We must sustain our engagement in the support of refugees

Our consumption of current affairs is underpinned by our admittedly short attention spans. The sheer volumes of information that we have access to through mainstream news outlets, both online and on TV, present us with the perennial problem of information overload. We struggle to sustain our interest in one particular strand of current affairs, when we are perpetually engaging with further developments. When articles appear on our newsfeeds, we are easily susceptible to merely glancing over a headline, potentially reading a few paragraphs of the accompanying article, then swiftly moving on to another story. This habit can thus distract us from prioritising issues for the long-term.
For example, consider the current horrifying plight of those seeking asylum in Europe from war-torn parts of the Middle East. Of course, marches have been organised in the UK over the past few years to raise awareness and show solidarity, and people across the UK have sought to raise funds for those affected by the violent sectarian conflicts that have, for example, engulfed Syria. Yet it would be fair to say that, for many of us over the past few years, conversations regarding Syria have not commanded our interest nearly as much as the multitude of other political and humanitarian developments which we read in the news. The international outrage and media attention surrounding the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons seems to have been forgotten and has given way to an irrational fear of asylum seekers in Calais.
This is not to imply that it is due to a lazy disregard for those in need or crisis. Rather, it is indicative of our inclination towards engaging with additional news stories, which we are relentlessly told deserve our attention. Our capacity to sustain our interest, to be consistently well informed on current affairs, becomes more and more limited as concurrent developments are followed, and is particularly damaged if we feel, or are told, that there appears no clear or immediate solution. This is clearly relevant to the current refugee crisis. Over 200,000 Syrians have died over the past four and a half years. These facts can easily escape our notice, due to an inability to fully conceive of the scale of the conflict.
To highlight this is not to criticise ourselves for moving on from one story to another. It is difficult to easily prioritise particular news stories over others, or to maintain our focus on certain issues after a short-lived bubble of media attention. The current crisis is one which we can not afford to maintain only a short-term interest in; our attention should not fluctuate around the trends throughout the media which command our interest.
The Student welcomes the University of Edinburgh’s decision to provide financial assistance to students seeking asylum, under the oversight of the University’s International Office. Although the details of the advisory committee are currently vague, it is right of the University to recognise the imperative of offering sanctuary to students seeking refuge from countries like Syria. Assisting students in academic institutions in the UK is merely one way in which collective efforts can be made to actively engage in support for those affected by the crisis. Students on campus can turn towards CalAid, a group on campus that has now set up a distribution point in Potterow for donations to help refugees in need.
There is a moral obligation to stay informed of the crisis at hand, as well as actively offering support to those in need. If we ignore this obligation, and potentially continue to abide by our fickle approach to current affairs, we risk overlooking this perilous humanitarian crisis.

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