On the Run: Blogging the European Refugee Crisis

The blogging community has been actively engaged in the ongoing humanitarian crisis across (and beyond) Europe.

People all over the world were horrified last week when they saw the picture of a dead Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, being picked up from the beach in Turkey. His family’s attempt to escape the brutal civil war in their country had ended in tragedy.

From Calais to Kos to Lampedusa, the blogging community has been following the refugee crisis in Europe — as well as the conflicts that feed it — as it rapidly escalated over the past two years, and especially this past summer. Here are some of the most powerful voices we’ve come across weighing in on this massive humanitarian disaster.

A Letter from One Mother to Another

In a post full of tragic irony, a writer contrasts the plight of a refugee mother with the sanctimonious complaints of a mother who’s safe at home with her kids:

Dear Irresponsible Migrant Mother,

What exactly were you thinking when you woke your children in the dead of the night, picking up the baby still asleep? Don’t you know how important it is for children to get enough sleep?


That baby you’re holding needs to be warm and comfortable, cocooned and safe, like a tiny bud, waiting to bloom in the morning. Those toddlers won’t be able to walk the miles you want them to in the black night in worn out shoes without a good night’s sleep.

A Dispatch from a Syrian Refugee Camp

Lionel Beehner visited the Zaatari refugee camp, in Jordan, back in 2013. He described the chaotic scene he’d encountered there in vivid detail, and his dispatch is even more haunting today, seeing that the plight of Syrian refugees has grown dramatically worse in the past two years.

Photo by Lionel Beehner.

Photo by Lionel Beehner.

Heading Off into the Refugee Tragedy in the Med

Ali Criado-Perez is a registered nurse who has worked with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders since 2007. She recently took off for a rescue mission in Malta, one of the Mediterranean islands that sees the highest numbers of refugee boats off its shores. Here are some of her words on the eve of her departure:

I don’t know exactly what lies ahead of me. I hope I’m prepared, physically and mentally, for this trip. I’ve done a fairly arduous sea-safety training, which entailed me leaping from a height into water, dressed in a survival suit, and clambering into a wobbly life-raft. But I don’t think anything — not even seeing people dying miserably from Ebola — can prepare one for finding 52 people dead in the hold from asphyxiation, as my colleagues did recently.

Quartz: Borders

Quartz, an online business magazine, has put the spotlight on the refugee crisis in its Borders “Obsession” (a collection of related stories). It’s a place where interested readers can find the latest coverage of the news, including some of the more offbeat stories that might get buried in more traditional media outlets — like this one, on an Egyptian billionaire who proposed to buy a Mediterranean island on which to welcome refugees.

Writers for Calais Refugees

Moved by horrific scenes of chaos and dispair in the French coastal town of Calais — a gateway to Britain — a group of writers joined forces to share their poems in solidarity with asylum seekers. Here is an excerpt from Nina Simon’s poem, “Refuge”:

On an airless summer evening
I sit in the garden
remembering how
we came with nothing
but the clothes we wore

to an unfamiliar address
scrawled on well-thumbed paper
dreaming of safety,
a city paved in freedom.

On Encouragement

When you talk about “encouraging more of them to come”, you have no idea what you are talking about.

In Sweden, British expat Helen Jones makes the case for the #refugeeswelcome movement, calling on Europeans to educate themselves on the causes behind the influx of refugees into the continent, and to find practical solutions to lessen the suffering of those who keep arriving.

Calais Migrant Solidarity

Temporary refugee housing in Calais, 2014 (Photo by Gustav Pursche / Calais Migrant Solidarity)

Makeshift refugee housing in Calais, 2014 (Photo by Gustav Pursche / Calais Migrant Solidarity)

This site is run by activists who support the cause of refugees in Calais. It’s used, among other things, to document the hardships suffered by those still stuck in the no man’s land that the city’s refugee camps have become, including their mistreatment by local officials and police.

Calais: In the Warm Embrace

Europe is itself made of transplants, migrants, and refugees — this is a point powerfully made by scholar and writer Claire Squires in her essay, where she recounts the history of her family (her mother’s side had settled in France to escape political turmoil in Algeria), as well as her childhood memories from visits to Calais, currently one of the epicenters of Europe’s refugee crisis.

