Refugee crisis demands greater action

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The deafening sounds of bombs dropped from helicopters roar in the background as children frantically scream for their mothers. Amid the colorless, shattered buildings, a throng of people reach out their hands to help a man who holds his baby in his arms, trying to evacuate this living hell. They risk everything just to find a safer shelter, despite the fact that refugee camps are barely fit for living conditions. Syrians are now part of a broken country with about 7.6 million internally displaced within the country. Yet how many helping hands has the suffering nation received? Not enough, considering the appalling number of refugees who are still in search for safety. Those numbers are far from significantly reducing and this global crisis should be addressed with greater concern, especially by European countries that would rather gain by aiding the Syrians.

Help is needed in numerous forms to free Syria of its conflicts, but first and foremost, countries should welcome refugees, as it set by rules and procedures to aim for the protection of asylum seekers. The Syrians fleeing their country are refugees by definition, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHR). The 1951 Refugee Convention defines refugees as someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” As Syrians of today’s conflict befit the title “refugees,” they are entitled to the humanitarian protection outlined by the international refugee law. According to the UNHR, international law states that refugees should not be forced to return to a country where they will face persecution on account of their race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group. Considering their legal protection, countries should act upon this establishment now. They claim to increase the number of refugees they would accept in the future, but the problem is that their acceptance is being pushed back.

But even if countries are not legally required to house these refugees, they should because the issue entails human lives on the line. The uncomfortable truth is that human lives are dying and suffering—in atrocious numbers. The statistics revealed by the United States Agency for International Development about the Syrian crisis speaks to the extent of humanitarian concern: 12.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, 5.5 million children affected, 4 million displaced to neighboring countries. Nearly half of the Syrian population is in turmoil. People stumble over rubble left by missile attacks and the destruction of countless buildings leaves them with no place to go. A majority of them are desperately searching for jobs, trying to feed their family another meal. Whether these individuals are old or young; male or female; Syrian or foreigners should not matter. The value and price of a human life is beyond computation, and its sanctity is a universal truth. Only with the power of a collective force, can change happen and can lives be saved.

In addition to the duty and value behind countries aiding the refugee crisis, benefits to host nations are another incentive in the call for action. At first sight, asylum-seekers are often considered a burden to their host nations; the mass influx of refugees may also be overwhelming. For some countries, religious sectarian poses a complication to their acceptance. However, there are long-term benefits to both Syrians and host countries. Europe has some of the world’s most rapidly aging populations and currently faces the unfolding of a demographic crisis. A declining population is problematic because a nation needs a younger generation to look after its elderly and replace retiring workers for economic productivity. According to the International Business Times, there will be two working people for every retiree in Germany by 2050 – a gap that could be filled by immigrants. In the middle of a looming demographic crisis, the young refugees of Syria have great potential in mitigating the concern, as they could work in place of the growing retirees. Though the skill assets of the refugees are currently limited, experts such as Reinger Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, believe that asylum seekers are fairly well qualified and that “there is a good chance they will become valuable parts of our workforce in the coming years.”

Some anti-immigration groups argue that refugees are a negative impact to a country’s economy because they would take advantage of the government services before actually contributing to the country. However, The Centre for European Economic Research reported that 6.6 million people living in Germany with foreign passports paid $4,127 more in taxes and social security on average than they took in social benefits in 2012. The immigrant population generated a surplus of 22 billion euros that year, and German officials are optimistic in believing that they could have a similar economic gain with the inundation of refugees.

Pronounced as the worst humanitarian disaster of recent time, the Syrian crisis shows minimal signs of impending resolution. Distance is not an excuse to turn a blind eye towards this international catastrophe and educated ones must work to build a global response to reach out to them. What would Syrians, camped on the dirty streets of refugee camps, think about the world’s indifference and its inability to protect their rights of refugee protection? The immigration restrictions are worsening this plight as they let go of hundreds of more precious lives.

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April Kim is a junior who spends most of her time procrastinating and thinking about food. When she's not doing those things, she's usually taking long naps before staying up all night to take care of cringe-worthy responsibilities like schoolwork. Contact: april.kim18@stu.siskorea.org

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