Refugee Crisis in Pop Culture

M.I.A.’s song “Borders” shines light on the refugee crisis and the struggles that refugees face. The music video shows refugees of all backgrounds attempting to cross the border in the desert, climbing fences, and swimming across bodies of water in order to achieve a better life. The song lyrics talk about the world not being unified, as the artist writes, “Freedom, ‘I’dom, ‘Me’dom Where’s your ‘We’dom?” This is perhaps a reference to the travel ban issued by the United States that prevented refugees from crossing the border into America and starting a new life here. Referencing the refugee crisis in a pop culture form such as a song allows people of different groups and ages, that are perhaps not as informed with the news, learn about the issue and be inspired to help.  


The book A Land of Permanent Goodbyes written by Atia Abawi tells the story of a Syrian refugee family that escapes their unsafe warzone town and flees to Istanbul, Turkey. The book emphasizes the living conditions in Syria during the Syrian Civil War, including a boy’s house getting struck by an airstrike, sending him and his family to the hospital. This book is important to the refugee crisis because it shows the inside truth to the crisis that often isn’t told through the media. Although it is a fiction novel, Abawi uses her real life stories and experiences from being a foreign news correspondent in her novels to show the real effects of the middle east. This novel is essentially showing the refugee crisis in a media lens, although it is not a typical media source. Readers of A Land of Permanent Goodbyes will hopefully get a strong sense of how distressing it is to be a refugee and feel a need to lend a helping hand.


This photo shows a 2-year-old boy who, along with his brother and mother, drowned while fleeing Syria’s warzone. This photo brings extreme attention to the crisis by showing how devasating and serious it is. The refugee crisis is not very focused on in the media, but when a photo like this appears in the media it evokes deep emotional appeal to the cause. A young boy died while attempting to illegally cross the border in order to escape persecution in his home city. This is a result of foreign nations not allowing refugees, who are forced to flee their homes for their own safety, emigrate and settle in their country. Hopefully, when people around the world see this image in the media they wake up and realize the importance of humanitarian aid and how necessary it is right now to help those in need.


This is a photo of a refugee camp in Dunkirk, France. It is clearly shown that the conditions in these refugee camps are extremely unsanitary and unsafe. In harsh weather conditions of extreme heat and cold, refugees have nothing but a thin tent to sleep inside. This photo is important to the refugee crisis as it displays the horrid conditions refugees are living in. It’s one thing to read about the way refugees are living, but to see it in real time through a photograph is a lot stronger and will make people feel more of an obligation to help the cause.

The picture book Stepping Stones by Margreit Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr tells the story of Syrian family who is forced to flee their village in order to escape the turmoil of the Civil War. The book shows their lives before the war, their struggle and pain with having to leave their home, and their dangerous journey to find peace and safety. The family has a happy ending when they arrive in another country and are treated with respect and openness. Being an easy to read children’s book, this book is important to the refugee crisis as it teaches young children about the crisis and raises awareness starting at a young age. When young children are knowledgeable about the issues around the world, it spreads more awareness.  









This is a photo of a group of refugees using emergency blankets to protect themselves from extreme weather by the Mediterreanean Sea in Italy. This is an important photo to the refugee crisis as it shows refugees not having proper shelter to protect them and are forced to be outside with nothing but a blanket for protection. This photo is meant to raise awareness of the refugee cause and ultimiately motivate people to provide more aid to the crisis. If more countries were allowing refugees to enter, they would not be forced to live outside in unsafe conditions.










This is a photo of a police officer in Hungary violently attacking a refugee. This is important to the refugee crisis as it shows how other countries are handling the refugee crisis, more specifically how certain countries are not very accepting of refugees. This raises awareness of the issue that the world needs to be supporting the refugee crisis more and allow them to settle peacefully in a new and safe country without a war going on.


Sarah Alvi

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