The European refugee crisis started in the summer of 2015, when a rising number of refugees mainly from the conflict stricken areas in the Middle East made their way to the EU (European Union) seeking asylum. It was the highest influx of refugees that Europe has experienced since the Second World War.
The majority of the refugees are from Syria. Syria is located in the Middle East, where since the 1960’s the Al-Assad family have been ruling Syria as dictators. Until 2011, when the Arab spring happened, a revolutionary wave spread across similar countries with wide protests tumbling many authoritarian regimes such as in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. But in Syria, Assad refused to step down and started a brutal civil war.
Different ethnicities and religious groups fought each other. A particular extremist military group called ISIS used this opportunity to build a totalitarian Islamic caliphate and very quickly it became a violent and successful extremist organization. The Syrian population was trapped between the regime, rebel groups and religious extremists (Please bear in mind that this is a gross simplification of the situation in Syria).
Over 4 million Syrians fled the country and a vast majority of them now reside in the camps of neighbouring countries. The UN and the world food programme were not prepared for a refugee crisis on such a large scale, as a result the refugee camps are crowded and under supplied. This led to shortage of food and medical supplies and spread of diseases. Experiencing a loss of hope, many refugees decided to move towards Europe.
EU wasn’t prepared to handle refugees on this scale. In the EU, a refugee must stay in the state that they arrived in first which put a lot of pressure on the countries bordering Syria. Greece which was in the middle of an economic crisis wasn’t able to take care of too many people at once. Many states just outright refused to accept any refugees, leaving these border states to fend for themselves.
The perception over the crisis changed in 2014 when photos circulated of a dead boy from Syria found lying face down on a beach in Turkey. Germany then announced that it would take in 800,000 people by end of 2015, which was more than what the EU took in 2014, only to impose temporary border restrictions the following day. Support for asylum seekers has come more from civilians than politicians.
Great is the anger of many Syrians towards the Arab Gulf states as in terms of GDP they are the richest and yet have refused to accept any refugees into their country. Especially Syrian refugees find the rejection painful as several of these countries funded the rebel and extremist groups. Amnesty International, the most widely recognized non-governmental human rights organization has described their behavior as “especially shameful”.
While tiny Jordan has taken in 600,000 refugees, UK which has a GDP 78 times larger says it will allow only 20,000 till 2020.
Fears of the western world
Spread of Islam, high birth rate, crime, let’s acknowledge this and look at the facts. If the EU were to alone accept all the refugees the percentage of Muslims would just rise from 4% to about 5% which would certainly not make a big difference. A Muslim minority is neither new nor a reason to be afraid. Studies have shown that with a high standard of living and education, there is a decrease in birth rates and the birth rate in Syria was already decreasing before. Refugees turning to crime is another misconception, when allowed to work they involve themselves into the workforce and start businesses, thus paying back the society more than what they extracted. Furthermore, many Syrians coming to the west are already trained professional workers.
EU is the wealthiest bunch of economies on earth comprising of well organized states with a functioning social structure, democracy, infrastructure and huge industries. It is capable of handling the challenge of the crisis, if it wants to (This again involves many political agendas and motives).
We are writing history right now, how do we want it to be remembered?
There are people just like us, who need help. There is only something to be lost if we ignore this crisis. More children will wash ashore if we do not act with humanity and reason.
Leave a Reply