The United Nations defines refugees as individuals who are fleeing from wars, arms conflict, persecution, and terrorism. Refugees are under international protection; therefore, they shall not be “expelled or returned” to their original countries where their “lives and freedom” can be threatened.

The misconception of Western countries having to take in more refugees is disputable. Mediterranean refugees, in actuality, tend to seek asylum in their nearby countries where it is easier to assimilate religiously and culturally.

For the West, taking in more refugees can be politically controversial. However, giving a hand and providing aids  to the major host countries such as Turkey are meaningful actions. It is practical, and it is possible.

The Misconception of Where Refugees Actually Go

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Muslim-dominant countries host the most refugees by mid-2016. Turkey holds the record number of refugees – 2.8 million – followed by Pakistan (1.6 million), Iran (978,000), Ethiopia (742,700), Jordan (691,800), Kenya (523,500), Uganda (512,600), and Germany (478,600).

Why Europe?

The Migration Policy Institute has found that Turkey spends more than the United States, about $6 billion, to host refugees. Lebanon, Jordan, Iran and African countries have been dealing with their own economic turmoil and social crisis. Thus, with a surge of asylum seekers arriving in their countries, they are short of  food, water, facilities, and basic needs for refugees. Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan are living in “extreme poverty” due to the host country’s inability to supply them. This has resulted in a portion of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to arrive in Europe – a more developed and stable region.

Pew Research Center reported that 1.8 million asylum seekers arrived in EU in 2015. The number illustrated the biggest refugee crisis that EU has encountered since WWII. However, the continent hosts less than the number of refugees taken in by Turkey. According to the International Migration Organization (IMO), there were one million arrived by sea and 35,000 arrived by land in 2015. During the journey, the IMO reported that there were 4,000 thousand people died trying to cross the Mediterranean. We need to recognize that this is one the biggest humanitarian crisis in modern day history.

Who should we condemn?

One of the reasons refugees choose to go to Europe is the Gulf Countries’ refusal to take in any refugees. According to Reuters, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, though being the richest countries in the world, have taken in ZERO refugees. Amidst the humanitarian crisis, their doors have remained shut. This is a despicable, indefensible action, and should be condemned by the rest of the world. Their nearby community is dying, yet they don’t give these desperate Muslims the slightest hope. Additionally, the international community has failed to lift the burden for the host countries in unstable regions. Funding and assistance have been insufficient, leaving countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran unable to shelter refugees.

The Consequences

These people – mothers, fathers, and children – never attempted to pour into Europe. Ongoing persecution, violence, and routine bloodshed have left them with a decision to make a home elsewhere. They seek asylum in the nearby Muslim communities to escape the state of extremity only to face new struggles and miserableness in their asylum countries. Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and other African countries are developing countries that are still dealing with their own issues, yet they host more than 80 percent  of the world’s refugees. This dilemma, ultimately, will force these countries to close their doors; and refugees will have no place to go.

This humanitarian crisis has been fatal and epidemic, yet the world has delayed its action. If these persecuted individuals are left with hopelessness and frustration, the consequences can be catastrophic – they have nothing else to lose. This is where the violent seed first rooted and later grows into terrorism.

We have seen terrorist and hate groups emerge from the Middle East over the last decades due to the long-lasting religious conflict, the aftermath of World War II, and the West intervenes. In the end, it is always the innocent people that suffer. The hate flame has been burning in the Middle East. Unless we act now, this refugee crisis can turn the current situation in the Middle East into a deadly wildfire.

Hoang “Sally” Ho

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