Conflict taking place in the Middle East has led to a humanitarian crisis involving refugees attempting to reach safer and more peaceful countries, which are often unwilling or at least reluctant to take in the numbers involved. In Canada it has morphed into a 2015 federal election issue as each party tries to appeal to voters by offering more favourable treatment for the refugees. While it is an issue voters understand, I am not sure they are aware of the implications. Note, recent immigrants are often opposed to those who enter illegally or who seek entry due to political conditions taking place abroad.
The immediate conditions which created the crisis is a combination of civil war in Syria and the interaction of various religious groups, Muslim and other in the Middle east extending east into Iran, north into Turkey and south into Egypt and other parts of northern Africa. Refugees who have gone to places like Lebanon and Syria have now chosen to seek refuge in Europe and if possible North America. The latter whose borders are protected by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans do not face the conditions of western European countries to which refugees can travel on foot, by bus and train.
Issues arising from the refugee flow and receiving less attention are:
- Where will these persons be located and how will they be integrated into Canadian society? This is not a new concern as Canada is a country of immigrants but excessive numbers could cause political backlash. Most Canadians advocating inflows would probably be less than eager to have these persons camp in their backgarden or neighbouring park. On a smaller scale during WW2 in the UK, city families and sometimes only the children were evacuated to the countryside during the blitz. They were not always eagerly received.
- If the numbers are limited, how do you decide who should come and what do you tell those who are left outside in the Middle East refugee camps. Once some are allowed entry, this merely encourages others to try the same.
- In Europe, whole residential neighbourhoods, such as suburbs in northern Paris, consist of foreigners who have arrived illegally as well as legally causing social and political tensions in the country. Most European countries now have and active anti-immigrant party. This may also occur in Germany.
- Those seeking refugee status in the west are mainly economic migrants with the funds to pay smugglers, but who would likely go back to their homelands if political stability returned. In such a case the country of refuge is merely a temporary stopover to deal with turmoil elsewhere.
This is not a case for accepting no refugees but recognition that, depending on the numbers, social and economic issues can arise. These get little attention in the debate, perhaps because political parties like to play Santa Claus at election time.