Escape to Freedom: Bringing a Syrian Family to Safety

Russell Chapman, a freelance photographer and writer, recently helped a family of Syrian refugees to safety, accompanying them from Greece through Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary into Western Europe. Read his post for an unfiltered, ground-level account of the harrowing trip through Europe’s eastern refugee corridor.

If you’ve read a powerful take on the crisis by another blogger, please share it with us in a comment.

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  1. ajclet

    this situation is really heart beaking:(, Hopefully they found peace and end up war to save even young children.

    Liked by 9 people

  2. corporal collin

    I have just listened to our Prime minidroid and I am ashamed to be British – Not in my name please visit, like and share https://www.facebook.com/pages/Syria-is-calling/966676400051755 thank you, we can make change happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. DeniseBalog

    Thank you for sharing. Maybe the world will not wait and look away as it did prior to WWII. My young father was an American soldier in Germany. After my return from Israel in February 2011 and walk through Yad Vashem, the Israel Holocaust Memorial, I came home with a new understanding and thanked my father for his going to Germany. My dad, then 82, began to share some of what he saw and experienced in Germany. He had never spoke of such things prior to this. He died that June of 2011, and I thank God we had the opportunity to talk and I learn more of this horrific time in our world. I pray we do not see war again, for as a mother, I have a 17 year old son of my own. I ask myself daily, would I spare my son for those in this peril. How long before we here in our “safe” American lives are also forced to bare arms for our beliefs, our Country and the foundation in which it was built, and our families. The news that travels around the world in a speed of light, bringing “hope” to those who sit in darkness. Thank you for sharing. Continue prayer for peace, and for our beloved America.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Erika Kind

    Thank you for this post! We cannot spread enough awareness. Perhaps you are interested in my post https://erikakind.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/i-am-from-austria-and-i-am-damn-proud-of-it/

    Liked by 2 people

  5. hasmeetwrites

    I couldn’t even write a post for Aylan Kurdi…. Heartbroken 💔 Humanity has gone for a toss in this cruel world…

    Liked by 7 people

  6. natashalpu

    I only managed to write one post as it was a really sensitive matter. There really isn’t enough words to describe the many injustices that these refugees are faced by.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. An Artsy Appetite

    This breaks my heart 😥 ..War is never the solution, history is witness. My heartfelt prayers for peace for all those who are affected.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Philo Ikonya (@PhiloWriting)

    So you give me the name of the child Aylan Kurdi, who will never leave my lap again… So you help me frame again that photo on my mind… and not turn and run away from pain in an image because the real pain continues without ceasing… Children caught up, their eyes searching ours… their death reminding us … that… we must change what we can… I have dreamt migration far and wide. Under the sea, on land and on air… migration… and we must wake up for this little boy… behind him others we cannot count… Before him, I fear always more. So I raise up a broken heart… and mind. And I run with what I have to keep his memory alive. The way he would have run…. if only he could have managed… and I refuse to choke in tears that protect me… Let them run too.

    Liked by 9 people

  9. Paul Braterman

    You might want to add this to the collection: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/columnists/gwynne-dyer-refugee-crisis-what-crisis-1-7441745

    The author, Gwynne Dyer, is a distinguished Canada-born historian, PhD Kings College London in military and Middle Eastern history, Senior Lecturer in military history at Sandhurst [comparable to West Point] before becoming full time journalist. Some quotes:

    It’s not really that big a refugee crisis: one million people at most this year, or one-fifth of one percent of the European Union’s 500 million people. Lebanon (population 4.5 million) has already taken in a million refugees, as has Jordan (pop. 6.5 million). But while a few of the EU’s 28 countries are behaving well, many more have descended into a gibbering panic about being ‘overrun’…

    Chancellor Angela Merkel put it bluntly: ‘If Europe fails on the question of refugees…it will not be the Europe we imagined.’ … Germany [expects to] accept asylum claims from 800,000 refugees this year.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. jabrush1213

