Small Wars Journal

Refusing Refugees: Why are We Building Walls Instead of Bridges

Fri, 09/04/2015 - 2:29am

Refusing Refugees: Why are We Building Walls Instead of Bridges

Joshua Walton

The way in which the current international migrant “crisis” is portrayed in political debates and by the media is having a detrimental effect on our efforts to positively resolve the logistical implications of mass migration from areas such as, Syria, Libya and African nations like Eritrea and Sudan. It is interesting to note that in a time of a political crisis the governments of modern democracies will often act in defiance of their usually liberal agendas to impose acts of self-preservation (usually once public opinion reflects that the issue is in fact a crisis).

The distinction between an “economic migrant” and a “refugee” is therefore an important one to make. Mass migration on this scale is a relatively modern phenomenon, which has created an illicit market for human trafficking and is producing a rising number of migrant deaths across Europe and the Mediterranean.

The UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which was enacted in 1954, defines a “refugee” as: “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or return to it.”

The media and government in western societies are openly using language such as “swarms”, or “marauding” to describe migrants as though they are pests. Many member states have been making poor policy decisions resulting in widespread migrant trafficking across national borders, leading to countless deaths and mismanaged groups drowning at sea. To label all those emigrating from less prosperous or war-torn nations as migrants, rather than refugees, which in fact a large proportion of these people are, is surely an illogical and somewhat prejudice assumption to make. Especially considering that this distinction was already universally recognised by the UN over half a century ago.

The British government has persistently pledged during its last two terms to reduce the level of net migration to tens of thousands a year, now expected to be in motion by 2020. In accordance with this policy against rising immigration levels, the Home Office announced last week that they would be enacting a new immigration bill. This bill will rule that illegal migrants coming to Britain will face a six month jail sentence, or an unlimited fine if found to be working illegitimately. As part of the policy, companies across the UK, such as taxi firms and late-night food venues have also been warned that hiring an illegal worker may result in the closure of their business.

The problem with reactionary policies such as building a razor-wire fence, as seen in Budapest on the Hungarian border over the past week, is that it literally gives the impression of blocking out the issue rather than attempting to handle it rationally. Many other EU member states, even Britain, are applying similar measures, recently erecting walls around supposed exit points from the Channel Tunnel in hope of curbing the migrants’ attempts to seek entrance to the UK. Brussels recently rejected Theresa May’s call for the reintroduction of border controls to deal with the crisis.

With over 300,000 people (according to UN figures) having risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean this year and more than 100,000 people arriving in July alone, most EU member states chose to oppose the European Commission’s proposal in June, for mandatory settlement quotas. The EC’s proposal was a reasonable attempt to ease the burden on countries who take in far more refugees than other member states. The UK currently accepts a mere 4% of the share of asylum seekers entering Europe, with France accepting 8%, in comparison with Germany’s high intake, of 40%.

Out of the devastating number of Syrian refugees that have left their country, 3.5 million people were taken in by a combined effort from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. This exemplifies how cataclysmic the issue of population displacement is in these volatile nations.

Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor has stood up for the rights of refugees and said, “If Europe fails on the question of refugees, then it won’t be the Europe we wished for.

It is true that if all EU member states close their borders and reduce their intake rather than accepting partial responsibility, then the current catastrophe surrounding mass migration will truly escalate into a global emergency. Europe seems to be propagating this crisis at present by failing to corroborate and effectively re-distribute asylum seekers, who are in genuine need of asylum in Europe.

It is easy for some to overlook the historical causes of this particular period of mass migration, such as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently, Libya and Syria. However it should not be so easy to let these matters be downplayed by certain media outlets, by dehumanising refugees under the banner of ‘immigrant’. Many of the affected areas in Asia and Africa are political environments, corrupted by war, economics and in some cases, religion.

As a citizen of an EU nation, it seems obvious that providing humanitarian aid, as well as productively easing European countries into the process of mass migration from these collapsing nations is the only solution. Building walls in migrant hotspots, such as Budapest, will not slow the desires of those people afflicted by the conditions of their country to wish to travel to nations with far more liberal human rights legislation, such as the UK, or Netherlands and Germany.  

