The People of Responsibility

Opinions  /  by Grace Blaxill '18  /  April 08, 2016

The reluctance of the European Union and the majority of the world to accept Syrian refugees into their countries has forced Turkey, the nation harboring the most refugees, to make inhumane and illegal choices in dealing with them. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 4,812,851 Syrians are seeking asylum in other countries, with 95 percent of them taking refuge in countries surrounding Syria. This statistic shows that the European Union has only five percent of all Syrian refugees on its shores, while Turkey in particular holds more than half of all refugees currently displaced from Syria.

With this in mind, Turkey has recently faced allegations from Amnesty International of forcibly returning refugees to Syria. Even though the burden of 2.7 million refugees is heavy on the nation’s shoulders, Turkey, for both moral and legal reasons, should not be sending Syrians back to their home country; however, the responsibility lies with the rest of the world to ease this burden. While Turkey may have been physically sending refugees back, the European Union, through its appalling lack of action and aid, has been passively making the same call.

Ever since the beginning of the Syrian refugee crisis, many European nations have vehemently refused to accept any of the refugees. Europe is a collection of some of the richest and most stable nations in the world, and not only is accepting the majority of the refugees within their ability, it also can be beneficial to them. The International Monetary Fund recently found that the introduction of refugees could increase the E.U.’s GDP by 0.25 percent as a whole. Furthermore, those reluctant to allow refugees into the E.U. argued that accepting refugees will allow terrorists’ entry into Europe, but this claim too is unfounded. The Migration Policy Institute found that “since September 11, 2001, the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees [...] three have been arrested for activities related to terrorism.”

Though much more can be done to help the refugees, the best way to end the crisis is to resolve the conflict within Syria so that these people would not need to flee their homes in the first place. However, by refusing to accept refugees into their countries, the E.U. leaves behind a generation of resentful, homeless, and disenfranchised young people that will be all the more susceptible to turn to terrorism and violence as the only means out of their situation. Thus, the E.U.’s adamant rejection of refugees contradicts not only the Syrians’ interests, but also its own.

Due to the fact that so few European countries will accept refugees, the majority of Syrians who arrive in Europe cannot enter any country other than the closest country to them—Greece. Of all the European nations, Greece, undergoing one of the largest debt crises of its time, is the least equipped to handle the surge of refugees it has received, and because of these European states’ unfounded fear of refugees the country has nowhere to put them and no way to care for them. Instead of accepting some of Greece’s refugees to lessen the strain on the country, the E.U. has opted to send a portion of these refugees on the dangerous journey back to Turkey. From these actions, one can conclude only that the official position the European Union has taken on this crisis is to relegate the responsibility of helping these people to poorer, less stable, and far less able nations like Turkey and Greece.

The reservations about refugees of the European Union, as well as the rest of the world, are clearly misguided and, quite frankly, dangerous. By continuing on our current course of action—nothing—the situation will only get worse. More than 2,600 people died trying to reach Europe just last year. How many more people need to die before we decide to take action?