The European Refugee Crisis: They’re Refugees Not Migrants

Today’s European refugee crisis has been described as one of the largest exodus of refugees fleeing violence in their home countries since World War 2. Civil wars and violence in Libya and Syria, in addition to worsening economic conditions and political turmoil in other countries in the Middle East and Africa, have pushed millions of people out of their homelands in search of a better life, if only until peace and stability return.

The staggering numbers of masses of people marching for thousands of miles or risking their lives in chaotic waters have been the major headlines in the European refugee crisis. Governments in Europe and in other countries around the world have responded in vastly various ways, with some countries refusing entry, others putting religion as a criteria, and more generous statesmen calling for an open door policy.

Some news and media outlets have mistakenly labeled the European refugee crisis as a “migrant crisis,” erroneously (and possibly unintentionally) misleading readers and viewers into perceiving the issue as massive waves of people who might be living a slightly stable life just looking for more income.

The European refugee crisis is far from that. The massive waves of people arriving at Europe’s borders and shores are either fleeing from barrel bombs and ISIS in Syria, a violent power struggle in Libya, or repression and injustice in a number of other countries in the region. They are not looking to earn Euros rather than Syrian liras to purchase a new home or buy a new car. (Yes, there are some running from horrid economic conditions in some countries, but the vast majority are fleeing violence and repression rather than worse welfare.)

The Guardian confirmed this fact in a recent article, citing UN figures that said that over 60 percent “of those who had reached Europe by boat this year were from Syria, Eritrea, and Afghanistan.” This does not take into account that refugees from other countries, such as Libya, Iraq, and Somalia, have also been running away from war and violence.

The Guardian also disputed the idea that the influx of refugees will disrupt the social order in Europe, stating that the number of “migrants” that arrived so far in 2015 is 200,000, which “constitutes just 0.027% of Europe’s total population.” (Statistically speaking, that’s almost one migrant for every 4,000 Europeans.)

Time magazine, however, illustrated how economic issues have played a major role in each European country’s decision in the European refugee crisis. France, for instance, is juggling a hard decision on remaining a human rights leader in the continent and save its economy and reduce the current unemployment rate at the same time. Germany, on the other hand, is expecting a decrease in its labor force in the next few decades due to an aging population. More migrant workers would certainly help Germany handle this future problem.

The media has also played a major role in swinging views on the European refugee crisis. Earlier on, when news reports and images flooded the media of capsized vessels with hundreds of people drowning, such as this BBC report, governments were asked to find a humanitarian solution to the European refugee crisis. Later, as time went on, some media outlets called on their governments to prevent migrants from entering their country. That all changed when the image of drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi went viral, forcing the whole world to take a closer, more humane look at the European refugee crisis. Activists and human rights groups became more vocal about the issue and more governments felt more obliged to respond.

Just today, the Guardian reported that thousands of people marched in London to show their support for refugees and calling on world leaders to do more to solve the European refugee crisis.

While opening the doors to the suffering is definitely the most moral solution to the European refugee crisis, the real proper solution is an end to the violence in war torn countries and allowing for more freedom in others. As one Telegraph article put in its headlines, “How to slow the refugee crisis in Europe: Stop barrel bombs in Syria.”

[Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images]