If reports of dozens of Middle East refugees left to die locked inside a truck in Austria didn’t grab your attention, or hundreds sitting on a train in Hungary wondering where they’d end up, surely the photograph of a 3-year-old Syrian boy’s lifeless body washing up on a Turkish beach did.
Europe is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis — the largest displacement of human beings this planet has experienced since World War II. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya in hopes of finding safety inside the European Union.
The desperate are paying smugglers to move them, they’re floating across the Mediterranean Sea, they’re walking across countries to a hoped-for future.
Pope Francis is urging all Europeans to open their hearts and their homes while governmental leaders attempt to organize where to place these refugees and reform immigration policies to deal with future waves.
And while many European countries are doing all they can to accommodate, money is tight. A Tribune News Service report said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has only 41 percent of what it needs to meet the needs of registered Syrian refugees for the rest of the year — and that $800 million gap was reported before the latest wave. The World Food Program is so short on funds it is removing hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees from its food voucher program.
Unsympathetic EU member states are being threatened with sanctions if they don’t step up to the plate.
And the refugees keep coming in droves.
In the United States, sympathy for the crisis comes with a price. The Senate’s fiscal 2016 foreign aid bill is on track to be reduced because of the Budget Control Act. The Migration and Refugee Assistance account will be cut some 14 percent, or $415 million, from its current funding level of just more than $3 billion unless Congress overrides the sequestration effects.
We doubt this nation’s leaders need reminding, but we will do it regardless. Where has our military been operating lately, either overtly or not? Syria. Iraq. Afghanistan. Libya.
The United States should be bound morally to do all it can for these refugees in exodus from unstable countries. The instability can be traced to opportunists such as Islamic State and other rebel forces that are taking advantage of disposed leaders. Remember Muammar Gaddafi? Osama bin Laden? Saddam Hussein? All dead. Only Syria’s Bashar al-Assad remains in power, and that country has opposition forces we support who are aligning with Islamic State in many regions.
The power vacuums we’ve helped create are being filled almost incomprehensibly by even more evil forces.
We cannot turn our back on the region. We might not have boots on the ground, but we have a serious stake in the current and future outcomes.
Rather than focus on fences to keep out economic migrants our businesses hire gladly, we need to open our doors to true refugees we’ve helped create. Not a military solution, but a humanitarian one.
Even at a time when gridlock and government-downsizing prevents even highway bills from being passed, our national conscience needs to guide us to action.
It is too late for Aylan Kurdi, the aforementioned Syrian toddler, but it is not too late for millions of others we have assisted in displacing.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry