Sunday, September 6, 2015

The spectrum of takes on the Syrian refugee crisis

There's no way the photos and first-hand accounts can't not tug at your heartstrings. Families with desperation in their eyes, sometimes being welcomed with food, essential supplies and toys for the little ones, and sometimes being surprised by dump-offs at teeming camps.

Is it more accurate to see the phenomenon as localized, or in the context of an Arab / Muslim influx into Europe that's been going on for a couple of decades, or within an even larger scope that would include large pourings of Latin Americans, Indians and Chinese nationals into the United States? Are we looking at migration patterns fueled by changes in information and transportation policy?

There seems little doubt that the immediate situation in central Europe stems from a level of horror in Syria that no one with the means to leave can take anymore.

One interesting aspect of the situation is how Germany, seemingly always noteworthy for something, that nation that caused two world wars in the previous century and took systemic bigotry to a level of barbarity no one could have imagined until liberating Allied troops exposed it to the world, and which in the century previous to that, was the world's intellectual leader, with the most prestigious universities, and pioneering a number of modern social sciences (and, in the previous two centuries, had given the world some of its greatest music), was now the most welcoming of European countries:

More than 7,000 Arab and Asian asylum seekers surged across Hungary's western border into Austria and Germany following the latest erratic policy turn by Hungary's immigrant-averse government. Within hours, travelers predominantly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who had been told for days they could not leave Hungary were scooped from roadsides and Budapest's central train station and placed on overnight buses, driven to the frontier with Austria and allowed to walk across as a new day dawned.
They were met with unexpected hospitality featuring free high-speed trains, seemingly bottomless boxes of supplies, and well-wishers offering candy for everyone and cuddly toys for the children in mothers' arms. Even adults absorbed the sudden welcome with a look of wonderment as Germans and Austrians made clear that they had reached a land that just might become a home.
Austria, as shown above, is similarly laying out the welcome mat, although its head of state also issues an explicit proviso:

 Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann warned his country's admittance of thousands of refugees crossing from Hungary was just a "temporary" measure and urged the 28-member European Union to collectively deal with the record numbers.
Then there is Hungary's approach:

Hundreds of migrants were engaged in a standoff this week with authorities at Budapest’s main railway terminal. After allowing some to journey west to their preferred destinations – richer countries such as Germany and Sweden – Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government abruptly canceled international train services, stranding the migrants in a nation that most of them want to leave.
There have been protests and scuffles with police. Despairing refugees, waving useless train tickets that devoured hundreds of dollars from their meager supplies of cash, appealed to the United Nations for help. Sensing opportunity, human smugglers are hawking their sometimes fatal services.

On Thursday, the authorities seemed to relent, allowing hundreds of people to board trains they thought were headed to Austria or Germany. Carriages soon overflowed with people. 
But Orban’s government now appears to have been playing a cruel trick. The trains pulled out of Budapest and headed west, but stopped barely 20 miles outside the city, where stunned passengers were ordered off to be registered at a camp for migrants in the town of Bicske.
“No camp! No camp!” many chanted, in a scene that revived memories of trainloads of people borne to other camps in Central Europe against their will.
Syria's Arab neighbors say "not our problem". Some historical perspective reveals some underlying cultural reasons:

The Gulf states say they aren't open to accepting more refugees because of security concerns. Most Syrian refugees that are in the Gulf states are there because they've overstayed their work visas.
It is virtually impossible to gain citizenship in a Gulf state, and these countries favor hiring unskilled workers from Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the BBC reported. The Syrians, who are usually fairly well educated, would compete with jobs with Gulf state locals.
Despite these barriers being put in place by Gulf states, there are also reasons why Syrians aren't seeking out refuge in those countries. Although they are escaping the terror of Islamic State militants and a country wrecked by chemical weapons from an ongoing, five-year civil war, Syria was a remarkably free and educated country in its heyday. Syria's capital, Damascus, was once the "playground" in the region, a city where alcohol, Western dress and education were freely available.
The Gulf states, on the other hand, have harsh laws restricting citizens' freedoms to talk, dress, and interact. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, women are not allowed to drive cars. And in Qatar, people can be fined for uncovering their knees, cuddling, or playing a song with "indecent phrases."
Maybe not the best places to settle anyway.

Of course, ISIS has wasted no time seeing and acting on an opportunity to sow seeds of jihad in greater numbers.

Finally, there is the effect of the Syrian flashpoint on relations between Russia and post-America:

 In Washington, the State Department issued a statement after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to express concern over unconfirmed reports "suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian military build-up" in Syria.
While not elaborating on or confirming the accuracy of those reports, the State Department said Kerry made clear to Lavrov that such actions "could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation" with the anti-Islamic State coalition operating led by the U.S. that is carrying out strikes in Syria.
Russia has been a stalwart ally of Assad throughout Syria's civil war and has provided diplomatic support and weaponry to help the Syrian leader maintain his grip on power. Moscow also maintains a small naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartous on the Mediterranean Sea.
The only conclusion it's safe to draw at this time is that there will be history-shping ramifications. Their nature and scope are not yet clear.

No comments:

Post a Comment