I despise the overly simplified way in which the refugee situation in Europe is routinely characterized.  I repeatedly see headlines referring to Europe’s refugee crisis.  I hate this.

Let’s be clear, shall we?  This is not Europe’s crisis, per se.  This crisis has causes and reasons, and Europe is simply being asked to deal with the detritus.  Some causes and reasons are easy to pinpoint and define.  Others are more evasive and perhaps even tactically so.   Everyone wants to wring their hands over the awful refugee situation.  That’s appropriate – it is awful.  But it has causes.

There is a civil war still going on in Syria.  A recent article I saw (and now can’t find!) claimed that over 50% of the refugees are Syrian.  The others are coming from Afghanistan and North Africa, primarily.  All places in political turmoil.  I’d like to suggest that if you want to end the refugee crisis, the solution is to pressure the end of the civil war in Syria and a return to a situation where people can live without fear of violent death at the hands of rebels or government forces.  To pressure a return (or the inauguration) of a situation where basic human rights are protected so that people can return to their homes (where I presume most of them would really prefer to be living), rather than assuming they have to be permanently or indefinitely resettled in Europe.

But we won’t do that.  We won’t pressure for an end to the civil war in Syria.  We won’t because we’re all deathly afraid of further upsets to the balance of power in the region, which is really a misleading euphemism.  We were happy to cheer on the revolts in Egypt and Libya several years ago.  Oddly enough, we get very little of our oil from either of these two countries.  We get none of our oil from Syria, so we ought to be pushing for a solution to the civil war.  But we’re terrified of getting the other Middle Eastern nations in an uproar.

Or more specifically, from upsetting OPEC.  Rather than worry the other OPEC nations that the West might come in and continue to swing a wrecking ball around, we seem content to allow Syria to devastate itself.  No reason to stop it, and a lot of reasons to not get involved.

Except that the financial and political changes spurred on by hundreds of thousands of refugees being relocated not just in Europe but throughout the world ought to give Western leaders pause for thought.  Is the greater risk upsetting OPEC or welcoming – indeterminately or permanently – great swells of refugees to settle?  What are the repercussions to a large influx of refugees?

The US currently faces a similar situation with our southern border.  We seem perpetually unable to prevent people from entering our country illegally, and then bemoan the situation until amnesty of one sort or another is granted.  We’re extending benefits – drivers’ licenses, Obamacare (at least here in California), government-funded college scholarships as well as a plethora of social services through primary and secondary schools – to people that our leaders claim we can’t keep from entering our country.  Who pays for this situation?  I do.  You do.  Our taxes subsidize these programs.  So the situation here is probably not all that different from Europe, other than that ours has been going on for a whole lot longer.

Why so long?  Because our efforts in Latin American have been messy and ineffective at best.  Unstable governments, the rule of drug cartels (the equivalent, for all intents and purposes, of the tribal clans that complicate things in Afghanistan and elsewhere), gangs, economic deprivation – all of these things force people to flee to the one place that seems able to extend hope, even if they have to get it illegally.  We aren’t willing to address the problems that create this influx of immigrants.  It’s their problem, and frankly, those nations don’t have too much that we really want, so why go to the bother of it all, assuming that there could be an actual solution?

Let’s not ignore how the countries closest to Syria are reacting.  Let’s not forget that despite cultural and religious similarities, these people are being rejected by countries far closer and more similar to where they come from.  They donate money, but so far countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have accepted no refugees from Syria.  They’ve donated money, but isn’t it odd that they aren’t willing to have these people in their borders – or to apparently do very much to help pressure the end of civil war in Syria?  They must have some very good reasons for this.

So let’s not bemoan the European refugee crisis as though it’s an asteroid that blindsided us from nowhere. Our leaders know the causes, and choose not to address them.  Perhaps there are good political and diplomatic reasons for not addressing them, but in the end, it’s the average citizen that has to deal with the effects of their inertia.

Maybe we should start pushing our leaders with some better suggestions about how we should deal with the effects.


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