In recent days, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun pulled out all the stops to warm up the Great British Public to the idea that dropping more bombs on Syria would somehow create peace. At the same time, Cameron announced the UK will absorb just 20,000 Syrian refugees before the 2020 election. It appears that David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch love Syrians enough to bomb them, but not to house them.
There are currently 4.1 million registered Syrian refugees. Lebanon is now housing well over one million Syrian refugees, an enormous burden for a state with just 4.4 million citizens of its own. Jordan is also supporting over 1 million Syrian refugees, and Jordan is already struggling to cope with its 2 million Palestinian refugees. Surrounding states have absorbed tens to hundreds of thousands each. Nearby countries have absorbed more than they can reasonable be expected to accommodate and it is now time for Europe, the U.S. and her allies among the Gulf States to help resolve a crisis they helped create. So far, results have been patchy.
Some of the wealthier West European states are responding admirably to the crisis.
- Germany defied the Dublin Regulations (restrictions on immigrants) to welcome in 800,000 Syrian refugees this year – a massive contribution to absorbing the refugee population and reducing pressure on entry points across the EU.
- German citizens have been so busy donating to support the refugees that police actually had to ask them to stop, as they had more resources than they yet knew what to do with.
- When coach-loads of Syrian refugees arrived in the tiny German town of Oer Erkenschwick this week, hundreds of townspeople bearing flowers and welcome banners lined the streets to welcome their guests.
- Austria welcomed more than 16,000 Syrian refugees on just one weekend.
- Austrian citizens have been welcoming refugees with sleeping bags, cigarettes and even home-made jam
- The Swedish government was first to announce that they will be granting permanent residence to all Syrian refugees who register in their country.
- Sweden has already welcomed over 40,000 Syrian refugees.
- Sweden has been providing free bus passes to Syrian refugees to help them travel and prevent them feeling isolated in their new communities.
- The Finnish Prime Minister will be opening his own home to Syrian refugees
- Two weeks ago Finland confirmed it will accept 15,000 refugees.
- A total of 100 municipalities have since signed up to accept further refugees.
Across Europe citizen-campaigns have been rallying to help care for, shelter and settle refugees where many governments were simply paralysed in the face of crisis. Some states have simply shirked all responsibility under International Law.
While some of the Gulf’s richest states, individuals and companies have donated almost $1 billion to support refugees,they are accepting virtually zero refugees within their borders.
The U.S., whose relentless meddling, occupation, drone strikes have helped destabilize the region have taken in just 1,500.
And after extraordinary public outcry at the UK government’s failure to respond to the crisis, PM David Cameron announced this week that his government will accept just 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. They will only be able to stay for five years, and child refugees will be deported when they hit the age of 18.
A number of Eastern European governments have put forth, frankly, racist and xenophobic arguments for sealing their borders against the incoming refugees. They were best summed up buy Hungarian Prime Minister who argued that accepting Muslim migrant would threaten the ‘christian’ character of the state. Isn’t it lucky that Hungarian’s fleeing from the 1956 revolution against Soviet control were met with greater compassion by the UK – who took in over 20,000. Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic will accept Christian refugees but are strongly against accepting Muslims.
Meanwhile, dead people are washing up from beaches and rotting in abandoned trucks. No bombing campaign is going to help. Yet, this is Cameron’s plan, and this is how The Sun has been whipping up the ‘bomb them! Bomb them!’ hysteria.
First, it branded those who oppose a bombing campaign as ‘cowards’.
What neither The Sun nor Cameron are doing though, is addressing the most important questions on the matter:
- Who exactly should be bomb? President Assad, or his strongest opponents, ISIS?
- What will our targets be?
- What do we do with the additional refugees created by this conflict?
- What happens if we inadvertently hand Syria over to Islamic State, what is our plan then?
- If bombing campaigns, whether or not they were supported by ‘boots on the ground’ failed to bring stable democracy to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or Somalia – how will Syria be any different?
- Supposing Assad can be removed and ISIS can be defeated, what is the outline plan to return the nation to peace and prosperity post-conflict?
Until we have sufficient answers to these fairly basic questions, no rational UK citizen could, or should, support another episode of regime change by warfare. Our full efforts right now should be focused on humanitarian matters – to care for, shelter and settle refugees. Unfortunately, our government loves Syrians enough to bomb them, but not to house them.
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