Refugee Refusal Ring Any Bells From World War 2?
The Syrian Civil war has been an ongoing conflict since 2011. The turmoil began when citizens protested President Bashar al Assad’s regime, and these protests slowly turned into a larger scale insurgency. More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the past 4 ½ years of armed conflict, with more than 11 million citizens forced from their homes. Now, the conflict is more than Assad, it is contention between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and the rise of Jihadist groups, including Islamic State, that has inevitably drawn in neighboring countries.
Refugee Refusal Ring Any Bells From World War 2?
The UN has also reported alleged violation of human rights ranging from murder, rape, torture, and even blocking access to food and health services – all as a method of warfare. Sure enough, the Islamic State has also been accused by the UN of waging a campaign of terror in Syria. They have carried out mass killings many of them involving public executions. Chemical weapons have also been employed, such as the August 2013 attack that involved nerve agent sarin being fired into districts in Damascus. This all boils down to the reason why so many people are fleeing, with the rise of this civil war it is only a matter of time before a mass genocide occurs. It is disappointing to see how many Americans don’t recognize this conflict and don’t support the refugees.
The type of individuals seeking refuge from Syria are all types of citizens, ranging from doctors to engineers to teachers. A story from a Syrian dentist describes a world in which food and water are not available to the public, and he had to flee his home to escape the daily bombings of his city, along with gun warfare from multiple sides of the conflict. Stories like this are not new to us, they are echoed in the history of the Armenian Genocide, the previous conflicts and wars in the Middle East, and even the Holocaust. Millions of people are being displaced from their homes due to their beliefs, thousands are being killed based on what religion they follow, and the US seems to not recognize this and not accept the people pleading for help, something witnessed in the past.
When taking a look at Germany and the US, Germany has accepted over 200,000 refugees compared to the less than 2,000 the US has accepted, with President Obama only planning to accept up to a limit of 10,000. France, even after the deadly Paris attacks, is still welcoming Syrian refugees up to 30,000. Unfortunately, not all of Europe has been accepting to the refugees, examples can be seen in Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania. Surprisingly, the Slovaks have been seen to show extreme xenophobia ranging from refusing refugees to actually physically harming them and herding them into camps and treating them like animals, even though in previous conflicts the Slovaks faced the same racial tensions. The link below is a video of Hungarian journalist Petra Laszlo kicking a child refugee.
Germany on the other hand has greeted refugees with open arms and accepted them into their country. While Germany plans to accept more refugees, they do not have enough space for all and the rest of the European Union need to step up and begin to accept the refugees and follow the example of Germany.
On the evening of November 13 2015, terrorist attacks were orchestrated in Paris consisting of shootings, hostage taking, and suicide bombings. A total of 130 people were killed, with over 360 people injured. These attacks were the deadliest since World War 2. Since then, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISL) claimed responsibility for the attacks. Since this attack, views on the Syrian refugee crisis have changed immensely, and the acceptance of them is slowing diminishing, not just in France, but worldwide.
US Acceptance of Syrian’s
Out of the 4 million Syrian refugees seeking refuge, the US has only accepted around 1,800. Usually the US accepts up to 70,000 refugees, but after the 9/11 attacks, this number has diminished greatly from Middle Eastern countries due to our major tensions there. Sadly, the number of refugees allowed in to the US will be greatly decreased. This Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to halt the Syrian refugee program and not allow any to enter the country, along with 30 governors stating they will not allow any Syrian refugees into their state.
Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie stated, “We should not accept Syrian refugees even if they are orphans under five years old.”
Texas governor Greg Abbott wrote, “Syrian refugees might take part in ‘terroristic activities’”.
Jeb Bush, governor of Florida, and Texan senator Ted Cruz, indicated that the US should only accept Syrian refugees that are Christian. All of these reactions came after a report was published that a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the bombers, a speculation that has now been proven false. All of those involved in the Paris attacks are reported to have been EU citizens.
All of the backlash from these incompetent politicians imply that individuals whose lives are at risk should be turned away simply because of their religious affiliations and nationality. These politicians are going against the terms of the Geneva Convention that prohibit racism and prejudice, something the US has suffered from in the past regarding refugees. This however, does not stop these politicians from making these horrid comments regarding refugees and starting a campaign founded from complete xenophobic beliefs.
This xenophobia reasserts the fears of the citizens in the US in the wake of the Paris attacks and many politicians are just seeking support and votes by making such vile statements. These statements are completely disregarding the background and security checks performed on the refugees before admittance and the years long of waiting that these citizens are undergoing. Instead, these politicians are leading the public to believe that refugees are immediately allowed in and all of them are terrorists.
In the midst of this major humanitarian crisis, we have a responsibility to welcome those who are fleeing from a civil war, especially if we have been militarily active in Syria. If other European countries can accept over 70,000 refugees combined, surely the US can accept more than the 1,800 they have, regardless of the racist beliefs of the politicians.
Recollections of the US’s previous racial actions
It may be easy to forget that the US has been involved in biased activities during times of war, let’s go back to World War 2. In the late 1930s the US turned away the infamous St. Louis, which held a boat of over 900 Jewish refugees who were just turned away from Cuba. These refugees were fleeing the Nazi control in Germany, and many on board were children. The US refused to accept any refugees off this boat and it was sent back to Western Europe. In 1940 the US State Department essentially endorsed the decision to turn back the St Louis as it recommended to the Caribbean nations to continue refused entry for Jewish refugees in fear that spies have infiltrated the refugee stream. These “spy” refugees were ultimately sent back to Germany where they lost their lives in the concentration camps.
Moving on in the war, after Pearl Harbor all Japanese American citizens were moved into internment camps and lost their homes and property. While in 1988, Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act, which basically apologized for the internment camps and admitted the government acted on racism and war hysteria, we are still seeing the same intolerance to different cultures today. The US is repeating its history by turning away these refugees. If the government actually felt bad for their past mistakes they would realize they are doing the same thing now and they need to stop before it’s too late for these refugees. To think about what is happening is unbelievable, it is as if the past never happened, as if there was nothing in history similar to this that we can reflect back on. If only the US citizens can see what happened in WW2 so they can realize what they are doing right now by supporting these nasty politicians.
Even Virginia Mayor of Roanoke states, “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from [Islamic State] now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then,”
David Bowers has compared the situation we have now to that of WW2, which the US has admitted to be wrong and racist due to the war they were experiencing. This can be seen in a quote from previous lieutenant Gen. John L. DeWitt, commanding general of the Western Defense Command. He stated, “In the war in which we are now engaged, racial affinities are not severed by migration. The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second- and third-generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted”
From here we can see the direct racial tensions between the US and Japanese Americans, tensions which have switched over to the Middle East.
Ultimately, this is a humanitarian crisis in which we all need to realize and be able to formulate opinions which do not take into account the racism from the politicians.