by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 8, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1437)
The first-ever refugee summit at the UN was long on rhetoric and short on action. Further, it was far too Eurocentric and ignored countries that really have taken in the largest number of refugees.
What countries top the list of those receiving and welcoming refugees escaping wars? If your answer is Germany, France, or Britain, you are definitely the victim of massive Western propaganda. You have in fact swallowed this dark propaganda without thinking about the reality of the refugee problem in the world.
Last month, the United Nations also did just that. It organized two summits on two consecutive days — September 19 and 20 — to address the problem of refugees and urge countries to become more open to accepting refugees. The outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon hosted the first summit on September 19. He urged the countries especially those in Europe to reconfirm their commitment to receiving and assisting refugees. Those attending the summit made the verbal commitment. It is easy to talk; it is a lot more difficult to walk the talk, as evidence from Europe shows.
The “refugee crisis,” as it has been dubbed, has brought to the fore the deep racism in these societies. True, Germany has welcomed nearly one million refugees, mainly from Syria but also from Iraq, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa. Is the German decision to receive refugees based entirely on humanitarian considerations? Hardly. With the strongest economy in Europe, Germany is in need of a young work force. Given that most Syrian and other refugees are energetic, able-bodied young men, they would provide the muscle to run German industry.
Western societies are suffering from a serious decline in population growth because of infertility caused by free sex and alcohol consumption. As a result of progress in health sciences, people are living longer but not necessarily healthier lives. Further, these old people are not able to add to productivity of society; they are only consumers. At the other end of the scale, couples — married or unmarried — are unable to produce enough children to replenish the diminishing work force, hence the need for foreign workers. Refugees have become a useful cushion for this.
Europeans have historically displayed extreme forms of xenophobia and racism. Need one recall the blood-letting of the Second World War in which millions of Jews, Gypsies, and others were slaughtered because the Europeans would not accept them in their midst? In light of the current refugee crisis and the 24/7 coverage of Europe’s “generosity” in accepting refugees, let us consider what the reality is and what countries have received the largest number of refugees in the world.
Even if we concentrate only on the Syrian refugees, Turkey has welcomed more than two million refugees followed by tiny Lebanon accepting more than a million. This makes Lebanon, with its own population of only four million, the largest recipient of refugees in percentage terms. A quarter of Lebanon’s population is made up of refugees. Contrast this with Germany’s population of 85 million that has received one million refugees. Its refugee intake is barely 1.2% of its total population.
Let us return to the UN summits on refugees to round out the picture. On September 20, US President Barack Obama hosted his own refugee summit at the UN in New York. He urged the participating countries to accept higher refugee relocation quotas, and to donate more money to countries hosting them. The US’ own record is dismal; it has accepted a grand total of 10,000 Syrian refugees. Compare this with Canada that has already welcomed 31,000 Syrian refugees and more are on their way.
In his address to the UN General Assembly on September 19 — his last as president — Obama took a swipe at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (without naming him) by saying that when you build walls, you imprison your own people. Obama was referring to Trump’s announcement that if elected, he would build a wall along the US-Mexico border. The outgoing US president obviously was not referring to the wall the Zionists have already built on land stolen from the Palestinians.
Even Human Rights Watch (HRW), a body that shies away from criticizing the US, said in a statement on September 20 that it was disappointed not to hear any speeches from “world leaders about how they would support the countries where most refugees live.” In addition to the countries mentioned above that have received and are hosting large numbers of refugees — Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — there are other countries that have hosted refugees for decades.
Both Iran and Pakistan have hosted millions of Afghan refugees since 1980 with little help from the outside world. At its height, Pakistan hosted some four million Afghan refugees; two million are still in Pakistan after 36 years. This has put an unbearable strain on Pakistan’s fragile economy not to mention tearing its social fabric and destabilizing the country as a result of terrorism. The war in Afghanistan has spilled over into Pakistan with disastrous consequences.
Iran has suffered equally. In the early years after the Islamic Revolution, it was host not only to Afghan refugees but also to millions of Iraqis that fled Saddam Husain’s brutal regime. The Iraqis have returned home but the Afghans are still there. At the September 20 summit in New York, Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said the UN had failed to provide Tehran with sufficient aid to help the country cover the expenses of services it was offering to refugees on its soil, particularly the Afghans. He made the remarks in his meeting with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi in New York and said the aid received by Iran covered less than 3% of the cost of hosting the refugees. The Iranian minister also voiced concern over the situation of illegal migrants that had created serious problems for both the Iranian government and people.
He urged “the United Nations and relevant international institutions… to provide the Afghan government with more serious” assistance so it can organize and secure the repatriation of its nationals. Rahmani-Fazli urged international aid bodies to take more responsibility “in providing the required expenditure to take care of the healthcare, medical, educational and food costs of refugees and displaced people.”
International aid organizations as well as Western governments frequently criticize both Iran and Pakistan for encouraging the Afghan refugees to return to their homes. These same aid organizations and Western governments, however, are not prepared to lessen the burden of looking after these refugees by making the requisite funds available.
More than 350,000 Afghan refugee children are now going to school in Iran while some 48,000 undocumented Afghan children were allowed last year to enroll for the first time in Iranian public schools, according to the UNHCR. In Pakistan, numerous towns have sprung up comprising Afghan refugees. They have set up businesses such as working as traders as well as transport services. Since the Afghan refugees travel freely to Afghanistan and back, they have become a conduit for facilitating many terrorists to slip into Pakistan causing havoc in the country.
According to the most conservative estimates, Pakistan has suffered direct losses amounting to some $100 billion to its economy as a result of hosting the Afghan refugees and because of America’s war on terror. Despite such sacrifices, some American congressmen have the gall to say that they want to put Pakistan on the list of countries supporting terrorism. Even the Afghan government has been taking pot shots at Pakistan despite the fact that Pakistan serves as the transit route for most goods entering landlocked Afghanistan. Were Pakistan to shut its borders for Afghan goods and transport, the Afghans would starve to death within a few months.