Following Russia’s bombing of Aleppo, another wave of refugees has reached Turkey, raising alarms in Europe about the possibility of some of them reaching Europe later.
If you listen to European politicians these days, you would think that Europe is facing a large-scale armed invasion on the scale of the sack of Rome and Ottoman conquests. A headline on the first page of the London Sun newspaper last month (Jan. 30) screamed “How immigration ruined Sweden.” The London Express has led the way, for over a year, with stories about “migrant invasion,” “new wave of migrants queuing up to SNEAK into Britain,” “unprecedented tidal wave of migrants” and so on. But in fact we are talking about a handful of hapless, unarmed Syrian refugees, running scared from the brutality of the Assad regime, Daesh, and Iranian-supported sectarian militias, not to mention Russia’s carpet bombing of their homes. Refugees certainly have no intention of destroying Europe; they dream that one day they can go home.
Overt hostility and ugly incidents of open racism against refugees, plus the establishment of new hate groups such as PEGIDA, have put Europeans on the defensive. But instead of dealing with those issues, some have lashed out against other countries, singling out GCC countries despite the fact that they have been the most supportive in the most meaningful ways.
The European Union has failed to convince most of its member states to accept significant numbers of refugees. They have either closed their borders or allowed token numbers. Some have used force to chase them away or stop their boats from reaching their shores, drowning thousands of refugees in the process. Leaders of some EU states have stooped to levels of racism against refugees, and Muslims in general, we have not witnessed in decades.
Sweden was an exception, opening its doors and welcoming refugees. However, last month it took drastic actions against them, starting with closing its borders with Denmark to prevent or slow down refugee flows, effectively suspending Schengen Agreement. Now it is planning to deport some 80,000 refugees already in Sweden, roughly 50 percent of all asylum seekers residing in Sweden.
In addition, Swedish hate groups also started harassing refugees. On Jan. 29, a gang of about 100 masked men rallied in central Stockholm and threatened to attack refugees, before police dispersed them, arresting four of them. But they vowed to return.
If the traditionally hospitable Swedes are taking anti-refugee measures, other less refugee-friendly European countries have been much harsher, unleashing their security forces to chase away refugees, including women and children, leaving them out in the freezing cold. Hate groups have also terrorized refugees already in their countries.
In an attempt to stem the flow of Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe, the EU has allocated several billion dollars in aid to Turkey, their main gateway to Europe. The purpose of the aid package is to improve conditions for refugees there to discourage them from crossing into Europe.
One of the worst aspects of European policies to deal with the “refugee crisis” is EU attempts to deflect criticism of its refugee policies by distorting the record of GCC states. Without any factual basis, some top EU officials have publicly criticized GCC countries, implying that they were less forthcoming than Europe in dealing with the refugees.
EU’s audacity has recently reached new levels, when it issued a “non-paper” hinting that GCC states had not shouldered their full responsibility toward Syrian refugees. The paper, which was handed out by EU representatives in the region, suggested that GCC states take in more refugees and provide more aid to Syria’s neighbors. It then lists measures that GCC member states should take to change their laws governing immigration, residence, movement, and work rules!
This is what New Yorkers may call “ultimate chutzpah.” Europe, which has been woefully derelict in dealing with the Syrian crisis and refugees, is giving sermons on good conduct.
First, EU states shirked their responsibility to help protect Syrian civilians from the onslaught of their dictator and his allies by failing to make serious efforts to resolve the crisis. Second, they refused to accept but a handful of refugees fleeing Assad’s barbarism. Third, they are now considering massive deportations.
Fourth, GCC states are second to none in helping their Syrian brothers, seeking since 2011 first to mediate then to protect civilians from Assad’s killing machines. They organized the first three international conferences to mobilize aid to refugees, giving generously to countries hosting them and international organizations caring for them. GCC states host nearly three million Syrians, who are afforded free health care and education, and allowed to seek employment and live in dignity. Most GCC citizens regard this aid as their obligation toward their Syrian guests, and are puzzled by anti-refugee attitudes in the EU, a region ten times as rich as the GCC.