For several years we have watched the Mediterranean Sea become a huge human cemetery as desperate people fleeing from Syria and Africa crowd onto rickety boats and drown by the hundreds within sight of the Italian coast. We think, “How terrible!” Then we read the next news story. Now there is a new swell of arrivals on the Greek island of Lesbos. People on unsafe boats are crossing from Turkey by the thousands and huddle on a small beach totally unequipped to receive them. Again we read, we watch on our screens and we think. “Poor people!” And we move on and go on with our lives. Then one day a picture that appears in all the papers and on all our screens hits home. Aylan Kurdi is 3 years old. He is lying face down on a Turkish beach, his head in the water. He is from Kobani. Someone had lovingly dressed him in a red T-shirt and navy shorts. We know he will never get up and run in the sand. We know he will never reach safety on the other shore.
The people who arrive on Lesbos have an itinerary and destinations. They have researched the best routes and methods and shared information and advice using social media. They have hired guides and smugglers and paid them well to take them across to Greece, their entry point into Europe. Greece, which has its own problems and is the weakest link in the European Union, suddenly finds itself overrun and having to “process” thousands of fleeing people. But that is only the beginning of the nightmare for the refugees. They have to rush across Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary where they face various walls, barriers and hostility on the part of the locals.
Hungary is blocking them with fences topped with razor wire strands. Many families get separated. Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia are barricading themselves against these hordes of aliens forgetting what they themselves had to endure when they were occupied by the Soviet Union. Misfortune has not taught them compassion. In Hungary people are crowded into pen-like enclosures, food being thrown at them as though they were animals. Elsewhere they face hostile police with tear gas and water cannons. Did the Hungarians forget that Austria opened its borders to them when they were fleeing from Russian tanks rolling through Budapest in 1956? Hungary may be the main villain here but the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Estonia are similarly hostile. In Bratislava (Slovakia) they proclaim loudly that they will only accept a few hundred Christian Syrians. They want no Muslims; they have no mosques, they say. Many are afraid of Jihadist infiltration.
There is definitely an Old Europe/New Europe schism operating here. Most of the newly accepted countries have right-wing regimes, hostile to immigration. Germany, Austria, Sweden, old, established democracies, have shown empathy and understanding. In Germany, with an aging population, young workers are needed. But there is also some residual guilt about Hitler’s crimes. Most of the refugees are heading for these countries which have extended a welcome to them. But no one really expected this melting glacier of refugees sliding inexorably across Europe. Cracks, fissures and splinters are appearing everywhere and the whole threatens to break apart. The Schengen Agreement providing free circulation across European borders has already given way. Chancellor Merkel has been in the forefront of the humanitarian effort, saying refugees are entitled to asylum. The German population as a whole is sympathetic and there are many volunteers spontaneously offering help, but it may have unwittingly created this onslaught of arrivals that threatens the whole continent. Denmark and Norway are dissuading people from coming. France, Britain and Italy are reluctantly offering some hospitality.
Recently the scale of the refugee crisis has reached catastrophic proportions.Water, food and sanitation problems are worsening. The UN humanitarian agencies are on the verge of bankruptcy Even Germany had to institute border controls along all its frontiers. Europe has lost control of this tsunami of gigantic proportions.There has been no solidarity, no sharing of the burden, and moral responsibility has been sadly lacking.
But what about the rest of us? This is not only a a European problem.There have been more than 7 million Syrian refugees displaced so far. In Turkey, which is their first destination, many live in refugee camps. Others are in Lebanon, which faces its own problems and has no functioning government. Jordan already has a huge number of Palestinian refugees . None have been integrated or resettled. The Gulf countries, except for the United Arab Emirates have accepted no Syrians. Some Latin American countries have taken in a modest number. But where is the United States in all of this? Where is the Lady on the pedestal? Has she closed the golden door to the tired and the poor? Has she extinguished the lamp that guided the homeless and the tempest-tossed? We are vacillating. Some of us say it is not our problem. Others think there might be terrorists among the refugees. As a result we are piously proclaiming that we will accept a few thousand of them. (And maybe more in 2017.) Are we going to repeat the mistakes of the past when we could not distinguish between the culprits and the victims? When we imprisoned Japanese-Americans because they might be enemy sympathizers? Don’t we remember that we refused entry to Jewish refugees during World War II who then went back to perish in extermination camps?
