WEB DESK: The Paris attacks have given new excuses to Europe’s and US’ Islamaphobes to try and stop allowing in Syrian refugees even though those involved in the atrocity happened to be home-grown terrorists from France and Belgium. Shrill voices of rejection are being raised by President Barack Obama’s Republican opponents for saying he is prepared to take 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year, which in fact is too tiny a number given the scale of the crisis.
As the civil war – actually a proxy war among regional as well as big international players – rages on into fifth year, over 220,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries. According to Amnesty International, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt among them host 97 percent of the Syrian refugees.
The region’s richer countries backing various rebel groups have neither offered to accept the war affectees nor provided the UNHCR with adequate resources to afford shelter and food assistance for them. According to Amnesty International, 80 percent of the refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line while the UN’s appeals for funds have gone largely unanswered. The refugee agency has received just 40 percent of the required funds. Those risking lives for asylum in Europe are mostly well-educated professionals who are only looking to work and live in peace and dignity.
Shutting the doors in the faces of refugees from war-devastated countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan is morally indefensible not only on humanitarian grounds but also because these people are victims of conflicts directly or indirectly caused by Western countries. As Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Dr Maliha Lodhi noted while speaking at a UN General Assembly meeting the other day, conflicts raging across the Middle East have been precipitated by ‘misguided’ military interventions in the internal affairs of several states. While Iraq and Afghanistan were a mess, the US, France and Britain along with Turkey and Gulf allies gathered motley groups – from al Qaeda offshoot al-Nusra Front to ‘moderate’ elements – to fight for the overthrow of the Assad regime. The result is chaos, violence and the breakdown of governmental structures, population exoduses, and radicalisation of society.
The countries, principally the US, responsible for these interventions, therefore, have the primary responsibility of helping the victims of ensuing conflicts. Ambassador Lodhi voiced the concerns of all right thinking people in the West and in the Muslim world, when she said fixed ceilings on receiving people in need of urgent protection are unacceptable.
President Obama appeared to be referring to the radicalisation issue when he noted at his news conference on Sunday that the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were not “mastminds but a bunch of killers with good social media.” Closing the borders on refugees therefore will not help; the causes of radicalisation need to be addressed.
France, home to the largest Muslim population in Europe, needs to examine the reasons behind the alienation of its young Muslims most of whom live on the fringes of society without any hope of economic betterment. More urgently, the US and its Western and Middle Eastern allies ought to adopt a flexibly approach in finding a negotiated end to the Syrian crisis as well as other conflicts, so the people of the affected countries do not have to look for asylum abroad.