Cruel Britannia

Two Child Syrian Refugees

Anyone watching the news will have heard that there is a refugee crisis going on.

The coverage of the refugees has certainly softened over time, from describing them as vermin to swarms, to now describing them as migrants.

While this is still not accurate, it be better than the earlier coverage.

News has mostly turned to the stance taken in relation to refugees by Germany and Hungary.

Eastern European Hostility

The Hungarian Prime Minister has declared himself as the protector of Europe from the scurge of Islam (conveniently forgetting where some refugees from Hungary went during the time of the Ottoman Empire). He does not want any refugees in his country and considers the refugees as a German problem.

Other eastern European countries do not fare much better, but a few have agreed to take a handful of refugees, provided that they be Christian. A position described by many as wholly unchristian.

The eastern European countries have been miserly in their stance and it has been pointed out how their stance on refugees contradicts the hospitality they themselves have been provided.

Since World War 2 and the cold war, many Europeans were allowed into Western Europe and benefited from the generosity of the rest of Western Europe.

Now when they are in a position, they are unwilling to help, with Poland not meeting any obligations, not wanting any migration to it, and the declaration by Hungary's prime Minister that he is protecting Europe from Islam.

This is not including economic migration following the fall of the Soviet regime and the expansion of the EU from which these places have greatly benefitted.

German Generosity

The German position is a huge contrast to the majority of Europe. The German people have recognised that the refugees are fleeing a catastrophe and have been welcoming. Huge sympathy has been shown all the way from from the Chancellor down to the general public who have formed welcoming groups to welcome the refugees with open arms.

Germany had already been generous to the refugees, as in the previous year it was already accepted 12 times the numbers of refugees as the UK had.

British Culpability.

From the mainstream media reports that are available, it it is not suggested that Germany, or any of the other Eastern European countries had any involvement in creating the chaos that culminated in this refugee crisis. The UK does.

There was a recent trial where an individual had been charged under anti-terror legislation, which failed because the individual argued that he should not be charged because he was helping the same people that the British secret services were.

It should come as no surprised that the MI6 is involved in Syria. Nor that the CIA is.

Now that our country has been involved in creating a situation where people are fleeing for life and limb, a sane reaction would be to try and help those who are fleeing the chaos.

The UK is helping, it has offered some financial aid to other countries hosting refugees. But this is not enough and more needs to be done.

David Cameron has been playing the divide and conquer and the immigration card for so long though he is in a tough place – he wants to look tough on immigration yet also be statesmanlike.

Not a real statesman, but like one. He is all about image, but not about the substance.

His description of the refugees is one of, people who would move for financial gain, instead of refugees, people who are fleeing chaos to save their lives.

He initially took part in the decision to withdraw from search and rescue support in the Mediterranean, stating that those operations only encouraged migrants.

He conveniently missed out that those migrants were often coming through Libya, a country his government, along with France was intimately involved in destroying.

The refugees were not coming because they expected help from Search and Rescue, but because they could not find any other safe haven and were so desperate they were willing to risk death. The headlines at the start of this year provided coverage of many deaths.

British Values

Yet it is not just the Prime Minister. The British Public also seems to be unwilling to acknowledge that its government is responsible for those refugees and wants a comfortable refugee free environment in the UK.

In a recent poll carried out by the Sun, approximately 60% of respondents were against allowing more refugees into the UK.

The British Prime Minister has listened to them. He initially announced that Britain would take 4,000 refugees per annum. Since then he has been pressured by sympathetic media coverage over the refugee crisis and announced that Britain will now take 20,000 over 5 years. You don't need to be a maths genius to see that the two figures are equal.

This is 4,000 that the UK is looking to take compared to 900,000 Germany is expecting. Unlike last year where Germany took in 12 times the number of refugees that the UK did, now it is looking to take 225 times the amount.

Against this backdrop I have heard of people organising in the UK and taking aid to refugees, some in Calais. But these good Samaritans put the rest of us to shame and show up the professed qualities of British Values. Had Germany not stood up, European values would also have been found to be hollow.

Refugees to Israel?

I have to comment on this. Who thought this could seriously be an actionable idea?

If Israel allowed the refugees from its own conflicts to return to their homes, the whole Palestinian issue would be solved.

Instead those refugees are in Gaza, the West Bank Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

Syrian Hospitality

Most of the refugees are coming from Syria, which has been wrecked mainly by Bashar al Assad (who kills 7 times as many individuals as other groups combined) but others too.

His regime was brutal but it was not representative of the people. We should remember that the Syrian people have been hospitable over the years and often helped those that needed it.

A recent tweet on twitter described their hospitality over the years to refugees:

  • Syria became the home of the refugees who fled the armies of Ibrahim Basha in 1839.
  • Syria became home to Circassian refugees in 1860
  • Syria became home to Armenian refugees in 1914.
  • Syria became home to Palestinian refugees in 1948
  • Syria became home once again to Palestinian refugees in 1967
  • Syria became home to refugees from Kuwait in 1990
  • Syria became home to refugees from Lebanon in 1996
  • Syria became home to refugees from Iraq in 2003.
  • Syria became home to refugees from Lebanon in 2006.

It will be written in the history books and generations will remember, that Syria never closed its borders for those who fled their homes seeking safety and refuge.

Syria has never asked any Arab for a visa to enter its lands whether it was for a visit or a permanent stay.

In Syria not a single tent was put up on the borders to accommodate for refugees across the years, houses were opened, streets were vacated and cities were renamed to allow for refugees to feel at home.

Let it be written in the history books and let the generations remember, that when a Syrian needed help and refuge, borders were closed and the world looked away.

~ Yaman Birawi

Germany has shown that there is another way when dealing with refugees and I pray that the rest are shamed into doing more, way more.

Image attached to this article is under a Creative Commons Licence from Freedom House on Flickr.