Alexander Betts, Professor and Director of Refugee Studies Centre, commented on the crisis stating, “While Europe is squabbling, people are dying. Europe needs a comprehensive global refugee policy.”

The death toll of people seeking asylum in Europe is rising at a worrying rate. At least 2,500 migrants have died since January. During the past week, 71 suffocated in a truck in Austria and 150 drowned just off the coast of Libya. The EU’s interior ministers are set to meet on the 14th September, to seek urgent solutions to the mass migration crisis.

We must ask ourselves, is the burden of accommodating more refugees really a larger loss than so many unnecessary deaths? The European Union itself was not built on foundations of intolerance. We should accept that the largest mass migration since the Second World War era is currently occurring, due to many social and economic factors within the global political spectrum. It is a crisis that will only become more common if we are to react with dismissive or xenophobic policies and not to sensibly regulate the distribution of refugees throughout European member states.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Walton is a postgraduate journalism student presently based in Sussex, England. After previously completing a politics and philosophy course he is currently focusing on a career as an aspiring writer and freelance journalist, with a broad field of interests, mainly including, politics, current affairs and international relations.


Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 7:46am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

REALITY on the ground though is somewhat different----

"Asked woman from regime-held Mezze, Damascus, which group she was fleeing: "regime, Jaish al Islam, Daesh all the same. All are killing us"

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 6:58am

Jeff--remember the number of times I mentioned the term "weaponization of information". In any UW strategic strategy being used by Russia, Iran, IS and China--it is the key cornerstone to that strategy.

Remember how I indicated we the US public do not clearly understand day to day events in Syria that has played out over the last four years AND how western mainstream media is responsible for that.

WELL here is a perfect example actually more than perfect (it could be used in a classroom)of Russian "weaponization of information" twisted to depict Putin as this great forward thinking leader with massive foresight, depicting Assad as the global savior in the war on IS.

WHAT is totally missing is the following;

1. he fails to address the simple mathematical fact that IS has killed and or wounded seven times fewer Syrians than has Assad and his militaty

2. the UN has released a study on the torture used by Assad against his own civil society that have out rivals anything Is has relased in their videos--there was recently even a photo display in the UN that shocked all--but no response out of the UNSC

3. Assad has in fact lost 85% of his territory not only to IS but to the Kurds, and to moderate/radicalized Islamists

4. Russia has delivered all the weapons that the Assad military has needed since the fighting began in 2011 over demands by the silent majority to participate in their own government since Assad is actually a minority dictator--Russia continues to provide aircraft and bombs

5. the author fails to also address that Russia has repeatedly blocked any attempts by the UNSC to address Syria

6. he fails to address that the Russian Foreign Minister Larvov under his breath but caught by audio accused the KSA FM of being a "{blooming idiot" for publicly stating in Moscow that Assad is the problem not the solution

7. he fails to mention that the barrel bomb concepts were passed to the Syrians by the IRGC/Iran and are being flown on Russian supplied aircraft

8. he fails to mention that Hezbollah the Iranian proxy has been fighting along side Assad since 2011 and still is fighting along side of him so with Russian arms AND now troops flowing in is in fact Russia supporting the Iranian foreign policy in Syria????

9. he fails to mention that Iran will never allow a break in the lines of communication between Tehran and Lebanon to occur--even yesterday the senior advisor to Khamenei declared there was no immediate need for democracy in Syria--the exact demands that started this mess in 2011

10. he fails to mention that hundreds of Iraqi shite militia are fighting in Syria

I could go on forever--BUT this is a masterpiece of "work with Putin", forget his invasion of eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea and his total disrespect of international law --AS he is the soul and savior of Syria---just work with him and all will be fine.

BUT again did he point out that far far far more Syrians have been driven out of Syria and or killed than ever killed or driven out by IS.

