When this election campaign began, no one, least of all Stephen Harper ever expected the Syrian Refugee crisis to become part of our national conversation. Harper and the Canadian press had managed to ignore a problem that was not new and despite the hundreds that were drowning in the Mediterranean, North Americans managed to continue to tell themselves that it was an “over there” problem.
Then a little boy washed up on a Turkish beach, with an Aunt in Canada and stories started to circulate from the NDP, claiming they had made efforts on the boys behalf to bring his family to Canada. These claims turned out to be technically false, and the real truth may never be known. Regardless, Aylan Kurdi caused the sleeping giant that is all to often North America to wake up. The Liberal and NDP jumped on the Government for not doing more, which was again true, however, the lowest level of our society, raised their voices, Harper had after all made every refugee into a potential terrorist, future terrorist, or, wife or sister of a terrorist.
The photos we see in the North American press seem to differ greatly from the images one sees if they take the time to view European dailies online. Those who are only interested in images which support their hatred rarely want to know the facts however when I read this letter I felt it too important not to share.
A letter recently made some rounds written by a Canadian scientist who has lived in Germany for many years, answering questions posed by a relative living in North America. The questions were raised about images we often see in North America that often add to the misconceptions which many people have about the plights of the Syrian refugees.
1) How come they all seem to have endless supplies of money to pay for the “human traffickers?
A) If you are living in a bombed-out city, destroyed by two or more warring sides, and you are educated, have some money on the side, with friends and/or relatives abroad, you too would try to get away, as soon as possible. Perfectly logical. Or you have a young family and a sister in Canada who tries to help, so you take advantage of that. And if you have no money at all, then forget it, you’re lost. So of course refugees have money, or had it any way, if they were not robbed or swindled, as many probably are. But they do not get far, so do make the western news cameras.
2) Most appear to have working mobile phones.
A) Smartphones: absolutely essential for the flight. It is your most prized object for it keeps you in contact with family at home, with others on the flight, gets you news about the latest border closings. It is not a luxury toy to check up on your friends dating activities, but rather the most important tool for getting from A to B, even without the GPS function, which is also vital. I confess previous waves of refugees like at the end WWII had to get along without them, but times have changed.
3) Most appear well dressed and fed and do not appear to be suffering the effects of malnutrition.
A) Well dressed and well fed? I can’t say I have seen any such scenes in the news here. Maybe dirty jeans count as well-dressed in some circles. And mainly young men? Sure there are groups of young men together (see note about why young men need to escape above) but most of the scenes in our news contain families, women and children. The schools here in Germany had to face a problem of taking on so many school-age children who needed first to learn German. Women refugees? They are all over the place here, with head scarves and baby carriages. Sorry, they are real.
4) Most of the refugees are men of military age.
A) If you are a young single man of military age, then you better hightail it immediately, because either the IS will want to recruit you, or if you are the wrong flavour of Islam (as most Moslems are) they will take off your head right away. Or the Syrian army will recruit you and make you a killer. So any decent young man with contacts and some money will run.
5) Why are other Muslim nations not helping their fellow Muslims. (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, U.A.E. but to name a few)
A) Why don’t Saudi Arabia and others take on more refugees? Very good question, we ask that too. The real reason is that they are very closed, authoritarian countries that keep close watch on foreigners. And for them these people are really foreign. IS is essentially Sunni, like Saudi Arabia, which is privately supporting and financing the IS, whereas the refugees can be Shiites, Kurds, and hundreds of other flavours of Moslems, including Sunnis. But that should be no excuse; after all we as an essentially Christian culture are willing to take on hundreds of thousands of Moslems of all kinds. Certainly they should be condemned for their refusals, but then so should the UK, Hungary, Czech Rep, Poland, et al. (Except for the UK, these too are closed cultures, protected from the influx of “foreigners” during their Communist eras. That explains why they are nervous about foreigners; they have never seen one. But the UK?? That explains but does not excuse.)
6) How come the two boys and their mother drowned off the Turkish coast can be returned for burial to the place they fled so quickly, what I believed to be IS held territory?
A) And Abdullah Kurdi? Yes he went back to Syria, totally demoralized after losing his whole family, even though the Canadian Immigration Minister finally offered him entry but can you blame him for doing so? This is no time to cast the first stone, for you have no idea what he went through in the months before and then just after the tragedy. His family were returned and buried so quickly? He was not so far from home. They came from Kobani, that Syrian city on the Turkish border that was fought over for months with the Turkish army quietly looking on from the nearby hills, until the Kurdish fighters could finally repulse the IS. Kobani is now in Kurdish (ie Syrian) control, not IS. And the family were drowned and washed up on a Turkish beach while they were trying to cross over to a Greek island just a few kilometers away but a giant leap to the EU. (Those few kilometers are apparently treacherous.) No, it was not that far back to Kobani, and Kobani is not IS. (So why did they want to leave? Because it looks much like those pictures of Hamburg at the end of the War, a pile of ruins.)
7) Could it be they are being paid to come to the west as a way to increase the Muslim population and get IS fighters embedded in the West? We all know life is cheap from an IS point so the loss of a few lives along the way has no meaning for them as long as it benefits their cause.
A) Eighty years ago there was concern about all those Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. “They’ve got money, why should we help?” (Germany confiscated most of it.) “They have their own people around the world, it is all a Jewish conspiracy to dominate every one else” (That is what the Nazis claimed.) So do we now play Nazi again or do we start being a bit more humane?
Angela Merkel is not known for showing emotion in public, but she has had a few lapses recently. The latest one was when she said: “If I have to apologize for showing a friendly face to some in need, then this is not my land.”
I recently received this cartoon from someone who has had it since 1979 during the Indo-Chinese boat people, in desperation were trying to escape death, torture and worse, and Canada lead the way as the country it used to be. With apologies for inappropriate stereotypes. Enjoy