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Denying refugees is against Western values

The terrorist attack on Nov. 13 in Paris has brought on a flood of emotion for the people in Europe. In the United States, it brought back memories of the 9/11 attacks. However, if we look back on the Western response to the 9/11 attacks and what we are dealing with now in Iraq and Syria, it’s important that we act with our heads, not our hearts.  One area where the West has seemingly jumped straight into rash action is dealing with the migrant crisis. Let’s be clear about one thing, denying refugees their basic human rights when they are seeking shelter from the very people who attacked France will not stop the migrant crisis. Nor will it prevent terrorist attacks in the West.  

To put this into perspective, the people seeking refuge are dealing with brutalities such as beheadings, crucifixions and mass executions at the hand of the Islamic State, not to mention the barrel bombing campaign of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. If we include the air strikes by the West and Russia that inevitably cause collateral damage, there is literally nowhere to seek safety in Syria. If Europe and the U.S. are worried about extremism coming to its territory, denying these refugees shelter in perhaps their greatest time of need will certainly give ammunition to the radicals.  That being said, there should be a vetting process in place before refugees are allowed within Europe or American borders as long as it’s not so restrictive it becomes unattainable. However, denying refuge to people because they aren’t Christian as presidential hopeful Jeb Bush has stated is nothing short of ridiculous. In fact it’s a direct violation of Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Islam is not the problem here, the Quran explicitly forbids attacks on innocent noncombatants and the vast majority of devout Muslims reject such actions. In addition, denying refuge on religious grounds is not all that far away from what the Islamic State is doing in Syria.  From an American viewpoint, let’s be honest, the U.S. has hardly put in an effort to take in Syrian refugees.

The proposal to take in 10,000 is a paltry number compared to the expected 800,000 Germany and even 20,000 that Venezuela are committed to taking in. To be clear, I’m not advocating that the U.S. should take in more at the moment, but more could be done to help our allies in Europe and the Middle East who face the worst of the migrant crisis. For instance, intelligence sharing should be stepped up with our allies in Europe to expedite the asylum applications. In the Middle East where Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey currently house more than 4 million refugees, additional funding and humanitarian aid should be provided for these overburdened countries.  From the European side of things, borders must remain open. It’s not just a principle of keeping migrants out, but also the fact of keeping the Schengen agreement alive which allows travel between member countries without a passport. It’s important to remember that the attacks on Paris were not just an attack on the French capital. It was an attack on the liberal values and open societies that the Islamic State resents. The correct response would be to defend those values and societies, not throw them away.

Asking for the suspension of passport-free travel within the Schengen Area like France has done should not be implemented. Excessive nationalism within isn’t what’s needed. Europe worked hard after its two World Wars to integrate and prevent this very thing from happening.  Building fences, withholding access to basics such as shelter, food or water and using threatening language will not stop migrants from trying to come to Europe. The prospects at their home territories are just too poor to remain there. Let’s also remember that the issues the Middle East faces today are in no small part to decades worth of Western intervention whenever it deemed fit. So to give the cold shoulder to those in need for a problem the West had a hand in creating is not only irresponsible, but inhumane.