NOT a single sentence---that is "weaponization of information".

The Russian propaganda 6 Ds at work--distract, dismay, distort, deflect designed to create doubt and distrust.

All of the Ds are in this article--BUT he is just a "normal Russian with his "normal" opinion BUT he is a Russian oligarch and the total owner of the Independent--that is a dangerous mix in the world of mass media.…

Evgeny Lebedev

Wednesday 9 September 2015

An alliance of Western leaders, Muslim nations and Vladimir Putin is the only way to defeat Isis
The group is the biggest threat to humanity that the world has faced in the 21st century.

It took a picture. The image of little Aylan Kurdi dead on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey, appears at last to have woken the world from its slumber in relation to the horror of modern Syria. Iconic photography has changed the course of history before, most notably during the Vietnam War. Some good may yet emerge from the tragically brief life of a drowned three year-old, if it prompts not only a generous response to the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe since the Second World War, but also – and in my view just as vital – a strong, ruthless international mission to deal with this problem at source. And that means defeating the savagery of so-called Islamic State.

Even young Kurdi's name, containing as it does the name of a long persecuted minority, gives a clue as to the sectarian nature of this crisis. Today, right in front of our eyes, whole civilisations are being expunged, and we cannot save them if we deceive ourselves about the nature and identity of the enemy.

I believe that a militant, radical, mutated form of Islam is the greatest threat to humanity the world has faced in the 21st century. It unites Central Africa with Eastern Asia, and has sympathisers and affiliates from Lahore to - shocking to me - Dewsbury in Yorkshire. But its locus is in the Middle East, and specifically the lawless terrain between what is left of Syria and Iraq. It is true that some of the refugees heading our way - your way - are fleeing Eritrea and Afghanistan. But all the evidence is clear: the majority are Syrian.

I have spent some time in the Middle East, where any attentive visitor can immediately see the traces of truly great civilisations. I fear a generation growing up unaware that ancient Baghdad was home to the world's greatest scholars; that the lands of Persia and Mesopotamia were home to artistic flourishing; that people of different faiths lived and loved happily from Cairo to Constantinople. And at the heart of it all was the majesty and beauty of Syria.

No more. It is hard to overstate the sheer scale of what has been wrought in Syria today. Some 200,000 have perished since the start of the civil war. An astonishing six million of Syria's 22 million people are now refugees, fleeing war and going to unimaginable lengths to find sanctuary. Whole cities, with their own institutions and public services, have sprung up in the makeshift camps. Some neighbouring Arab nations are overwhelmed. Unfortunately they tend to be poorer nations like Lebanon, rather than the richer Gulf states. Saudi Arabia has accepted no refugees, unforgivably.

Syria itself is dissolving, its map changing by the minute. When protesters took to the streets in 2011, President Assad responded with brutality. He is a dictator who has used chemical weapons on his people. But he is a bulwark against the even greater evil of Isis. Some people argue that you cannot argue that one is more evil than the other. Well, I do; and unless and until we eradicate Isis, stability will not return to the region, borders will remain meaningless, and the refugees will grow in number.

These remorseless vermin are fully intent on raping, slaughtering and bombing their way to victory at all costs. It is striking that they have gone after the treasures of Syria's ancient civilisation: they know that they can only claim victory for their perverted faith if they have eradicated the collective memory of the Syrian people, in which several faiths have lived in harmony and mutual respect. That is why I hesitate to say the phrase “modern Syria”: right now, Isis are succeeding in destroying Syria's heritage and ancestry, and reducing the country to something more like a medieval theocracy than modern state.

The West has done little. Thankfully, the mood appears to be changing. Yesterday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon admitted that the UN, and by extension the international community, had failed Syria. After events this May I am weary of believing opinion polls, but I note The Sun reported that 52% of the British public now support some form of military intervention in Syria. Over the weekend, Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, added his name to this roster when he called on David Cameron to “crush” Isis.

