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How to Prevent the Next Refugee Crisis
Institutional habits with a pro-liberty bent cannot be forced upon people by an outside force. The citizenry has to want it for it to work. Once people have a taste of freedom, there is no going back.
There is one critical difference between the European Union and the United States' approach to immigration: the EU subsidizes immigration by making it easier to live without necessitating assimilation into the culture, while the United States throws immigrants in the deep end and expects them to make it on their own while working to become part of the fabric of American society and culture. Essentially, America holds immigrants to a much higher standard, whereas the EU tends to provide them with the basic necessities to live comfortably in their siloed communities. By not incentivizing immigrants to integrate into the societies to which they migrated, the cultural divide becomes vast, and extremist ideologies are allowed to flourish. Sweden, for example, provides immigrants to the country with an allowance that covers their cost of living. Immigrants are equally entitled to the social welfare programs taxpayers in Sweden pay into as native-born citizens. With refugees leaving places like Syria, Sudan, and Iran in droves, it's about time the EU reevaluate its priorities when welcoming new people across their borders— lest we see an uptick in religious extremist-motivated crimes and subsequently an outpouring of anti-immigration sentiment from the EU citizenry.
The EU tends to oscillate between extremes. One day they are hysterical about the problem of immigration; the next, they become hyper-equity-focused in what I can only assume is an attempt to virtue signal for political reasons. The American model, as flawed as it may be, produces much less radicalism. For all the talk of systemic racism in the United States, we are seeing systemic segregation come to fruition across the Atlantic as more immigrants from Middle Eastern countries flood into European countries. These little pockets of communities are often breeding grounds for radicalism. Surrounded by a culture they don’t respect, understand, or feel any impulse to assimilate into, these communities self-isolate to a degree that is not healthy. With a different language and religion and access to basic necessities to live relatively comfortably, these communities find themselves in direct opposition to those not a part of their tribe. The stark transition that occurs when someone immigrates to Greece from northern Syria is not one we should assume will go smoothly. Thrust into an environment and culture utterly foreign to them, Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees to the EU are on the defensive– and it’s not difficult to understand the instinct to cling to your values and kin in a way that has the potential to further cement the most identitarian aspects of your ideology.
Economic mobility for immigrants to the EU compared to America is terrible. There’s almost no opportunity for upward mobility. They’re in a metaphorical cage, unable to advance. They are there to be a taxi driver– nothing more or less. A taxi driver whose son becomes a surgeon is a uniquely American phenomenon and is why so many aspire to make it to America to ensure a brighter future for their families. Under President Trump, immigration to America from the Middle East was severely curtailed. With an ocean dividing us, America has an advantage the EU doesn’t; it is much more challenging to make it from Pakistan to America than from Syria to Greece.
A simple truth that is often overlooked is that most of the time, people don’t want to leave their homeland. The choice to leave home in search of something better is one that people don’t make lightly. They often have no other choice and would much rather their homelands be safe and prosperous places to live. The reality is that in stable Middle Eastern countries like UAE that offer hope, no one is vying to make it to the UK. We actually see immigrants from the UK in the UAE, not vice versa.
Therein lies the solution to this problem. Empowering people in countries like Syria, Iran, Pakistan, and the like with access to enlightenment values and the economic prosperity that often follows is the way to prevent the next refugee crisis. There is no quick fix. This is no small undertaking, but it is doable. Ideas Beyond Borders, the organization I founded alongside Melissa Chen, has made great strides over the past six years by empowering people in countries across the MENA region to improve their lives and their homelands for themselves. Institutional habits with a pro-liberty bent cannot be forced upon people by an outside force. The citizenry has to want it for it to work. Once people have a taste of freedom, there is no going back. Rather than siloing immigrants from MENA into what essentially amounts to friendly and livable internment camps, let’s solve the problem at its root. This needs to be done by empowering young people in the region with access to good ideas and with the resources necessary to bring them to fruition to take control of their destinies.
Being a refugee is not a human right. Countries have the right to accept or not accept refugees. The way to prevent a mass exodus from the lands these people are coming from is by improving the places themselves and by empowering the younger generation with the ideas that built Europe and the US in the first place. These ideas are already making the Middle East a better place to live as we speak.
With these ideas, opportunities, and a light at the end of the tunnel so-to-speak available to them, these countries won’t produce as many refugees. The Middle East, in particular, is home to many of the oldest civilizations in the history of the world. To think they need the United States or the European Union to save them is naive. Change has to come from within. Every day I speak with hopeful youth across the Middle East. I feel confident they are perfectly capable of solving their own challenges, given the resources necessary to do so.
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