9 Reasons Why the Fyre Festival Debacle is Incomparable to the Refugee Crisis

Author: Gauri Bhatia, Current Events/Politics

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the Fyre Festival and ensuing debacle.

Here is a small primer: Last weekend there was to be a “luxury” event on a “private island” in the Bahamas once owned by Pablo Escobar. You heard me, private island, Bahamas. (Fact: The island also had a Sandals Resort, and Pablo Escobar never even visited.)

As it turned out, founders Billy MacFarland and Ja Rule (yes, that Ja Rule) had no idea how to make this happen; lamenting “we tried building a city out of nothing,” as if this is the first time anybody has done that (see Coachella, Bonnaroo, Burning Man, etc.)! The festival weekend devolved into a chaotic mess of ultimately “shoddy housing, questionable meals and overall substandard conditions,” according to Rolling Stone.

While I have no doubt that attempting to attend said festival was nerve-wracking and possibly terrifying, there is no way that it compares to the refugee crisis like some of the patrons claimed. That trivializes other people’s suffering, which doesn’t lessen their own. In case you missed it, here is just one of many headlines making the comparison.

So here are nine reasons why the two are incomparable (and, as a bonus, one way in which maybe they are comparable):

A warm welcome
Fyre Festival-goers chose to attend this festival and were welcomed on both ends. Refugees are generally fleeing from one country where they are not welcome (their homeland) to another country where they are either unwelcome or have to jump through years of hoops to be invited inside.

Substandard accommodations
Yes, the festival’s “luxury glamping villas” turned out to be leftover USAID tents. In that case, the accommodations were comparable to the ones refugees stay in… except for the fact that refugees are frequently crammed into these tents several families at a time and left to deal with the elements. On Fyre Cay, it was first come, first serve for the tents, but everybody was given a bed, and all had a nice view of the sandy beach and clean blue water.

Luggage
During the festival, the luggage was late and ended up being unloaded in the middle of the night. Refugees frequently carry their most important possessions (including their families) on their backs in the middle of the night, get off of the transports in the middle of the night, not only late, but also with no idea where or when they have been dispatched.

Injuries
The worst physical injury to come out of the Fyre Festival Debacle was the man who fainted in the airport. Refugees are lucky if they make it through the journey with all limbs and family members intact. I cannot speak to the mental and emotional injuries of all parties, but perhaps those are comparable?

Food and entertainment
Fyre Festival-goers were promised gourmet food and special guests including Migos, Blink-182 and Major Lazer. Instead they found cheese sandwiches in Styrofoam containers (and obviously, no Blink-182). I don’t quite have a comparison to refugees in this case. The festival-goers certainly did however, and the Fyre Festival organizers have threatened a lawsuit because “the comparison could incite violence.”

Trying to leave
Yes, festival-goers being locked inside the airport on the island was undoubtedly frightening, but it certainly does not equal the hardships refugees have gone through to leave their own country or enter countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, etc.

Money
Fyre Festival-goers paid between $450 and $250,000 for this “unparalleled concert-going experience” on a sunny island. To be clear, they chose to pay this money and it was modest compared to the wealth these “influencers” have.

Refugees spend comparable amounts to travel to safer regions hoping to start a new life there, and that amount is frequently their complete savings and life’s work. In addition, Fyre Festival-goers were told to upload money to their wristband accounts and hence carried no currency to the festival, which caused an issue when they needed to use public transportation and frequent restaurants on the island. I think I made my point earlier about refugees using their entire life savings to travel to another country, so in this comparison, they are left with nothing at all.

Help
All of the attendees of the Fyre Festival were American citizens (with some European models thrown in) and were eventually helped off the island by the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas. Refugees are stateless, or even worse: still citizens of the regime that is trying to kill them. They have nowhere and nobody to turn to for help. Festival-goers also were secure in the knowledge that eventually somebody (or some organization) would come to their aid. There were numerous tweets to Delta and American Airlines (not United), asking for a plane to come pick them up (as the private planes that flew from Miami to the island were out of commission). Refugees have no similar idea of an end point. There is no hope or knowledge that the suffering will end at some point — it is endless.

Social Media
The reason that we know what happened at the failed festival is the complaints the attendees registered to the world via Twitter, Instagram and numerous other platforms. Refugees don’t have similar means to call attention to their condition. Although, the festival-goers’ antics on social media might have net them some trouble, as the organizers are threatening a defamation lawsuit, in counter to the attendees $100 million lawsuit.

The One Way in Which the Two Are Comparable
Both Fyre Festival-goers and refugees face unknown situations in which what they have been promised and what they are faced with are vastly disparate. Festival-goers were expecting a weekend of fun, sun and Blink-182 and got a harrowed night of rain, blocked escape routes and The Hunger Games instead.