By far the most persuasive intervention came from the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Confirming that he has been supporting the Assad regime militarily in its fight against Isis, Putin said: “We really want to create some kind of an international coalition to fight terrorism and extremism.” And then, in words that jumped out at me: “To this end, we [have held] consultations with our American partners - I have personally spoken on the issue with US President Obama.”

For the past few years, tensions between Russia and the West have been high. Events in Ukraine have been one reason; so too has Syria, where Russia, a supplier of arms to the Syrian government, has used its veto at the UN Security Council to stymie America's strategy. I wonder, however, if this crisis - in which Russia, European and American interests in a stabilisation of Syria surely align - is the moment for us to put aside recent Cold War rhetoric and once again unite to defeat a common enemy. There is a historical precedent, after all.

Seventy years ago, Russia and the West were riven by ideological differences. And yet they came together to defeat Nazism. In our time, the greatest threat to humanity is Islamist in nature, and our failure to defeat it is a direct cause of this refugee crisis. I agree with the Financial Times's Edward Luce, who argued yesterday that Syria may come to haunt Obama, because his indecision and false threats about crossing “red lines” has made him look weak.

Obama's whole approach to foreign affairs is conciliatory: witness his rapprochement with Iran and Cuba. Here, then, is a golden opportunity. I do not say Assad is a long-term ally. But Isis is a short-term, mortal danger. Putin is prepared to support efforts to defeat it. So, on the basis of my conversations with them, are some senior members of the government, though what the Labour Party thinks won't be clear until we know its new leader. Let us turn the outpouring of public support for refugees into a strong and co-ordinated effort to tackle the problem at source, with Muslim nations central to any anti-Isis coalition.

To mend relations internationally, neutralise the cancer of Isis, and help the desperate people of Syria and beyond: that is a prize worth fighting for. Putin has shown leadership. Does Britain's political class, so slow to respond to the refugee crisis initially, have the same courage and moral strength? I doubt it - but given public support for action, now would be a good time to prove us sceptics wrong.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 3:47am

In reply to by Jeff Goodson

That is the exact reason we are having Walls---we simply are unwilling to confront IS as a right wing religious fascist grouping which WE ourselves give far more creditability to by our reactions to IS.

Countering IS is a police and intelligence fight not a military fight--we flipped it on it's head and made it a military fight and at some point you can increase the military pressure but until you counter IS at the grass roots we will lose and are losing--it is all about weaponization of information nothing more nothing less.

By going all in with a military response at the very beginning to both IS and AQ what other approaches are really left--more bombing-- more troops--we tried that and it has not worked. BUT have we truly countered the IS weaponization of information-no and we claim to know how to use social media.

What we are a people and government must understand is when a civil society arises challenging the powers to be for whatever reason WE need to listen to that civil society--BUT we do not thus we simply react to IS we are and were never proactive--ie if they are using weaponization of information THEN push back and radically push back hard.

We talk a great game but we never follow through.

The same for say the Ukraine--we watched from a distance but never really fully understand the drive by the Ukrainian civil society who actually expressed the exact same desires that created the US.

We would not be in the spot we are in with IS or AQ if we had truly listened and understood.

There is a massive Netflix movie coming on the Winter fighting in Kyiv at the Maidan which every American should inhale and understand.

Check out this trailer for a new @netflix documentary on the revolution in #Ukraine. Powerful stuff.

Here is another perfect example of just how we basically ignore the rest of the world---

The circle of hatred and violence in Turkey gains pace.
Seems Erdogan and Kurdish extremists got what they wanted...

NOW convince me a reader/commenter on SWJ that Obama, a 700 person NSC and the entire DoS PLUS billions spent on the IC in the last ten years DID not see this coming when they recruited the Turks into the anti IS front????

IF they did not then we need to fire all literally all of them--even I saw it coming and it did not take a genius to see it.

ASK yourself a simple question--WHY is it that the entire western mainstream media keeps you virtually in the dark on events in the Ukraine and Syria????

