Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Global Shame

I've been a long time writing this one.  It's been bothering me for a number of days now. 

I'm referring to the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe.  That news photo of the lifeless body of the little three year old Syrian boy really hit me.  The little guy, his Mom and older brother drowned while desperately trying to escape their homeland for a better life in Europe.

Had they survived, their troubles would have just begun.  Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of refugees are stuck in a political limbo while the world spins around in little circles like everyone has one shoe nailed to the floor!

Here's how I see it.
  • The governing Syrian regime is desperately trying to hold onto power during what has become a bloody three year struggle, tearing Syria apart.
  • A number of terrorist groups, including ISIS (or ISIL), the Taliban, and others are each trying to carve out their own territory within Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
  • The Kurds also want some kind of recognition in that same area.
  • A bunch of Western nations, including Canada are bombing targets in an attempt to stop ISIS from expanding.
  • Millions of innocent people are stuck in the middle of all this mess and want out!
  • Most appear to want to go to Germany where they hope to find jobs and a safe place to live.
  • Hungary, which had its own refugee crisis in 1956, looks like they're treating these refugees like the plague and are just now dealing with this human tsunami.
  • The oil-rich Arab nations have not helped out in any way.
  • ISIS (or ISIL) stole millions of dollars from banks in the cities they've overrun, but they have not helped out at all either.
  • The Canadian Government is pretty much hamstrung by this Marathon election campaign and will have difficulty changing its immigration policies at this point.
  • The Canadian election candidates are trying to make the plight of these refugees into an election issue.
Something needs to be done here in Canada.  Let's put the election campaign on hold for a day and call representatives from all parties together to put together an emergency plan to help these refugees!  I understand many western countries have already done so (but they're probably not in the throws of a gong-show election campaign).

And something needs to be done in those countries I mentioned above.  There needs to be an emergency meeting of the United Nations to develop a plan to bring peace and stability back to that part of the world.  Then a portion of these refugees might actually want to return home!


  1. The source of 95% of these refugees is Syrian government-held territory in the west of the country; that's where most of the people are. That's where the bloodiest fighting is, between the al-Assad regime and a constellation of rebel groups. The Islamic State, meanwhile, is present only in the more-sparsely populated east of the country. The insistence made by some on fighting the Islamic State group to stem the flow of refugees from Syria, would be like trying to fight a giant forest fire in BC by sending firefighters to the prairies of southern Saskatchewan. It does not make sense.

    The Kurds have always wanted recognition, but they are largely defending their own people and territory which is de facto independent from the Iraqi and Syrian governments, and has been for some time. They also reside largely in the east and north of Syria.

    Most are going to Germany because the Germans seem to be the most generous in opening their doors to refugees, accepting somewhere around 80,000; they're also about the easiest to get to, without the need for airlift. Meanwhile, some countries (Poland, Serbia) try to pick and choose which refugees they want to take (they only want Christians); to a some extent, too, Canada has tried to be overly picky as well, wanting to focus on religious minorities (like Yazidi Christians) instead of the huge majority of these refugees who are Sunni Muslims.

    The reaction of the Hungarian government (and some of the Hungarian people) is disgusting. I remember your stories of Hungarian refugees - derisively called "DPs" - in Calgary after the failed 1956 Revolution; you'd think they'd be more sympathetic to people seeking asylum. It wasn't that long ago that Hungarians were desperate to leave their country. Many of those refugees became proud Canadians.

    I'm not sure which Arab nations you're referring to. Lebanon is hosting over a million refugees; Jordan, over 600,000. Do you mean the Gulf states, like Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the UAE? They have offered, collectively, zero resettlement spots for Syrian refugees. Why? That's their business. They say they're helping with money and other means. But considering we've taken in less than a thousand Syrians, compared to Germany's 80,000 or Jordan's 600,000, I don't think we're much to criticize. We're closer to Saudi Arabia's number than we are to Germany's.

    And the NDP and Liberal leaders have asked to have a meeting with Conservative leader Stephen Harper about the plight of these refugees, to maybe hash out a plan; as Harper is Prime Minister until at least October 19th, he is the one with the power to do something about the plight of these people. He rejected the overture, calling it political games. So that's that.

    You're right, something needs to be done in Canada - but that's why we have elections. It's clear that the Harper government has failed on this issue, and has no idea what to do about it. Maybe it's time for a change, and give someone else a crack at it. They certainly can't do worse.

  2. Ray, you must of had a bad day, writing that late in the afternoon.
    I agree with most of your comments and all of Rhys.
    However I believe that we must vet all individuals and that they should come from refugee camps in the middle east.
    A lot of Canadians are sponsoring refugees. This process should be fast tracked.
    I notice the father of the little boy has blamed Canada for his death. It appears as if he had filled out the forms correctly the family would be here, as his sister was sponsoring them

    A real mess that will take years to reach a solution.

  3. Al, with respect, I find it a bit callous to think that the best thing we can say to the man who lost his wife and sons, is that he should've filled out the forms correctly. I'd wager that he probably did his best. Besides, Canadian officials apparently offered him citizenship, after photos of his dead son appeared all over the world - so that paperwork apparently wasn't so much a roadblock.

    I understand government bureaucrats' need for paper-work - I've seen enough of it in my lifetime. But during past refugee crises, we haven't hidden behind a need for paperwork, but instead we have done what was necessary to save lives -- and sorted out the consequences (and paperwork) later. Ambassador Georges Venier (and his wife, Pauline) famously led the charge to liberalize Canada's post-World War II immigration rules, which resulted in a flood of nearly 185,000 people coming to Canada between 1947 and 1953 - many of whom were fleeing chaos and destitution in post-war Europe. In many of those cases, forms weren't complete - but often judged as being "good enough," at the discretion of the port agent when they arrived. And, judging by the number of Nazi war criminals who managed to arrive in Canada during that same period (approximately 2,000, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre), we didn't vet all of them that closely, either.

    More recently, Canada accepted tens of thousands of the so-called 'Boat People' from Vietnam and other parts of southeast Asia, fleeing war and famine there. We did what was necessary to save lives - and Canadians were awarded the Nansen medal by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for our contribution. Of course, we had a subsequent rash of crime by 'Vietnamese gangs' and other types who managed to get into the country as well - I remember that from when I was young. But we dealt with that; that's what the justice system is for. And still - the vast, vast majority of those refugees have built decent lives for themselves and their families in Canada.

    I don't understand how this is so different, or why we've suddenly lost our nerve to see this problem, and do what is right.