When it comes to refugees and what they need, everyone, be they international agencies, nongovernmental organizations or governments, has an idea. Innumerable reports, documents and conference papers are published, and almost every project-builder has a genius idea that will save refugees, along with that genius's professional reputation, that is ready to be submitted to one aid agency or another. People from all around the world intermittently come together to try to come up with newer and better ideas to save refugees as personal social responsibility projects.
All, or at least most, of these endeavors undertaken by civil society are sincere without a doubt and deserve respect. However, projects not-so-well thought out or carelessly implemented do more harm than good. Some turn into first world fantasies, aiming to satisfy egos rather than those in need, not much better than a confused student's term project.
A project, as well-intentioned as it is unrealistic, may garner praise from equally out-of-touch people, but may ruin the lives of refugees. A poor background in sociology and a lack of social awareness and self-belief only matched by ignorance of real life, results in wastes of time and limited resources that can be the difference between life and death for so many.
Studying human subjects is nothing like going to a library for a literature review or collecting data for a research paper. There needs to be pre-standards on doing research or philanthropic undertakings for human subjects.
Experts on the ground working for the physical and social wellbeing of refugees day in and day out are aware of the shortcomings and ignorance of these well-intended people and institutions. There are logical basic measures that can be taken to ensure the safety and health of refugees. Everyone who wants to visit a refugee camp needs to undergo a short training course to teach them how to deal with traumatized people who recently escaped from conflict zones. Anyone who has no experience with refugees poses a danger to the wellbeing of these people.
Filled with a need to do good and a raw feeling of compassion and mercy, some do-gooders popping by a camp do no good, and rather multiply the problem. These people who are all talk when it comes to help are no help whatsoever. It makes it more difficult for refugees to accept the predicament they are in. We really need a standard for a common understanding of refugees. One option is to grant anyone who wants to help or visit refugees a visa upon the completion of a training course.
One prerequisite should be to understand the political context of the conflict. This is a major shortcoming of institutions, as well. Political causes are the basis of most conflicts, and no two conflicts are the same. Most humanitarian aid organizers fail to recognize the political context of a crisis.
Humanitarian aid has an aim to diminish the burden of the conflict and war on people and governments. However, as we are witnessing the worst crisis of our century, our primary objective should be how to end the crisis rather than how to help the people in conflict zones. Tackling the cause rather than the consequence should be the priority.
There are those, both people and groups, that miss no photo opportunity but are nowhere to be seen when the time comes to help them. Nothing can justify or normalize wars, civil wars, massacres, ethnic cleansing or forced migration. They are the consequence of peoples' intolerance, greed and ambition. There should also be a definite discrimination in favor of governments helping refugees. Those that open their borders to people in need should get credit and international appreciation and those that do not should be ostracized.
Minimizing the refugee issue to humanitarian aid is both reckless and unsustainable. It is about time we take this issue very seriously and deal with professionally.