The Refugee Crisis: A Tragedy for All of Humanity

Rafael JM HerreroRafael JM Herrero is a graduate student in the MFA writing program.

Refugees fleeing the Middle East are not just a European problem. It is a global problem. And it needs a global solution. The scale of the problem is harrowing. 360,000 refugees have landed on European shores this year, with Greece receiving 30,000 asylum seekers in July alone. The island of Lesbos is currently receiving 3,000 individuals per day. Germany is expected to receive 800,000 asylum claims by the end of this year. Half of these refugees are escaping Syria.

Four million Syrians have left their homeland. That is, more than one out of five Syrians has fled the horrors of the war and the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad or ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The Middle East is in a state of collapse. The regime of Bashar al-Assad is that of a ruthless dictator, but the terrorist state that ISIS has carved out for itself in the area imposes a barbaric interpretation of Islam. Their tactics include ideological extortion, floggings, rapes, stonings, cruel assassinations and massacres. In February of this year, in “The Evolution of Isis,” The New York Times states that ISIS arose from the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq.These people flooding into Europe are escaping terror. Unless we decide to look the other way, we are witnessing a tragedy for all of humanity.

The United Nations estimates that 1,200,000 Syrians are in Lebanon alone, 2,140,000 in Turkey, and 1,400,000 in Jordan. Many of the other migrants are from Iraq and Afghanistan. Wishing for a better future, many unauthorized immigrants have been escaping poverty, flooding into southern Europe, and then migrating towards the wealthier north. This situation is certainly nothing new and has been growing in intensity for many years. The members of the European Union have not known (or wanted) to deal with the issue in a concerted, responsible fashion. But the problem at hand is of a different nature. Europe is currently afflicted by waves of people escaping the horrors of torture and physical extermination.

This comes at a very bad timing for Europe, where the economy is (at best) sluggish, the rise of populism and extremists like the Front National in France, Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece robust, and the trust in the European Union is shaky.The European Union, with a population of 500 million, seems to have made the moves ― albeit reluctantly ― to accept large amounts of refugees. According to a September issue of the Economist, the European Union allocates about $7,000 per refugee accepted. The United States: nill. The United States needs to step up as well.

This very week, the European Commission has presented a plan to accept 120,000

refugees and decided to distribute quotas between members (the United Kingdom, Ireland

and Denmark have opted out of this system). Testifying to the proportions of the catastrophe,

Angela Merkel has welcomed much more than the quota of 40,000 refugees allocated to Germany. The United States has an obligation to accept significant numbers of refugees. The 1,400 Syrians the United States has accepted over the four years of the Syrian civil war seem ridiculous for a western nation with a population of almost 320,000,000, a GDP of $ 56,451 and an unemployment rate below 6%. As this article goes to print, the US has pledged to receive 10,000 refugees in the following fiscal year. Is this enough?

Our nation must rise to the calling, not only for humanitarian reasons or that we have the capacity to do so, but because we must continue our tradition of welcoming those who are escaping physical annihilation. We as a nation should be responsible for our actions.The gnarled fingers of war reach out far in space and time. Painful as it may be, we must admit that this time around the tragedy at hand is one of the consequences of our invasion of Iraq.


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