From the website Dear Pamela: where Pamela Hawley answers questions from Duke University students about social innovations and nonprofits
Germany has been the gold star of helping Syria. The country accepted more than 500,000 refugees, and became the largest advocate for continuing to open the borders to help the refugee crisis. (The Guardian) Despite refusal from other European nations to comply and the emergence of some national push back to the presence of the refugees, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel publicly endorses a policy of open doors and has created programs to help and integrate the refugees. More than 6 billion euros will be devoted to the Syrians. (The Atlantic)
However, the focus on Germany’s involvement in the Syrian Refugee crisis overlooks many important other facts about the refugees, and the truly global scale of this crisis.
The Ongoing Refugee Crisis
We seem to forget ongoing refugee status countries. In Iraq, more than 4.7 million have left their homes since the 1980s. Two million have exited. They’ve gone to Jordan and Lebanon, which brings me to the next point. (The Guardian)
The Crisis Will Quadruple: Twenty Million Need Help
While many people may be “getting tired” of hearing about Syria, we are not even close to nearing the end. More than 4.7 million Syrian refugees have fled. About a quarter are headed or heading to Europe. That leaves 75% of Syrians still in need of a new home. (Mercycorps)
A daunting, new, rushed move to a new land, new culture, with possible disrespect for their culture, fear of their religion and no work permit. Potential, temporary food supplies for their families – if they are lucky. Forget about school for their kids.
For those who might have the option of school, parents can be torn From one Syrian parent who had migrated to another country: “I have to ‘unbrainwash’ my ten-year-old every night. What they say in school about history and culture isn’t correct. I don’t like the way he is being taught to think.” (paraphrase)
Sometimes, there are dirty looks, fear or anger from the local town. “These people aren’t welcome, we don’t know their religion, they are taking my job, and there just isn’t enough.” This is the new “home” they are forced to seek. Three million Syrian refugees need it.
Yet 14 million Syrians in-country need safety, food, shelter, schooling and basic survival. That’s nearly 20 million – not 4 million, who need help. The crisis is quadruple.
So expect the refugees to keep coming.
We are Ignoring the True Leaders
We should be grateful for Germany’s efforts accepting 500,000 refugees. It is a grand, noble and right commitment. Yet why are we ignoring the countries who accept refugees ongoing, through no choice of their own? (The Atlantic)
More than 1.1 million refugees are in Lebanon, a population of 5 million. Twenty percent of their population will become Syrian. (The Atlantic)
More than 800,000 have fled to in Jordan, a population of 6.5 million. 12.3 percent of their population will become Syrian. (Mercycorps)
So while Germany is accepting 500,000, their population is 81 million. It’s only 0.625 percent of their people. And the number of migrants in total to Europe is about 400,000-500,000. That’s less than 1% of the EU population. (The Atlantic)
Countries such as Jordan and Lebanon are the true gold stars. They accepted refugees from the start. They are completely overwhelmed. Who has time for policy and political announcements?
They don’t have a choice. Refugees are streaming across the borders, programs or no programs. Food or no food, health care or no health care, school or no school. The refugees are radically changing a government’s policy and allocation of funds. It revolutionizes a country’s culture, heritage, and way of doing things. Neither Jordan nor Lebanon has a chance to plan or prepare. They have to accept this new normal, and now. (Mercycorps)
And yet, we need to be grateful. Yes, we need to be grateful for there was a time when no borders were open.
If we look back to 1938, it was on the cusp of World War II. The Germans were aggressively advancing, invading country after country. They had just taken over Austria. Jews were massively exciting everywhere.
A conference was held in France on what to do. Country leaders were not only concerned about their freedom, but also about their ability to take in the Jewish refugees. Thirty-two country delegates were there. Yad Vashem describes the situation:
During the conference, it became painfully obvious that no country was willing to volunteer anything. The British delegate claimed that Britain was already fully populated and suffering from unemployment, so it could take in no refugees. His only offer consisted of British territories in East Africa, which could take in small numbers of refugees. The French delegate declared that France had reached “the extreme point of saturation as regards admission of refugees.” Myron C. Taylor, the American delegate, allowed that the United States would make the previously unfilled quota for Germans and Austrians available to these new refugees. Other countries claimed the Depression as their excuse for not accepting refugees. Only the Dominican Republic, a tiny country in the West Indies, volunteered to take in refugees—in exchange for huge amounts of money. The Evian Conference, France (The Guardian)
Adopt Lebanon’s Courage
Thankfully, we aren’t facing such a draconian 1938. More countries are responding. Services are being set up. Some ongoing life integration programs are germinating. Especially now, given the increasing resistance to supporting the refugees, we need to continue to praising countries who are leading efforts and supporting organizations that have dedicated time and energy to ensuring the refugees receive the care they need.
So if Lebanon can accept that a quarter of their population are Syrians, then we can be courageous too. While I am not Catholic, I agree with Pope Francis:
“Every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family.” (The Atlantic)
Jordan and Lebanon are the true gold stars. They take in the families.