by John J. Metzler
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
UNITED NATIONS – The scenes of Syrians fleeing their homeland and pouring on to the roads and rail links of Greece and the Balkans create an almost Biblical image. Exodus comes to mind. Not since WWII have such a large surge of refugees fleeing civil war and conflict, been moving through the gates of Europe and most especially towards Germany.
While European Union governments are genuinely overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, there’s a growing helplessness about how to offer the refugees humanitarian aid, and the bigger issue of granting political asylum, namely the right to legally settle.
The majority of those fleeing Syria’s chaos wish to go to prosperous Germany. Germany’s Christian Democratic coalition government welcomes them on humanitarian grounds and expects to receive about 800,000 refugees this year, a staggeringly large number. While accepting the majority of the migrants, Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed the need for burden sharing among other European states.
While European Union leaders point fingers, play a blame game among themselves, and rationalize why there’s no room in their countries for Syria’s broken families at the end of a long and dangerous trek from the war torn Middle East, there’s an obvious answer few have dare spoken of.
Why not resettle them in the oil rich Arab states?
It’s not that the Arabs have done nothing to help their cousins; the Kingdom of Jordan and Lebanon have been on the forefront of resettlement efforts since the Syrian conflict boiled over four years ago, Jordan hosts 620,000, Lebanon 1 million, and neighboring non-Arab Turkey almost 2 million. The bitter fruits of the so called Arab-Spring?
No, I’m not talking about these countries. They have earned regional and worldwide respect. Something like every fourth person in Lebanon is a refugee. I refer to the rich Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the Emirates, who have the resources and the room to house their fellow “Arab Brothers” from Syria and Iraq.
To state the obvious, in such Arab Kingdoms, the refugees would largely share the same culture, speak the same language, and worship the same Islamic religion. These Arab states would find new workers who would be happy to have a safe home. But are they being welcomed? No.
While Christian Arabs from Syria and Iraq would not be welcome in Saudi Arabia, those smaller migrant numbers could be more easily processed for European resettlement.
No doubt many of the Arab petrodollar states will be shamed into offering dollops of cash in solidarity with their “brothers seeking asylum.” But shall Saudi Arabia or Kuwait have the heart to accept some of these migrants from the swelling camps in Jordan and Lebanon?
Hungary’s government has been scorned for its inept but understandable reactions; here’s a small post-Soviet country of ten million people being flooded by a migrant tsunami being channeled through Serbia. The thousands of refugees in Budapest milling round the Keleti Train Station waiting for trains to Austria and beyond to Germany need to be processed properly.
Given that Hungary is a sovereign country, it has the right to screen and identify these migrants before they surge then passport free through the European Union’s borderless states. Security, safety and sanity argue in favor knowing WHO is coming into Hungary and then having free access throughout Europe which the Schengen Agreements allows for.
“The first and most important task is to gain control over the outer border of the European Union,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto stated.
Indeed many of these downtrodden are the victims of human traffickers. Others could be jihadi sleeper cell terrorists slipped in with the tragic mass of humanity.
Germany’s Chancellor Merkel described the crisis as not just a, “challenge at the national level, but for the EU as a whole.” The Berlin government has pledged $6.7 billion for migrant aid.
Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s new humanitarian coordinator stated that since the conflict began, over 250,000 Syrians have been killed, 7.6 million have been displaced inside their country, and over four million have fled across borders. Over one million have fled Syria this year alone!
As the Syrian crisis progresses, the United Nations and the world community are doing a reasonably good job of treating the humanitarian symptoms of the conflict, but a woefully inadequate task in solving Syria’s political problems. As this column has endlessly stated, nearly one half of ALL Syrians are either internally displaced or refugees from their homeland!
Is the world comfortable with this?
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).