In late September, I attended a rally in London to support the refugees who are fleeing to Europe from their impoverished or otherwise war-torn countries. As announced by IOM this morning, over one million refugees have entered Europe so far this year. The response to these refugees will, without a doubt, have an impact on the future of both Europe and the world, as well as symbolizing either a benevolent or regrettable mark in our history.
Unfortunately, the responses are quite mixed: some nations are notorious for accepting many more refugees than the quotas call for, namely Germany who has accepted more than the rest of the EU combined. Others, however, are strongly concerned that the quota system will infringe upon their own rights or that the introduction of migrants to their populations will result in an unwanted cultural diversion: Hungary for example, is an advocate for this belief.
Before I continue, I realize this is a subject of controversy. I understand the apprehension towards opening the borders, but I also sympathize with the passion exhibited by those who are welcoming the refugees whole-heartedly. In no way do I want to discredit any opinion, but I will record what I have experienced while living in both the UK and Sweden alongside the knowledge I collected from participating in a Human Rights Council MUN with illegal migrants as the primary topic. This is what I have gathered:
Birth rates are declining and economies are increasing – two facts that were reassured by Mr. Hans Rosling whose lecture I attended two months ago, and two reasons as to why Europe, and other nations around the world, definitely has the capacity to accept these people.
Although some are welcoming, there are still unfortunate cases of civilian violence and police brutality against the refugees, especially around the borders of Hungary. Some nations claim they cannot support them financially. Other nations claim they cannot take in refugees because of cultural differences. From my perspective, neither of these two arguments have yet to show clear validity.
First off, in the long run, having more people working in a country will boost the economy – and this is not theoretical. Statistics show that despite fear of these immigrants ‘living off the welfare system’, they actually contribute significantly more than what they receive, as was investigated by UCL in 2014 as a study conducted by immigrants living in the UK. Needless to say, I am still confused as to why the UK will only be accepting 20,000 refugees by 2020, which is only a small fraction of the one million in the EU. Hence, the idea that these refugees will crash the economy is easily debunked.
This then leads me to believe that the only real apprehension for accepting refugees is the fear of cultural diversity, which saddens me greatly. I understand the value of creating an identity within a nation – it lets citizens bond, gives reasons to celebrate, and can generally unify a people. However, doesn’t each person have the right to identify with their own background and religion? If we continue to separate people based on belief systems, how can we expect to achieve tolerance? How can we aim for peace if ‘peace’ itself is defined by one people? By one mindset?
Each person absolutely has the right to a nationality, an identity, as defined by the Human Rights Declaration. The separation of these people based on religion, or even on a cultural identity, will only lead to segregation, and I don’t think it is necessary to go into detail as to why that wouldn’t be a desired outcome. And finally, “peace” must be defined and imagined by everyone – yes, idealistic – but if we only give value to the beliefs we agree with, then the future will only be perceived as “peaceful” by a slim amount of the population.
Following the priorly mentioned path leads to conclusions like those made by Slovakia’s Mr. Netik in a statement to BBC: “We could take 800 Muslims but we don’t have any mosques in Slovakia so how can Muslims be integrated if they are not going to like it here?” While his attempt at sympathy is admirable, it is also completely ignorant to the idea that mosques can be built, efforts of integration can be made. These refugees are fleeing for a more important reason, not because they think they will “like it” better in Slovakia.
On another equally important note, the wall built by Hungary is incredibly worrying. They closed their borders for similar reasons as Slovakia, but honestly where do they expect these people to go? Especially considering Hungary is more of a country of transit as refugees try to reach Germany. And not to mention that at the wall itself is chaos – refugees plea for wall to be opened and Hungarian police release tear gas. This is not right.
Obviously it is difficult to produce solutions to crises like this, but the unwelcoming response to these refugees on grounds of cultural differences should not be as big of a factor as it is. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what religion these people follow, because what is actually important is that these people need help. They need us to accept them and to help make an impact on the world that is greater than the matter of geographical origin. If we are to have any chance of making a history we are proud of, we have to start now.
Check out this video that explains the Refugee Crisis and some reasons why people are fleeing from Syria.