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Refugee crisis

The refugee crisis in Europe has captured the world’s attention. For the uninitiated, the European Union has been facing its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. <g data-gr-id="84">Unfortunately</g> it took a heartbreaking image to bring home the tragedy of the refugee crisis. The image, which captured a Syrian toddler, dead on a Turkish beach, after the boat in which his family was attempting to flee to Europe capsized at sea, went viral on the internet.  Today, more than 19 million people have been forced to flee their home countries because of war, persecution, and oppression. 

According to certain estimates, approximately 42,500 join those fleeing their home countries every day. It is, however, safe to assume that the refugee crisis in Europe has finally brought home the devastating nature of conflicts, especially in West Asia. Many, though far from all, of them head for Europe. Although there is a growing perception among Western experts that institutions in Europe are ill-equipped to deal with the mass influx of refugees, certain figures have brought home a sense of perspective.  According to leading humanitarian organizations, 86 percent of refugees are lodged in developing countries, up from 70 percent only ten years ago.  Let us take the case of Syrian migrants. The biggest driver of the crisis is Syria. Four million people, nearly a fifth of Syria’s population, have fled the country since the war began in 2011. 

However, approximately, 350,000 Syrians have currently applied for asylum in Europe, which works out to 0.069 percent of the EU’s total population. Compare that to Lebanon, which is home to 1,000,000 Syrian refugees. One out of every five <g data-gr-id="83">person</g> in Lebanon is a refugee. The counter argument to that is none of the Gulf countries have taken in any refugees. Lebanon, meanwhile, lies next door to Syria and EU countries are much further away. The United Kingdom, until last month, decided to settle 187 Syrian refugees. Brazil, though, has decided to take in 10 times more refugees under the United Nations scheme.  The contradiction is apparent. The refugee crisis in Europe has also allowed European leaders to make some pretty disgusting analogies.  British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “You have a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean”. Meanwhile, French opposition leader Nicholas Sarkozy said, “Its like if you have a pipe burst in the house you are living in”. Phrases such a “swarms of people” and “a pipe burst” present not only a glaring sense of xenophobia and anti-refugee <g data-gr-id="80">politics,</g> but also an alarming level of hypocrisy. When EU countries were willing to militarily intervene in Libya, refugees mattered. “Do we want a situation where a failed pariah state festers on Europe’s southern border, potentially threatening our security and pushing people across the Mediterranean,” asked David Cameron to the House of Commons, while pushing for military intervention. 

The bottom-line, according to the likes of Cameron seems to be that when it comes to bombing Libya or overthrowing its dictator, Europeans are on the side of refugees and are ready to spend billions. However, if refugees are just trying to flee their dictator or escape the bombs, the door is closed. The Libyan example is pertinent to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, where key EU nations played their part in destabilizing these regions. Lina Khatib, a research associate at the University of London, said, “Had European countries sought serious solutions to political conflicts like the one in <g data-gr-id="78">Syria,</g> and dedicated enough time and resources to humanitarian assistance abroad, Europe would not be in this position today”.
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