It is time to wake up and acknowledge that this is now a global problem and that we have a common duty to participate. We cannot shirk our responsibility any longer.
First of all, I think you should be awarded an honorary Ph.D. for this recent post.
Secondly, I think UC Berkeley should make you a professor and allow you to teach any course in the history department of your choosing.
Carole, thank you. I am honored.
I think Europe will come through on this problem. Takes time to organize and think the problem through. All we read are the naysayers. We will work through our refugees also…..
I greatly admire your knowledge, thoughts, and writing. As I’ve been reading about the number of what some have called refugees (meaning those fleeing war) and others economic immigrants (meaning no active war in their countries, rather pursuing lives with better economic opportunity), I wonder where does Europe and other countries draw a line? Should any lines be drawn? Should New Zealand and Australia be as expected as the U.S. to be absorbing some of the people, whether refugees or economic immigrants? The U.S., as policy, for decades has accepted ( I googled this number) 1 million legal immigrants a… Read more »
Virginia, These are all very valid questions. As to refugees versus migrants I think it is an artificial distinction. People who flee bombs are of course a first priority, but if you are in a country in a camp and not able to work or to educate your children you should also be given consideration. You are right that we have absorbed many more immigrants than any other county. Traditionally we have been a haven to many and we should continue to be. That is why I have been critical of our tepid response to the current crisis. Every country… Read more »
Simone, this was a strong and powerful post. I also do not make a distinction as to what is causing people to flee. For instance, those who come to us from the countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Columbia, etc. are not just coming for better economic opportunities. They are fleeing powerful and cruel drug cartels. It hurts to see Americans shouting at these people and saying ugly words. Additionally, how could anyone condemn people from fleeing Syria. Thank you for your post, Simone.
The editor is posting this comment that came from a friend of Simone’s:
You capture the ineffable tragedy, challenge, sadness and inaction of too many, particularly on the part of this too-rich country.
Thank you for your wisdom and your compassion.
Your friend Phyllis
Thank you Phyllis. It was seeing t he little boy’s picture that was the impetus for my wanting to write this story.
Thanks always for your courageous voice. It is shameful that we look at such a crisis happening and say, “okay, maybe some of them, for a minute, in a few years, possibly.” I am stunned by the compassion being shown by the Germans. They properly understand both that the refugees are needed for their economy, and that these are not terrorists. They are miserable humans fleeing from their homes. What makes terrorists? Putting people into camps and giving them no choices. I keep thinking back on the line – “Misfortune has not taught them compassion.” Which we see over and… Read more »
It’s very easy to criticise the Hungarian and other governments for their apparently hard-hearted approach to the refugee crisis. But until you’ve had several thousand very needy, demanding, and sometimes aggressive illegal border-crossers – who refuse to be identified, registered, photographed or fingerprinted in accordance with EU rules, and two-thirds of whom are young men – sleeping on your doorstep, it might be considerate to withhold judgement. The Croatians were more than happy to show the world how compassionate they were when compared to Hungary’s prime minister Orbán as long they were only a transit country. When Slovenia closed its… Read more »
Thank you for providing a different outlook on this problem. I agree it is easy to be judgemental when you are safely removed from the tragedy, viewing it from afar and relying on what you see on TV and read on the news. Some new arrivals do tend to cling to their customs and do not assimilate easily. And their sheer numbers are frightening. Many countries fear destabilization and rightly so. The problem is very complex and cannot be solved by condemnation only.