Social media made a very recent comment that comes to mind---

"Putin--why is it I shell daily a village in the Ukraine for over three months virtually destroying it and not a single comment in the western mainstream media YET when a blooming idiot throws a grenade all western journalists hop in planes to Kyiv and there are hundreds of comments"???

There is some true in that comment.

THEN the idea of Walls is actually easy to understand.

Jeff Goodson

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 1:47am

Why are we building walls instead of bridges? Because when it comes to defending ourselves in the global holy war that the Muslim fanatics are waging against us, walls work better.

It's not complicated.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/06/2015 - 4:11am

This march has triggered a large response from civil societies in the EU--how strange is it when these civil societies are far more "European" than European politicians.

We are living in extraordinary times.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 11:06am

Who is killing the majority of Syrians? Nope, not ISIS. Wake up.

Deal with the cause.
Stop Assad’s terror.
Impose no-fly zones.
And you won’t have refugees.

Here are the figures----

300,000 killed inside Syria--large number of children and women
3M refugees on the move outside of Syria
1.5M IDPs inside Syria
chemical weapons used and now chlorine being used

Some might in fact call this genocide in some parts of the world.

Also if Obama and his NSC could jump over their on created shadows there are other solutions on the ground OTHER than Russia who is largely responsible of the figures above.

Contact with Jaish al-Islam in Damascus suburbs can further US goals says @FaysalItani @acmideast

Despite of all the info flowing about Syrians and Europe--most stay in the following five countries.

Interactive map shows the Syrian #refugeecrisis by the numbers… … via @mashable

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 1:28am

In reply to by Bill C.

Sometimes the strength of a civil society under duress is an inherent dignity we do no see.

The Syrian civil society attempted to stand up to an outright dictator of an minority who attempted and is still attempting to control a 70% majority via bombs, torture and brutalities not seen in many years AND largely ignored by western mainstream media and western leaders as long as it did not disturb their other agendas like creating one's own legacy.

This civil society spoke of the rule of law, good governance, and transparency and wanted a share of the government based on their majority status that had largely been forced down--and in return they have literally been bombed into dust, struck by chemical weapons and are still being hit with chlorine gas and a new weapon previously not used in the ME but recommended by Iran and Russia--the barrel bomb.

AND the West remained silent.

So when this civil society decides it cannot take any more and votes via their feet to leave basically everything behind just to survive we wonder why????

So when they land in a country whose PM began his political career as a pro EU politician BUT has shifted to a proRussian neo Rightist in all aspects/ie a blatant racist just to get votes and is now basically anti EU while wanting the billions of Euros he gets from the EU--he creates an unbearable scene with the refugees in order to win the next election.

BUT here comes the quiet dignity of a civil society that has suffered much in the last four years--they stood up for what little rights they had left and voted with their feet--again.

Meaning you can toss us around like trash for your election but we will walk the same road to Austria that you as Hungarian refugees walked in 1956 and off they went--- so for 100kms men, women and children walked towards two countries that are willing to take them in with no questions asked.

AND along the way the refugees totally embarrassed that neo rightist PM by forcing him in the face of his own civil society which helped the refugees along the way with water, food and blankets in front of media cameras to provide busses for them that he claimed were not available.

We vastly underestimate all the time the internal strengths of a civil society to figure things out on their own.

Time we start listening to those civil societies.

Time to turn lose and allow them to figure things out on their own with a little compassion and help from a country that can in fact afford to as we to where and are still a land of refugees.

Or what does that statue in New York harbor stand for?

Rebels withdraw from an area inside Marea as nobody seems to be able to stop ISIS.

Back in the day (the old Cold War) such things as proxy wars, civil wars and refugee flows could often be traced to the conflict between (a) those major powers seeking the expansion of their unique, modern, secular way of life and governance (that of the Soviets/the communists back then) and (b) those major powers seeking to contain and roll back these such expansionist efforts (back then, this was the United States/the West).

