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Refugees: Poverty Anywhere Is A Danger To Prosperity Everywhere By Owei Lakemfa

November 19, 2021

My main point was to draw attention to the plight of about 4,000 refugees, mainly Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan who may starve or freeze to death having being caught in the inhospitable forests on the Polish-Belarusian borders after both countries had shut their borders on them.

I was a bit taken aback. Not so much by the  responses to my Friday November 12, 2021 column titled ‘Migrants about to freeze to death, salute Europe.’ but by the forcefulness with which some made their points. I seemed to have touched some raw nerves.

My main point was to draw attention to the plight of about 4,000 refugees, mainly Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan who may starve or freeze to death  having being caught in the inhospitable forests on the Polish-Belarusian  borders after both countries had shut their borders on them.


One of the respondents, Immanuel James wrote: “As someone invested in migration journalism, I was drawn and then deeply concerned about the views in the above/mentioned article: You’re blaming Europe for the crisis in the Middle East and expecting them to perpetually open their doors to the refugees. That is a misleading, if scandalous position coming from someone like you. Europe had been taking in the refugees for years now. Even as a Nigerian immigrant in the US, at a point I began to worry when EU countries would snap and shut their doors; endlessly open borders would simply draw in more refugees and clearly refugee reception cannot be an open-ended policy by any right-thinking nation.  Europe has been trying other measures to rein in the influx. What exactly would you have them do, be guilt-trapped to leave their borders permanently open? “

Tadas Tadas Ulinsku argued that : “The article unfortunately is misleading. First, These people aren’t refugees, many were sent home when their background was checked. Secondly, they were lied into coming to Belarus with Belarusian government helping and giving tourist visas, they were led to the border by officials, they were pushed across by officers in some cases or threatened with shots in the air when they tried to turn back. They are freezing at the Belarusian side so friendly loving Belarus is supposed to take care of them but they are reluctant to do that. Poor people were used as a weapon of revenge.”

Max Spllit  retorted: “So what do we do ? We let them in then tomorrow there stand twice that much who also want in. The pool of people who would like to come to Europe, given the possibility far exceeds the number of people living there. It is endless…”

Arjan Boonman  told me: “Don’t get me wrong: I prefer Europe to have many foreign born citizens, makes it more interesting. Yet, articles like this insinuate that Europeans are racist for not opening their doors when elsewhere people totally screw up their states.”


My response to these and many more like them, is that they are essentially not different from  the reaction of  the European states which unfortunately, do not address the immediate matter.  The primary issue is that there are some 4,000 human beings out there in freezing cold, what do we do? Force open the borders of Poland, Belarus, Lithuania or Latvia? Leave them out there to die? Evacuate them to a third country like was done in the 2015/2016  Refugee Crises when refugees were seconded from Greece to Turkey?    Repatriate them back to the countries they had  fled?


Then, we can analyse the next issue; what is the causes of the refugee crises in the main countries they have come from and how can they  be resolved? I hold that the crises in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya  and Yemen are essentially political unlike those in most of Africa that are more existential and economic.


Permit me to make a point about the contrived   Syrian War. It is illusory to assume that the United States  has no hand in it. All we need do is go back to the forces that created, funded and trained ISIS in Jordan, and the 2014 speeches of President Barack Obama on the need to create a no-fly-zone which is an euphemism to bomb the Syrian government out of existence as was done to the Libyan government under Mouamar Ghadaffi. This would have enabled  the Islamic fundamentalists  like   the al-Nusra Front and ISIS take over Syria as was done to Libya.


The Syrian War   is binary. First, it is a post-Cold War conflict  featuring Russia and its Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies on one hand, and  America/NATO and their  conservative  Gulf  State allies like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain  and UAE on the other.

The other level is the Shiite-Sunni intra-Muslim conflict.  Syria, Iran,  Hezbollah and most of the Iraqi leadership are Shiite while  the Gulf States, Al-Nusra  (al-Qaeda in Syria) and ISIS are mainly Sunni.


There  are also two parasitic states involved in the Syrian conflict. Israel wants unrelenting Syria destroyed so it would be rid of a perceived enemy and  a committed ally of Palestinian freedom, Also, it wants to keep the Syrian Golan Heights as part of its territories.

The second parasitic state is Turkey that wants to annex Northern Syria primarily as a way  of weakening and eventually getting rid of the Kurd opposition like the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK in Turkey and elsewhere.

So, essentially, Syria is a sacrificial lamb. But it is refusing to be submissive and go quietly to the slaughter.  This is perhaps why the war is so vicious and some  million and half Syrians are refugees flowing into Turkey, Lebanon and Europe.


Contrary to some of the  claims, I do not insinuate that Europe is being racist in its handling of the refugee crises  festering on the Belarusian-Polish borders. I merely state that a life is a life, and none should be lost if avoidable as in this case. Also, I am not anti-European. Indeed, I am a follower of  the German Philosopher, Karl Marx and German merchant, Friedrich Engels. I am also a faithful disciple of German playwright and poet, Bertolt Brecht who I rate as one of the greatest writers  humanity has ever produced.


As for racism, I have argued elsewhere that no Black person who is familiar with the Christ-like sacrifices of the American, John Brown and his sons - outstanding humanists who laid down their lives for the emancipation of Black slaves - can be, or remain a racist. For no higher love can men have to consciously, willingly and selflessly  lay down their lives for others.


I appreciate the concerns about European life and the need to preserve it.  However,  on the Polish-Belorussian borders today, that is not  the  immediate issue; we have lives to save. 


 As a trade unionist, I always keep in mind the International Labour Organisation, ILO  May 10, 1944,  Declaration of Philadelphia which warned that: "Poverty anywhere is a danger to prosperity everywhere." Humanity is one body; if  a part bleeds, the rest will be unwell.