Donald Trump’s recent executive order to ban immigrants and refugees from seven countries has set up a dangerous precedent in the world order. America has traditionally been a melting pot and has always celebrated diversity and plurality. However, the executive action, stayed by a Seattle court at the moment, may “excite” a few countries to follow suit.
The Syrian war has witnessed the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War, and going on since 2011, it has caused unimaginable distress. However, several pertinent questions need to be asked first:
1) Whether unity lies in diversity?
2) Is the United States the only country to be blamed for stopping refugees and Muslim immigrants?
The United Nations Human Rights Council defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his/her country because of persecution, war or violence.” It needs to be understood that the sudden spurt in the arrival of refugees is not just from Syria but also from Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan and Eritrea, etc. However, with the rise of ultra-nationalism and jingoistic political rhetoric at play, the smooth inflow and integration of refugees in Europe and the USA seem to be doomed.
After the executive order of the United States, far-right leaders of France like Marine La Pen or that of Belgium have criticised their respective government’s policy towards refugees and immigrants. The recent Louvre attacks have given these leaders a fresh salvo in the backdrop of Islamophobia and Xenophobic attacks. Germany’s Angela Merkel, who was initially a supporter of refugee integration, had to roll her policy back and adopt a stricter stand owing to attacks and opposition protests.
So this brings us to a question as to why should countries accept refugees in the first place and what are the possible benefits to the host countries?
Firstly, there is a need to understand the context from a humanitarian point of view, leaders need to understand that no person is willing to leave the comfort of one’s homes for a new country different to their culture.
Refugees also can be taken as a source of skilled and inexpensive labour.
There are also instances of them providing employment and job creation opportunities in the host countries, for example, a recent news article highlighted how the makers of a famous soap of Syria, Aleppo soap, were providing employment to people after relocating to France after their city was besieged.
But perhaps the biggest threat to refugee inflow is the possibility of terrorism, as countries remain sceptical about the possibility of fundamentalist wanting to wage a war. The fear to an extent is justified but the problem can etiquettes through concerted efforts of all countries through either ensuring proper ID proofing, setting up a realistic quota targets for intakes and by opening borders to prevent smuggling and entry via unauthorised routes.
This answers the question I raised in the beginning. The countries like the United States and Canada are a perfect example of diversity and unity. So there is truth in diversity and unity co-existing. To further allow this, countries can ensure that refugees are integrated into society that can be done through having regular language classes, societal training on etiquettes and food habits.
Another question was whether if only the US should be criticised for their order to prevent refugees from entering the country? The Rohingyas crisis in Myanmar has shown the worst form of ongoing persecution of a particular set of people leaving them stateless, the Rohingyas belonging to the Rakhine Valley of Myanmar are stuck in transit because of the apathy of the Myanmarese and Bangladeshi government. Britain also is another example of rising refugee crisis, opting out of the EU through Brexit, primarily due to the liberalised Schengen visa code that allowed for borderless travel across Europe. The Gulf countries have been refusing to take in the refugees. India too has been mulling amendment of its Citizenship Act that will allow Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians flee religious persecution from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Activists have called it communally motivated as it doesn’t give any leverage to persecuted Muslims.
Countries should take a cue from Iceland and Canada that have welcomed refugees. Petty politics and hallowed outcomes must be contained for humanity’s sake; one must realise that refugees are also human beings.
Perhaps, countries must also take a leaf out of the famous German actress Antje Traue who said: “I think of Superman as the ultimate vanilla hero. He’s this perfect refugee, this perfect immigrant from another planet who embodies the American dream.” It’s time the world envisions a worldly dream through peaceful co-existence.