The Truth About Refugees From a U.S. Student Abroad

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Photo by Kendall Rock

I am currently living in Athens, Greece and I see the refugee crisis every day, on every street, at every age level. Since the spring of 2014, I have worked with NGOs in Turkey and Greece to aid in the refugee crisis that encompasses not only Syria but also many countries in the Middle East. Presidential candidate Ben Carson compared the Syrian refugees to "rabid dogs" and the rest of the media isn't doing much better.

"We must balance safety against just being a humanitarian. For instance, if there's a rabid dog running around your neighborhood you're probably not gonna assume something good about that dog, and you're probably gonna put your children out of the way," Ben Carson, 2016 Presidential Candidate.

You've probably seen it in the media; what all of the 2016 Presidential Candidates are saying about the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, President Barack Obama's denunciation of their statements and the bill that would require three tiers of top level officials to vet and approve every single Syrian attempting to enter the United States, that the House of Representative just passed. But who are the refugees?

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One has to remember these are people. There are
fleeing for their lives across the dangerous Aegean Sea to get to Greece, who is doing her best to get people through to Athens and then the rest of Europe. Grecians are welcoming the refugees with open arms. You can find graffiti all over Athens reading, "ΕΛΛΆΔΑ ΧΑΙΡΕΤΙΖΕΙ ΠΡΟΣΦΥΓΕΣ" translated as "GREECE WELCOMES REFUGEES." These people are brave, caring and full of joy even on the streets of Athens with nothing but a small backpack of supplies that various groups around Greece have put together. I don't speak Farsee or Arabic, and many of them do not speak English or Greek, yet their ability to show gratitude and the smiles they share are better than any words of praise I could receive.

Photo by Kendall Rock

There has been talk about making refugees take a religious test to enter the United States, and governors of individual states have vowed they would "closed their borders", something that blatantly goes against our constitution.

"That's shameful. That's not American. That's not who we are. We don't have religious tests to our compassion," Obama said in response to those claims. Just because some of those who have performed acts of terror recently have been Muslim, it does not mean that every Muslim is going to cause a terror attack, yet our government leaders continue to act upon this assumption. As a product of an immigrant mother, someone who has reached potentials that may not have been realized had my mother stayed in the Philippines, I can't with a clear conscience let people continue to view the refugees as less than people, or at least I can't sit by and not try to show you.

So ask yourself, are you really afraid of these people? Are you going to let the media influence your opinion of the people that are fleeing the exact terror responsible for attacks all over the world? Do you still want to turn away these people trying to escape constant war, bombing, and loss of life?

You will not know what it is like to be here through this article; you will not feel it in your heart until you hand a child a pair of socks or give an elderly woman sitting outside of the grocery store your spare change. Until you walk through Victoria Square, a hub for Syrian refugees in Athens, or see dozens of them sitting on the ground of the metro station, soaked through and trying to escape the rain, you can't know how it feels to live alongside these people. When you are confronted with real people, forced to see their faces, it changes the whole story.

So from your iPhone, laptop, school computer or however you are reading this, here is my attempt to bring you the real people. These are the faces and lives of people in Athens on a hot day in September. These are the people you may or may not be choosing to actively deny a chance at a better life if you support the denial of Syrian refugees in whichever country you live.

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Photo by Kendall Rock

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Photo by Kendall Rock

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Photo by Kendall Rock

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Photo by Kendall Rock

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Photo by Kendall Rock

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Photo by Kendall Rock

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Photo by Kendall Rock

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Photo by Kendall Rock

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Photo by Kendall Rock

For more photos vist www.kendall-rock.com.