While we here in the U.S. are intently focused on the drama and chicanery of the upcoming election, believe it or not, there are other important things going on in other parts of the world that may have even more dramatic, long-lasting global effects than the selection of our next president. Nothing of importance will happen regarding the election circus until at least “Super Tuesday”, March 1st. There will be another GOP debate tonight, which I will not even bother with because every single GOP debate thus far has covered the exact same ground, none of which was enlightening in the least, but rather a babble of bullying, arguing and mud-slinging. Too bad, as Wolf Blitzer is one of the narrators on this one and I rather enjoy him. At any rate, for now and probably the next several days, I turn my attention to what is happening in other parts of the world, starting with …
The European refugee crisis has escalated to the point that nobody seems quite sure what the answer is. Here in the U.S., we claim to have a refugee crisis, but in fact ours is more of a manageable situation that has not begun to reach the crisis stage that is happening on the other side of the globe. Picture, if you can, a long corridor similar to that of a high-rise hotel, with rooms every few yards on either side. Now imagine what happens if thousands of people, seeking safety from a storm perhaps, enter the corridor and start filling the rooms. A few of the smaller rooms fill rapidly and can no longer hold any more people, and some other rooms begin to slam the door, not wishing to be overwhelmed as the smaller rooms have been. What happens next? The corridor, obviously, cannot hold all these people who just keep coming. Before long, the corridor is completely saturated, can hold no more people and yet … they keep coming. That is the situation in Europe today. Add to the mix, the politics of each separate nation, for Europe, despite the creation of the European Union (EU), is not one nation under a single political system, but a compilation of some 50 nations, only 28 belonging to the EU, each with its own political system, culture, and problems. One of the best articles I have found that helps to explain the situation using visual aids is in the BBC News … http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911.
The question of how the nations of Europe will handle the refugee crisis is of the utmost importance, as it is causing turmoil and conflict among those nations and threatening to damage the EU. It boils down to whether the EU should assign each nation to accept a certain number of refugees based on proportional population, or should it be left up to each country to decide for itself how many to accept? This is not an easy question with a single simple answer. It could quite easily result in a breakup of the EU. Just as we play the petty politics game here, so do the European nations, only they have more playmates to share the joy. Just a few of the disputes:
- Viktor Orban, Hungary’s xenophobic, Trump-like Prime Minister wants to build a wall (an awful lot of wall-building going on … perhaps I should invest in concrete) and is garnering a great deal of support from several other European nations.
- Orban told Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, that by accepting refugees she is directly responsible for those who have died along the way. To date, Germany has agreed to accept the highest number of refugee applications.
- Yesterday, Austria and its southern neighbors along the route traversed by refugees coming north from Greece, held a meeting to decide how many refugees would be allowed to enter from Greece. Somehow, they “forgot” to include Greece in the meeting, so now Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, understandably piqued, says he will not agree to anything less than a proportional sharing of all incoming refugees directed by the EU.
Meanwhile, refugees who fled for their lives are risking their lives traveling mainly by sea, only to live in horrible conditions while waiting for the politics to play out, and are dying daily. An estimated 41%-51% are children under the age of 18.
There are some 22 nations on the European continent that are not a part of the EU, Russia being the largest. However, Russia has accepted a minimal number of refugees relative to their total population and, by their bombing raids in Syria in support of al Assad, they have actually contributed to the growing number of misplaced and homeless refugees seeking asylum. To put it in perspective, Russia has taken in less than 0.3% of their total population in refugees, whereas Turkey has taken in 10.2%, and the U.S. has also accepted less than 0.3% (data source: UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).
This crisis is arguably the most significant and potentially disastrous for Europe since the end of WWII. It is not only a matter of political squabbles between nations that should concern us all, but the economic toll caused by sheltering the refugees, border closings, and other issues that are much more complex than what I am able to address here. What is the answer? I certainly do not know, and I suspect that nobody does, but let us hope that some consensus can be reached among the powers that be in the EU. Those of us who have been obsessed with the U.S. immigrant situation … make no mistake, Europe’s problems are, at least for now, far greater and the ripple effect of those problems will soon cross the big pond. The statistics are conflicting, depending on source, and again, it is well beyond the scope of this article to address the situation with any depth. My point is merely to become more aware that the refugee crisis goes far beyond our own borders and will not likely be solved easily nor painlessly for any humanitarian nation.