A Wrap-up

Before embarking on the journey of blogging the migrant crisis in Europe, I was only partially aware of the extent to which the issue stretches. I assumed it had effects ranging across political and social fields, but did not realize at first that these various categories were so intertwined.

The fact that hostility toward migrants inhibits their growing accustomed to their new country and becoming integrated into society is somewhat of a given. But this hostility is so pervasive that it even has effects within immediate families, as in the case of Marine Le Pen and the growing chasm between her ideals and those of her father.

Even within a cultural group, there are misunderstandings as well – for example, President Netanyahu’s assumption that all Jews would want to “return” to Israel for security and acceptance whether they viewed it as their homeland or not. Solving a demographic problem can be difficult when the interests of the people in question are largely misunderstood or ignored.

In addition, the problem of immigration in the EU is more widespread than I had previously thought. Migrants travel to Europe from a number of African and Middle Eastern countries, including but not limited to Tunisia, Nigeria, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Somalia. The sheer number of countries that are experiencing political, social, and economic turmoil to the extent that there is continuous mass emigration is astounding. And by astounding I mean terrifying – such levels of displacement are a clear indicator of a fundamental social issue.

Clearly the key to solving the problem is to target the countries of origin themselves in terms of improvement. The root of the issue lies in the environments that are hostile toward their citizens, so the focus should be on making these countries more secure. There is no clear method to achieving this, however; the U.S. government may be able to justify intervention in light of humanitarian crises, but our military is not sufficient to cover all the territories at hand, nor ought it to be our responsibility. Even organizations such as the EU have limited power to completely override a country’s government and social structure without explicit warrant, and revolution ought to lie under the control of the people themselves.

That isn’t to say that in the meantime we should scale back rescue and relief programs, since the crisis in the Middle East is ongoing and has been more or less for all of recorded history. They are crucial to ensuring that more migrants survive than not during their perilous journeys in search of freedom and safety.

So a concrete goal could be to raise more aid at the international level, and to ensure that it is properly allocated so as to actually improve the journeys of these migrants and their integration process afterward. If more people understand the scope of the issue, especially those with the power to act on it, there is hope for improvement.

Tragedy in the Mediterranean a Caveat for Europe

Last Saturday, a ship sunk off the coast of Libya, causing the death of between 700 and 950 migrants from Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria, Zambia, Somalia, and Bangladesh. There were only 28 survivors. Since then, another ship carrying migrants to Europe was wrecked near the Greek island of Rhodes.

The numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean into Europe continue to increase, and the number of tragic accidents like this one increases as well as European countries struggle to meet the demands of monitoring the flow of people, and facilitating their crossing.

Over 11,000 migrants have been rescued so far in April alone, but over 1500 have died crossing the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, a much higher statistic than that from 2014.

Scarcity of economic resources led to the cancellation of the Italian Mare Nostrum search and rescue program, which since 2013 had found migrants and taken them the rest of the way to Europe.

It has been replaced by Operation Triton, an EU program led by Frontex, the European border agency, which intends to accomplish the same purpose but is not as highly funded or supported at the present moment. The program covers much less area than Mare Nostrum and is less active in general because it lacks the necessary means.

An added concern is that of social cause and effect. “Political opponents of Mare Nostrum argued that the program served as a ‘pull’ factor that attracted more migrants with the promise of being rescued.” With the promise of an organization to aid their journey, more people might brave the dangers of leaving their countries to cross the Mediterranean.

Yet there will be a certain amount of people desperate and determined enough to make the journey despite all odds, and for this reason Europe is still obligated to put effort towards helping them. However, the organizations still battle anti-immigration sentiment and suffer from lack of both economic and social support for these rescue programs.

The EU has been subject to criticism based on the fact that its responsibility is to devise a long-term solution to the migration crisis, but it has so far only come up with a temporary plan that still falls short of managing the problem.

I believe that improving these programs to encompass more area and send ships more frequently would be a good use of resources and funding. While improved programs may be liable to increase numbers of migrants, people will come whether there is sufficient aid or not. So Europe is tasked with easing their passage in any way possible to prevent future tragedy.

Political Divide in France Reveals Tensions at the Individual Level

Though the attitudes in France toward immigrants are becoming more amicable, the country is still experiencing political turmoil and ideological divide.

Marine Le Pen, president of the right-wing National Front Party, has made efforts in recent years to eliminate racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim messages and actions, which have been a component of the party’s policy in the past. She aims to expand the party’s appeal to different groups by making it less abrasive to certain belief systems and ethnicities.