    This situation is something that has me heartbroken. There is so much sadness when watching the news and hearing the stories. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those who are trying to escape a country embroiled in a civil.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. harveyjoneshookup

    I really can’t comprehend the trauma that these poor people are going through, first they face death in their own country then death daily trying to flee.
    My heart goies out to each and everyone of you who are trying to find a safe haven and I pray that you do find peace somewhere on this earth

    Jan Harvey

    Liked by 6 people

  12. jackerdoodle

    Hopefully the EU can come to some sort of manageable solution to this crisis. https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/37034640/799949762 Do you agree with what I wrote here? I do think that it’s time, albeit rather late, for significant assistance on Europe’s, and especially Britain’s, part.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Born To Organize

    Beautiful snippets of poetry and prose, trying to make sense of this cruel world.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. motofey

    We tend to go through cycles where we witness scenes of unbearable human tragedy, suffering, and grief. After the terrible wars of the 20th century, one would have thought mankind had learned its lessons from the quantum of human suffering. After each war we vow this will never happen again. Yet it continues to manifest. While we commend the various organs of the UN that work tirelessly to alleviate the sufferings brought on by conflict, we barely see the most important political organs of the UN, the Security Council or the General Assembly working hard enough to avert such conflicts in the first place. The debacle of Syria evolved before our very eyes, why are we repulsed that it has come to this?

    Liked by 2 people

  15. goodworksguild

    My blog is usually focused on saving children from PANDAS disease, (an autoimmune disease that attacks the brain.) But I couldn’t ignore these sweet babies overseas. https://buttercupfarm.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/lord-when-did-we-see-you-as-a-stranger-and-take-you-into-our-homes/

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ellen Hawley

    Thank you for gathering these up. We all need to know about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. callacake

    Even though it really is a human tragedy, I really have to ask how did we let it come so far?
    I live in Germany and we get between 2000-8000 refugees every day for the last couple weeks. As you see in news the majority in Germany is very helpful and welcomes every refugee with presents and food. But for how long will we be able to keep this up? Numbers say it costs us about 10 bn Euro to help these people. Sure, we live in a modern country and the economy goes well.
    I think we should all stand together and politicians should try to end the war and stabilize Syria. In the long run, I guess, this is the only opportunity to help these people. I am born and raised in Germany and I would not want to go to another country with a whole different culture and behaviour, not knowing what the future will bring. It would be my very wish to return to a peaceful “Home” as quick as possible. So politics worldwide should start to stop the war and help these refugees to return to a safe environment in their home country. Nobody needs war! Act in the name of humanity.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. hadeshy0806

    Hi Ben I really appreciate your work because I’m also looking for a refugee who writes his own blog. I think it’s the best way to hear the true voice of them. Do you know any?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ben Huberman

      I agree that it’s really important to hear first-hand accounts from refugees themselves. I’ve seen several across different media, but haven’t found any such blog posts during the limited timeframe in which we were gathering these posts. If you stumble on any, feel free to share here!

      Liked by 3 people

  19. writeanne

    Thanks, for sharing these powerful posts. The written word can change people’s lives.

    I’m ashamed of the UK’s stance and have written to my MP to press the prime minister to do more. I’ve signed petitions, posted on social media, donated – small things but together with others maybe all the small actions will make a positive difference. I live in small, remote Scottish community but even here there’s a collection being made of items much needed by the refugees in Greece. Everyone who can is giving, collecting, sorting and packing, and as soon as the lorry is full, these items will be driven from here by local people to Greece.

    WordPress bloggers too can make a difference – make people think, educate them, move them to help their fellow human beings. #refugeeswelcome

    Liked by 5 people

  20. mairineilcreative writer

    Writers all over the world can use their skills. Not only to touch people’s hearts but to email and write letters to politicians and those who have the power to change policies that are inadequate and in many cases appalling. This tragedy is a global responsibility, a world crisis that can’t be ignored. To seek asylum a human right and to respond with aid and support a human responsibility. Thank you for all the positive action everyone is taking. There are many people working here in Australia to try and get major political parties to have a more humane attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers. Sadly, mandatory offshore detention and a policy to ‘turn back the boats’ exists here. I have read my poetry to others and published it on my blog. I also engage with people in shops, at bus stops, in cafes – wherever people gather to make conversation. To make people aware that we must all speak up – open our hearts, our doors and our wallets.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. thewalkahead.com

