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World lacks decisive action despite rise of internment camps in China and US

By in Culture

When Germany began using concentration camps to continue the mass killing of Jewish people on a larger, more efficient scale in 1941, it was not a secret to the rest of the world. 

National newspapers from all over the world, such as London-based The Times, The Montreal Star and the New York Journal-American, covered the horrific news trickling out of Germany — Nazis were mass murdering Jewish people and the death tolls were rising to over one million.

By 1941, British intelligence agents were tapping into classified German radio transmissions, and Alan Turing had cracked the Enigma Code. There was no doubt that the word was out about the Nazi killing camps. 

However, the world was tentative in their interference with Nazi Germany.

The aforementioned newspapers reported stories but rarely put them on the front page or delved into just how terrible the atrocities were. The United States tightened its immigration laws.

Despite the lack of action while it was occurring, we pledge today to never forget the Holocaust. We continue to teach about it in history classes, watch specials about how survivors are doing today and ask ourselves the same question: how could the world let this happen? 

Regardless of what Holocaust deniers might say, the truth is that it did happen, and it happened while the world was watching. We don’t need to ask ourselves how it occured because it’s happening again today — and once again, we are not taking decisive action.  

History is repeating itself just outside of our line of view. China has forced more than one million ethnic Uyghurs into so-called “re-education” camps in Xinjiang, a formerly autonomous region in northwestern China. This has been happening since 2014.

The Chinese government states that the camps are to fight terrorism, extremism and separatism through vocational training at “boarding schools.”

Despite these claims, reports coming from China say that people are being interned without a trial or charges laid against them. There are reports that the women in these camps are being unknowingly sterilized, and that forced labour from the camps is being used to make clothing that is then being shipped to the US. There are also reports of organ harvesting. 

Uyghur Muslims and other minorities are facing cultural genocide and being instilled with communist party propaganda. China continues to deny the existence of these camps despite the overwhelming proof that states otherwise. 

Closer to home, American migrant detention centres are garnering attention for their treatment of children and inhumane conditions. Reports of cramped cells, dehumanizing conditions and disease outbreaks come from these camps. 

Though the US has a history of detaining migrants from Central America — records go back to the 1970s — the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy allows no exemptions for detention.

As of May 2018, at least 2,300 children had been separated from their parents. Children as young as three years old are appearing in court alone for their own deportation hearing. 

At least seven children are reported to have died in custody of the US Customs and Border Patrol since 2018.

Conditions are exacerbated by people like US Department of Justice Lawyer Sarah Fabian, who says that soap, toothbrushes, blankets and beds were not specified as sanitary and safety necessities for detained children. 

The lack of action against these violations of human rights mirror the world’s apathy to concentration camps almost 80 years ago. Despite all the history we learn and annual days of remembrance, here we are again being apathetic to the suffering of others. 

Britain stays silent as to not jeopardize the new blossoming free trade agreement with China. When President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau met, it was to discuss trade deals, and no mention of the migrant camps was made. Trump continues to cut aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador despite the people pouring out of these countries.  

Though the United Nations ambassadors from 22 countries signed a letter condemning China’s detention of Muslims, 37 more signed a counter letter in support of it. 

There are many factors to be considered when looking at our apathy issue. The Holocaust was the culmination of years of hatred and one man who put it all in action. Just like with Jewish people during World War II, negative propaganda surrounding immigrants in America, Muslims and other marginalized groups is taking hold of our media.

We so often see negative and divisive rhetorics perpetrated in political situations, painting them black and white and using certain groups as scapegoats for their problems. This is where the seeds of hate that lead to actions of mass hate are sown. 

Civilians could also do with a wakeup call. The fear of the ‘other’ behind the internment of Jewish people during World War II is present today for Muslims. Are our prejudices really worth the lives of over one million innocent people? 

It’s a tight situation. China and the US are two huge trading powers on a global scale with control that reaches far beyond their physical borders. However, we know that there have been solutions found in seemingly impossible situations in the past — such as reworking entire economies and societal structures to support war efforts during the world wars. 

We cannot let history continue to repeat itself like this, especially while the effects of our past mistakes are still being mourned.

Tomilola Ojo/ Culture Editor

Graphic: Max-alph

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