The role of political and professional institutions in the dehumanization of refugees

Credit: Simon Kneebone
Credit: Simon Kneebone

“God grew tired of us.” These are powerful words spoken by individuals who are unfortunately not so powerful. There must be something gravely despicable about our political system that leads young individuals to believe that they were not meant to be here and that they are being punished for the sins of others.

These words are also the title of a documentary tracing the steps of “The Lost Boys” from Sudan to the US as the fled the Sudanese civil war, which left innocent civilians imperiled in a state of turmoil.1 This account makes us question why our political system forces innocents to become collateral damage in conflicts, yet the system makes no provisions to account for displaced civilians. Although we concentrate blame on these warring countries, we must not forget that the nations capable of providing refuge are expressing empathy to the displaced. However, while this empathy should induce action, we are primarily seeing inaction.

Perhaps one issue is political selfishness and greed for resources. This shift in the priority of the nation-state has led to the refugee crisis. Sudan illustrates this argument. Around the time the civil war started in 1983, President Gaafar Al Nimeiri introduced Islamic Sharia as the ruling law after the IMF’s austerity measures led to increased conflict emerging from the Christian majority in the south. The following fundamentalist government actively engaged in violence during the civil war . Amnesty International reported that the state deliberate targeted families located in oil fields and committed grave human rights abuses and war crimes. Individuals targeted by their own nation-state have been forced into refugee status. They are driven to make the degrading journey in search for the most basic necessities of life. The state has deprived these individuals of safety within their own nations, consequently forcing them to seek new lives in societies that will accept them and convince them that perhaps God is not tired of them.

Unfortunately, the journey of refugees is not as simple as it may seem to the empathetic laymen. “The Lost Boys” of Sudan may have been given temporary homes and shelters, yet the way refugees are treated by political institutions seems to diminish their identity and dignity. Many refugees often have to encounter the harsh reality of racism and professional hostility. Refugees looking to rebuild a life that was snatched away from them are still faced with immense hostility from both private and political institutions. This disenfranchisement is often due to prejudiced bias and racial discrimination. Moreover, refugees are not seen by institutions as newcomers developing a new life since theirs was taken away from them, but rather as migrants looking to simply better their lives. Though some degree of standardization in the treatment of individuals is required to maintain the efficiency of private institutions, it is equally important to not discard moral obligations.

We see the rise of social class division and economic, income and educational disparities in cities where the poorest and most under privileged are part of the minority groups that came to our nations in search of a secure future, yet left to fend for themselves. A deficient education leads to low income status and low levels of social and economic development. This spirals to poor infrastructure, such as poor facilities and inadequate services, creating a feedback loop. It also means that opportunities to increase income are scarce, and thus refugees enter the community from the very bottom of the ladder without great opportunity for upward mobilization. Moreover, political institutions make little effort to integrate minority communities, using the excuse of enforcing meritocracy. These institutions do not foster awareness for the importance of equal opportunity and the benefits of embracing minorities.

It is thus important to embrace a long-term view of the issues involving refugee settlement in societies. It is not the fault of the refugees that God grew tired of them, but perhaps fault lays in the dehumanizing political and institutional system that makes God very tired.

Anushka Sikka, Staff Writer

1This article is a review and analysis of Ramone Valle’s article “God Grew Tired of Us: The quality of mercy is not strained,” available at:


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