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Despite exploitation, refugees continue search for safety

By Maddie LaPlante-Dube, Columnist

So, the refugee crisis isn't going well.

Back in Dec. 2015, famous graffiti artist Banksy painted another one of his iconic pieces near London's French embassy. Set against the backdrop of a tattered French flag, the work featured a black and white, empty-faced girl from Les Miserables. Tears stream from her eyes as tear gas rises from her feet, engulfing her.

According to TIME, The Guardian, BBC, Irish Times and many other major news publications, the work is in direct reference to the overnight raids in Calais, France. Here, police officers shot tear gas, rubber bullets and concussion grenades at refugees in an effort to make them vacate the camp in January. Since its opening in 1999, the French government has attempted to close or destroy Calais, also referred to as "The Jungle," with their most recent attempt involving bulldozers and the displacement of upwards of 1,500 people. Many refugees consider Calais to be temporary home after fleeing their respective war-torn origins and use it as a connection in their attempts to gain access to the United Kingdom.

The humanitarian artist-of-the-people did not stop with just one painting. On the actual walls of "The Jungle," Banksy painted his now-viral piece of Apple founder Steve Jobs carrying a chunky computer and a bag over his shoulder. Jobs' parents were Syrian migrants. By Calais' immigration office, Banksy painted an altered version of "The Raft of Medusa," with his shipwrecked subjects waving in vain at a distant yacht floating by. On the side of a beach building in Calais, the silhouette of a child peers through a looking glass in the direction of the United Kingdom, a vulture sitting atop the instrument.

According to The Guardian, London's authorities have covered Banksy's newest piece, the Les Miserables reference, in an attempt to preserve the work. Similar attempts were made at the site of his reincarnation of Steve Jobs in Calais by covering the work in a sheet of glass, which has since been vandalized. Banksy's pieces have become some of the most sought-after artwork of the 21st century, with his most expensive piece selling at auction for $1.8 million.

Interesting how Western governments prioritize providing sturdier protection to a piece of graffiti than to traumatized men, women and children looking for a better life.

The refugee crisis has, if anything, only gotten worse, and Western superpowers like the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, who throughout history have forcefully involved themselves in various global humanitarian issues whether or not they were invited to, are now either failing to step up or complaining that they have to. Some European countries like Germany are beginning to seize valuables and cash above $378 (350 euro) in exchange for services.

Denmark is expected to vote in favor of "drastic reforms curbing refugees' rights," according to The Guardian. "Refugees will now have to hand over cash exceeding 10,000 kroner ($1,450) and any individual items valued at more than that amount."

Unlike the rules of the Nazi regime, however, wedding rings and items of sentimental value may be left out.

This is all in an attempt to make these countries seem unpalatable to incoming refugees and deflect them to neighboring countries.

There is no doubt that Europe especially is straining under the weight of the waves of people crashing into the continent. The United State's plan to relocate 10,000 Syrian refugees came under Islamophobic scrutiny after the attacks in Paris. But the refugee crisis will not go away, nor can it be exploited.

These families need help, they need protection, and they are worth more than some piece of graffiti spray-painted on a wall. We have the resources. It is time to step up to the plate and give these people what they need.

Plus, who knows; maybe one of our refugees could become the next Steve Jobs.