United States’ Leadership Needed as Pinnacle of Worldwide Refugee Crisis Divides Europe
By Avery Scope Crafts
On January 27th, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a monumental executive order that effectively cut the United States off from aiding the rest of the world. The order, which barred people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days, additionally banned refugees for 120 days and indefinitely halted admission of Syrian refugees. This order comes two years after the number of forcibly displaced people surpassed 65 million (of which over 21 million were refugees), facing the world with the worst refugee crisis in history; one that has since shown no signs of improvement.
Relentless conflicts within the Middle East and South Asia, namely in Syria and Afghanistan, are responsible for this predicament that has taken the world by surge. Nearby countries, including Turkey and Lebanon, have continued to quietly bear the brunt of refugees, and yet many of the refugees aspire to end up in the EU. Unfortunately, their yearning for a better quality of life is the underlying cause for the humanitarian struggle spreading throughout Europe; a struggle that is only exacerbated by Trump’s executive order.
For such an extreme law, there is a surprising amount of reasonable justification provided in its defense. The policy was put into action to protect American civilians from the entry of those “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Without even exploring the fallacy of this declaration, one can derive everything wrong with the current state of the country. Simply put, Trump and the United States are turning their backs on everyone outside of the country’s border lines. They are acting selfishly rather than as one part of a connected global system, and going against core values of compassion and integrity that it has aligned with in the past.
When asked about the refugee crisis, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon replied that “Above all, this is not just a crisis of numbers; it is also a crisis of solidarity.” It is important to view the existing refugee situation from a humane aspect rather than analyzing the pure statistics of the matter. There are certain moments in history, such as the Haiti earthquake or the September 11th terrorist attack on U.S. soil, when severe problems arise and the most essential worldwide response is one of community and harmony. Now is one of those times. For a country that prides itself in having the most political influence around the globe as the world’s biggest supplier of foreign aid, it is more than incredulous that the United States of all countries would be the one to abandon the principle of solidarity.
One might argue differently if this policy had unprecedented results. But, without a doubt, the United States’ denial of refugees in the current day is eerily similar to its rejection of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. Much of the modern refugee policy implemented by the U.S. is in response to the catastrophic events of the Holocaust Era. However, it appears that the ‘global superpower’ has long forgotten its flawed history and the importance of learning from it. It is only fitting that the refugee ban was signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, completing the full circle of blatant hypocrisy.
Even so, not only is this act atrocious in its own right, but its impact looms larger because of the implicit repercussions. By turning its back on those in desperate need of a safe home, the United States leaves Middle Eastern refugees with little choice but to head solely toward European countries. In addition to the overflow of people and the scarcity of space as a result of America’s isolationism, these aforementioned countries are left without a leader, a role the U.S. is accustomed to filling, to help guide them through this crisis.
All across Europe, countries are struggling internally with this conflict. On February 18th, tens of thousands of protestors in Barcelona took to the streets in retort to Spain’s lethargic response to embracing more refugees. The protest followed Spain’s taking in of 1,100 refugees, despite the fact that it had promised to encompass roughly 16,000 in a 2015 quota system agreement among EU countries. Spain is far from the only country to appear inadequate at resettling incoming refugees.
In England, increasingly nationalistic views are becoming common, especially in middle to low income areas where refugees are settled. There, competition is at its highest between refugees and poorer citizens for valuable limited resources such as housing and state benefits. As Britain’s working-class population feels ever more powerless and disrespected, incompatibility has proven to be inevitable, often leading to outrage and even violence.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that U.S. involvement in the crisis is essential to ameliorate the present situation. With no solution of any type in sight, the need for a leader to step forward and lead by example will only heighten in this time of uncertainty. As European countries struggle to deal effectively with refugees, it might be easy to defend the current U.S. refugee policy. Yet it is that exact reason why now more than ever, the Donald Trump-led United States must change its hypocritical ways and return to being the positively influential world power it once was, and still can be.