The recent conflict in Afghanistan has raised the issue of immigration once again as thousands of refugees scrambled to flee the country. According to the United Nations, up to half a million Afghans could leave the area by the end of 2021 in response to the Taliban seizing control of the country. As a result, neighbouring countries are being urged to offer assistance and support to struggling individuals who need to escape the unbearable, war-torn conditions of their former homeland.
Unfortunately, instead of looking forward to a new start and a safe and peaceful existence in their new homes, some immigrants are met with suspicion, derision and hostility due to immigrant bullying. The upheaval of leaving behind their homes, family and friends is challenging enough without the added pressure of racist bullying. Sadly, xenophobia is a problem in many countries, and it needs to be addressed as part of a wider conversation about immigration integration.
One of the main aims of Anti-Bullying Week is to raise awareness of the different types of bullying which need to be addressed, including xenophobic bullying. It is a sad fact that some bigoted people cannot show empathy and kindness towards other human beings who have already suffered so much. The level of abuse targeted at immigrants who are simply trying to rebuild their lives in a foreign country is unacceptable.
It is estimated that 300 Afghan citizens are expected to arrive in Ireland this year under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme and the UK is expected to take 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next 5 years under the new Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme. As welcome as these initiatives are, it is vital that those seeking asylum, especially children, are treated kindly and are helped to rebuild their shattered lives. They need a level of normality to enable them to deal with the tragic circumstances they have left behind.
It goes without saying that we need to eradicate bullying whenever and wherever it occurs. It is particularly abhorrent to bully asylum seekers and those searching for refuge. When bullying occurs it is important to intervene at individual and peer levels as well as at family, school and community levels.