Homeless, Stateless and Penniless- The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Syria
Syria in global map

The Syrian refugee crisis has assumed alarming proportions and much of it is the result of the unplanned measures of the west. The refugee crisis has increased because of the massive gains made by ISIS and people who cannot conform to their ideology must now move elsewhere. They have no choice. Thousands of people now find themselves without a roof, without a source of employment and unwelcomed in the west. Europe has had more than a year to plan for such refugees but it dilly dallied over which country should take how many refugees.

The Syrian refugees are not mere Muslim migrants; they are fellow human beings in need of help. We must not let them down.

The hypocrisy of the western powers is perhaps what needs to be highlighted but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. Most western publications have instead focussed solely on the atrocities of the ISIS (which of course need to be criticised) but equal highlight must be drawn to the fact that Europe has so far responded to the plight of Syrian refugees with a classic lack of empathy. You go to war, render people homeless and then try to wash away your hands from the entire saga. This is the issue that is most alarming. How can the west refuse responsibility when its policies are alone responsible for the chaos that surrounds the Middle East today? The western dilemma is reminiscent of what most of us have gone through in childhood. Bring us a new toy, we take it apart and then don’t know how to put it back together again. The west needs to realise that the western model of democracy (which is not without its faults otherwise we wouldn’t be seeing racial tensions in the US) is not a good fit for all countries. Who gave the right to EU or US to decide what’s best for Iraq or Syria? But we haven’t seen any major power condemn this blatant misuse of power by the western nations. The US went to Iraq but came away with serious loss of prestige because there were no weapons of mass destruction which was the basis for the war in the first place. The horrible experience in Afghanistan and Iraq has made the US hesitant in committing ground forces in Syria and we all saw how many pleadings it took before the world finally stood up to offer some help to the Yazidis.

As per the International Organization for Migration, more than 3,50,000 refugees wanted access and were knocking at the doors of the EU. Rather than welcoming them as Germany has to some extent, the statements of western leaders instead aimed at focusing on protection of their demographic structure. One leader even went to the extent of saying that the country couldn’t accept refugees because well, it didn’t have a mosque. How arrogant and shameful! Syrian refugees are human beings first and Muslims later. When you offer help to Syrian refugees, you are helping a fellow human being, where does the question of Muslim or Christian come into that?

 Many leaders have expressed the fear that Europeans might become a minority in their own region. Well, you should have thought about it before you went to war, this should have been planned much before the west toppled Saddam to place a puppeteer leader whose policies today are responsible for the support that ISIS receives from the locals. This is what happens when limited and unplanned military intervention is used as was the case with Iraq (in later stages) and now in Syria. The west lived under the illusion that surgical strikes would annihilate the opposition and they could go back to purchasing oil and setting up McDonald’s outlets in the post war country. Now they are shying of full commitment because as the war has escalated, it is not showing any signs of ending soon and (even though the EU or US will never admit it) home support for such meaningless conflicts is at an all time low. The lack of empathy on display would put many a seasoned terrorist to shame. It took the death of a toddler to finally rally public opinion in favour of the refugees and finally some countries have agreed to take in refugees. We see so many conferences when the Iran nuclear sanctions need to be discussed but an EU meeting to decide on the quota of each country for accepting refugees will take forever.

Nobody wants to leave his/her homeland willingly. Asylum in a western country is not a very rosy aspect as some may led you to believe. It comes at a tremendous cost. With little empathy, refugees find it difficult to integrate in an alien environment, with little job prospects (a Syrian engineer will in the best case scenario be flipping burgers at a McDonald’s outlet in Europe) and very often separated from their close family members, life is never the same for such refugees.

Last year, I was in Malaysia where I was living and made friends with some Iraqis. A girl from Mosul expressed the fear that she may not be able to ever return to her homeland as there won’t be a country called Iraq by the time she finished her degree. Her worst fears have now come true. Even with a high profile degree, she now runs the risk of being deported (if she doesn’t leave willingly) and in the best case scenario, she will apply for an asylum and will be forced to rebuild her life and for what? All for the sake of some gasoline for the west.

Not all who want to migrate can take the perilous journey. Only rich families who can afford to pay human traffickers are allowed an escape route. The journey itself is undertaken in shabby boats and there are no guarantees. And if they finally reach their destination, they are unwelcomed with a fence as Hungary has constructed to keep such refugees away. There is no relaxation of rules for those seeking asylum even though it’s pretty obvious that ISIS is persecuting people wherever it holds territories. Why must an asylum seeker have to go through the rigorous process of proving that he faces persecution? Why can’t the regulations be eased so that people do not have to sleep in temporary shelters?

The Dublin regulations provide protection to such asylum seekers under which the country which the asylum seeker first lands needs to assume responsibility. But many countries have instead refused to honour the Dublin regulations in the wake of the refugee crisis.

The migrant problem has only begun and unless the world can come to a consensus on accepting refugees, deaths will frequently occur. Boats will capsize and children will die. These are all innocent deaths, people who had no role in the conflict and who are now facing the brunt of it. The entire prospect of losing your homeland, being separated from your loved ones and not having a place where you will be loved and accepted is very frightening. Sadly, the countries which have always been criticised for their handling of such crisis have been at the forefront of receiving refugees. Turkey has accepted many refugees and even Pakistan did a far better job than Europe for Afghan refugees during the worse years of the Taliban. How many children must die before the west will finally listen?

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