Thanks for your reply. I was directed to your post by a link I came across. Sorry to go on for so long. I’ve been living in Budapest for several years and truly love it here. Although the current prime minister has become very authoritarian and his policies toward the migrants have been unpopular with many Hungarians, it often seems that the full story is not getting out, especially in the American media. Mr. Orbán’s attitude toward the ‘invasion’ is shared by the leaders and large majorities of all of the former communist countries. Here in Hungary, I think that… Read more »
Thanks for an unusually insightful comment. I live in Sweden, a country venerated for its “Refugees welcome” policy but unable to integrate immigrants, not even those who moved in 20 years ago. Most of immigrants in Sweden have poor or non-existent skills in Swedish and they live in ghettos – on benefits. In the last two weeks 2000 people a week register at Swedish migration offices. The true number of newcomers however remains in the dark, as many refrain from registering. The government has announced yesterday that there now is no other way to accomodate the new refugees than placing… Read more »
The problem is this: how many needy people can we afford to help? Inevitably many will have to be turned away. With each passing day the Germans are finding out what they have let themselves in for, and the government is losing popular support. It’s very possible Angela Merkel will be turned out of office in the next election.
I don’t think it’s fair to say Italy “reluctantly” accepted refugees. From what I’ve seen,
no country has been more accepting and more helpful to refugees, whether they are
from Sudan or Syria. Please use more sense!
OK I will use more sense! I must say I am learning a lot from all your comments.
This comment from another source is being posted by the Editor… Subject: A.crisis that needs to be met with an.even bigger dose of compassion and collective action Message Body: I think it boils down to years and years of discrimination. Now we see each other as very different. When we are facing a conflict with an immigrant, we tend to say it’s that group versus when faced with an accepted citizen, she’s just having a bad day. The second reason is probably because we have become mercenary as people all over the globe. We are afraid of losing our benefits,… Read more »
Posted by the editor:
Hope you be so good.
It´s a pleasure and honour to “find” your website through my connect at linkedin Mrs. Sonia Sant´Anna.
I´m Chilean and live in São Paulo, Brazil.
All the best!
The EU already has brought the issue of immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Somalia, Eritrea and from countries of the former socialist camp and the USSR to a point of no return, which means that the time to make selecting individual respondents who met their conditions to be admitted to their territories after a thorough check over. The large number of refugees from countries in the Middle East has reached figures which eclipse any parashkim that the EU had set before going on this massive displacement of hundreds of thousands of people helpless, hungry, deceived recently surprised by the… Read more »
Before condemning Hungary, i think we ought to educate ourselves who are these migrants, why they want to come to Europe, what is the root cause of the problems in their own countries, what is their culture, what is their religion. Once we have a clear understanding of all these, then i think the Europeans have a lot to thank for Orban and Merkel is being very irresponsible and is leading Europe down a very dangerous path. Europe cannot take in all the poor and desperate people from around the world. The only solution is to educate people in these… Read more »
Agree. By the way, maybe seven millions Syrians could fight for their own country and take their own future in their own hands instead of running away. Europe does not need sick ideology which is islam which those people bring with themselves and then tell us to change our believes and way of living so they are not offended by us in our home countries. And finally why “peace loving” Saudis are not so eager to help and take those refugees? After all, one of the islam pillars is helping.
