This morning alone I have participated in 4 facebook conversations about the refugee crisis in Europe. They are really important conversations, but I have to get to work, so I am going to post a few thoughts here so I can feel like I have said what I need to say and try and get some work done.
Note: when I use ‘we’ and ‘us’ I mean those of us privileged to leave in Europe and North America and the governments we have elected.
1. I do not doubt there are fraudulent refugee claimants in Europe and all over the world. When we keep our borders closed for years until a flood comes and we open them all at once in a way that overwhelms our systems, we have left the door wide open (pun intended) for fraud. That’s our doing.
2. I will not judge all refugees on the actions of a few. Just because one group of refugees cramming themselves into leaky tents in the pouring rain stand in the mud behind barbed wire and send fully armed police away with boxes printed with a red cross on them-a sign to many of western oppression-does not mean we stop providing for or caring about all refugees.
Also, if I had just left a civil war by boat to make it to land and abandoned my family and friends and was then faced with barbed wire behind which people live in lavish safety and privilege, I may find it hard to express appropriate gratitude. I won’t judge all refugees because some of them, even many of them, may be “rude”.
3. Like most crisis moments, this should be opening our eyes to the fact that Syrians are not the only refugees in the world. The fact that other refugees are taking advantage of this crisis is a message to all of us that we have rejected refugees for way way too long.
4. We all have to open our borders and we have to help relieve the pressure on Syria’s border countries or we will have more conflict and refugees to deal with. Canada and many countries refused boatloads of Jews before WWII. We have capacity. Our security is enough. I was a child when we took in 70,000 Vietnamese refugees in less than 5 years. We did it. No one blew up our country. We have the security in place. We can do so much more.
If you want to hear more from me on this, here is a post I wrote two years about about the civil war in Syria when Canada was beginning our military intervention. As world powers we can stop jumping from crisis to crisis. If we voters stopped focussing on what we can get this election cycle and start demanding a stronger arc of justice, we might be just create the political will we need to end these crises.