A five-year civil war in Syria has already internally displaced more than 6.5 million of the country’s population and left three million more fleeing to neighboring countries. Yemen’s war has displaced around 2.4 million Yemenis, most of whom are internally displaced. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Yemen, and other destabilized countries have been on the run to Western Europe.
These individuals often make the treacherous journey in overcrowded dinghies across the Mediterranean Sea, which has already claimed the lives of 444 people so far this year. Many are also making the journey by land where they are greeted by unfriendly locals and riot police limiting passage to few people through Eastern European countries.
To bring awareness to the issue, one 20-something Washington, D.C. resident has made the decision to create an Instagram account featuring migrants, specifically “hot migrants,” who are “on their journey to Europe.” The tagline for the account reads in part, “their countries might be falling apart but their sex appeal still goes strong.”
The anonymous individual explained to New York Magazine’s The Cut that the account was created after the creator watched a video of refugees and migrants stuck at the border fence in Idomeni, Greece, where many people — including children — were shot with tear gas in recent days.
The creator “found myself recounting how many other times I pondered about some of these people’s fates. I got distracted by some of the good-looking men in the process. It’s a bit surreal to ‘objectify’ people who are fleeing war and broken countries … It is hard to overlook these people if you aren’t seeing them through their trek in Europe and it’s easy to dismiss them because the reality is far removed from you. These photos bring the realities a bit closer. There is something to be said about finding comedy in such a tragedy. It helps to cope with the situation.”
The “Hot Migrants” website is not the only website featuring photogenic people fleeing tragic circumstances. A “HotRefugee” Tumblr account also exists. And a Daily Caller writer not too long ago wrote a photos piece titled “13 Syrian Refugees We’d Take Immediately.”
The “Hot Migrants” creator may have intended to draw attention to particular refugees, but this type of vague activism does nothing to reflect the refugee crisis at large. And websites like these diminish the reality that hundreds of thousands of refugees are going through to survive to an issue of genetic fortitude. Many refugees sell off their homes and livelihoods to make it to Europe on a dream of starting over and ensuring that their children won’t be carpet-bombed into oblivion.
But the anonymity of the Internet has also provided a forum for others to enjoy objectifying people, sometimes even when the individuals have convicted crimes. In recent times, a convicted “hot felon” by the name of Jeremy Meeks was offered a modeling contract after his photogenic mugshot was widely circulated. And a small, misguided, but ardent group of people also rallied around alleged Boston Bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev, calling him “hot” and “attractive.”