Refugees flee persecution in hopes of a better life in a more developed country and face a different kind of persecution, and perhaps also The Hunger Games. I truly hope that after this debacle, the same influencers use their platforms (and perhaps their refund money) to call attention to the substandard conditions refugees face daily (as opposed to for the weekend). And I am not the only one.

 

Disclaimer: The views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.

Refugees Welcome

What is the Global Refugee Crisis?

Author: Gauri Bhatia, Current Events/Politics

Millennials, unless you have been living under a very large soundproof rock on a remote island in the Pacific, you have heard at least some news on the “global refugee crisis.” But you might have been a bit confused on the details. Here are eight questions that you might have, and the answers so you can have the information you need to be well-informed on the topic.

Wait…what did President Trump say about the refugees?
“We don’t want them here,” President Trump said on Friday, just before signing the executive order on immigrants and refugees. “We want to make sure we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”

Who is President Trump banning from American shores in this controversial move?

In writing, the executive order bans immigrants (and visa holders) from seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia — from entering the United States for 90 days. These countries are known as “Muslim-majority” countries. It also bans all refugee admissions for 120 days, halts Syrian refugees indefinitely, and prioritizes Christian and other religious minority refugees.

In actuality, the ban will affect refugees fleeing from the Middle Eastern conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq (of course), but also refugees from conflicts far removed — places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras, El Salvador and Myanmar.

 

What exactly is a refugee?
The United Nations defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.” The UN also states, “a refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.”

According to the UNHCR (in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 expansion), refugees eligible for resettlement largely fall into seven categories: Legal and/or Physical Protection Needs; Survivors of Torture and/or Violence; Medical Needs; Women and Girls at Risk; Family Reunification; Children and Adolescents at Risk; and those who Lack Foreseeable Alternative Durable Solutions. Trump’s “Ban on Muslims” makes no distinction between these categories.

 

So… just how many people are we talking here?
The United Nations estimates 65.3 million people were displaced in 2015. That’s approximately the population of France! This figures included 21.3 million refugees living outside their country of origin, and 40.8 million internally displaced (meaning they are in their country of origin, but have been forced to flee their homes for another region). 51% of refugees are children. And just 1% of all refugees will ever be resettled.

poverty-1028841_1280.jpg

 

How many refugees has the U.S. taken in so far?
The Obama Administration set a target of 110,000 refugee admissions for fiscal 2017. In the Executive Order last week, President Trump slashed the 2017 number of refugees the U.S. will accept down to 50,000.  According to the Pew Research Center (which uses data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center), the U.S. has already taken in 26,000 under the Obama Administration’s rule. That doesn’t leave a lot of room, especially after the seven-country ban by President Trump.

In 2016, by contrast, the U.S. accepted 85,000 refugees total. The increased number of displaced people fleeing conflicts around the globe led to the Obama administration’s heightened ceiling. 2016’s numbers included 12,857 resettled Syrian refugees, along with large numbers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq and Somalia. More than 50% of those refugees were settled across just ten states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.

 

What is the vetting process for refugees coming to the U.S.?
Refugees are subjected to perhaps the most comprehensive screening of any traveler entering the United States. The vetting process for resettlement to the United States can take up to two years of interviews and security checks.

This includes: registration and interviews with the United Nations, “refugee status” and a referral for resettlement being granted by the UN, then interviews with State Department contractors, multiple background checks, several fingerprint screenings and photos, one or more case reviews by United States Immigration, in-person interviews with Homeland Security, health screenings by the Center for Disease Control, cultural orientation classes, and matching with an American resettlement agency – all before even dreaming of boarding a plane for the United States!

There is then a multi-agency security before leaving for the United States (since a long time passes between the initial screening and departure) and a final security check at an American airport.

Why can’t the refugees just wait 120 days?
As you can tell from the answer above, the process for resettlement is a long one. And that process often comes after years, or decades, of waiting for a chance to come to the United States. In addition, the nature of security clearances, especially in the U.S., requires that the clearances be used in a certain amount of time. If a refugee waits for the ban to expire, their security and medical clearances may expire, meaning that they will have to go through the two-year process again from the beginning. It’s like trying to slip through a closing door only to have it slam in your face.

 

Are the refugees as dangerous as President Trump says?

In short, no.

Immigrants, especially refugees, are statistically among the least likely people in American society to commit any sort of crimes. In addition, the aforementioned vetting process is extremely thorough.

In addition, none of the terrorists named as perpetrators in the major U.S. attacks of the last 15 years have come from the seven countries named by President Trump’s ban.

 

What’s next?
Great question. Short answer –I don’t know….I don’t think President Trump knows and if you know, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to express your thoughts to me through #NAMB’s email, Facebook or Twitter!

