Refugee cries fall on deaf American ears

Joe Baini, Staff Writer

As war rages in Syria, there seems to be no solution to the four-year conflict. Bashar Al Assad, Syria’s president, has maintained authority over most of western Syria, while the Islamic State controls most of the east. Kurdish forces and Jabhat-al Nusra fight for control over northern territories.

It has become increasingly difficult for young people to receive an education, and the situation only seems to be getting worse. Depending on where a person is living and who controls that territory, children are forced to join the Israeli army at the age of sixteen, while others are required join the Syrian army at the age of eighteen.

The subhuman living conditions many Syrians endure in their country have motivated many to make the long journey to Europe to gain asylum.

The journey to Europe is dangerous and tiring. Most Syrians take illegal shuttles from Turkey to another European country where they are received and given aid. They then have to make their journey by foot or train to the country they are trying to reach.  

“I think that developed nations should take in more refugees,” Sacha Saberi, a member of Cathedral Catholic High School’s Middle Eastern Club, said. “These people have been through so much, and it’s unfair. I hope the world is more welcoming, because at the end of the day, we’re all immigrants.”

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 500,000 refugees have arrived in Europe since nine months ago. About 175,000 of those refugees are Syrians who escaped violence and war back home. The journey to Europe is so lengthy and demanding that it can take several months to complete. Not only is the journey long, but it is also extremely dangerous to the extent that approximately 3000 people have died attempting the journey. Despite the risk, hundreds of refugees are arriving to Europe daily.

In Europe, many far-right movements have been protesting against the increase of refugees. Arabs in Europe tend to have a bad reputation, especially after the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France.

The influx of refugees arriving to Europe has strained many European Union countries to close their borders. Although the refugees will have an important role in the demographics of Europe, they can also improve the ratio of workers to those who are economically inactive, a ratio that is falling in many countries.

Ironically, some of the Eastern European countries that are rejecting refugees such as Hungary and Poland are most in need of younger people to go into their workforce, since they have particularly mature populations.

The influx of refugees will increase fiscal costs because of the aid and shelter provided to asylum seekers. However, the United Nations Human Rights Watch said that the immigration to Europe can bring rapid economic growth depending on whether the refugees are quickly able to find jobs. The only thing that will prove whether refugee immigration to Europe will have a positive or negative effect is time.

Many Europeans have expressed their fear that terrorists disguised as refugees have been arriving in Europe to carry out terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, the European Union (EU) has no way to tell the difference between a victim of war and a radical Islamist. The EU needs to find a better solution to screen the refugees, because eventually it will be too late to prevent undesirable people from entering their countries.

The idea of creating “safe zones” in Syria has been brought up by the Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam, who says his country can no longer take in refugees. His plan includes creating refugee camps in safe areas of Syria where there is no fighting. This seems like a reasonable solution to the influx of refugees but many wonder, are the refugees escaping war or seeking unemployment benefits in Europe?

Even though many governments are against accepting refugees, the Catholic Church has been a strong advocate of equality for all people and our duty to help one another. After all, numerous successful people left their countries to start a new life and contribute to society in a more developed country. Our ancestors were all immigrants, so why should young and motivated Syrians not be given the same opportunity to start a new life?

Issuing a broad appeal to Europe’s Catholics, Pope Francis called on every parish and sanctuary to take in at least one refugee family. If his wish is fulfilled, Europe could take in tens of thousands of refugees.

“Facing the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees-fleeing death by war and famine, and journeying towards the hope of life- the Gospel calls, asking of us to be close to the smallest and forsaken. Have courage, be patient!” Pope Francis said from New York during a recent visit to the United States.

As Catholics of the world, Jesus would love for us to welcome refugees because they are humans, and therefore deserving of basic human rights. Our religion teaches us to care and love for others, so we should practice what we preach.

While Europe is taking in hundreds of refugees daily, the United States is doing very little to aid the situation. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that the United States will accept 85,000 refugees next year. However, considering that the population of the U.S. is 320 million, 85,000 is a tiny number comparatively.

There are many places in the U.S. refugees can be relocated to, most notably, states with low populations and a dwindling workforce. In Lebanon, Syrians make up one and a half million people, comparing to four million Lebanese. If the United States wants to show that it cares about people facing persecution and who are being denied basic human rights, then it should accept more refugees. Many countries are taking in more and more refugees; as a world power, the U.S. needs to do the same.