Monday, 14 September 2015

Refuge at last: Migration quotas and responses

It took the unforgiving death of a Kurdish toddler to get European governments to reconsider resettling the thousands of refugees coming from Turkey and the Mediterranean. When the photo of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi coincidentally fleeing with his family from Kobane was beamed around the world it served as an epiphany for many Western governments. For years, the deaths of Syrian, Kurdish children were only seen from a distance and as the cold military term "collateral damage" and not as children who are human. The EU Foreign Policy minister Mogherini tried to argue that the photo of Aylan was emotional blackmail and was later condemned for his comment by local citizens. The kind response and help that ordinary EU citizens have been showing to arriving migrant families and refugees in Germany, Italy and now Scandinavia has equally put their respective governments to shame. Iceland, as small as it is has also step up with Icelanders offering to open their homes to host thousands of Syrian refugees. The idea was proposed to the Icelandic government by ordinary citizens not vice versea.

Australia migrant policy and quotas

British Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced to Parliament that Britain could absorb 20,000 refugees over a two year period. France also followed saying it could take in 25K refugees over five years. Brazil has also hinted that it would be able to take taken in Syrian refugees out of compassion and solidarity. Several years ago, Chile granted resettlement to some 300,000 Palestinians joining some 200K Palestinian Chilenos. Australian PM Tony Abbot has announced the country will taken in 12,000 Syrian refugees emphasizing Syrian minorities would be priority. Despite his government's refusal to taken migrants and asylum seekers dubbed the "boat people" from neighboring Malaysia, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. Migrants and refugees from Indonesian archipelago and Afghanistan have been seeking asylum in Australia for over a decade. There are hundreds of thousands of Australians of immigrant background currently living in the country who are part of the migrant success story. Anti migrant sentiment and the popularity of right wing pundits and politicians including parliamentarians is no different from Europe and United States. Nevertheless, Australians (both left, moderate and conservative and apolitical) have been protesting against Australia's strict migration policy that discourages asylum seekers from landing in Australia or processing their claims there. Many irregular migrants/asylum seekers are often detained in Papua New Guinea or Naaru. Although PNG is an independent country and has its own government policy on migration, Australia acts as a bully big brother to twist the arm of the PNG government into turning a blind eye to the gruesome conditions at the detention centers for the migrant/asylum. Human Rights groups have condemned Australia for its excessive use of force on detained refugees and asylum seekers. In addition to detention, Australian government has also paid human smugglers and third countries ie Cambodia and PNG to resettle the migrants there and keep them out of the land down under. Australia's migration policy and approach has been studied and debated in Europe as a possible model to handling the migrant flow.

Canada's Response to the Refugee Crisis in Europe

Canada and the United States have also been following the migrant crisis in Europe. Both governments have been quiet on whether or not to accept Syrian refugees. Both countries resettle over forty thousand refugees, asylum seekers and migrants annually without help from the UN or IOM. Canadian parliament has been discussing the direction Canada should take to help Syrian refugees if the time comes. Aylan Kurdi's family were attempting to seek asylum in Canada when tragedy struck. Since the revelation, Canada has been deeply disturbed by the plight of Syrian refugees. Canadian human rights organizations and citizens have been reminding Canadians that not only is Canada a nation of immigrants but that the country has a duty to set the example to help people in need if they live half way across the world.

Germany's refugee background hits close to home

It is Germany that has surprised the world with its compassionate response by allowing tens of thousands refugees and migrants to come in. The Germans are expecting some 800,000 migrants this year alone and will continue to prepare for a large number of refugees. Remember that Germany has also been taking in refugees and asylum seekers from the Balkans, Turkey, Afghanistan and other countries even before the current war in Syria, Libya and Iraq. What is often overlook when talking about refugee resettlement in Germany is that Germans themselves were once the most persecuted and chased refugees 70 years ago. In the aftermath of World War II, some 2 million Germans were forced and chased out of various European countries they had lived and settled in for centuries and were encouraged to move to war torn Germany. All Germans were labeled as Nazis by default even Germans who had lived outside Germany in places like Poland and Czech Republic all their lives. For the old Germans who remember the immediate aftermath of World War II and the large mass migration of Germans and millions of other Europeans back to their countries, this new wave of Syrians looks too familiar. Everyone is well aware that resettling 800,000 or even 1 million migrants will not be an easy task. The German people and government are accepting the challenge. On an economic note, migrants could aid in keeping the German economy afloat as current demographics shows the country has a labor shortage gap and has far more pensioners than young folks. In short, Germany and the rest of Europe need migrants in terms of socioeconomic development. Europe will need to rethink the long standing view that Europe is homogeneous continent (culturally and ethnically) and migrants can't coexist with local Europeans. As the British and French governments are slowly coming to the realization that their citizens of migrant backgrounds have added new ideas, diversity and are successfully integrated for the most part into society. If given the chance, the Syrians, Afghans, Eritreans and other peoples will interrogate and adjust to host countries.

CCTV the Heat Migrant Crisis Part 3 

From multiethnic states to homogeneous countries and back again

Many European countries that were once diverse became mono ethnic and cultural as a result of the Nazi regime's occupation and war. Exception being France and Britain in the later part of the 20th century. This is why the cliched comparison to World War II keeps coming up. The 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey also set the tone for nationalist belief that homogeneous states can create national peace and unity that governments have long sought for their societies. Migration is once again making homogeneous countries in Europe diverse regardless of the right wing arguments against it. Migration and war has a way of reminding the world that one person's pain and journey is everyone's issue. 

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