Travelling in places where you may encounter refugees

Travel Forums General Talk Travelling in places where you may encounter refugees

1. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

I recently heard of someone who was surprised and shocked to come across a tent camp of refugees in a major European city. I also heard of someone who came across refugees unexpectedly on a Greek island. The reactions of these two people differed completely.

In the first case, the person spend some time speaking with the refugees, hearing their individual stories and tried to provide some small amount of help to them in terms of food and water.

In the second case, the person complained that it had 'spoiled' their holiday to see these people in the streets, living in abandoned buildings and to have them watching through a restaurant window as they ate a meal.

So here is the question. Which of the two reactions these travellers had do you think was appropriate? Should you take time out from the enjoyment of your hard earned vacation to try and help them or should you expect to not have to see this and be reminded that it exists, when you are trying to enjoy your hard earned vacation?

2. Posted by Peter (Admin 7008 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

I guess it depends somewhat if you view your travels as a vacation or as an experience. While I certainly like to relax while travelling sometimes, I tend to enjoy the experience of seeing the world. The world is not a perfect place where everyone is just going to act happy so I can enjoy myself in blissful ignorance.

If person b in your scenario wanted to visit somewhere where there was nothing confronting, then perhaps the solution would have been to go stay at a resort where the outside world is easily ignored. I have only heard from someone similar to the first person you spoke to - where the experience of engaging with refugees while travelling really rather changed them as a person. To me, that is really the best thing about travelling; being able to see things from new perspectives.

3. Posted by askgudmundsen (Travel Guru 82 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

To be honest, do I find the second approach highly problematic... Not to say outright arrogant and spoiled!

None of the world's refugee crises have appeared so recently that they are unable when booking a vacation.. Visiting a foreign country requires a minimum of interest in it.. If someone visiting, say, Rhodes can't be bothered checking up on the local situation before booking a vacation, you would have to excuse me for not feeling sympathetic...

Secondly, the reasons people usually cite when they have to explain what about the presence of refugees that ruined their vacation often goes along the following lines: "the sight of refugees (and their suffering) made me feel bad and I couldn't enjoy my [luxurious] holiday"... In other words they feel bad because they are faced with human misery while trying to have a wonderful enjoyable time themselves... Complaining about how other people's misery makes you unable to enjoy your own trouble-free life is mind-boggling arrogant and a complete lack of empathy towards these people who have risked their lives trying to improve their lot in life (and their families back home whom they inevitable hope to send the money the make in Europe back to)...

I'm not saying people absolutely have to engage with the refugees... Locking yourself up in a luxurious resort, like Peter suggest, is a solution that - if nothing else - will keep the human misery out of sight... It might even keep it out of your mind too if the resort comes with an all-inclusive bar...
But even better, do a minimal amount of research before booking a vacation! That way it's possible to avoid the refugees and the rest of us don't have to listen to that mother-of-first-world-problems, unless someone actually lack enough decency to complain about how refugees are limiting their choice of vacation destinations...


4. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Is planning a vacation to avoid refugees not as bad as complaining if you come across them unexpectedly? Is planning to avoid them, not even in some ways worse than complaining if you come across them unexpectedly? Planning to avoid them is a deliberate action that says, 'not my problem, not my concern.'

From my perspective, you do not need to become Mother Theresa and go out looking for people to help. All you have to do is help people when you find yourself somewhere that people need help and you are able to provide some, to whatever degree you might practically be able to provide it.

I am not a church goer and do not consider myself a religiously inclined person at all but I do believe I know right from wrong and I did learn the story of the Good Samaritan as a child. We can pass by and do nothing or we can be a good Samaritan and stop to help as best we can. There is no question in my mind at least as to which action is unacceptable and which is right.

5. Posted by askgudmundsen (Travel Guru 82 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

But plenty of people do not feel that refugees are their concern... They might lack empathy (or even be racist) towards the refugees, or they might think that helping refugees is a job for professionals funded through taxes and donations - which they might have contributed to themselves...

I'm not going to condem people who don't personally want to engage with refugees. That's not the same as ignoring the problem. There can be very good reasons for this (and very bad ones) as illustrated... Humanitarian work or simply witnessing human misery is very unpleasant.. What if they are travelling with young kids?
I've been travelling in West Africa for almost ten months now and have had to do some hard soul-searching to come to terms with the poverty and misery I witness here.. And my own priviligered position...

At least people planning to avoid "bumping into refugees" are being honest to themselves.. Plus they avoid unpleasant surprised or to sound like heartless winers should they be the kind of people who would complain...

While I might not agree, morally or political, with peoples' decisions to stay away from (or travel to) "refugee destinations", I'd always encourage people to take an informed decision!

Off topic: In general, I find religion - and religious texts in particular - problematic as moral guidelines... I mean, the Bible condones slavery and doesn't condem rape, but don't mix fabrics together dammit - that's unacceptable!


[ Edit: Edited on 09-Dec-2016, at 10:26 by askgudmundsen ]