Western Syrian Refugee Debate: Dangerously Skewed


The world is witnessing the worst refugee crisis in one hundred years. But for most people in western countries, the horrors of the refugee crisis is spewed from TV screens which they switch off and on using remote controls. The rising power of the remote control makes such crisis to seem remote. It not only informs the consumption choices of westerners, it actually dictates faux reality, which is often far from the realities of refugee life. Remote control’s dangerously skewed reality unfortunately influences flawed foreign policies and world leadership. To put our world back on the right track, voices of refugees and former refugees must be prioritized over remote control inspired voices of charities, talking heads, politicians and experts whose livelihoods depend on the growing world refugee crisis.

Until now, the debate over the Syrian conflict in western media unfairly centers around ‘welcoming’ Syrian refugees. The solution to war is cessation of hostilities-peace. When the leading topic of any conflict focuses narrowly on refugee resettlement instead of ending the war that produces refugees, the result is a disservice not only to refugees but also to global peace and security.

Refugee resettlement is not a solution and should never be the dominant topic when millions of people are hurting and dying because of war. In fact, refugee resettlement only accounts for less than one percent (>1%) of the total population of people uprooted by violence and wars.

More media attention on refugee resettlement also means more money diverted from ending armed conflicts. For example, the European Union spends more money attempting to stop refugees or resettle refugees than they spend on cessation of hostilities or preventing war by promoting democracy.

With 4 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, it’s tempting not to focus on the symptoms-refugee resettlement. But with Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, the financial backers of rebels in Syria refusing to resettle the Syrian refugees they are helping to create, countries faraway must shift their focus from taking in refugees to ending the war once and for all.

Remote control inspired policies champion short term crisis management over systemic solutions. For example, from 2007 through 2014, the European Union spent $2.13 billion dollars on fences, high tech security technology and border patrol. The European Commission also allocated 30 million euros for the search and rescue operation, Mare Nostrun assisting drowning asylum seekers. America, on the other hand has spent $500 million dollars to train 60 Syrian rebels. The United States also rewarded former Liberian rebels and associates of convicted war criminal Taylor by lifting sanctions in wake of rising ritualistic killings and insecurity in post-conflict Liberia.

The current remote control refugee resettlement policies of western nations are broken, flawed and self-serving because they fail to address the root causes of conflicts at the source.

In the environment created by the remote control, the voices of refugees are completely drown by the voices of charities, experts, politicians and talking heads. Don’t doctors and nurses ask patients before writing prescriptions? In the remote controlled inspired environment, the world refugee crisis is worsening because those writing the prescriptions to solve the problem are either clueless about the real problem or are actually experts whose livelihood depends on the misery of their fellow human beings.

With violent radicalized European citizens with visa waivers privileges to enter America and elsewhere, the threat to global peace and security is clearly not limited to 4 million Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Europe. The problem is war and the solution is neither the symptom of refugee resettlement nor funding of rebels and combatants. America is just one country and all the refugees of the world can’t come here. Therefore the remote controlled inspired policies promoted by politicians, experts, talking heads and charities need to be reassessed and replaced by commonsense policy focused on ending wars, promoting global peace and security. Europe’s remote control inspired refugee policy has pushed our world closer to the brink. The world can begin pulling back by simply elevating the voices of refugees and former refugees in the dangerously skewed refugee debate dominated by charities, experts and political talking heads with absolutely no refugee experience.

A pastor and human rights activist, Torli was instrumental in lobbying with US congressmen and policymakers to increase the quota of refugees from Africa being allowed into the US. He has also worked tirelessly in the New England region and beyond to champion the rights of refugees and immigrants. His organization, Universal Human Rights International, worked with thousands of immigrants from 38 different countries over the span of 20 years. He has been honored by the National Peace Corps Association and the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.


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