The European migrant crisis has made headline after headline for weeks now. Thousands of refugees have fled home because of war, persecution or poverty and made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean or through the Middle East.
Now they travel through Europe, hoping to wind up in a nation that will accept them. We cannot expect one country or even a handful of countries to take on the responsibility of welcoming them. What many have called the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II will likely require helping hands from across the globe.
Member nations of the European Union received 437,384 asylum applications from January to July of this year, according to Business Insider. But these numbers aren’t slowing down. In fact, Germany expects to have received 800,000 applications by the end of 2015. Despite these overwhelming numbers, some nations still refuse to come in hand while others who have can no longer do so. Hungary’s previous efforts to help refugees (in spite of a prevailing anti-immigration stance among its citizens) ended last week after the nation finished sealing its borders with a razor wire fence.
Why is Hungarian sentiment toward refugees full of hostility and fear? Why does Hungary want to keep refugees out? Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says that they are “a threat to Europe’s Christian identity.” But I believe there’s more to it than that. Hungary stopped accepting migrants because there were too many and too few nations reached out to help them handle the situation. When Hungary’s borders were open, people came by the tens of thousands. Hungarian officials tried to deal with it until it became way too much to handle.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]WHAT MANY HAVE CALLED THE GREATEST HUMANITARIAN CRISIS SINCE WORLD WAR II WILL LIKELY REQUIRE HELPING HANDS FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE.[/pullquote]
Even Germany, known among migrants for its welcoming spirit and economic opportunity, had to temporary close its borders last week. This shows how desperate the situation is not only for the refugees but also for those who take them in. German chancellor Angela Merkel had previously expressed willingness to accept as many as necessary.
To be fair, other nations like France, Canada, Australia and the United States have begun to step up to the plate. But we still need more help and more resources. While smaller nations like Turkey and Lebanon are trying in vain to keep their conditions in their refugee camps livable, the EU is still figuring out how to resettle the 160,000 refugees it committed to resettle two weeks ago since some Eastern European nations are unwilling to do their fair share. Outside of the EU, prosperous nations like Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have extended no offers of help, according to CNN.
But the solution to this problem is two-fold: just as safe nations must help those in need, the nations they flee from need to own up to and fix the major problems that are driving so many away.
Conflict and terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea have displaced millions. But in terms of migration to Europe, Syria holds the most blame. A bitter civil war has prompted 4.1 million Syrians to leave the country. But instead of taking responsibility for the deaths of over 85,000 civilians (many of whom died due to the carelessness of his troops), President Bashar al-Assad has opted to blame the West. The West has brought this refugee crisis upon itself, Assad told Russian media last week, for supporting the opposition groups that fight his regime. (This support comes by means of EU ending an arms embargo with rebel groups in 2013 and the US offering “limited support to moderate Syrian rebels in fight against ISIS,” according to CNN).
“Can you feel sad for a child’s death in the sea and not for the thousands of children who have been killed by terrorists in Syria?” asked the President. He must not remember that almost 19,000 Syrians have died because Syrian warplanes continue to bomb mosques, schools and shopping centers in insurgent-controlled areas, according to the New York Times.
I don’t know how to solve the migrant crisis, but I do know this: it’s a problem that’s too huge for Europe to handle on its own. Those who are trying need not only our support but also our action. Because despite cultural, religious or ethnic differences, the reality is that hundreds of thousands of people just like you and me desperately need our help. They need jobs, homes and places to raise their families. I only hope that our world is up to the task.