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About the Refugees

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"In the end only kindness matters." It's not merely a phrase or tag line for my blog. I care about humanity, and hope to leave a positive legacy and impact on the world during my lifetime, no matter how small. Almost everywhere I travel, I try to understand the humans I encounter, their place in the world, and how they got there. This was the case during my trip to Israel last year, where so many of my travel companions visited only holy sites. While in East Jerusalem, I left the group to visit a refugee camp. It wasn't filled with Syrians, of course, but Palestinians who basically live in dire circumstances, and garbage filled plots. This experience changed my life, and the emotions that overcame me during the visit will never be accurately conveyed in words. It was there I met the young girl pictured in this photo, and many others like her, who are basically born into chaos and instability. Perhaps I'll tell you their story later this week, but I just want to say a few words about the current refugee crisis.

Last week, I grew tired of watching media coverage of this event. I don't support the decision of the press to publish the photo of that poor drowned child, Aylan, on the Turkish shore. In my view, it's mere exploitation, and shows a lack of respect for the family. The purpose of it I'll never understand, except to note that in today's society provocative images feed mass culture and generate hysteria, for both better and worse. Each night on various American channels, we see dramatic stories about the crisis, pulling on viewers' heart strings by showing weeping mothers with children desperately clinging to their arms. Weary fathers and young men stepping out of boats and flimsy rafts, their feet now on safer shores after harrowing sea journeys. Angry old women screaming about abuse by Hungarian and other European border officials. Many of the refugees seemingly unwilling to settle for anything other than Germany or Britain - two of the most prosperous countries in the EU. This is the most perplexing part of the current situation for me. Having personally worked with refugees and asylum seekers in my legal career, I can say that most who are desperate to leave behind the horrors of their homeland will seek refuge in the first country in which they cross. They don't make demands, or pick and choose the country into which they will assimilate. Their new home is almost always the first foreign soil on which they step foot - either by land, sea, train or other transport. The goal - to make it to ANY country that is safer and better than the one from which they fled. The current crisis is unique to some extent, as Hungary and other countries have made it clear the refugees aren't wanted and there's no ability to accommodate them.

What's the answer? No one can know, not even the leaders of nations who are partly to blame for the crisis, including the EU and America. Russia also, as Putin has openly admitted supporting the Assad regime. I've read a lot of posts about this situation on LiveJournal, and hundreds of comments. Xenophobia runs rampant, complete intolerance and even a gleeful attitude by some that Europe and America is getting what they deserve. Yet almost none of the commentors offer any type of solution. The crisis is here, staring Europe and the West in the face, and inaction isn't a viable option at this point. The influx of humanity is too large.

I've said over and over again that I'm very sympathetic to immigrants, and civil societies should make efforts to accommodate refugees, but there are limits. And this is the dilemma. The intricate balance between true humanitarian relief, and allowing millions of free loaders into a system that will eventually feed them money, medicine and other social benefits. Or, even worse, allowing a select few to seek refuge, only to have them turn in the future and try to annihilate the citizens of the very country which took them in. We've seen it before right here on U.S. soil, with the Chechen bombers.

I've noticed that many people in comments to other posts focus on the fact that the majority of those crossing are young men. Where are all the women and children, they say? To me, this isn't so unusual. Young men come, they have the ability, strength and capacity to work and earn in a new country. Poor families don't have the financial resources to pay smugglers to escort entire families. Once the men are settled, and especially if they are able to obtain some type of asylum protection, there is a solid basis to bring the rest of the family over legally under most Western systems.

Then, I see photos like this in the press. Young men taking selfies after arrival on the Greek shoreline. I'm sorry, but true refugees are typically terrified and would never contemplate such action. Or, has social media and technology made the world so narcissistic that even those fleeing war and tragedy need to post selfies on Facebook? It's completely unfathomable to me. I'm a tolerant person, but such images cause a lot of doubt in my mind about the plight of some of the people demanding entry into Europe. This group of men - they are clearly economic migrants. Not refugees. There's a huge difference. Both under the law, and from a humanitarian perspective.

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What do you think?  How should Europe handle the crisis? What will America do? Open the flood gates and allow asylum petitions for the Syrians? I would offer my opinion, but honestly I have no idea how to handle this political and humanitarian crisis. Offer your opinions, but please be respectful in the comments.


Comments

wojzeh
Sep. 8th, 2015 02:57 am (UTC)
Recently I shared my vision on the situation in my livejournal (in Russian.)

I wonder if you know how many people are displaced in Syria, how many of them quit the country, and how many of them applied for asylum in EU? Please answer first without checking the data on the official sources. I was surprised by the real data.
peacetraveler22
Sep. 8th, 2015 03:11 am (UTC)
Yes, a lot. About the numbers I know, because immigration, refugees and asylum seekers are of special interest to me as a lawyer. These are the people to which I give my charitable time and energy. But as I state in the post, real refugees aren't pausing to take selfies nor are they so demanding or picky about the country into which they assimilate. That's why I question the authenticity and motivation of some of these people.
3as7
Sep. 8th, 2015 03:29 am (UTC)
Well, if you have a choice of living in a country, where you would not need to work to enjoy the modern life, or where you would have to work hard, many people would chose the first option.
I had a roommate (originally from Poland) - she hated USA because, as she said, when they lived in Germany, and were receiving unemployment benefits, these benefits were sufficient to go to theaters, study, and live a happy life. When they came to America, they had to work hard to live a similar lifestyle.
peacetraveler22
Sep. 8th, 2015 03:43 am (UTC)
I pick the second option. I've had a job since I was 16 years old, and have always supported myself as a single adult. I'd feel worthless if I just lived off the system, without contributing anything. This is a completely foreign mentality to me, the expectation of just sitting on your ass and expecting government handouts.
3as7
Sep. 8th, 2015 03:44 am (UTC)
Exactly. That's my choice as well - work hard, and be self-sufficient.
peacetraveler22
Sep. 8th, 2015 03:05 pm (UTC)
Then you are of typical Western mentality. :)
wojzeh
Sep. 8th, 2015 03:32 am (UTC)
I have no moral right to discuss their moral and reasons - I do not know.

What concerns me is the image created by the press and TV.
But, again, could you be more precise than 'a lot'?
peacetraveler22
Sep. 8th, 2015 03:36 am (UTC)
About the exact number, I don't know except that it's several million. I'd have to go to online sources to get precise numbers. Many have made their way to Canada. Have you ever met a Syrian there? What do you not like about the press coverage?
wojzeh
Sep. 8th, 2015 02:06 pm (UTC)
there are a lot of emotional reportages but not particular data on refugee flux, especially in such countries like Lebanon or Jordan.

Quebec only committed to welcome 3000 refugees, three times more than planned before.

I worked with a Syrian at my previous workplace. I cannot say anything specific. I am in touch with a few Russian refugees.

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