The world should embrace refugees, not vilify them

Kosovo Refugees

UNPhoto / Flickr

Katerina Mansour
       Staff Writer

The subject of refugees remains in the forefront of today’s headlines. Put simply, it is a hot topic of conversation and a highly debated issue in politics that has caused much controversy worldwide.

Many U.S. and European conservatives have taken platforms that oppose any acceptance of  refugees. And, in light of the recent sexual assaults involving refugees that have occurred in various parts of Europe, popular opinion has turned against German Chancellor Angela Merkel due to her decisions on the subject.

My concern with these recent events is not only the harm that has been done to innocent civilians, but also the tremendously negative impact the actions of a few people will now have on millions of refugees. Just as the recent attacks in Paris and California have led to the stigmatization of Muslims throughout the world, let us not allow the actions of a few asylum seekers to prohibit worthy individuals of a safe haven.

The attacks on Cologne were almost all North African individuals not Syrian or Afghan refugees, as many have come to assume.

Europe has been dealing with an increased number of immigrants both legal and illegal for the past decade if not longer. And now the refugee struggle is coming close to shattering an already fragile state of affairs.

The fact is that global cooperation on this issue is seriously lacking at a time when it is crucial to ending this crisis. Countries such as France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark are arguably taking on the issue themselves by accepting the most refugees within Europe, while other E.U. countries are not accepting nearly enough refugees or providing enough aid to the effort, monetarily or otherwise.

While everyone is prepared to discuss how massive the refugee “problem” is, the majority of these countries have put in close to no resources or efforts toward aiding refugees in the first place. They’re recognizing that these episodes of sexual assault raise numerous problems tied to refugee intakes in Europe and are claiming that it has been a mistake to accept so many refugees in these countries, yet they offered no alternative solutions when these decisions were being made.

A huge lack of solidarity and willingness to cooperate is plaguing the current crisis. Yet, this is not something the world can ignore. The U.S. can’t ignore it just because it’s “further away.” Other European countries such as those in the East can’t ignore this just because Western European countries have enlisted themselves to help.

If the number of refugees seeking asylum could be spread out more evenly across the board, it would be easier for countries to control the influx, vet incoming refugees and provide them with educational resources in order to help them better adapt to the different cultures in which they’ve been immersed.

Norway recently announced that it is offering refugees lessons on the sexual norms of Western Europe, more specifically within Norwegian culture. Countries such as Belgium and Denmark have followed suit. This is a step in the right direction.

While there is no excuse for sexual assault and violence against others, you simply cannot expect a group of people from an entirely different culture to adapt to a new country’s social norms without any guidance. You also cannot expect refugees to feel welcome when nothing but antagonism is being thrown their way.

These situations lead to enormous tensions, frustrations and resentment which can easily transform into physical violence. France has seen this happen repeatedly with their North African immigrants. They treat them poorly and resent their presence in France, and thus these groups lash out.

In many ways Germany is going through what other European countries, such as France, have become very familiar with over the past years: the issue of paper-less immigrants and having the proper policies and laws in place to handle refugee and immigrant dilemmas appropriately.

An example of this type of tool is a legal ability to deport based on a wider range of crimes than what German law currently allows.

This is a crucial period of adjustment and a time where more resources to help refugees better adapt are required.

Also, more countries should share in the responsibility of placing refugees throughout the world. This would ease the burden of vetting, tracking, housing and educating a large number of people that currently falls on a handful of countries.

Situations like this have occurred numerous times throughout history. It isn’t something that we cannot manage. We have before and we will again, as long as we support each other during the process.

The U.S. cannot just stand back and watch this happen. We have far too many resources readily available to simply watch the rest of the world try to handle the crisis.

Arab gulf countries could make a critical difference by offering aid and taking in refugees. This is not a time to be selfish. Furthermore, the world needs to stop seeing the aid of refugees as equal to letting ISIS into their nations.

Gross generalizations, paranoia, racism and hatred are not how the world will get through this.



Categories: Columns, Opinions, Uncategorized

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