But this may mean a revolutionary turnover of leadership. She accused Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father and the founder of the party, of making comments that harmed both her personally and the objectives of the party as a whole, comments which he refers to as “the truth.” These fell under the category of racism and anti-Semitism, which Ms. Le Pen refuses to accept.

New candidates for party rule will be selected on April 17 by the party’s political bureau, at which point it is expected that Mr. Le Pen will be officially released from his position as honorary chairman.

While this turn of events certainly has political ramifications, the underlying consequence of Ms. Le Pen’s decision is that she has allowed her ideology to take precedence over maintaining a healthy relationship with her own father. Her political reputation and success are dependent on a set of beliefs and priorities focused on solving key social issues that she holds above family ties.

This reflects in turn on communities and individuals who may not have direct connections to the government but must still face the consequences of decisions made at a higher level of authority.

Ms. Le Pen’s decision is in itself a slightly different form of rejecting heritage, a phenomenon on which many French base their fear of other cultures.

Will the French rejoice in the dismissal of a man whose views appear extreme and antiquated, or will their outlook be disheartened by the knowledge that a compromise cannot be reached and the only option is to completely abandon one’s political allies and counterparts? Only time will tell.

Racial Profiling: a Tragic Error in France

For the remainder of the semester, I will turn my attention to France almost exclusively, while still examining a variety of political, social, and economic factors. In the recent election on March 22nd, the National Front party (FN) of France won the most votes in history – 25 percent. Yet voters appear to have a love-hate relationship with the party’s policies, and so the FN still cannot rise to power. The party is explicitly anti-immigration, though voters overlook this in the hopes of putting in power those who promise to improve the economy through other means. Even though the general consensus reflects a disapproval for anti-immigration sentiment, racial profiling is still a prominent issue. A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that 27 percent of French citizens said they had unfavorable views of Muslims – nearly three times as many as confess to unfavorable views of Jews. The Jews are leaving the country but more recently arrived Muslims refuse to give up their homes despite this hostile attitude. Ethnic tension continues to show itself in more tragic ways. A trial was recently held for the police officers charged with responsibility for the death of two boys who hid in a burning power station during a 2005 riot. The accidental fatality of these minority children is one example of tragedy arising from the misguided but unfortunately prevalent assumption that police are “predators” who actively target minority people. “‘We are at the meeting of two worlds that don’t know each other, that don’t trust each other,’ lawyer Jean-Pierre Mignard, representing the families of the French boys killed in 2005, told The Associated Press. Profiling is the culprit of many accidental deaths, yet those criminals who are considered representative of Islam and blamed for overturning the safety and security and cultural identity of France are rarely true followers of this peaceful religion. Offenders in the Charlie Hebdo and Copenhagen attacks were notable not for their knowledge of the Qur’an’s teachings but for their history of a criminal record involving weapons and drug abuses. Once again, it is important to raise awareness of the fact that these “jihadists” are exceptions acting on extreme impulses. They do not characterize the religion or culture as a whole, and so we must not give them the power of creating a horrifying and false image of Islam. Muslims are by principle less predisposed to violence than the European French, and should be treated with no less compassion or respect than any other citizens.

Audit Assignment, and How France Might Find a Solution

At the beginning of the semester, I decided I would write about the immigration issue in Europe. I came to discover that this issue has many components, including but not limited to the social, the political, and the economic. I originally chose the topic of immigration because I am interested in the sense of belonging – a basic human emotional need. When this sense is obstructed or violated, there are often specific factors responsible.

I opened my blog by suggesting that there is a difference between benign causes of immigration, such as the desire for a “change of pace” and malignant causes responsible for creating refugee populations, which was a simplistic overview of the scope of the issue.

Throughout the course of my blog, I focused on immigration in a particular country that happened to be in the news that week. My post about Germany was longer because it had a dual focus on economics and cultural or societal aspects as well. The more specific my focus, the more concise my posts are – I wrote significantly less about President Netanyahu’s statement regarding the “return” of European Jews, but it was just as powerful if not more so than previous posts that incorporated a larger range of related aspects.

The causes of the immigration issue include war – ranging from the internal to the international – as well as tragedies such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which place blame for the actions of extremist individuals on entire ethnic groups and cause social unrest.

The effects range from subtle surface discrimination to outright abuse of migrants and minority communities.

The goal in solving this issue should be to focus on improving quality of life (as defined by the particular country) in each country that has this problem. This is a highly individualized conception, which turns controversial when ethnocentric assumptions are made. The solution is tolerance at the very least.

