BLOG 280 November 23, 2015
The terrorist killings and attacks in Paris and Belgium have raised new fears and questions about refugees. This flood of humanity pouring out of Syria and the Middle East represent the largest migration in the recorded history of the world. But why aren’t they going South instead of North? Aren’t Saudi Arabia and Kuwait closer? Why not them?
Actually, Lebanon has received the largest number of Syrian refugees on a per capita basis. The Saudi’s claimed to have taken in 2.5 million but the actual number is more somewhere between 100,000 to 250,000 at best. This doesn’t begin to touch the 60 million currently on foot. Not since the surge of displaced persons, including Jews and other refugees after World War II, has the world witnessed such an upheaval. They are coming not only from Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, but also North African countries. Currently, the United States is caught in a political debate about the possibilities of receiving Syrian immigrants that might have a few terrorists in the mix.
And it all began with the Syrian Civil War nearly five years ago!
So, why don’t they all march South?
One reason is geography. It is easier to take your chances in surviving ocean crossings than a trip across the scorching desert. A second look at a map reveals endless stretches of thirsty sands. I once crossed the Sinai desert in the winter and felt humidity that was like a minus 20% below the scale. With all the amenities, I carried, the journey still imparted genuine concern.
Another reason is the strict regulatory rules imposed on any influx of foreign labor. Because these countries did not sign the 1951 Geneva Convention regulations on refugees, they do not have to confer basic rights on refugees.
Countries like the Saudis continue to be concerned that a large migration could destabilize their kingdoms. Really? That isn’t a genuine concern in Europe today? Note how Hungary dogmatically closed their borders.
Even Arab journalists have described life in Europe as holding out better possibilities for equality and justice under the law. Women are treated equally and such is not the case to the South.
At the same time, many in France, Germany, and countries like Austria and the Czech Republic worry about where this will end. For example, Passau, Germany has 50,000 inhabitants with 48 churches and four pubs. Today and everyday 35,000 immigrants pass through the town. This influx has caused the local officials to end up in an outspoken conflict with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Polls indicate Germans are equally divided on accepting or rejecting asylum.
While the knee-jerk reaction of politicians running for the White House as well as a majority of governors screaming to stop the overflow into their areas, the dam is still broken and the flood has already spilled over. Two basic questions confront the entire world: What can be done practically – and – what is our moral response.