11 September 2015

Refugee Crisis and the Math

I haven't been online much the last week or two while the Syrian refugee crisis has finally been getting the media it attention it deserves. It makes me happy that it is getting that attention, but angry that it took this long.

People have been dying in Syria, fleeing into neighboring countries, drowning in the Mediterranean, suffocating in trucks in Europe, and we finally found one little boy's death that is galvanizing people to do something about this.  It is appalling that it took this long for the world to pay attention to this catastrophe.  That little boy wouldn't have died if we had done something sooner, and we should have paid attention years ago.

I also hate the fact that the only reason why this has become news is because it's affecting Europe and that people keep saying that Muslim countries should do more.*  So let's talk about what Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have been doing to help.

Turkey's population is around 75 million and it has taken in 2 million refugees over the last several years.  2,000,000.  If the US took in a similar number of refugees in relation to its population, the number would be 8.5 million.  Can you imagine the US taking in 8.5 million people from Central America who were in desperate condition?  The US has just announced it will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees.  Pathetic.

The EU would need to take in 13.5 million refugees to match Turkey's rate.  There have been about half a million refugees going to Europe.

Now Jordan.  Jordan already had a lot of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees and now it has a lot of Syrian refugees- 1 million are expected to be there by the end of the year** and there have been hundreds of thousands there for years.  Jordan has a tiny population- only 6.5 million people.  The US would have to take in 40 million refugees and Europe 63.5 million refugees to match what Jordan has done.  Those numbers are mind-boggling.  Again, the US has agreed to accept 10,000 Syrians.

Lebanon doesn't have camps but its ratios are similar to Jordan's.

I completely understand that it's hard for Europe to deal with so many people arriving who desperately need help, but we have ignored the problem for too long and it must spill over into other parts of the world because Jordan and Turkey cannot do this on their own. Yes, Europe is having its own financial problems, but it's certainly not worse off than Jordan and Turkey, even Greece and Italy.  People won't sit in desperate conditions forever waiting for conflict to end and they have the right to find a better place to live.  We must do better at helping them find that place.

*The Gulf states could and should be doing more.  But countries like Saudi Arabia have very specific reasons why they don't allow many Arabs in and those reasons aren't targeted at Syrians specifically.  It is extremely unlikely that Saudi will change its policy (and honestly, most Syrians would choose to go to almost any other country than have to live in Saudi Arabia).  It would be more useful to pressure the Gulf states to work out a political solution because that would do more to help end the crisis than anything else.

**Some estimates have this number as high as 2.5 million in Jordan.  The US would need to take in over 100,000,000 refugees and Europe over 150,000,000.

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