Your comment is the only one which makes sense stating facts. This article and several comments are typical of the bleeding heart leftists who refuse to look at the reality of the situation and the problems the locals are facing due to this islamic invasion from the ME and Africa. Europe is being invaded and destroyed, which the MSM refuses to show.The rich Golf Oil nations don’t accept the refuges, even though they are the same religion, language and culture. But Saudi Arabia offered to build 200 mosques for them in Europe. Hello, read the writing on the wall!!! Germany… Read more »
The problem is, that people from failed states bring their state with them as attitudes, habits and values. Europe starts to resemble a little bit of Syria, Eritrea and Libya. You cannot change their attitudes by welcoming them, as people generally do not like to change, especially grownups. If they are used to solving problems violently, they will continue unless stopped by force. If they are used to stealing and religious discrimination, they will not cease to do it if kindly asked. We from Eastern Europe have seen what happens when masses of culturally different people cross borders and fight… Read more »
Shame on the UK, USA and Eastern Europe. Really! Despite UN reports Bush fooled Blair into attacking Iraq and started this domino effect. And now both countries more or less pretend that they are innocent bystanders. Most Syrians arriving in Austria, Germany and Sweden are extremely grateful, modern and eager to pay back by learning our languages and try to find work. The rioting men are very few but some use those as a reason for not doing the right thing. I assume (after the EU negotiations today) that we are nearing the point where also Austria, Germany and Sweden… Read more »
Just by accident came across this website.So much nonsense, like typical lefties, arrogant to accept reality. Just wait for poping up more and more mosques, in your neighborhoods, sharia law being a norm and number of Islamic rulkes prevails. Since men have at least 2 wifes 10 children,democracy in Europe will be over. In 17 century our ancestors kiked out Arabs, Otaman empire….. Just their great ,great grandchildren invite them back voluntarily. And comparing this invasion with Jews,is very insulting. My grandparents were literally slaughtered in concentration camps like millions other by GERMANS,you think bringing masses of uneducated, violent people,who… Read more »
I had enough of judging Europeans because they had enough of immigrants. This is going on for decades already and there is not space anymore. I had to leave my own country because of this, so please shut up and if you have at heart those immigrants, take them in your house. In addition you can start judging those who armed and is making business with the third world: USA?
Re US arming terrorists. (1) most popular gun used by all insurgents world wide is
Russian made. (2) Arab allies are complaining U.S. Is not providing arms….thus questioning American loyalty to allies. Fact checking is helpful in forming accurate opinions.
Well, most of us are usually right in our views on the World, as seen from the perspectives we master on a given situation. Evidently situations looks quite different from each side of the Atlantic. I am Danish, and old enough to remember when my country had a very different reputation in the World. Sometimes I wonder what the Americans are thinking. Kindly enlighten me with your perspective. Why not stop the Syrian war? Why must so many millions suffer for the political and economical ambitions of Washington, Ankara, Riyadh, Qatar, Kuwait, Theran and Moscow? Assad is a brutal dictator,… Read more »
Recent U.S.A. Opinions: (1) we are a large, diverse nation turning increasingly in on our own domestic issues unless a majority see a direct threat (real or perceived) to us. A majority deeply regret the U.S. Invasion of Iraq….one factor in President Obama being elected president his first term was he, as he was in our congress at the time, voted against that war. His campaign promise to bring our troops home resonated here. (2) we are under the impression U.S. support is going, as much as can be determined, to moderate resistence to the Syrian Governament. (3) we tend… Read more »
Italy did accept huge numbers of migrants who had crossed the Mediterranean but, like Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and now Slovenia, sent them north toward Germany as quickly as possible.
Virginia McCallum: With so many countries in Europe now completely overwhelmed by the refugee/migrant crisis, more and more people are blaming the U.S. for destabilizing the Middle East. The invasion of Iraq was criminal. Bush and Cheney came into office wanting to invade, and 9/11 gave them the perfect excuse. Only bringing them to justice as war criminals will begin to absolve America of all the problems it has caused in the region on behalf of oil and Israel. As to what the U.S. should do now, this is a huge dilemma. It seems that everything the American military touches… Read more »
I, and many Americans, certainly agree invading Iraq was criminal. Personally I, and many, think Dick Cheney in particular is a traitor and should be tried as such. However, our own domestic politics is in such dissaray presently the best I hope for is he lost all influence in politics. However, invading Iraq didn’t create Assad or the internal politics of Tunesia, etc. Also, however, naively, Bush probably sincerely believed the U.S. could help Iraq developed a government, which protected and included the rights of minorities. Well, no purpose in dwelling on that Bush presidency…..he wasn’t elected to invade Iraq.… Read more »
How refreshing to read a compassionate and thoughtful summary of the refugee situation as of now, when most stories at sensational political biased headlines. My own parents have a history similar to yours and if they had been alive, would have drawn parallels the horrors of WW2 and the hostility towards immigrants in the 30’ies and 40’ies. It’s obvious that the politicians of today have forgotten European history and their opinions and suggestions bear grave similarities to the populism of the 30’ies. We now live in a world, more than ever, torn by regional wars where all the current and… Read more »
“They properly understand both that the refugees are needed for their economy”
Since when are the refugees needed for German economy?
