From a Western perspective (mainly US-centric belief), refugees pose as an economic strain. This idea is laced in political rhetoric, and countries around the world have banded together to close their borders and turn their backs on those in need.
Paul Collier and Alexander Betts, the authors of Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, believe that the fundamental issue with foreign policy is that refugees are seen as burdens instead of potential assets.
So how did this idea come about? Media plays an instrumental role in shaping citizens’ opinions. Major news outlets mainly cover stories of violence in Syria, particularly the war on ISIS. Political leaders are deterred from aiding refugees for security reasons, such as terrorist threat, which has proven to be a concern in only a fraction of the refugee population. In addition, international organizations have focused their efforts on rescue, not rehabilitation. The camps offer no employment opportunities, no autonomy, and no hope (see Weekly Update #6 for more information about refugee camps). Losing motivation is a dangerous situation for Syrians. In Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, Rachel Post, the director of substance treatment at the Columbus Community Hospital, explains why homelessness is seemingly impossible to solve; “The most complicated people to work with are those who have been homeless for so long that going back to the streets just isn’t scary to them.” It appears that Syrian refugees are facing similar circumstances; they are becoming accustomed to marginalization.
Revised refugee policies have yielded positive results in many countries. For example, Uganda has an Open Door policy towards South Sudan and Rwanda. Not only was shelter provided in Uganda, but the newcomers were given freedom of movement. Subsequently, over one-fifth of the refugees became business owners, which created jobs for citizens and immigrants alike. Progressive policies that aim to permanently incorporate refugees into a nation’s economy are more beneficial to hosts and new residents.
According to Betts, “The European refugee crisis was not a crisis of numbers; it was a crisis of politics.” The Syrian refugee crisis does not have to continuously breed murders, drownings, and ethno-nationalism; it is an opportunity to rethink how we - as individuals and nations - can make good out of hardship.
Berlatsky, Noah. “The Western belief that refugees are a burden is the root cause of today’s global crisis.” Quartz, 28 Aug. 2017, qz.com/1063280/the-western-belief-that-refugees-are-a-burden-is-the-root-cause-of-todays-global-crisis/. Accessed 28 Aug. 2017.
Gladwell, Malcolm. What the dog saw and other adventures. London, Penguin Books, 2010.