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Who’s afraid of refugees?

North America

Who’s afraid of refugees?

Jammu, Sept. 10 — Viet Thanh Nguyen is an American writer and author of the bestselling novel, The Sympathizer. He came to America with his family in the summer of 1975 after a long and arduous journey from the war ravaged Vietnam.

Nguyen’s debut novel has created quite a sensation in literary circles and gone on to win the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The novel has been characterized as an “immigrant story.” However, the author himself chooses to describe it as a war story and himself as a refugee who, like many others, has “never ceased being a refugee in some corner of my mind.”

In a fine piece in the New York Times this week, the writer whose collection of short stories titled The Refugees comes out in February, makes an impassioned plea for people of his kind — the desperate souls driven out of their homes and lands by wars and conflicts and forced to seek refuge far from home in distant, alien lands.

Pointing out the critical difference between immigrants and refugees, Nguyen argues: “Immigrants are more reassuring than refugees because there is an endpoint to their story. However they arrive, their desires for a new life can be absorbed into the American dream or into the European narrative of civilization. By contrast, refugees are the zombies of the world, the undead who rise from dying states to march or swim toward our borders in endless waves.”

Today, according to available statistics, there are an estimated 60 million stateless people out there, 1 in every 122 people alive today. But these numbers are hardly accurate, nor do they reflect the grim reality of the lot who are dying every day on high seas and on equally perilous routes on land for that promise of a future beyond the horizon.

This week, more than 6,000 people were rescued from sinking, overcrowded boats off the Libyan coast in a single day alone. Luckily, help reached them in time. However, many of them are not so fortunate. Who could forget the stunning images of the Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose tiny, plump body had washed ashore in Turkey after his family’s disastrous attempt to reach Europe?

Call them refugees or migrants, they are all aware of the fatal nature of their journeys. Yet more and more of them are taking to seas often at the cost of their lives. Apparently, an uncertain future is better than a doomed present.

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