Europe’s Refugee Crisis is an American Problem Too- and We Can Help

By Tom Lahey

As thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Libya and parts of West Africa stream across Europe from the east and south, one of the greatest moral questions of our time arises: should the principle of freedom of movement allow all of these people to flow unchecked throughout the continent and settle in accommodations often paid for by European tax-payers?

It is nice to see that many organisations are assisting with providing food, water, blankets and other necessities to the refugees. It is important that all stakeholders on the continent take their social responsibility seriously. One has to ask, however, for how long will this be sustainable? At what point do European governments say that they can no longer provide for thousands more people and, Heaven forbid, at what point will Europe’s far-right nationalist groups (which tend to have xenophobic tendencies) begin acting as vigilantes and attack refugees travelling between Greece and Germany? There are many security and economic questions posed as a result of this mass-migration, and America can help. We’ve had experience.

Between 1990-2004, more than 850.000 illegal immigrants entered the United States every year, primarily through our southern border with Mexico. Since 2005, the number has dropped by almost 70%, but still, tens of thousands of undocumented migrants enter our country illegally each year. Today, the total number is close to 11,2 million. Why? In the search for better jobs, a safe upbringing for their children and the hope that the next generation can make it, many people from Mexico, Central and South America pay groups to provide transport to the U.S.-Mexico border and then help them sneak across past Border Patrol into California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Our border agents are overwhelmed by the enormity of the flow of illegal crossings and, due to the scale of the narco-war in Mexico at the moment, are often subject to armed attack. We do not have an open border with either Mexico or Canada and, though we try, are unable to account for most of those who make the treacherous crossing through the desert.

We’ve also had to deal with refugees coming from Cuba on makeshift vessels similar to the ones we see in the Mediterranean from Libya and Algeria. Tens of thousands of migrants would leave Cuba in the dead of night and try to make it 90 miles to the Florida Coast. Too many died in the Caribbean fleeing from the communist regime. What did we do? We established refugee centres in Florida and dispatched the Coast Guard to help rescue anybody travelling by water to the United States. The Red Cross provided the necessities and the people of Florida welcomed the brave exiles. An important step to registers each refugee using biometrics, personal information and any known relatives or friends in the country. Today, many of these refugees are American citizens and are proud because when they made it ashore, they were treated humanely and as equals.

To answer my original question in the opening paragraph, it is yes and no. I believe that every refugee in Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Great Britain-wherever- should be accounted for. The European Commission should partner with national governments to register the identities of every man, woman and child currently moving through Europe. Germany has employed an interesting tactic to do so. Local, state and federal agencies are working together to obtain the personal information of everyone now in the country and are actually setting up bank accounts for them and giving each family (or individual travelling without family) up to €400 so they can buy things they need for themselves whilst helping the local economy and using that information to track the movement/status of each refugee. A similar tactic has been employed in Lebanon where millions of Syrians live now and in Kenya where they send payments via mobile phone. Countries like the UK, Austria and Hungary should consider this option as well. Research shows, according to The Telegraph, that recipients of cash payments during a crisis situation such as this “tend to act very responsibly. Like any of us, they just want to keep their families healthy, safe and educated.”

So, how can the United States help? For one, we should deploy ships to the Mediterranean to help the Italian, French, British and Spanish navies intercept migrants to prevent more mass casualty situations and make the journeys safer. We should partner with Europol and national agencies to track and arrest those in criminal organisations who are taking advantage of thousands of desperate migrants and are profiting from this humanitarian disaster. The United States should send soldiers stationed in Germany and elsewhere in Europe to areas of heavy refugee concentration so we can process them and ensure they are being treated humanely. Lastly, we should look at the root cause of this crisis which nobody is talking about- the war in Syria and the rise of ISIL and even Boko Haram in Nigeria. Unless we as NATO, the UN and Western civilisation get serious about stopping the spread of violence in this region, more and more people will continue to make the journey and will add more stress to an already overloaded system in Europe. The U.S. and its European partners made the decision not to get involved in the Syrian conflict years ago. This crisis begs the question as to whether if we had intervened on behalf of the Syrian people and toppled the Assad regime and forced ISIL out of the country, would there be millions of displaced peoples from Syria all around the world? Likely, no. Yes, the war would have expanded in the short term and any aftermath which doesn’t include Assad in power would be tricky, but at least the Syrian people would have had a home and a place to feel safe because the United States, Great Britain and the Western world are there to help deliver peace and topple oppression.

At this point, when President Obama announced an expansion of the use of drones in Syria and the Pentagon considering the deployment of special forces into the country, it seems like America’s leaders are finally realising that without stepping in, this conflict could rage on for many more years. If Europe wants to make this crisis a short-term one, it will consider its options in Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.

Europe is not unfamiliar with refugees and neither is the United States. What about the Poles and East Germans and Hungarians who fled Soviet oppression for the West in the hopes of security and prosperity? What about the Jews who fled Nazi-occupied Europe for the UK and Sweden so they wouldn’t be murdered by the fascist regime? What about the people from the Balkans who, as recently as 1995, travelled through Slovenia to Hungary, Austria and Germany to escape from the war then? Europe did not stand idly by- it helped. It clothed, fed and yes, took military action against the root cause when necessary in order to guarantee refugees safety and a better life. Some stayed where they fled to but most left. Euronews interviewed a ten year-old boy yesterday who said “If the war stops and the fighting stops, we go back. We don’t want to stay in Europe. We want to go home”. If you are worried about Europe losing its Christian heritage or becoming a minority in your own continent, don’t be. These are people who came because they have nowhere else to go. You have provided a safe haven for them, and America should too.

Comments are closed.