Return to Sender: The Xenophobia of the Syrian Refugee Crisis

By Alex Lei

As of August, over four million Syrians have fled their country due to civil war, with another estimated 6.5 million people displaced within the country. These numbers equate to almost 60 percent of Syrians having been forced out of their homes. At this time, the conflict is only getting worse, and world governments are not doing enough to help.

When the Arab Spring began back in 2011, a resistance movement against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad began and quickly devolved into a complicated web of rebel and pro-Assad factions vying for power. Many Syrians fled their country in the wake of all the turmoil and upheaval.

The refugee crisis ramped up significantly two years ago when the Islamic State became prominent in the northeastern part of the country, a region also known as the Levant. The Islamic State is a group whose goal is to reinstate the Islamic Caliphate, but unfortunately strays from Islam’s messages of peace in favor of a militaristic police state. The Islamic State’s medieval tactics in maintaining power have have caused even more upheaval in the region, and in just the last two years leading to over one million fleeing the nation and five million displaced.

Refugees are becoming a controversial issue in Europe because governments are starting to simply say they don’t want any more people. Nations are doing everything they can to keep them out at this point and under the Dublin Regulation, countries have the right to send back any refugee who illegally crosses their borders. Even worse, nations like Hungary have simply stopped accepting applications for asylum.

On Sept. 2, an image went viral of three-year-old Syrian, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach after drowning in an attempt to sail with 1,800 other migrants to Greece. Syrians are having their homes destroyed, and now in Europe people aren’t giving them the chance for a new home.

Westerners, Americans in particular, can’t imagine what it’s like having this kind of devastation and upheaval brought to their nation. Some people in Europe still remember the devastation of WWII, but a bloody conflict hasn’t torn apart America recently enough for this generation of Americans to remember. The Americans who are updated on the crisis in the Middle East often don’t have any new solutions for the issue. Many think “those people” want the U.S. to come in and bomb the “bad guys” until they stop killing each other. Americans should have learned by now that bombing in the Middle East will only perpetuate the cycle of violence and increase the anti-Western sentiments there. What the Syrian people want is not more war or violence, but peace and stability– something that us Americans have been taking for granted.

People flee their nation to get away from the violence. Some might say they’re not doing their duty to their country by running away, but ask yourself, what can they do? The average civilian can’t do much to save their nation and stop the violence if so many of them don’t have basic needs met or even have homes to live in. At this point they don’t even have a country to fight for, as the nation has been split into Assad’s fascist regime, the Islamic State and countless other small factions. It’s a messy and devastating conflict that is getting a lot of people killed for backwards idealism, and Western nations are starting to turn away these people who don’t have anywhere else to turn to.

Even small things can make a difference to people so devastated, and MSU students can help through groups that are doing all they can to aid these displaced Syrians. The US-based Karam Foundation is trying to provide education for the refugees in Turkey as well as rebuilding schools in Syria. The Migrant Offshore Aid Station exists to raise funds in aid of refugees fleeing by boat, and can help prevent tragedies like Aylan Kurdi lifelessly washing ashore while trying to flee to safety. And lastly, Hand in Hand for Syria is a group that actually takes all the money donated to the ground in Syria, trying to help the 6.5 million displaced by the conflict so far. College students aren’t usually the first ones to donate money, but please just ask yourself what you would hope for if this was happening to your country and your people.