As the refugee crisis continues to unfold in the news, it’s easy to get lost in the Facebook and Twitter headlines and misconstrue the facts. This issue is far more complex and nuanced than any one article or headline can tackle, but here are at least a few common misconceptions spreading around social media that do not tell the entire story:
1.Most of the people trying to enter Europe don’t really need to be there. They are just looking for a better economy.
While debating this issue, there’s been a lot of confusion between “refugee” and “migrant”. Making the distinction between each is important. A “migrant” comes to take advantage of another country’s economic opportunity, while a “refugee” is a person leaving their home country only out of utmost necessity for survival.
During this crisis, many have falsely assumed that the influx of people entering Europe do it with opportunistic intentions, and not out of necessity. But the numbers suggest otherwise: according to figures from the United Nations, by the end of July, 62% of people who had reached Europe by boat this year were from Syria, Eritrea, and Afghanistan, all countries experiencing war or extreme authoritarian governments. If you include people coming from Darfur, Iraq, Somalia — other areas experiencing extreme violence — then the percentage increases to almost 70%.
2. Europe unfairly has had to deal with the worst of this.
Many have expressed concern over refugees causing some kind of European social collapse. But in reality, Europe actually deals with the issue way less than other countries. The number of people arriving in Europe this year only make up .027% of the continent’s total population. To put that in context, Lebanon, a country around one-third the size of Vancouver, has taken in 50 times as many refugees as the the EU will even consider. With a total population of around 4.5 million, Lebanon currently houses 1.2 million Syrian refugees, meaning almost one in four people in the county is a refugee.
3. All of Europe agrees that accepting so many refugees just isn’t realistic.
In reality, responses are varied. Currently, Germany leads Europe in taking in asylum seekers: in the first three months of this year, they received more than 73,000 first-time asylum claims. This is around four times as many as the United Kingdom: for every Syrian asylum seeker received by Britain, Germany gets 27. In one poll, half of Germans expressed support for taking in refugees.
4. No country has the money or resources to provide the relief people are asking for.
A while back, in response to the growing refugee crisis, the United Nations appealed for $4.5 billion in emergency aid. But by early June, they had reached just above a quarter of that goal.
To put in perspective, the entire UN relief fund for Syrian refugees is only around one percent of the annual budget of the US military.
5. This is hardly different than what we deal with in the States.
Though the US has its own concerns with immigration, the sheer number of people entering Europe make this issue far more serious than what’s happening in the States. Many consider this the worst refugee crisis since World War II. A report by Amnesty International found that for the first time since the 1940’s, the number of refugees was estimated at over 50 million. According to the United Nations, the Syrian refugee crisis alone is the worst refugee crisis seen in 25 years, accounting for over 4 million refugees.
And though the US has had issues with young children attempting to cross our borders dangerously, currently the Mediterranean Sea is the world’s deadliest border. According to the International Organization for Migration, in the first nine months of last year, the Mediterranean passage alone accounted for 75% of all migrant deaths, or over 3,000 deaths. All in all, Europe’s external borders are the most dangerous in the world. Between 1996 and 2014, over 22,000 people have died trying to cross into Europe. In comparison, the US-Mexico border caused 6,029 deaths between 1998 and 2013.
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