Today, Europe faces a refugee crisis the likes of which it has not seen since World War II. The crisis began in March of 2011 when peaceful protestors taking part in the Arab Spring anti-government demonstrations were attacked with military force as part of a crackdown on rebels. As a result of this force many army defectors later loosely organised what is known today as the Free Syrian Army in the July of the same year. Since then, over 220,000 people have died and over 7.6 million individuals, half of whom are children, have been left desperately needing emergency humanitarian assistance.
The majority of those who have fled their war-torn home as a result of these conflicts now reside in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, but to date none have found asylum in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Omen. As a result of such an influx and lack of preparation by Europe many camps are now overpopulated and short on resources, which has led some countries, such as Germany, to struggle to find suitable accommodation leading refugees to be housed in places such as the former grounds of Dachau, a concentration camp formally used by the Nazi's to kill 31,951 people.
Strikingly, between the years of 2007 and 2014 the European Unions (EU) invested about €2 billion in defenses, high-tech security measures, and border controls, but spent little on preparing for the demands that would be placed upon it by this crisis. As a result states such as Greece continue to struggle as they face ever-increasing demands on their limited resources and continue to suffer through economic crises similar to that of the great depression. Despite this and our need to act as one we are now more divided than ever, with some states refusing to help altogether. It was only recently when pictures of a young child on a beach who had drowned were shown to us did we realise the plight that the refugees are facing.
Germany recently announced that it would house 800,000 refuges in 2015, more than the EU took in all of 2014, but then had to enforce temporary border controls to handle the mass influx of refugees leading Germany to demand an EU-wide solution. But this suggestion is highly challenged by fears of Islam, high birth rates, crime and the collapse of the social systems. However, even if the EU accepted all four million refugees and 100% of them were Muslims the European Union's population of Muslims would only increase by a maximum of 1% to a total of 5% and would not result in a 'Muslim continent' as some fear.
Furthermore, a Muslim minority is something that is neither new or something to be afraid of. Despite the fact the Western world has a lower birth rate, this does not mean that that Muslim population will overtake in a few decades. In fact, studies have shown that birth rates drop once the standard of living and education rise, with estimations showing that Muslim birth rates have been in decline since 1990 when the birth rate was 2.3 as opposed to today's level of 1.7, and the projected 1.4 in 2020 - 2030.
Another fear that must be disarmed is the fear that refugees lead to higher crime rates, which is false as refugees who become immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native population. When allowed to work they start businesses and integrate themselves into society and the workforce as quickly as possible, paying more into the system than they take out of it. Those coming from Syria are potential professional workers desperately needed to sustain Europe and its aging population.
Despite this, however, the European Union, the wealthiest group of economies on Earth who are well organised with an abundance of resources and capable of handling the crisis, refuse to accept them or work towards a solution. To further highlight the levels of action we are taking, or rather not taking, consider the previously aforementioned Jordan and how it has taken 600,000 refugees, whereas the United Kingdom (UK), which has 78 times the GDP of Jordan, has said it will only take 20,000 Syrians over its borders over the next five years.
We have an opportunity to allow these refugees, people that are just like you and I, into this country and offer them asylum, safety and a chance to rebuild their lives. We must grant ourselves the opportunity to reaffirm our humanity and be a leader in the pursuit for a better world tomorrow. We only have so much more to lose if we shut ourselves off behind our high walls today. So let me ask the question, how kind are the he's and she's of this mankind? Let us stand for the world where anyone and everyone can belong anywhere.