The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning

Refugees (un)welcome here

In response to an article in Take Part:

Here’s how I see it. The problem of refugees from Syria and surrounding areas arriving in large numbers on the shores of Europe exists, and all the NIMBYism in the world won’t make it go away. We have to understand the causes and find the best way to resolve the problem.

If the USA and parts of Europe hadn’t interfered in the Middle East and removed despotic but stable dictatorships, creating a void that could be filled by even more despotic but unstable terrorist groups, then the current problem, particularly with ISIS, would not have arisen in the first place. And all the time we continue to interfere the problems will continue. There are plenty of analyses that point to the rise of ISIS being a direct consequence of the actions of the USA and UK in Iraq long before Russia got involved (there are too many to cross reference in this blog but here is just one that appears quite clear to follow). And the flow of weapons and arms from the West to the Middle East is compounding the situation. For those reasons alone we have a responsibility to hold our governments and the arms dealers at least to account. And they have a duty to help resolve the problems they have caused, which will of course impact on us, the general population in the West.

In the meantime, whether we like it or not, there is a humanitarian crisis going on, on our doorstep. We can’t just bury our heads in the sand and hope it will go away. Not least, because our governments and arms dealers are continuing to exacerbate the situation while operating a smoke and mirrors dialogue trying to tell us otherwise.

The surrounding countries that are willing to take in the refugees (about half of those in the area and most notably NOT Saudi Arabia, one of the few remaining stable but exceptionally despotic countries in the region but whom we choose to call ‘friends’ and to not attack, no doubt for our governments’ own selfish economic reasons) are already saturated, far more than we can imagine if you look at the figures.

Most refugees and asylum seekers actually want to go back to their home countries eventually (and one is quoted here in this article as saying just that), but they can’t yet because they’ve been bombed on both sides into virtual obliteration. And with bombing and destruction still going on there would be no point in trying to rebuild what was once there. There’s little or nothing to go back to in many (not all, I agree) areas. Most want to work, such as the IT expert quoted in the Take Part article (above). Most just want to be with their families. You can see that too in this article and elsewhere. And family is a much wider concept to non-Westernised cultures than we generally understand in our modern world. It’s one we used to experience a couple of centuries ago but our modern individualistic / nuclear family lifestyles eroded it away. Many are actually originally from wealthier, educated, professional backgrounds (they’re the only ones who could afford the traffickers’ fees to get as far as Europe in the first place) with skills to offer and the ability to work and contribute.

Fears that terrorists are using refugees as cover for getting into the West are no doubt valid to some extent, although the evidence suggests that taking this dangerous and laborious route is not actually necessary: they have plenty of means of recruiting local activists through online radicalisation, and others have shown they have more reliable means of travel. One problem that could arise though, is that in reacting in fear and loathing towards the refugees and asylum seekers, they see in us a hatred and fear that makes them vulnerable to the hate preaching of the radicalisers. By our own actions and attitudes we could be turning them against us and into the arms of the terrorists. A second problem we are creating is that in further punishing the refugees and asylum seekers we are compounding all the psychological problems they have experienced through the wars in their homelands. This reduces their abilities to settle anywhere or rebuild their lives, and again makes them vulnerable to fundamentalist recruiters.

We have to step above and beyond our fears, our NIMBYism, and see the bigger picture. Building walls and blowing up bridges won’t stop the refugees coming and it won’t stop the reasons they are coming. We have to be a part of finding solutions that work for both the refugees and for us. To stop the wars and make their homelands safe places they can return to and rebuild. And right now, pitting ourselves against each other – bleeding hearts versus the wall builders – is allowing our governments to get away with continuing doing all the things that helped exacerbate this situation in the first place.

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