Leeds, We Have Room: How the Figures in the Refugee Crisis Really Add Up

Leeds has announced that it will be taking in 200 hundred refugees to offer its hand in the crisis.

Leeds has announced that it will be taking in 200 hundred refugees to offer its hand in the crisis.

Let's think about what two hundred means to us. Two hundred people is equivalent to the size of a small primary school, the size of a sold-out crowd in The Pit in the Barbican, and the size of the average congregation in an English church.

Leeds' current population is 750,000 people. That's the Camp Nou seven and a half times over. The audience of Wembley would make up 12% of the people in Leeds. Riga is the same size of us, and Dresden has less people than us. The latter city has homed some of the largest anti-refugee marches in Germany, yet it has handed out 300 free tickets to refugees. We are handing out 200. That means that Leeds is making room for refugees that represent 0.026% of its population.

Rehoming the 200 refugees will take two years, yet we are here, right now. Now, in a time where Leeds has 12634 unoccupied properties. Now, when the UK is taking on 20,000 refugees, 0.03% of the UK's population, when there are 4m refugees displaced in the Middle East alone.

Leeds is my home, and I look at where I live because it's the place that is the most familiar to me. For refugees, familiarity is as foreign as the place they will live in. Robbed of the right of comfort, of choice, of opportunity, they live on hope. They live on hope when I live in a home.

Thanks to the latest austerity measures, not that many of us have a lot of money at the moment. As the disparity between the rich and the poor increases, it's easy to forget that we are the fourth-richest country in the world. The UK, in fact, boasts a gross domestic product of 2.678 trillion US dollars. The countries that have taken on the most victims are Pakistan which has taken on 2.6 million victims. Jordan has taken on 2.4 million victims. Pakistan GDP of 232.3 billion US dollars, whereas Jordan has a GDP of 33.68 billion US dollars.

It's odd how quickly the lives can be stripped away from the people fleeing the war-torn Syria, the Congo, Sudan, Somalia, and how quickly the figures remove the trauma, the hurt, the blood, the angst of doing whatever you can to keep your family safe. They don't account for the hours that the parents spend awake wondering if their children will survive the night, whether they will ever see the parents they leave behind ever again, as the previous richness of their life fades into red and black.

Yet we need figures, figures like 200, figures like 750,000, to prove, in the most robust fashion possible, that we most definitely, undeniably, have the room.

As the cosplay of hate describes itself as the logical arm of this crisis, it grapples with figures that seek to disguise that we are not doing enough. Unfortunately the whispers of prejudice can be contained in a soundbite, rarely questioned, often believed, because they are easier to digest. They are comfortable. To do something requires effort. Comfort is easy. Comfort is also a luxury.

I am one person. I have room. On my own, I am am 0.5% of the 200. If we start doing the maths, perhaps I could have spent more time pressing the equals button to write this article, rather than lingering over the divide.


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