The greatest humanitarian tragedy since World War II has seen 11.5 million Syrians displaced and four million housed in over-crowded refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon for over four years.
The world chose to ignore the refugee crisis. When rich countries were asked by the UN in December 2014 to contribute $8.5 billion to help with feeding, clothing, housing and medical supplies for these camps, we collectively gave less than half what was required.
To date, with the exception of Germany, the rich world have abandoned not only the Syrian refugees, but also some of the weakest economies in the Middle East (Lebanon, Jordan) and Europe (Greece, Turkey, Hungary) who have had no choice but to deal with the massive refugee crisis.
Starvation and hopelessness make people take risks they would not normally consider. The goal for these refugees became Europe.
Seventy decomposing bodies piled inside an abandoned truck in Austria didn’t move our collective conscious. Thousands of women, children and men drowning in the Mediterranean Sea didn’t touch us. Pictures of squalor and hunger from refugee camps didn’t collectively push us into action.
But one little dead boy, Alan Kurdi, lying face down on the beach, with waves crashing over his body may have pricked Canadian’s collective conscience enough to actually step up to the plate.
Canada had a reputation for being an “A” performer when assistance was needed to save lives or enforce peace in the international community. The humanitarian crisis in the former Yugoslavia saw Canada bring in 5,000 refugees from Kosovo in one month and it took only 18 months to bring 60,000 Vietnamese boat people to our shores. Yet after two years, Canada has enabled only 2,300 Syrian refugees to get here and those were primarily private sponsorships.
Canada has good company, or bad depending on how you view it. Japan has brought in less than 10 refugees, the United States just over a 1,000 and the richest Middle East countries, Qatar, United Arab Emerities, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Israel have offered zero re-settlement places to Syrian refugees. Israel is in fact building physical walls to keep them out. Oh how easy it is for Jews to forget when they were the refugees fleeing for their lives with babes in arms.
In 1939, 907 Jewish refugees aboard the German transatlantic liner St. Louis were seeking sanctuary from Nazi Germany. Canada refused to take them in and the ship sailed back to Europe, where 254 would later die in concentration camps.
Many Canadians have re-interpreted history to believe we were the good guys out to save the Jews. The truth is we didn’t go to war to save the Jews, we went to war to save ourselves from the Nazis. No ally nation wanted to be overrun with huge numbers of Jews before or after the war—hence the scheme hatched by Britain to take Palestinian lands and create the Jewish state of Israel.
Canadians individually and collectively have their own prejudices and humanitarian lapses. Today, through words and legislation, our federal government seems to have a bias against Muslims and, of course, our First Nations peoples.
We are loose with the truth when we say we have to degrade ISIS to stop the humanitarian crisis. In fact, the Syrian refugee crisis is primarily a symptom of a 4-year sectarian civil war.
ISIS, although definitely needing to be stopped, is not the root cause of the refugee crisis. ISIS is simply the brutal fallout from centuries of international interference by western nations and the Soviet Union in the affairs of the Middle East. ISIS was given a free pass by Syrian President al-Assad for a number of years to distract the world from his heinous crimes against his own people, which continue to this day.
Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel have shown unbelievable humanity, compassion, morality, leadership and humility. They have opened their doors wide and have already processed 185,000 refugees and continue to add tens of thousands weekly to that number.
It’s somewhat ironic that the German people, who were responsible for the greatest humanitarian tragedy of the 20th century, the killing of six million Jews, has become the 21st century saviour of the Syrian refugees.
I fear the only reasons the Canadian government haven’t stepped up to the plate is a prejudice against Muslims and their obsession with a balanced budget.
Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board underspent its budget by nearly $108 million last year, including $25 million for programs that are supposed to help resettle refugees.
The Syrian refugee crisis is an emergency and it’s not going away by dropping a few bombs on ISIS. Many countries, including Canada, Britain and the United States, must step up and willingly follow Germany’s example of mass unhindered entry.
As the Chief of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said, “The plight of refugees is everybody’s problem.”
Not just the countries in close proximity!