Friday, 4 September 2015

The Syrian Refugee Crisis: The Point We're Missing

The refugee crisis has gripped the nation's attention off the back of a photo that I'm not comfortable posting. The image of a three year old child, washed up on the shore, stripped of life and dignity, has focused our attention on this human tragedy. That statement alone should make us ashamed because this travesty has been going on for some time now. It hasn't been hidden from us. Boats have been capsizing in the Mediterranean Sea, overwhelmed by the numbers trying to flee war torn Syria. Yet it took such a horrific image to make us sit up and take notice. With that said, there are some things in this crisis that don't quite add up for me. I share these thoughts not to undermine the severity of the situation. This is a chastisement of the media, who have sought after the sensationalism before the story; headlines over facts, if you will. Because it is they, the fourth estate, who have an obligation to inform us of what is happening and they have had us looking at the wrong thing.

The mounting problems in Hungary are horrid. It did, however, get me thinking as to why this has become such a problem. I try to put myself in these people's shoes. I'm fleeing from Syria with my family. All I want is to get somewhere safe and know that my loved ones are fed, watered and sheltered. Everything else can wait. Get to any haven and take stock. That is not the mentality of the refugees in Hungary. They want to go to Germany. Why? Because they believe that a better life exists there. At this point, my cold hearted rational mind kicks in...

I can understand people fleeing Syria through Turkey and them thinking that they don't want to stay in the neighbouring country. Syria and ISIS are at that doorstep and they don't want those evils to creep after them. Once you get to Hungary, there is a civilised country not on the fringes of the conflict. It is safe. Food and water is being provided. You would think that for these people, a secure haven has been reached and nothing else should matter for now. That does not appear to be the case. They are willing to go on hunger strike to get to Germany. Yes, these people have had a terrible time. Yes, they are afraid and on the run. Does that give them the right to hold a country to ransom? No, it doesn't. 

These people seem to want help only on their terms. German is not their first language, so that's not why they head that way. They are flocking there because of the economic benefits they perceive to come with a rich nation. Germany, along with other EU nations, are taking in refugees from the UN camps situated on the Syrian border. Germany is not an emotionless animal that is only serving to fill a quota. However, I can see the concern about taking in people who were refugees all the way to the EU border and, as soon as they crossed it, they seem to have become economic migrants. The news has shown images of people wrestling their wives and children onto train tracks to stop the Hungarian police registering them. Hungary is offering them safe haven. Being a refugee gives you the right to safety. It does not give you the right to pick and choose where you set up.

Furthermore, I want to know why just the EU is getting a political kicking for this. I might be wrong but there are plenty of other wealthy nations nearby. If these people had fled south, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are the countries they would reach. These are not states who are struggling for a penny or two. How many people are they taking in? You would have thought that fellow Arab and Muslim countries would reach out. No one appears to be kicking down the doors of their ivory towers.

And that leads me to my point. I think our focus is in the wrong place. We've been taking a long, hard look at ourselves, when the time for introspection can wait for another day. We've been looking to Hungary and wondering what we can do, when those people are all ready safe. They no longer want safety, they want more and they are not entitled to it. We should feel sorry for the fact that they have had to leave their country. We shouldn't feel sorry that they are trying to bully their way to the richest country in the union, because they do not have the right to do that, no matter how awful the situation they have left behind. It shouldn't even be on that poor child who washed up on the shore. It's too late for him and that's blood on our hands because we didn't do enough. If we did focus on that though, we wouldn't save the next child and the child after that. Retrospect should be used to learn from mistakes, not dwell on them.

Our focus should be on the true refugees. The ones who are not in a nation free from war. They sit at the Syrian border in UN camps. It seems that because they are not barricading a train station in a European capital, they aren't that newsworthy. Those who are in the EU should be registered in the country they arrived in. It does seem that the emotive nature of the media's reporting has blinded us from being rationale about some aspects of this crisis. Those refugees in Hungary should be grateful of a government that is willing to take them in, to provide the basics of living to them, because it would appear that they went on the run to find that. Because what they forget is while they trying to get their way, the resources being used to deal with their erratic sense of entitlement could be better served helping those people they had to leave behind.

We're focusing on the wrong refugees. We don't need to help those people who are in the EU. They need to accept the help that is being afforded to them, not demand the kind of help that they want. They don't have that right. We need to help those who are left behind. They are the real refugees. They don't want to live where the best jobs are. They just want to live. Everyone is entitled to that right. Everyone. Especially a three year old boy.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more Joel. The people left in the camps are the ones who really need our help. I hate to say it but for once David Cameron has made the right decision in turning his attentions to them instead of the ones which are already safe.

  2. Once more you have eloquently put into prose my thoughts entirely. I continually shout at the BBC coverage with similar sentiment. Where has everyone been for the past couple of years. Only now, because of one shocking image, they are rushing to salve their conscience. What about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of other children drowned and washed up on a foreign shore?

  3. Good article. Can't really blame the mainstream media though, they're only doing their job as a propaganda machine; people still believe the MSMs job is to report news, unbiased, factual and essentially true. Hah! They (the MSM) and we (the 'bewildered herd') could do a lot more to solve the refugee crisis by putting an end to war. Politicians create war. We elect the politicians - they are our servants. Who knew!