From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48 New Internaional Version – UK
I’m starting with a quote from the Bible that I believe tells us something about how to deal with the Arab world in general, and specifically Syria. I think some countries have to accept a bigger responsibility than others. The quote is from Biblegateway where you can read the same verse in many different translations.
I am continuing some thoughts on the Syrian refugee crisis I started in How long are they welcome? It doesn’t matter why the refugees are coming right now and the fact that they are different from any kind of refugees we have encountered before (these use smartphones and social media apps to communicate with their smugglers). It may seem unfair to us that we have to deal with migrants looking for a better life, but I believe we have a partial responsibility.
NATO has often been blamed for destabilizing Muslim countries, and when I look at the before and after pictures in for example Egypt, Libya and Iraq, I tend to think the criticism is justified. If we assume that a Western style democracy fits any culture, I think we’ll be doomed to fail. Gadaffi of Libya for example was often portrayed as the most evil man imaginable, and I’m not saying he was nice, but he may not have been as bad to his own people as we assumed. The Libyans had free health care and life expectancy was almost on European level, but the story is very different now that the dictator is gone. What used to be one of the richest, maybe the richest, African country is actually running out of money.
The situation may be different in Syria. There were reasons to intervene, but we did too little too late. So we are more responsibile for what we didn’t do than what we did. There are, however, allegations that British and US intelligence sponsored and encouraged ISIS and other terrorist groups. If that turns out to be true, we are directly responsible. That’s not unlikely because it is a tactic these two players have preferred in the past. We see shifting alliances on a larger scale as well, and even Saddam Hussein was a US ally for a while.
There are two lists that would be interesting to compare, the countries fighting ISIS and/or Syria (they have actually teamed up with Syrian forces for periods to fight ISIS together) and the countries accepting refugees from Syria. Turkey and Jordan appear on both lists, and they have taken their share of the responsibility. Canada has welcomed 2400 thus far and the United States 2100 (these two enormous countries have also promised to accept 10 000 each). When the UN asked EU to accept more refugees they agreed on 32 000 for the whole union, but it would be voluntary. This hasn’t been working. Germany has already 100 000 Syrians, and their system broke down over the weekend. That was probably a result of Angela Merkel giving the impression that all Syrians were welcome to Germany.
I understand why they are so willing to help. Germany has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and they would probably collapse within a couple of generations without immigration. The level of education was relatively high in Syrian cities before the war, and some people might think that educated refugees would be good for business. The question is how much is too much. It’s pretty clear that quite a few of them are never going to work, which means it’ll be the government’s responsibility to give them a certain standard of living.
There’s going to be businesses and individuals that will make a lot of money renting apartments that the authorities are paying for. I wonder how many more we could help for the same amount of money if we concentrated our effort in the region they came from. We could help Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates should be persuaded to do more. I think it would have been better for all parties if we then welcomed the people that needed our help the most. It’s not that I’m trying to keep Muslims out of Europe, but Syria has a large Christian population (10 %) and no one is being more threatened by ISIS than the Christians.
I agree with those that say we have a responsibility, but our leaders also have a responsibility to help their own people, and free immigration as some have suggested, is not going to help anyone. That will probably lead to unemployment and too many people on disability. This could create tension and the wrong people would get the blame. Imagine the same scenes we have seen from Hungary, except that the local population fight back. So I’m not suggesting that we don’t help, I question whether we should give ISIS what they want, which is a Europe overwhelmed by Muslim refugees. They also want the Syrian Christians dead. That should make our mandate clear enough.
Everybody must help, but it’s remarkable how some of the most underpopulated countries are reluctant (Canada, USA and Australia and of course the rich Arab countries).