Refugee crisis in Syria and immigration debate in U.S. enters political debate

With the U.S. presidential election approaching, the American debate on immigration has been coming back into popularity. More pressing, however, is a crisis that has not affected many Americans, and some have not even heard of it. The Syrian refugee crisis is affecting Europe, and many Europeans are not happy about it.

Since the Arab Spring in 2010, refugees have been fleeing from different countries in the Middle East to find haven elsewhere in more stable regions.

Jordan in particular has been struggling under the bulk of refugees for a long time.

“[We] have about as many refugees as we do native Jordanians. [I am] very suprised that European countries aren’t willing to take on a much smaller amount of refugees … especially since they have more abundant resources,” said Natali Salaytah, ‘19, a student from Jordan.

The general consensus in Jordan, Salayan says, is that these refugees need help and Jordan is willing to provide.

According to the U.N., there are more than 3 million refugees that have fled to neighboring countries. This is a fairly significant portion of the 22 million that make up the Syrian population. European countries have been scrambling to house these refugees. Hanna Adus, an exchange student from Germany, says that Germany has a mixed response to the inflow of refugees. There was a large initial backlash from the right wing parties, but eventually celebrities and more liberal politicians responded with open arms. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany will take 800,000 refugees this year and 500,000 annually over the next several years, according to

This crisis is eerily similar to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. During the Great Depression the U.S. Midwest was affected by a severe drought that caused the majority of the farmers to head west and seek better lives in California. Instead of the picking jobs that most were promised, they were met with hostility and forced into tight and dirty migrant camps. The Syrian refugees today face similar conditions. They are fleeing the Middle East and headed to an idealized promised land where they seek a better life, only to be rejected and persecuted again.

The debates on refugees in Europe and immigrants in the U.S. are trenched in two camps. One side focuses on the immigrants themselves, insulting them, and generally dehumanizing them. The other side focuses on the countries to which refugees are immigrating. However, the group that does not recieve any attention is the countries from which the refugees flee.

I am all for allowing people to immigrate to wherever they want, but there should never be a situation where over 3 million people need to flee their own country to seek better lives. In the case of Syria it is because of a civil war. It always feels like the original problem is ignored in favor of fighting over responsibility for the consequences. Thousands of people are dying in Syria and millions are fleeing it, but no one is focusing on the war. All they care about is dealing with the refugees from it.

Personally, I believe that Europe has a responsibility to help the refugees find better homes, but that does not necessarily mean that they have to stay in Europe. It would be fiscally possible to move the refugees to the Americas or East Asia. Obviously this would be a big change for the refugees and the towns that they are immigrating to, but in the end they would all be better off for doing it.

The biggest obstacle to the refugees is xenophobia. Xenophobia has always been a problem, in Europe and beyond. The Holocaust, one of the biggest examples of xenophobia, happened less than 80 years ago. Although a similar event is incredibly unlikely to occur, the xenophobic roots still affect Europe today. Refugees face persecution from their new neighbors, and many are scared of being targeted by hate crimes.

“Political parties use this crisis to make propaganda against Islam and the refugees,” said Adus.

Overall, there is a positive response to this crisis, but each negative reaction is far more damaging than the hundreds of positive ones.