    I have posted my own thoughts, after several days of thinking about what I could possibly add to all the coverage of this immense crisis. I think the most important realization I had in thinking about this human tragedy is that “migration is neither new nor novel” and in fact traces back to the earliest of humans. We have always been migrating. Here is a link to my thoughts, Migration and New Year: http://thewalkahead.com/2015/09/08/migration-and-a-new-year/

    Liked by 1 person

  22. carolineshapley

    such a great article

    Liked by 1 person

  23. myeasye

    This is a crisis that needs to be heard and needs to be understood by all, thank you for sharing these great posts. I as well wrote about the refugees, if anyone is interested in reading it! A lot of great bloggers and a lot of great people coming together to get this out.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. samastroop

    Its heartbreaking what is happening to the world today. Humanity should be our foremost virtue yet politics takes over. its takes the tragedy of a child for the world to wake up.

    As a mother I don’t know what to say. I recently read a piece that I found poignant and hope you find it too….


    Liked by 2 people

  25. VAVA

    How inhuman and the countries are doing good job in taking care of refugees leaving Syria. Let the best brains from all communities huddle together to find a permanent solution to this problem otherwise the growing number of refugees is going to imbalance the political and public structure of those countries which are rehabilitating the refugees

    Liked by 1 person

    • machiavellianmarxism

      Not all countries. I’m fairly disgusted to say that Ireland has a terrible record for mistreating asylum seekers, and only accepting a very small number of claims. All our government can talk about is ‘cost to the state’, when they’re all on massive salaries and getting massive pensions. Feeling pretty ashamed to be Irish every time I watch the news lately.

      Liked by 3 people

  26. Ellen Hawley

    The UK isn’t stepping forward either, although a groundswell of people collecting clothing etc. has dragged our PM kicking and screaming in the vague direction of making an offer to a small group. I expect he’ll be forced further.

    On the positive side, the grassroots support has been heartening. Our tiny rural village has one person gathering clothing etc. for the refugees in Calais on her own and a second small group planning a fundraiser. They’re both small efforts, but there are hundreds–maybe thousands–of them.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Ernst

    It’s not just a Europe thing, it is a thing of Mankind. Thanks, Australia!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. 2chicks2go

    A little prayer: Blessings, wisdom, favor and open doors for those hands reaching out to help those in need…

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Adamu, Abubakar

    Perhaps you can add this to your collection: Humanity Washed Ashore……. https://sadiqadamu.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Alka

    Heart touching posts! Now Australia has also joined in by accepting the Syrian refugees.

    Funny and intuitive it now seems to me that some time ago, just out of the blue, I had expressed my thoughts about Syrian children in one of my random posts. And now we heard about one of them dying like this, while many others are suffering:


    God bless them!!

    Liked by 2 people

  31. pinetreerepublic

    Thanks Ben for this roundup. I liked reading Russell Chapman’s account particularly as it really made the refugees’ trek across Europe come to life.

    In response to hadeshy0806’s question about refugees blogging, I can’t give a first-hand account of the issue myself but am trying to do the next best thing, by publishing a three-part interview with a Syrian refugee who came to Canada three years ago. The first part (focusing on why he left Syria) is up now on the blog:


    I’ll publish the next two parts (on his experience/challenges with the Canadian refugee system, and reflections on what Canada can do to help) in the next week. This is an important issue to understand from the refugees’ perspective, and I’d also enjoy reading other first-hand accounts on the issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Gerard Smith

    Its the role of writers and artists to start debate, Hopefully the politicians will follow

    Liked by 4 people

  33. lrfalstad

    This is a tragedy. “While The World Watches – Where Is Humanity?? post at politicsbahhumbug.me

    Liked by 2 people

  34. theoldfellowgoesrunning

    This one was written by one of the bloggers I follow. Her husband is a humanitarian aid worker.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Don Charisma

    Thanks for sharing and putting this together 🙂


    Don Charisma

    Liked by 3 people

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