Both sides of the aisle need to hold a practical discussion on the refugee crisis
Author: nicholas giokas – contributor
The headline that has occupied the majority of the West’s attention in recent months has been the refugee crisis. With such an inherently emotional topic, there comes the tendency to use emotionally-charged truisms, and neither side of the political aisle is innocent of using oversimplified arguments.
From the left comes the truism that these refugees are people, too, and they need help; the issue with these truisms is that when one tries to discuss the practicality of accepting refugees, politicians and pundits fall back on the truisms far too quickly. To be fair, it’s the truisms used by the right that force this response. The right likes to use the truism that these refugees have an inherently different culture and worldview from the rest of the population and that full integration will be difficult. But, like the left, the right will quickly fall back to these truisms rather than discussing the practicality of integration and immigration.
In one of the Labour Party Leadership debates that aired a short while ago, the subject of refugees played a central role in the overall discussion. Each candidate had a plan – in that they believed that they had a rough estimate on how many they think the UK could accept but none had any real, concrete plan for how the refugees would be integrated. In the case of Germany’s famous declaration that they can accept upwards of 500,000 refugees, the figure tells very little of the general plan. For the past months Syrians, Iraqis, and Libyans have slept in gymnasiums and other temporary housing. While it’s an obvious moral good to give these people somewhere safe to sleep, it’s foolhardy to sit around giving ourselves pats on the back for being so generous.
There arises two questions that the general left refuses to tackle head on: Acceptance by the local populace and the mindset of the refugees. For the former, one of the biggest issues plaguing the refugee crisis is the general xenophobia of some of the populace in places these refugees would eventually settle. There needs to be a sincere dialogue between the government and the locals to determine where the refugees would be able to avoid a hostile native populace. While many deride the Hungarians and other Southern and Central European countries for not taking in these refugees, it’s honestly for the best that they don’t. In places like Serbia and Hungary that have strong histories of Islamophobia or in other countries with a large degree of homogeneity, there would be almost no way to avoid conflict.
The most important thing is to get the people who are fleeing conflict as far away from it as possible. Although we should condemn the local’s stances, we should understand that it’s a necessity for keeping these refugees safe. The other discussion that needs to happen is that these refugees are there to stay, so a plan is necessary to find them places to integrate socially and economically. Acting as if merely receiving them fulfills one’s moral responsibilities is foolish, one needs to know what’s going to happen in the next few months, as well as the next few years to the refugees. The answers to these questions will be different country-to-country, but once each government comes to the obvious conclusion that these refugees are best served in the West then they need to be answered quickly.
This brings me to the arguments of the right. No, bringing in the equivalent of (at most) a full tenth of a per cent of your population in refugees will not catapult you into Sharia Law. Yes, saying that other Middle Eastern countries should bring in more refugees does make you sound uninformed. Why? Because Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have reached near maximum capacity of how many they can host. Then, of course, comes the “What about the Gulf States?” argument. The argument that refuses to take into account the logistics of how the refugees would get there (hint: it’s hard to flee across a desert you muppet) or how my previous point about trying to get these refugees as far away from conflict would correlate with the Gulf States’ strong penchant for being openly hostile to foreigners. You can try to mask the fact that the only reason you don’t want the refugees is because they’re Muslim, but not everyone’s a complete idiot.