we are playing with while we continue to come up inefficient, bureaucratic “solutions.” Especially when we talk about the children. Childhood passes so quickly, and it’s not possible to give these kids a second chance at it.

4. Perhaps the most important thing is to stop looking at refugees as a threat, and start looking at them as people who are trying to escape the same terror that we fear, but which is much more real to them already. They want to live in peace and to have opportunities. And we can’t blame them for a situation that is more unjust to them than to anyone. The idea of this post isn’t to recount the details of every person’s story, but the blog is trying to share, so please keep reading!

5. We think of borders as a ordered system of privilege, but it’s unfair and favors some over others. It seems that a few years ago, we declared all people to have equal rights

The camp surrounded by walls and wire

forever, or at long as they had the same passports as us. We dehumanize, exclude, devalue and oppress people–and justify it!–simply because they aren’t lucky enough to share the same citizenship papers.

As you can see, these ideas are quite simple, but they might give you a lot to think about. I invite you to share them with me, rebate them if you don’t think agree or even share them with your friends to put them into a conversation and maybe later into action.


Cristian Pancorbo Cruz is a language and culture professor at Pacific Union College in California. He grew interested in refugee and immigration rights while running an emergency shelter for West African migrants in Spain. While he taught in the refugee camp in Greece, he expanded his perspective on the European migration crisis, information that he plans to incorporate into his humanitarian issues classes this fall. 


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