The focus of my paper will be on immigration in France, the “Islamization” issue promoted by the opposition, and methods the country has employed to combat this sentiment and facilitate integration of members of the French Muslim community.

My question:

What actions has France taken to eliminate discrimination against Muslim immigrants, and if they have focused more on the social or economic aspects, then what is the next logical step they should target in facilitating acceptance?

Layover in Libya Is Not a Walk in the Park

Since the Libyan civil war of 2011, there have been many migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to escape “war, kidnapping, and murder” and to gain new opportunities for “education, for a wage” (Vice News). In addition to the large numbers of native Libyans fleeing their war-torn country, the levels of migrants using Libya as a transition point in their journey to Europe have continued to endure.

Migrants from other countries such as Senegal and Tunisia choose to cross to Europe through Libya because it is fairly close and border control is less than adequate for such high traffic levels. But the actual process of fleeing from disaster and traveling to Europe is not so straightforward.

Sometimes the migrants are swindled and abandoned by the underground agencies that brought them to Libya in the first place. Others are arrested by Libyan police and thrown in prisons that are guilty of some of the worst human rights offenses – including starvation, crowding, and unacceptable levels of uncleanliness – before they are deported. And this is all before they even attempt the perilous journey across the sea.

Last year, 3000 migrants died last year crossing the Mediterranean from Libya, and 300 have died this year thus far.

There is concern that if border security is overwhelmed by incoming migrants, it could allow for the possibility of militants from ISIS or other extremist organizations entering unchecked. If border control is focused on regulating women and children who are simply trying to pass through the country, there will not be enough resources and personnel to sufficiently monitor all areas.

The International Organization for Migration (IMO), along with aid from Norway and the EU, is working to relocate these migrants to their countries of origin, since their dreams of Libya as a safe haven were dashed to the ground.

But while this may decrease the strain on Libya, it is not a complete solution in itself. In order to prevent so many people from emigrating and creating population issues elsewhere, their countries of origin need to work on improving living conditions as well.

The next step for these aid organizations is to work directly with the governments of these countries and the communities within them to determine what exactly would help improve social and economic conditions, and increase security and political stability. These are broad goals, but consulting with individuals who must face these issues day to day ought to be a priority, so we can work toward a better standard customized to each country that will convince its people to stay.

After 4 Years, Conditions in Syria Fail to Improve

Four years have passed since the beginning of the uprising against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the ensuing civil war that has ruthlessly torn apart the country. During this time, over 220,000 have died, and 3.8 million registered refugees have fled Syria, in addition to hundreds of thousands who are undocumented. Of these, 2 million are children.

These refugees are flooding into countries such as Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Lebanon, which are largely unprepared to support such staggering numbers of immigrants. These countries often have trouble supporting their own citizens, let alone millions of refugees who have no money and no legal permission to obtain jobs. This places economic as well as social strain on the host countries.

Lebanon has the highest number of refugees in the world, relative to its population. “Fearing for its own stability, Lebanon recently began imposing restrictions on Syrians trying to enter.” Refugees are now required to obtain visas before entering the country. This prevents many from obtaining access to the potential for a better life.

The fact that neither country possesses the necessary resources to support these people creates the legitimate threat of a “semi-permanent diaspora.” These refugees may never return to their homelands, at least within the current generation. This especially affects quality of life for Syria’s youth, whose only hope may have been parents who promised in desperation to find a way out of the destitution for their families.

As many as 5.6 million children remain in Syria, and are suffering from conditions of extreme peril and poverty. They lack the stable foundation necessary for simple tasks such as finding meals and going to school amid warfare. For these children, a world of poverty and war is all they’ve ever known, and such an environment will significantly impact their futures and those of the next generation.

More aid is needed for both the host countries and for Syria itself, where many are still unreachable or do not have the means to escape the conflict zone. “Help is dwindling… there just isn’t enough to meet the colossal needs – nor enough development support to the hosting countries creaking under the strain of so many refugees” says António Guterres, head of the UN refugee agency.

The UN and other organizations have garnered support in the past, so there is hope for the future. We want stability and security for our children, not a world riddled with airstrikes and automatic weapons. While diplomatic and military forces contend with the conflict itself, ordinary citizens can contribute time or resources to humanitarian organizations. By raising awareness about the direness of this dilemma, we can hope to move the hearts of those who possess the ability to contribute and work towards changing the lives of these Syrian children for the better.