I hope that this article helped clear up some of the confusion about the “global refugee crisis” and President Trump’s ban on Muslims. It’s a difficult and ongoing topic, which will have far-reaching consequences for years, decades and generations to come. The United States has always been the hallowed halls for immigration (including my own parents) and we will hopefully be able to retain that image in the future.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Compassion for Immigrants and Refugees

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Current Events/Politics

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– Emma Lazarus

If you haven’t heard already, President Trump, after his first few days in office — making extensive changes such as the Executive Order to build a wall at the U.S./Mexico Border as well as a required media blackout by the EPA — President Trump has ordered the suspension of all refugees and immigrants, from nations “including Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, and Libya for a time period of 90 days.” It “also calls for the complete suspension of Syrian refugees for an indefinite period of time.”

I’ve tried to be factual. I’ve tried to remain objective. But this particular issue is not one I can only deliver the facts on –- because the above are the only facts you need to know, and I cannot look at the photographs of Syrian refugees without feeling anything short of heartbreak. I cannot think about those who have started their lives in America, looking for opportunity, being subject to these rules — like this Ph.D. student who was taken off her flight on Saturday, all because her passport is registered in Sudan.

I don’t dispute that changes need to be made to our immigration system. I’m not saying that reform is not necessary. I’ve always said that good, law-abiding citizens have to pay the price for those who don’t do the right thing. But I’ve made that statement about trivial rules and laws that seem so irrelevant and selfish when looking at them in the big picture. That statement doesn’t even do this situation justice, but it’s the best I can do.

Those who are leaving a bad, violent, life-threatening situation to come to the land of opportunity where they will seemingly find safety, and those who are already living in the U.S. due to the opportunities it affords, should not be penalized due to the actions of terrorists who also happen to come from their home country. Period.

As a human being I am appalled. As a Catholic I am appalled, as President Trump professes to possess Christian values –- when the Sisters of Mercy (yes, real nuns) released a statement calling for pushback against “President Trump’s announcement on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border that would tear families apart.” And while that’s not directly related to the action Twitter called the #MuslimBan, it relates to a more compassionate philosophy regarding immigration surrounding all countries.

In the midst of all of the upsetting news, we’ve seen more citizens fighting for what they believe is right and making their voices heard. Thousands gathered at New York’s JFK Airport in protest of the new orders. And politicians are speaking out, too — Federal Judge Ann M. Donnelly issued a Stay agains the “Muslim Ban,” “temporarily allowing people who have landed in the United States to return.”

As we saw with the Women’s March, many people coming together in defense of what they believe is right can make a huge impact. And those who truly have the courage of their convictions will not rest until they see change.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.

Support Charities Always, But Especially During Holidays

Author: Alli Jean, Current Events/Politics

Instead of writing about Trump’s latest Twitter fight, debating the vote recount Jill Stein has organized or discussing the latest Trump Administration Cabinet Appointee, this week is about putting our politics into action.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or even Festivus, it is the season of giving and after everything that’s happened in the political arena this year, why not get into the spirit of the season by supporting the political and social action organizations that are near and dear to you?

Below are examples of organizations that help groups that are especially threatened in today’s political climate. 

img_0032-1

Support the Standing Rock Sioux Fight the Dakota Access Pipeline

Dakota Access is proposing a 1,134-mile-long crude oil pipeline through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois that will threaten the air, water, land, property rights and climate of the Standing Rock Sioux. It is proposed to go through tribal lands — lands that belong to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, as stated in a treaty with the United States. The U.S. government has no right to hand over this land to a private oil company.”

Oxfam America

Oxfam is a global movement of people working together to end the injustice of poverty. “With 70 years of experience in more than 90 countries, Oxfam takes on the big issues that keep people poor: inequality, discrimination, and unequal access to resources including food, water, and land. We help people save lives in disasters, build stronger futures for themselves, and hold the powerful accountable.” 

Labels Are For Jars

“Labels Are For Jars is a dynamic and exciting undertaking that raises money to operate the Cor Unum Meal Center, which feeds hungry people living in Lawrence, MA, one of the poorest cities in the United States. Our goal is to raise as much money as possible to feed as many hungry people as possible. To do so, we have designed a thought-provoking black t-shirt, which in addition to looking great, helps to undermine societal labeling. The shirt is adorned with a commonly used negative label on the chest.” Currently available labels are “addict,”“geek,” “homeless,” “jock,” “mentally ill,” “minority,” “pacifist,” “prisoner,” “rock star,” “slacker” and “troubled teen.” Additionally, “all shirts have our ‘Labels Are For Jars’ logo across the back.”

