Where Will the Refugees Go?

Syrian refugees languish in a railway station in Hungary.

We’ve all been duped.  We aren’t humans after all; we’re amphibians, frogs to be exact.   And we’ve been sitting in boiling water for too long and now we have to face the consequences.  Over four years ago, the Syrian Civil War broke out, bringing instability to an already precarious region.  And we waited.  A few years later, ISIS came along bringing nothing but violence and destruction.  And we waited.  But now, as thousands of refugees stream from the Middle East, waiting isn’t even an option anymore.  The cat’s out of the bag: the whole world waited and waited until the biggest refugee crisis since World War II washed up on Europe’s shores.

Though migrant-laden boats tragically have sunk in the waters of the Mediterranean for years, the world remained unfazed until a picture of a dead child on the beach stirred its conscience.  Yet, even then authorities in Hungary greeted the waves of streaming refuges with coldness and hastily constructed fences.  And when Germany opened its gates, a flood of people found themselves in a world of dichotomy, with many Germans welcoming them with open arms, food, and shelter while others introducing themselves through attacking the refugees’ temporary housing, with 336 reported assaults just this past year.

The question remains, “What now?”  Germany has plans to accept 800,000 migrants this year, but more keep pouring in by the day, forcing this Baltic nation to temporarily shut down its border.  And to the south, Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic implored migrants, “Don’t come anymore here. Our capacities are full.”  Meanwhile some Scandinavian welfare states attempt to do their part, but Denmark continues to deny refugees.  If this mass exodus of people continues at this pace, then quotas may have to be issued, migrants will languish in deplorable conditions, and European unity and peace may be at risk.

While Europe scrambles to form a coherent plan, the U.S. lies at the heart of the solution.  Secretary of State John Kerry recently unveiled plans for America to accept 100,000 migrants by 2017, and while this represents a noble goal, it remains to be seen whether it will be implemented.  With President Obama leaving office in 2016, it’s up to his predecessor to follow through.  And before anyone talks about building another border wall (this time along the Atlantic coastline), let’s remember that these refuges can help form the backbone of an American economy that must support the impending retirement of the massive Baby Boomer generation.  Furthermore, migrants can spur local economic growth.  According to the New York Times, “Refugees resettled from a single war zone have helped revitalize several American communities, notably Hmong in previously neglected neighborhoods in Minneapolis, Bosnians in Utica, N.Y., and Somalis in Lewiston, Me.”  And we can replicate this success.  The city of Detroit, once an automobile powerhouse but now a ghost of a city, represents an optimal destination for refuges.  In an effort to repopulate this city and revive its stagnant economy, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is calling for 50,000 Syrians to join an already established and prosperous Arab-American community in Detroit.  Yet, if America takes this course of action, then it must also deal with the grappling issue of immigration down south.  The question then becomes, if America can and will support thousands and thousands of Middle Eastern migrants, then why are countless Latin American migrants denied and deported from the U.S.?

While many refugees have fled to Europe, many more remain in massive refugee camps in the Middle East.

While many refugees have fled to Europe, many more remain in massive refugee camps in the Middle East.

The rest of the world must take up the call, as well.  Canada and Australia have had a history of accepting migrants, and they must continue this long tradition.    But as refugees are distributed around the world, we  must cast a critical eye over the other nations of the Middle East.  Some countries are housing vast numbers   of migrants, such as Jordan, a country of only 4 million that somehow supports another million Syrian refugees.  Yet too many others continue to close their doors to the suffering.  Despite some domestic support for immigration reform, on the Israeli front, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly espouses an anti-immigration stance.  Furthermore, the autocratic, oil- rich states of the Persian Gulf (such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar) have turned a blind eye to the crisis in the north.

But as with all things, there’s a caveat.  If the developed world welcomes these streams of refugees, will this incentivize even more to flee the Middle East in hopes of a better life abroad?  Already North Africans, Afghans, and others swell the ranks of Syrians and Iraqis.  For this reason, the U.S. and other nations must also develop a coordinated solution to end the cycle of chaos in the Middle East, where millions of people continue to live in constant fear.  Whether this means ground troops, more airstrikes, arming local groups, or negotiations, we need action now possibly more than ever in the Middle East.  If not, the bodies will pile up and even more will flee, compounding the current political and humanitarian crises.

At the end of the day, the world must learn a vital lesson: we need to nip problems in the bud before they sprout into global disasters.  If the U.S., European Union, and United Nations had invested the necessary resources and time into restoring peace and prosperity in the Middle East over these last few decades, then ISIS would remain just a goddess in Egyptian mythology, and mothers and fathers wouldn’t have to hold their dead children who wash up on the shores.


“An Aerial View of the Za’atri Refugee Camp” by U.S. Department of State – http://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos/9312291491/sizes/o/in/photostream/. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:An_Aerial_View_of_the_Za%27atri_Refugee_Camp.jpg#/media/File:An_Aerial_View_of_the_Za%27atri_Refugee_Camp.jpg

Batchelor, Tom. “EXPOSED: How Oil-rich Gulf States Have Failed to Resettle a SINGLE Syrian Refugee.” Sunday Express. N.p., 11 Sept. 2015. Web. <http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/604373/Refugee-crisis-Arab-nations-fail-Syrian-refugees>.

Booth, William, Anthony Faiola, and Michael William Booth, Anthony Faiola and Michael Birnbaum. “E.U. Nations Pull Welcome Mats for Migrants, Imposing New Restrictions.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 17 Sept. 2015. Web. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/croatia-is-the-new-frontline-in-europes-refugee-crisis/2015/09/17/3723efc0-5c93-11e5-8475-781cc9851652_story.html>.

Gordon, Michael R. “U.S. to Increase Admission of Refugees to 100,000 in 2017, Kerry Says.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 Sept. 2015. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/world/europe/us-to-increase-admission-of-refugees-to-100000-in-2017-kerry-says.html>.

Harding, Luke, Philip Oltermann, and Nicholas Watt. “Refugees Welcome? How UK and Germany Compare on Migration.” The Guardian. N.p., 2 Sept. 2015. Web. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/02/refugees-welcome-uk-germany-compare-migration>.

Kingsley, Patrick. “Ungary’s Migrant Fence Is Simply a Pointless PR Exercise.” The Guardian. N.p., 25 Aug. 2015. Web. <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/25/hungary-wall-migrants-pr-exercise>.

Laltin, David D., and Marc Jahr. “Let Syrians Settle Detroit.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 May 2015. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/opinion/let-syrians-settle-detroit.html>.

“Refugees Budapest Keleti railway station 2015-09-04″ by Rebecca Harms from Wendland, Germany – Ungarn September 2015. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Refugees_Budapest_Keleti_railway_station_2015-09-04.jpg#/media/File:Refugees_Budapest_Keleti_railway_station_2015-09-04.jpg

Tomkiw, Lydia. “European Refugee Crisis 2015: Why So Many People Are Fleeing The Middle East And North Africa.” International Business Times. N.p., 03 Sept. 2015. Web. <http://www.ibtimes.com/european-refugee-crisis-2015-why-so-many-people-are-fleeing-middle-east-north-africa-2081454>.


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