The European Refugee Crisis
“You have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.”
-Warsan Shire, “Home”.
In 2015, the International Organisation for Migration estimates that over 1,011,700 migrants arrived by sea, and almost 34,900 by land. In contrast, 2014 saw the arrival of 280,000 migrants by land as well as sea.
War, repression, economic turmoil, and yes, ISIS, have displaced millions of people across the world. The current migrant crisis- the worst since World War 2- forces refugees to make the arduous and expensive journey to Europe. This journey has proven fatal in hundreds of thousands of cases. No one has forgotten the haunting image of Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old boy whose lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey. And this Syrian infant is one of millions. Yet, these families adjudge the risk of crossing vast oceans in flimsy life rafts, or trekking hundreds of miles across hostile lands, less dangerous than remaining in the situations they face in their homelands, where men and women are executed wantonly for the simplest of crimes- not having a beard, being outside their houses at any time, or even simply existing.
Yet, these refugees escaping from the most horrendous lives only encounter further troubles in the land they thought of as their escape. Europe is divided upon how to handle this influx of migrants, and not everyone is reacting as humanely as hoped of them. The European Union’s Dublin Regulation requires refugees to seek asylum in the country of their first arrival. This is most often either Greece or Italy, leaving these countries overburdened with asylum applications as well as leaving their already weak economies with an unsustainable burden. Only Germany has opted out of this Dublin Regulation, with Merkel inviting in over 800,000 refugees in 2015.
The answer to such a situation doesn’t lie in denial, as most European states have opted for. Shutting their borders to refugees has not achieved any end other than consolidated their perception as a denier of justice- Hungary has gone so far as to build a razor-wire fence in an attempt to keep migrants out (a move so reminiscent of Trump that it would almost be comical, were people’s lives not threatened by it). Refugees still enter illegally, as they are forced to in this life or death situation. Meanwhile, since xenophobes are supported by their state’s official policies of denying entry, refugees face worse than ever barriers- economic, social, and cultural- to their peaceful assimilation into their new homes. They face gross prejudice, from everyday passers-by to the mainstream media itself.
Citizenship appointments for refugees extend as far as 2019 in some states. Till these are approved, their rights to live and work in their new states are greatly limited, and due to a lack of infrastructure, most currently reside in overcrowded refugee camps.
What is essential to understand is that the Syrian conflict sees no definite end in sight. These refugees are not likely to return in the next five years, if they ever do. By turning a blind eye to their accommodation, states simply ignore this ticking time bomb of unrest. They cannot find temporary accommodation in camps for the rest of their life, they cannot fight this stigma of being ‘lazy immigrants’ if your own laws don’t allow them to earn a livelihood, they cannot allow their lives to be ruled by the Syrian conflict they worked so hard to escape from.
The only way to truly combat the pervasive, poisonous influence of ISIS and other terrorist factions in dividing the population of the world, is to join arms in this time of need. Public policy needs to reflect the spirit of humanity, and aid countries in lending a hand to these refugees. Allow not only their theoretical assimilation, but also welcome the cultural diversity they bring to largely homogenous Western populations. Do not succumb to these catalysts thrown amongst us, excepted to explode and divide us further. Instead, seize these opportunities to grow, no matter how unappealing they may seem, and emerge as a strong united front.