Europe is experiencing the largest influx of people since the World War II. The key to understand the essence of this ‘crisis’ underlies in the word refugee, which is defined as a person who was forced to leave their country of nationality to escape war, persecution, natural disaster or other terror. The difference of refugee to migrant is that the former had no choice than to flee owing to a “well-founded fear” for their lives.
In the past five years, fifteen conflicts have erupted displacing, both internally and externally, 30.5 million mostly in Asia and Africa. However, it wasn’t until the photo of a toddler washed ashore that the world started to take notice. The epicenter of the crisis is set on Syria, representing 55% of the incoming refugees. Closed borders in Bulgaria and little hope for being granted asylum in Turkey has forced hundreds of thousands to take the dangerous journey across the Aegan sea. Refugees pay smugglers $1500 per person to travel in overloaded plastic boats to get to Greece and start their journey on foot, buses and trains. Sadly, this path has taken its toll on almost 3,000 people looking for a better life
As if this wasn’t enough, fences are being raised and border controls are being tighten imposing more barriers to these desperate people. While some countries have been welcoming, others have set up hostile conditions based on xenophobic and anti-refugees attitudes. The truth is no country can handle the influx alone.
Culture is never static, human behavior is in constant change throughout time. The fear of European and individual cultures being swallowed by the refugee’s is to say the least misguided. It’s all about perspective. To put it simply, up to July the number of applications the European Union received were 513,580. This only represents 0.37% of the European Union population as a whole. Still doesn’t sound like an invasion to me. People fear the unknown and Europe wants to remain Christian. On the unlikely scenario that EU accepts all the 4 million of Syrians and that all of them were Muslims the portion of the Muslim population will increase only 1% from 4 to 5% in the EU. Basic fears of the economic collapse and job competition still remain. A study found that an influx of low-wage immigrants raises wages for everyone else. Moreover, Lebanon has seen an increase on service exports proportional to Syrian influx. And has managed to increase their GDP by 2.5% even when refugees represent 26% of their population. In Turkey, Syrians have generated more formal non-agricultural jobs and increased the wages for Turkish workers. Another study found that migrants contribute 64% more taxes than what they take in benefits and provided skills that otherwise would cost 6.8 billion in education on the UK. Refugees seem to be inclined towards entrepreneurship, they are risk-takers (clearly), self-reliant and hard workers.
Climate change links are to be found within this refugee crisis. Therefore, no country is extent of a potential refugee-like situation in the near future. Every face carries a violent and unique story; solidarity is not only our ethical responsibility but it is our only option. Fortunately, refugees find stretched arms from civilians, NGOs and the UNHCR agency. Volunteers are putting all their effort and resources to assist and provide vital support to them. However their resources are “stretched to the limit”, but you can still help refugees trying to find safety in Europe. Lots of people all over the world want to become engaged in being part of the solution, this has been demonstrated on an ongoing campaign Kickstarter launch a campaign on October 6 and raised so far $750, 199 on the very first day, allowing UNHCR to help 3,000 persons. The campaign puts into perspective what it takes to support the refugees. If you wish to know more about this you can go here. We need serious commitment from countries both from the European and Western countries, a combined effort can easily tackle the challenge and hopefully set a stable system for further forced displacements.