Be an Elf

“You can read real letters to Santa from needy kids, take home one or more that move you, and send your gifts directly to the children who wrote the letters. There’s no middle man or charity; it’s micro-philanthropy, direct from you to a child, when you volunteer in this way. You’ll catch the true spirit of the holidays, and put smiles on the faces of needy kids on Christmas morning.”

Heifer Project International

Attachment-1.jpeg

Photo courtesy of Heifer International

“Heifer International works with communities in need around the world to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Your gift will give families the resources and training they need to lift themselves from hunger and poverty. Give them a gift that will truly makes a difference.”

Planned Parenthood

“A donation to the organization would help keep clinics open and make crucial information available to the public, and support preventative healthcare for women, with the proceeds shared between the local affiliate and the wider federal group.”

Center for Reproductive Rights

“The center aims to legally advocate for reproductive rights, including access to birth control, safe abortion procedures and unbiased sources of information.

Natural Resources Defense Council

“The NRDC group works to safeguard communities across the globe, pushing for environmental laws that help protect the ecosystem.”

International Refugee Assistance Project

Supporting the IRAP will ensure refugees get the legal support they need.

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Supporting the NAACP Legal Defense Fund will protect minorities’ civil rights.

The Trevor Project

Provides resources for LGBT individuals and offer suicide prevention services.

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)

MALDEF seeks to help Mexican Americans and support them in legal issues.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog. 

On the 12th Day of Christmas a Stranger Gave to Me…Support for These 12 Charities

Author: Alli Jean, Current Events/Politics

money-652560_1280-1

Instead of writing about Trump’s latest Twitter fight, debating the vote recount Jill Stein has organized or discussing the latest Trump Administration Cabinet Appointee, this week is about putting our politics into action.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or even Festivus, it is the season of giving and after everything that’s happened in the political arena this year, why not get into the spirit of the season by supporting the political and social action organizations that are near and dear to you?

Below are examples of organizations that help groups that are especially threatened in today’s political climate. 

img_0032-1

Support the Standing Rock Sioux Fight the Dakota Access Pipeline

Dakota Access is proposing a 1,134-mile-long crude oil pipeline through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois that will threaten the air, water, land, property rights and climate of the Standing Rock Sioux. It is proposed to go through tribal lands — lands that belong to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, as stated in a treaty with the United States. The U.S. government has no right to hand over this land to a private oil company.”

Oxfam America

Oxfam is a global movement of people working together to end the injustice of poverty. “With 70 years of experience in more than 90 countries, Oxfam takes on the big issues that keep people poor: inequality, discrimination, and unequal access to resources including food, water, and land. We help people save lives in disasters, build stronger futures for themselves, and hold the powerful accountable.” 

Labels Are For Jars

“Labels Are For Jars is a dynamic and exciting undertaking that raises money to operate the Cor Unum Meal Center, which feeds hungry people living in Lawrence, MA, one of the poorest cities in the United States. Our goal is to raise as much money as possible to feed as many hungry people as possible. To do so, we have designed a thought-provoking black t-shirt, which in addition to looking great, helps to undermine societal labeling. The shirt is adorned with a commonly used negative label on the chest.” Currently available labels are “addict,”“geek,” “homeless,” “jock,” “mentally ill,” “minority,” “pacifist,” “prisoner,” “rock star,” “slacker” and “troubled teen.” Additionally, “all shirts have our ‘Labels Are For Jars’ logo across the back.”

Be an Elf

“You can read real letters to Santa from needy kids, take home one or more that move you, and send your gifts directly to the children who wrote the letters. There’s no middle man or charity; it’s micro-philanthropy, direct from you to a child, when you volunteer in this way. You’ll catch the true spirit of the holidays, and put smiles on the faces of needy kids on Christmas morning.”

Heifer Project International

Attachment-1.jpeg

Photo courtesy of Heifer International

“Heifer International works with communities in need around the world to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Your gift will give families the resources and training they need to lift themselves from hunger and poverty. Give them a gift that will truly makes a difference.”

Planned Parenthood

“A donation to the organization would help keep clinics open and make crucial information available to the public, and support preventative healthcare for women, with the proceeds shared between the local affiliate and the wider federal group.”

Center for Reproductive Rights

“The center aims to legally advocate for reproductive rights, including access to birth control, safe abortion procedures and unbiased sources of information.

Natural Resources Defense Council

“The NRDC group works to safeguard communities across the globe, pushing for environmental laws that help protect the ecosystem.”

International Refugee Assistance Project

Supporting the IRAP will ensure refugees get the legal support they need.

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Supporting the NAACP Legal Defense Fund will protect minorities’ civil rights.

The Trevor Project

Provides resources for LGBT individuals and offer suicide prevention services.

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)

MALDEF seeks to help Mexican Americans and support them in legal issues.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.