Seeking Asylum is a Fundamental Right, Granting it is a Fundamental Duty

The EarthThe best advice people will often impart in India is to avoid being political even though politics runs in practically every corner of this country. Writing, by its very nature is a political act, the moment you express an opinion (no matter left or right) you commit a political act. I may even go on to say that even life is political so more often than not, I have actively ignored this advice.

The entire debate around refugees seeking asylum in Europe and west is centred on two major points. One is that the western countries have a right to determine who enters their country and secondly, the fact that terrorists are entering western countries disguising themselves against refugees. I strongly argue that seeking asylum is a fundamental right and not something arbitrary which can be regulated by government policies; it’s not a frivolous matter that can be left to the whims of the current government in power in a state. It is a basic human principle so significant that it found a place in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The second major argument has some substance and the aftermath and investigation of the recent Paris attacks has shown some proof that the accusation does have substance. There is an easy way to get around that. Place stringent checks and filter out the terrorists but under no condition can a nation on earth turn away refugees shutting its doors on asylum seekers. If we really were to start a debate on who arrived first in which country, then half the people on earth would find themselves homeless.

 Editor’s father with Eeney, Meeney and Miney
Editor’s father with Eeney, Meeney and Miney

If you have followed the recent Presidential elections in America, you would have come across Trump, a political candidate who says things which even the strongest xenophobes would be afraid to utter. While people say many a demeaning things to win support for elections, he went to the extent of saying he’d make it mandatory for Muslims to register themselves, a plan that was strongly reminiscent of the Nazi party treatment of Jews in Germany.

I would however (if I may) ignore the twin arguments and focus on the economic side of things as we all know that all government decisions are based on either political or economic analysis, the two main drivers of a state’s decisions and policies. Adam Smith, the father of economics was ridiculed for inventing economics at first as it was called a bastard’s science because above all, it aimed at making one richer. While all humans are inherent capitalists and there is nobody on this planet who doesn’t want to become rich (including communists) but it is an inhuman thing to admit in public and which is why Marshall and later economists shifted the focus from economic riches to human welfare. However, Smith’s original economics is what drives human behaviour and each country actively bases its decision on economic benefits. This is where the refugees from Syria have it worst. They come from an alien culture, have a different religion (Islam, which is not the majority religion in many European countries) and speak a different language. The economic costs for their social and cultural integration will prove to be higher in the longer run for European nations and their own countrymen have begun to question whether a country like Sweden for example (that has a long and rich, liberal tradition of asylum) should be taking in more refugees, when it should be spending all that money instead on its own citizens.

Another feature is that majority of refugees aren’t that poor or down trodden. This has something to do with human psyche which is what makes humans so special. We suffer from pre conceived notions and the basic image in our mind of a refugee is the one who arrives in tattered clothes, destitute with absolutely nothing on his person. We need to remember that the poorest of the poor from Syria cannot possibly arrive in Europe seeking asylum. He doesn’t have the means to pay for the perilous boat journey. So we must not be surprised that majority Syrian asylum seekers do carry smart phones. If smart phones were the criterion for economic empowerment, then 90% of Indians would be classified as billionaires because well, that’s how ridiculously cheap touch screen cell phones are in India. Even a rickshaw puller can afford to have one.

As humans, we have a responsibility to our fellow human beings. Our human values come under attack whenever terrorism strikes. We need to display strong humane character and unity in light of such attacks and not give way to xenophobia and paranoia.

Closer home, this is what happened a couple of days ago at my native home. Three puppies were left at our doorstep. India is a very weird country in some respects and while the entire world knows that the desire for male child is rampant in the country, what I did not know at least was that this desire trickles down to even dog puppies. So evidently, nobody wants female dogs to deal with. While we were looking for pups, three pups were a bit too much to handle but we cannot turn away refugees, now can we or else, how one earth would I have the right to sound so preachy in this article?

So we adopted Eeney, Meeney and Miney. What about the economic cost, you ask? While I haven’t really calculated it, it doesn’t matter if the monthly household budget goes up by a few hundred rupees. In return, we get a lot of love and some much needed company. So if anybody in Europe is reading this, please spread love, not hate. Please open your doors. Refugees do not just bring mouths demanding food; they also bring a lot of talent and love. Even Einstein was a refugee for God’s sake!

Image credit (featured image)

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