Are the Germans so infertile that they can’t repopulate the country enough for their economy?
Yes. Many people are blaming the US for invading Iraq. And it is indeed a terrible crime that Bush/Cheney have perpetrated. It is much easier to blunder into a bad situation than to extricate oneself from it. The consequence is that now our president is very reluctant to intervene anywhere, emboldening the Russians to insert themselves into the situation which can only cause more fleeing people. The practical thing to do is to look forward and to accept as many refugees as the country can absorb without serious discomfort. The fear of allowing terrorists in is not justified.There are much… Read more »
EU could also get involved to the situation in Syria and Iraq causing the influx. Accepting everyone is a safety valve that encourages people to leave their countries rather than contribute to a new situation there. Maybe with the influx EU will see they have a human responsibility to involve themselves rather than call on the U.S. to do something …..or not do something. The world isn’t our responsibility and we didn’t create every problem in the Middle East……or in Eastern Europe. I salute Germany and France for taking the lead on Eastern Europe as that is your backyard.
The woman has obviously not had personal contact with the invaders. These so called refugees, the vast majprity of them military age young men, do not fit my idea of a refugee. A true refugee does not march in lock step down our village roads screaming “Your women are ours!” My idea of a refugee does not invade homes along their way, beating the occupants and stealing wverything they can get their hands on, whilst coordinating attacks on their expensive mobile phones.My idea of a refugee does not throw food back in the faces of people trying to help because… Read more »
Your comment make sense but I do not see no one who is saying that Iraq, Libia and Syria have been invaded and destroyed by trigger happy NATO with U.S and U.K. as a leaders, long before this humanitarian crisis.
The rich Golf Oil nations are partners in the invading coalition forces and they are well protected and safe.
I agree that the muslims can not assimilate in any other country with other religion and culture, so we must stop the stupid fight and bombings in muslim countries and return this people where they belong.
The author totally forgets a most severe problem which forces every nation in the earth thinks twice to absorb these muslim immigrants, that is terrorism. Most of these immigrants are muslims and they are notorious for not assimilating with local population instead they will built on their own community with rigid and foolish religious feelings which they wish to impose on native locals on later days. This will happen slowly. This is the fertile ground for islamic terrorism and no people like this author will not be available to sober people when terrorists from home grown immigrants are striking local… Read more »
What is a needed is a solution to the reason they leaving their own Country, leaving their homes and belongings behind and risking their lives on such dangerous journeys. Offering help here as in Transit camps , centres and such life withouth offering a solution to the conflicts results in even more deaths for those making these desperate journeys. We Need to find a way for these people to stop leaping in overcrowded plastic dinghies and going to sea with no provisions hoping to reach the other side alive. Right now it seems like we are saying if you make… Read more »
Meanwhile, is the USA more compassionate than Europe? Let’s take a close look at the thousands of children our govt. refused to allow to enter as refugees from a terrible situation in their own countries. And what about those families being torn apart by deportation and the obstinate refusal to open a path to legality and citizenship for them here? All of this opposition to compassionate accommodation is led by bible toters, who purposely ignore the often repeated command, “You shall welcome the stranger and the foreigner, for you were once strangers yourselves in a strange land.” It’s kind of… Read more »
In response to Gary who wants us to deal with the reason why these people are leaving their countries. How can we do that.? They have not asked for our help and it seems that every time we intervene somewhere we make a mess of it. Meanwhile the Russians have been invited by Assad and they are aggravating the situation,
Strong wealthy and or powerful countries should fix the problem where it starts so that there would be no reason for fleeing ones country of birth.
