EU searching for answers as crisis escalates

Hungary MigrantsThe European Union faces the increasingly difficult task of accepting more than 11 million Syrian people into their member countries during what Mercy Corps calls “the worst humanitarian disaster of our time.”

The Syrian refugee crisis has not come without warning. The Syrian Civil War has been brewing for years. As a result of the Arab Spring, anti-government demonstrations have been taking place in Syria since 2011. In July, army defectors began mobilization by creating the Free Syrian Army, and civilian support to all of the different ethnic and religious groups that make up Syria have complicated the issues between Syrian citizens and President Bashar Al-Assad’s tyrannous regime.

The bloody civil war has proven to be a tumultuous time for Syrians. Bombings and senseless civilian killings have been estimated by the United Nations to have killed around 220,000 Syrian people, and they have displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population. In an effort to survive, many Syrian people have begun fleeing the country into nations like Lebanon, Jordan, and various places in Northern Africa. However, this migration has prov-en to be too close to home for many citizens.

A large number of migrants have   made the dangerous trek over both sea and harsh terrain to wealthier, safer European countries. In preparation for this crisis, the EU pledged to retain $1.2 billion to assist these refugees, which was an unsatisfactory amount compared to the estimated $5.5 billion the UN needed. As a result, refugees are making dangerous journeys through Turkey and across the Mediterranean into Greece, Eastern Europe, and even all the way into Germany and Italy.

Since the last Yellow Jacket report in early September, quotas have increased, and more people have been stranded between borders in places like Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia. The main issue at hand is the fact that the EU is not unified in its tackling of this issue. The wealthier, Western countries are deferring the responsibility to those geographically closer in the East. Those Eastern countries, such as Austria, Bosnia, Macedonia, and especially Greece, either cannot financially handle the burden of housing these refugees, or their anti-immigration culture has turned the problem back to the Western countries. Problematically, only one of these Western countries has actually stepped up to the plate.

Germany’s Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, a well-known and well-respected leader in both the EU and the world has been quoted as responding “of course we can” when questioned if Germany can house several thousand refugees. Ironically, the country that was well known for internment camps and the Nazi regime during the 20th century has been the prime example of superb humanitarianism in the 21st century. Merkel’s feelings have shifted, however, with little to no support from wealthier countries like Britain, and other major European powerhouses.

A rule called “The Dublin Registration” has also funneled most refugees into the same few countries. The rule states that a refugee must stay in the first country they apply for asylum in so that they will be prevented from meandering around Europe filling out application after application in hopes that one will get accepted. The EU has been working to find a compromise that suits all countries involved, but to no avail just yet.

The United States has been prompted to get involved as well after largely ignoring the crisis in its beginning stages. Up until a few weeks ago, the US had only taken about 1,500 refugees and the resettlement program only allowed for around 70,000 refugees globally per year. However, with the crisis growing, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been cited as saying that the US will accept up to 100,000 refugees by 2017, and will contribute $419 million to aid the crisis.

Nonetheless, the root of this refugee problem has nothing to do with facts, figures, or money. It has more to do with collective humanitarian efforts, and the unwillingness of wealthy Western countries to accept change. The anti-immigration populism that has permeated throughout Western culture has become a detriment to those in need of asylum from inevitable deaths in their home countries of Syria and nearby Afghanistan. The fear of change and the insistence upon cultural assimilation has paralyzed Western countries from doing what they know is right.

Germany can only do so much and Prime Minister Merkel is feeling the pressure of those within her party as the economic brunt they are bearing is getting to be too much. EU officials are meeting in Brussels this week with the hopes of reaching a deal that will evenly distribute refugees throughout Europe. This deal is close to being done, but only after providing refugee numbers to four countries that were formerly of the Soviet Bloc who are only taking refugees because of an EU law. Out of the four dissenting countries, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary, it is likely only the first three will adhere to the EU’s requests.

Anti-Muslim and anti-immigration ideals are the main contributing factors to this crisis. Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has been quoted as saying very bluntly that Muslims are not welcomed in his conservative Christian country and he has claimed that the crisis is “Germany’s problem, not Europe’s.”

Hungary has had the most violent back-lash against the refugees. The government has shut down trains, built fences, and made refugee camp conditions nearly unbearable. There is a crippling fear that every Muslim person is affiliated with the Islamic State and this has been detrimental to the safety and hopes of innocent Muslim people in search of better lives or, quite simply, life at all. This problem can be easily solved with a change in mindset. Just like the US would not expect Texas or Arizona to house all Mexican immigrants by themselves, the EU should treat this crisis collectively and stop pointing fingers. The West must contribute their wealth and resources for the sake of millions of lives, as well as for the hope and promise of younger generations of endangered Syrians.

-Sean Ryan ’18, Junior Politics/Opinions Editor

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