THE BLOG

The Government's Betrayal Of Refugees, And Us

09/02/2017 17:25
csakisti via Getty Images

The history of Syria is not a peaceful one, even before the current civil war, Syria had been ruled by the iron fist of dictators, the people suffering from heavy sectarian violence. Though the land it occupies has been home to people for thousands of years, the country of Syria is less than a century old, and herein lies the key to its bloody history.

Much of the structure of the modern day middle east was decided not by the citizens and leaders of these countries, but by British and French lawmakers and cartographers shortly after the first world war and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. This is much like the history of Africa where regions were divided, split, and looted by European powers.

These lawmakers drew lines in the sand without much thought paid to the socio-political situation of those living there. People whose loyalties were to their tribes or religious sects suddenly found themselves citizens to nations they didn't understand, sharing lands with their former enemies. Other groups who lived on friendly terms were suddenly separated by national borders.
It's little wonder, then, that things in Syria often became tense and violent over the following decades. It is not unfair to say that a great share of the blame for this violence and disharmony lies fully on the shoulders of those lawmakers.

Today, the modern equivalents of these lawmakers have turned their backs on those fleeing the catastrophic violence, violence that our nations, and indeed the very same lawmakers, had a part in (consider the war in Iraq, refugees of which fled to Syria in more peaceful times). It doesn't require much observation to tell that our national response to the refugee crisis has been pitiful. The UK has only accepted a few thousand refugees at the most, whereas Lebanon, a country with a population smaller than London, a country which has also suffered with tension and conflict, has accepted over a million refugees from Syria.

On the 8th of this month, the government, lead by Amber Rudd, suspended the 'Dubs Scheme' the policy of accepting unaccompanied refugee minors after an insignificant 350. An additional 700 children have also been accepted thanks to a EU policy of reuniting families. 1,050 refugee minors is not enough. There are estimated to be 90,000 minors spread across Europe. The original Dubs (named after Lord Dubs, himself a former child refugee) law proposed the acceptance of 3000 children, itself a small number. Tiny compared to the 10,000 European child refugees accepted during the Second World War.

It is not hard to see that we are living in a country that is on the wrong side of history.

Perhaps these refugee policies (the term 'migrant' is offensively wrong, a migrant can describe the many Brits living in Spain, not an African or Middle Eastern child living on the streets, or a muddy refugee camp) stem from a paranoid fear of terrorism, ridiculous notions of overpopulation, or an attempt to appeal to the rising influence of the far right-wing voter.

Whatever the reason, I feel in a true sense that the government is acting against the will of the British people. Over the past few weeks there have been many marches and demonstrations protesting Donald Trump and his Muslim ban. Whilst he is the leader of a different nation and the influence of the average British voter to him is negligible, it demonstrates that a huge number of us are on the side of the refugee, even if our government is not.

Indeed, at the time of writing there is a petition on Citizens UK demanding that the Dubs Scheme be re-instated; there are 25,000 signatures and rising.

Such opposition to governmental rejection of refugees has been thankfully widespread. Within hours of Donald Trump's signing of the Muslim ban, airports all over America became surrounded by thousands of protesters. Whilst this is a good sign, it also shows a frightening level of disharmony between the citizens of the UK, USA, and likely other countries.

In the end I think of a man I heard about who was living in the Calais camp. He was a Syrian academic, a speaker of many languages, and had a PhD in political science. This was someone who would be an objective benefit to have in the UK, even for a while. But in any case, he spent his nights dressed in black, trying desperately to sneak into the UK.

I don't know what happened to him, and I know he is probably in the minority of those there. There are still countless thousands displaced across Europe who the government are refusing to give a chance.

We, as the voting citizens of this country, are the only ones who can change this.

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