Editorial: The limits of lending a helping hand


Seventy-one bodies were found crammed into a truck in Austria along the Hungarian border.

Twenty-four people from Afghanistan were discovered jam-packed into a 6-foot-wide, 9-foot-long and less than 6-foot-high van with bolted shut doors and bars on the windows.

A toddler and his five-year-old brother were among 10 who drowned and washed ashore in Turkey.

These people, though from different countries and situations, share something in common – they have risked their lives to escape conflict zones and migrate to Europe.

According to a report by the BBC, 107,500 migrants reached the European Union’s border in July. Just this year, more than 300,000 migrants attempted to cross the Mediterranean. Germany alone is expecting the number of asylum seekers in 2015 to quadruple to about 800,000. The EU has announced it will hold emergency talks on Sept. 14 on discuss how to deal with this migration crisis.

With the influx of migrants arriving by the thousands, the EU is being forced to decide whether to assist the individuals trying to escape or send them back home to countries like Syria that are under the threat of ISIS. Although many do not make it safely, the risk of dying while attempting to reach Europe seems just as forsaken as staying in the conflict zones they call home. This begs the question of whether the European Union is responsible for taking care of the migrants attempting to enter the union countries.

The BBC reported that although the Greek government says it lacks the necessary resources to help, aid groups believe authorities are responsible to do more. A passenger named Isham on a ferry carrying 1,749 migrants told Reuters news agency, “You have to help us. We are human.”

From a humanitarian standpoint, we find it difficult to hear stories of people who will risk the dangerous and potentially deadly travel to escape to the European Union because it is an equal or better option than staying in the country they reside. It’s hard to watch people go through tough situations because as humans, we feel a need to help one another. However, it’s important to understand the limits of help that can be given.

We believe the governments of these countries have a duty to provide a safe residency and the best quality of life to their citizens. This puts the migrants second to the residents of these countries, which is resulting in stricter asylum policies and the tightening of borders.

Even though we want to help others, we still need to put ourselves first. If we cannot attend to our own problems first, we may not be of adequate assistance to others. Although difficult to admit, people often feel as though their ability to help others is reflective of the ability to help themselves. If we can solve someone else’s problems, surely we can solve our own.

Finding a solution to a problem of any magnitude isn’t as easy as it may seem. And at times, there aren’t any feasible solutions to a predicament. Sometimes we must acknowledge the limits of our capabilities and how far we can go in providing an effective solution to another’s problem.

In this case, defeating ISIS and restoring peace, for example, is no easy task.

Though tough to watch as human instinct tells us to help, it ultimately comes down to the obligations we owe ourselves. In the EU, it’s not possible to provide a safe and resourceful environment to the residents of the countries at this magnitude of migration. Likewise, we need to assess if helping someone else will hurt us in the long run.

It’s easy as humans to feel the need to lend a helping hand. There comes a point, though, when we have to realize that our assistance may not go far enough.

While the EU deals with its own fiscal crisis, it’s not possible for them to grant asylum to everyone who needs it. And yet, we feel that as humans we are responsible for helping others when we are able to.

It’s important to help, but only to the extent of our capabilities.

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