According to a report by the international organisation for migration, the number of refugees and migrants in Europe has reached the 1-million mark. The highest influx of refugees–53 percent–are from Syria, followed by Afghanistan and Eritrea. According to some observers, however, the refugee crisis wouldn’t have reached such a global proportion had the Security Council of the United Nations been more proactive when hostilities began in Syria in March 2011.
Western nations like the United States, France or even Great Britain prevaricated so much, at first calling Bashar al-Assad a “reformer” according to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before finally deciding that he had “lost legitimacy.” By then, the Syrian president had been able to consolidate his power. That prevarication is alluded to in an interview Alistair Burt, Britain’s Foreign Office minister for the Middle East from 2011 to 2013, gave the British newspaper The Guardian in which he said, “The Iranians and Russians and Hezbollah were very clear about what they wanted to do. But their will and determination was not matched on the western side because we couldn’t work out that this was a battle we needed to win, nor how to do it.”
So while they worked out whether “this was a battle they needed to win” or not, rebel groups in Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea fought against government forces, thus creating the displacement of millions of people. Refugees, an estimated 4 million, poured into refugee camps in countries like Turkey along with Jordan and Lebanon.
Other countries around the world began opening their borders to welcome the refugees. Indeed, because in the global refugee crisis, the focus has tended to be on Europe and the European effort in helping the refugees.
But while European countries prevaricated again as to whether they should offer assistance to the refugees, the Brazilian embassy in Lebanon began offering laissez-passer to Syrian refugees. President Dilma Roussef wrote in a newspaper editorial how “Brazil has its arm open to take in these refugees … who want to come to live and work here. And we want to offer them this hope.”
But to some Europeans, Europe was the only continent that the refugees were seeking to enter, and for that, something had to be done in the form of closing the borders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel saw her ratings plummet when she decided not to apply any restrictions and welcome Syrian refugees. The fall in the ratings and the backlash that ensued in the form of anti-refugee protests and arson attacks on reception centres demonstrated that Angela Merkel might have been the only one in favour of the Wilkommen Politik.
Elsewhere in Europe, nationalism rose as parties from the extreme right in Poland or France either took power or entered the mainstream.
And yet, had Europe taken an unambiguous stance on the war in Syria in the Security Council, the refugee crisis would not have reached the global proportion it did.