West must admit its mistakes and act swiftly to curtail European refugee crisis


By Hank Stillwell

In the year 2015, scientists have made staggering discoveries about distant galaxies, their contents, and Planets that could potentially harbor life right now.  Doctors are using viruses not to treat, but to cure cancer.  Computers are near universal, and we are not far from being able to provide every human being access to the internet at some level.  The human species is at its most evolved point in history, and human brains have learned keys to some of the natural world’s most puzzling secrets.  However it is clear we still have yet to learn one quintessential trait: basic humanity.

LibyaAs I write today, authorities have confirmed over 100 have died, and many more are feared dead in a tragic sinking of a refugee smuggling boat off the coast of Libya.  Death tolls have been staggering in the Mediterranean, having already broken the record set in 2014.  And for those who do complete the journey, most are met with horrifying conditions.  Close quartered housing, lack of access to medical resources, and often, little to no food is what refugees who do manage to complete the journey suffer through.

Where do refugees come from?

In what human rights groups have called the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, refugees hail from war torn nations like Syria, Afghanistan, and Sudan.  Many in Libya, a war torn nation in its own right, have made use of such desperation and attempted to traffic refugees in dangerous missions across the Mediterranean.  Refugees have also been reported fleeing from Iraq, and other African nations.  Most have attempted to sail to Italy or Greece via Libya, however many have made land routes through Turkey, in to Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Where are refugees going?

Refugee Rights Protest at Broadmeadows, MelbourneRefugees, having landed usually in either Italy or Greece, are then housed in horrible conditions, while families devise plans to escape their landing spots and eventually make it to countries like Germany, Sweden, or the United Kingdom as these countries have the resources to provide some assistance to refugees.  Refugees attempting to make it to Europe via land usually make it to Bulgaria or Macedonia and are housed in decrepit conditions until they can devise a plan to flee to a wealthier nation.   However, as of this year, even some of the worlds wealthiest nations, like Germany, have refused to take in refugees and instead, deported them.

How has the West been involved in creating this crisis?

At a time where war affects so many different nations for so many differing reasons, whether it is sectarian, nationalistic, religious, or any other reason, the West cannot be held accountable for every violent act taking place in Africa and the Middle East today.  However, there is no doubt that the West played a major role in creating some of the worst conflicts happening today.  Civil wars in Iraq and Syria have long roots in the United States and its allies’ invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The conflict in Yemen involves US and Israeli ties to Saudi Arabia.  And civil war in Libya has direct links to US airstrikes that took down Muammar Gaddafi.  The West has not directly or purposefully created these conflicts, however the West has not done all it could to prevent such situations.   Furthermore, many human rights groups have often stated that the United Nations and wealthy nations have not done enough to provide aid and assistance for refugees displaced by these conflicts, as well as civilians who have not managed to flee such conflicts.

What will happen now?

 A few facts must be observed from the outset.  First, the civil wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and many across Africa do not appear to be ending any time soon.  The situation is that no army or fighting force is great enough to crush it’s opponent once and for all.  As such, these wars will likely go on and on for months, if not years.  Secondly, the amount of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean does not appear to be decreasing any time soon.  As these wars rage on, likely many more refugees will be faced with the decision: flee to Europe or die.  So it is likely to assume more and more will attempt these perilous journey.

Some nations in Europe have reacted by doubling down their efforts to keep immigrants out.  Increased funding for border patrol officers, fences and walls, and politicians who demonize immigrants have began to rise to prominence in countries like Bulgaria and Greece.

Syria-civil warA tipping point was reached a few days ago in Macedonia.  Thousands of refugees had lined up at Macedonia’s border with Greece.  The state of Macedonia reacted by sending their military to the border to keep immigrants out.  Troops fired stun grenades and rubber bullets in attempt to keep the refugees out until on Saturday August 22, troops lowered their weapons and allowed the refugees to pass.  There is no question that this gesture was a humanitarian victory and worthy of much praise.  Furthermore, Italy has begun to launch rescue operations in the Mediterranean for in-danger vessels, a move that has and will continue to save hundreds of lives.  However many questions remain.  If more and more refugees are expected, how will Europe react?  With increased security, or increased compassion.  Many countries in Southern Europe are dealing with debt crisis, so these countries are not likely to begin accepting refugees.  However wealthy EU nations could potentially do better with setting up displacement camps and providing aid and assistance to refugees.  And if this is to be the case, the United States must step up its involvement, admit mistakes, and take part in helping to alleviate the crisis.