At the same time these people should be taught about about contraception!
I think we should stop talking about “these people” as though they were the cause of the problems. They are the victims. Contraception is good but how does it fir with the current crisis?
Don’t yet your emotions fool you. These are migrants – not refugees. They may have been running for their lives previously, but they are presently on safe territory. their present aim is to bombard Western Europe by force – dreaming that they’ll all have a “better day” there. History has shown otherwise, and the prospects of these “unfortunates” slipping off into crime and drug-ridden life are dangerously higher in the “free world”. Once the dam bursts there will be no recall; and don’t forget – MISPLACED SYMPATHY IS THE ROOT OF UNTOLD EVILS! If all you sensationalist reporters REALLY CARED… Read more »
“I, and many Americans, certainly agree invading Iraq was criminal.” That’s exactly what Saddam wanted. He knew he was playing a dangerous game. But he also knew that UN resolutions were hardly more than “suggestions” that can and should be openly violated. Military reaction by those stupid westerners; (though clearly authorized under such conditions,) is “criminal offense”. IF YOU NAIVE WESTERNERS KNEW THE ARAB MINDSET YOU WOULD HAVE REALIZED FROM THE START HOW THAT “RODAN” WAS BLINDSIDING YOU! So he payed for it with his life, – big deal! His propoganda war against the west succeeded well beyond his imaginations!… Read more »
As Tony Blair recently said. Intervention with “boots on the ground” was tried; intervention with no military presence was tried; no intervention was tried……so? Time for Russia to try….they were so successful in Afghanistan. Maybe ignorance just has to run it’s course.
The birth rate is just one of the problems that will accompany migrants from the Middle East and Central Asia into Europe. There aren’t even words in their languages – Arabic, Pashto, Dari, Urdu, Farsi – for ‘birth control’ and ‘family planning’, let alone the concepts. Many European countries have managed not only to control their population growth, but even to roll it back. Those Europeans who decide to have children very often have no more than two. The very concept of limiting family growth is alien to many of these migrants.
Agni Shiva: Within Islam, leaving the faith and converting to anther religion is considered apostasy. Extremists believe it is punishable by death. As we know, Islam has its fair share of extremists, although it’s certainly not the only religion that does.
Name another religion whose extremists today believe in punishing those who leave it by death.
Yes. A very good point
Thank you Idegen. You have rightly pointed out that leaving Islam is invited by death. But your second sentence is wrong. Its not the islamic terrorists creating new rule, but its already there in the koran which orders to kill a person who leaving from islam. (Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn ‘Abbas, who said, “Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, ‘Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’… Read more »
Really? Every country has a responsibility to absorb as many people in distresses as they can afford? It would be nice if you mentioned that the muslim countries, mainly the oil rich Saudis did not even accept even one refugee! Also, your argument that economic migrants are somehow the same as refugees fleeing war is somehow misguided. By this reasoning, the US should grant refugee status to all of the illegal Mexicans living in the US. They are just there for more money. We can argue that their lives are even in danger due to the ongoing slayings of Mexicans… Read more »
Right on Foxy! You have obviously read/experienced more about this problem than the beloved author of this article. It’s really sickening that the only thing Western media can do is heap compassion on the plight of the refugees. No mention about these so called refugees just thinking they can march thru national borders unchecked. When is the last thine you saw refugees fighting with the borders guards where they want to enter? They are already showing that they have no respect for the rule of law. 90% of these muslim refugees are able bodied men. Does the media mention that?… Read more »