Likewise today might our contemporary proxy wars, civil wars, refugee flows, etc., be traced to a similar phenomenon, to wit: a new Cold War; one which finds, today:

a. The United States/the West seeking expansion of its unique, modern, secular way of life and governance (for example: in the greater Middle East and in the Russian borderlands?) and

b. Such entities as Russia, Iran, etc., seeking to contain and roll back these such (now western) expansionist efforts?

(In both the old Cold War and new Cold War examples provided above, the ultimate goal of "expansion" is to gain greater power, influence and control in various regions of the world. Likewise, in both the old and new Cold War cases addressed here, the ultimate goal of "containment" and "roll back" is to prevent one's opponent from gaining such greater power, influence and control as one's opponent -- via these "expansionist" methods -- seeks to achieve.)

The return today -- by the various parties concerned -- to such things as "political warfare," etc., this, likewise, suggesting that the context for understanding many/most things today (such as contemporary civil wars, proxy wars, refugee flows, etc.?) is the new Cold War (outlined above)?

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/04/2015 - 6:48am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Taken from the social media account--- Malcolmite @Malcolmite

It's amazing 99% of Syrian refugees in Turkey I spoke to said Assad is the reason for their misery, not one said ISIS

ISIS were only secondary to Assad. They always said "remove Assad & ISIS would be removed easily, it's Assad that helped establish them"

almost every Syrian I met lost a friend or a family member & saw unspeakable brutality from the Assad regime that never makes the press

the racist things other fellow Arabs would say about Syrian refugees in Turkey was also very disheartening.

I argued rationally with them but they always go back to the civil war & what the Assad regime did to the Lebanese ppl

many Arabs (especially Lebanese) hold Syrians all accountable for the crimes of the Assad family in Lebanon

religious Turks saw it as duty 2 help fellow Muslims & happy 2 take in Syrian refugees but secular right wing & left were 100% against it

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/04/2015 - 6:16am

This entire refugee mess could have and should have been avoided four years ago--but basically the EU and especially the US have not addressed in a straight forward fashion--that the millions of internal Syria IDPs and the millions of external refugees would not be there if they had effectively removed Assad four years ago.

It is critical during a major war and or internal strife that the IDPs and or refugees remain as close as possible to their homes and immediate families so that they can reintegrate when the fighting ends.

Many of those now have no homes left as the Assad AF has virtually destroyed thousands of homes, buildings, residences and businesses.

Example--during a recent four month bombing of the IS by the US and it's allies --a total of 1600 air strikes--the Assad AF carried out over 7000 air strikes largely on civilian targets.

HAD an effective no fly zone been established--this would not have occurred.

Just how shortsighted is Obama and the EU leadership???? Very......

Every time the anti Assad forces capture a town or village Assad bombers destroy it completely. He is basically practicing a scoured earth policy.

Social media has been carrying now for years the effects of the barrel bombing on the civilian population but it never appeared to raise to the level or urgency for the EU nor the US. When chemicals were first used on Syrians it was social media that broke the news not the mainstream media, when barrel bombs are now being used in a massive way it was social media that raised the alarm, when Assad starting combining the barrel bombs with chlorine gas it was social media that raised the alarm AND Russia for all their claimed empathy for migrates repeatedly blocked any discussions of humanitarian aid to the internal IDPs.

THEN let's not get into the dismal support by the EU and US in assisting the countries next to Syria that has taken in millions of refugees on their dime.

This whole problem is a failure of a serious clear and concise Syrian foreign policy by the US and the EU and a down right failure in political leadership.

The billions in funding needed to hold the Syrians close to their native country never were provided and a dismal life in a camp with no future appears to Syrians to be the major driver to find a better life for themselves--can we blame them???

A tough foreign policy and funding for the border countries would have affectively stopped what we are seeing now.

Now the costs of trying to support this flood of migrants will in the end cost far far more that the original investment would have cost.

The original driver of this entire war was the civil population's desire for the rule of law, good governance and transparency--by not supporting those core values both the US and the EU sold themselves out in their drive to help Putin save his face first in the Ukraine and now in Syria.