In some countries, there is a real refugee crisis. In Lebanon, for example, where perhaps one-quarter of the population consists of refugees from Syria, over and above a flood of refugees from Palestine and Iraq. Other poor and strife-ridden countries of the region have also absorbed huge numbers of refugees, among them Jordan, and Syria before its descent to collective suicide. The countries that are enduring a refugee crisis had no responsibility for creating it. Generating refugees is largely a responsibility of the rich and powerful, who now groan under the burden of a trickle of miserable victims whom they can easily accommodate.
The US-UK invasion of Iraq alone displaced some 4 million people, of whom almost half fled to neighboring countries. And Iraqis continue to flee from a country that is one of the most miserable on earth after a decade of murderous sanctions followed by the sledgehammer blows of the rich and powerful that devastated the ruined country and also ignited a sectarian conflict that is now tearing the country and the region to shreds.
There is no need to review the European role in Africa, the source of more refugees, now passing through the funnel created by the French-British-US bombing of Libya, which virtually destroyed the country and left it in the hands of warring militias. Or to review the US record in Central America, leaving horror chambers from which people are fleeing in terror and misery, joined now by Mexican victims of the trade pact which, predictably, destroyed Mexican agriculture, unable to compete with highly subsidized US agribusiness conglomerates.
The reaction of the rich and powerful United States is to pressure Mexico to keep US victims far from its own borders, and to drive them back mercilessly if they manage to evade the controls. The reaction of the rich and powerful European Union is to bribe and pressure Turkey to keep pathetic survivors from its borders and to herd those who escape into brutal camps.
Among citizens, there are honorable exceptions. But the reaction of the states is a moral disgrace, even putting aside their considerable responsibility for the circumstances that have compelled people to flee for their lives.
The shame is not new. Let us keep just to the United States, the most privileged and powerful country in the world, with incomparable advantages. Throughout most of its history it welcomed European refugees, to settle the lands taken by violence from the assassinated nations that dwelt in them. That changed with the Immigration Act of 1924, aimed at excluding particularly Italians and Jews. There is no need to dwell on their fate. Even after the war, survivors still confined to concentration camps were barred entry. Today, Roma are being expelled from France to horrible conditions in Eastern Europe, descendants of Holocaust victims, if anyone cares.
The shame is deep and persistent. The time has surely come to put it to an end and to try to attain some decent level of civilization.
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