In the summer of 2015, Europe experienced the highest influx of refugees since the World War II. Why?
The main reason is that Syria has become the world’s top source of refugees. Syria is located in the middle-east, a fertile land home to diverse ethnic and religious groups. Since 1960s, it has been led by the Assad family which has ruled it as dictators until the Arab Spring happened in 2011. A revolutionary wave of protests and conflicts arose in the Arab World against the authoritarian regime. But the Assads refused to step down and started a brutal civil war. Different ethnicities and religious groups fought with each other in changing coalitions. ISIS, a jihadist militant group used the opportunity and entered the chaos with a goal to build a totalitarian Islamic caliphate. Very quickly, it became one of the most violent and successful extremist organizations on earth, all times committing harbor war crimes using chemical weapons, mass executions, torture on large scale and repeated deadly attacks on civilians. The civilian population was trapped between the regime, rebel groups and religious extremists.
“There is no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy and there is nothing good in war, except its ending,” quoted Abraham Lincoln, but unfortunately this war has no end.
A third of the Syrian people have been displaced within Syria while over 4 million have fled the country. The vast majority of them reside now in camps in the neighboring countries, who are taking care of 95% of the refugees. The Arab states of the Persian Gulf together have accepted zero Syrian refugees which has been called especially “shameful” by the Amnesty International.
The UN in the World Food Programme was not prepared for refugee crisis on this scale. As a result, many refugee camps are crowded and undersupplied, subjecting people to cold, hunger and disease. The Syrians lost hope of their situation will be getting better anytime soon. So many decided to seek asylum in Europe. Between 2007 and 2014, the EU had invested about 2 billion Euros in defenses, high tech security technology and port patrols. But not a lot in preparation of influx of refugees, so it was badly prepared for the storm of the asylum seekers. In EU, the country where an asylum seeker first enters the union is responsible for registering the asylum application and taking the fingerprints, hence decreasing pressure on the states that were already in trouble. Greece, in the midst of economic crisis, on the scare of great depression was not able to take care of so many people at once, leading to terrible scenes of desperate hungry people on islands usually reserved for tourists. The world needed to come together and act as a united front but instead it has become more divided. Many states downright refused to take in any refugees leaving the neighboring states alone in their struggle. In 2014, the UK carried out a search and rescue operation called Mare Nostrum that was designed to stop the asylum seekers from drowning in the Mediterranean. The idea seems to have been the higher test hold on the sea would mean fewer asylum seekers trying to make the journey. The perception of the crisis around the world suddenly changed when the photos circulated of a dead boy from Syria found lying face down on a beach in Turkey.
Germany announced it will without exception accept all Syrian refugees and is now preparing to take in 8,00,000 people in 2015, more than the entire EU took in 2014, only to impose temporary border controls a few days later and a demand in EU wide solutions. All over the west more and more people are beginning to take actions. All those support for asylum seekers has mostly come from citizens and not from the politicians. But there are phases in the western world: Islam, high birth rates, crime and the collapse of the social systems. Let’s acknowledge this and look at the facts.
Even if the EU agrees to accept all the 4 million Syrian refugees and 100% of the Muslims, the percentage of Muslims in the EU would only rise to about 4% to about 5%. This is not a drastic change and will certainly not make it a Muslim continent. A Muslim minority is neither new nor reason to be afraid. Birth rates in many parts of the western world are low, so somewhere asylum seekers might overtake the native population in a few decades. Studies have shown that even though birth rates are higher among the Muslims in Europe, they drop just as the standard of living and level of education rises. Most Syrian refugees already are educated. The birth rates in Syria before civil war were not very high and the population was actually shrinking; now growing. The fear that refugees lead to high crime rate also turns out to be wrong. Refugees who become inhabitants are less likely to commit crimes than the native population. When allowed to work, they tend to start businesses and integrate themselves into the workforce as fast as possible, paying more into the social systems. Syrians coming to the west are potential professional workers desperately needed to sustain Europe’s ageing population.
Also refugees travelling with smart phones have led to the misconception that they are not really in need of help. Social media and the internet have become a vital part of being a refugee. GPS is used to navigate the long routes to Europe. Facebook groups give tips and information about obstacles in real time. This only proves that these people are like us. If you had to make a dangerous journey, would you leave your phone behind??
The EU is the wealthiest bunch of economies in the world. Well organized states with functioning social systems, infrastructure, democracy and huge industries. It can handle the challenge of refugee crisis if it wants to. The same can be said for the whole western world. While tiny Jordan has taken in 6,00,000 Syrian refugees, the UK which has 78 times the GDP of Jordan has only said that it would allow only 20,000 Syrians across its borders over the next five years. The US has agreed to accept 10,000 and Australia 12,000 people. Overall things are slowly getting better but not fast enough. We are writing history right now. How do we want to be remembered?? As enough rich cowards hiding behind fences!! We have to realize that these people suffering from death and destruction are no different from us. By accepting them into our countries and integrating them into our societies, we have much to gain. There is only something to be lost if we ignore this crisis. More dead children will be found on water shore if we do not act with humanity and reason. Let’s do this right and try to be the best we possibly can be.
In words of Dalai Lama, “Whether you are a native or a migrant, the most important thing is to be a compassionate human being.”