Ignoring the refugee crisis is an inhumane response

Don't be paralyzed by fear; governments must take bold, decisive action to respond to humanitarian crisis.

Just as the U.S. was stunned by the homeland attacks of 9-11 over a decade ago, France was recently visited by a tragic and horrific attack in mid-November at the hands of ISIL in Paris.

The violence and the graphic images on TV broadcasts and the internet of the aftermath are a visceral and shocking reminder that extremism can strike in any form anywhere across the globe.

Already, nations have begun to rally around France, pledging to take military action against ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq and talks of a coalition are being reported by world media.

Now, after nearly four years of a civil war in Syria, the situation of refugees has come to the forefront of media coverage, due in large part to another tragic incident where photos of a young boy who had drowned and washed up on a beach in Turkey sparked global outrage.

World Vision reports that there are 4 million Syrian refugees, most of whom fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. It’s been called the largest migration of a population since the Second World War.

Many nations have grappled with a response to the refugee crisis. Some countries have made pledges to bring in thousands while in others, debate roils over the prudence of throwing open the doors to simply any refugees.

In monitoring that debate, both at home and abroad, it’s been extremely disturbing to see some of the commentary and reaction to the situation.

Syrian refugees never asked for the situation they find themselves in, to be living in a war zone and getting caught in the crossfire between a dictatorial government and an extremist organization bent on killing anyone it deems a threat.

To simply turn our collective backs and ignore the crisis is an inhumane response. As the old saying goes—the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

What the collective global response should be?

That’s a debate that needs to happen and is happening currently in governments across the world, but the one unacceptable response is to ignore the staggering humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in the region.

Pick up the phone and call a government representative—a Member of Parliament or a government minister. Send an email. Send more emails. Tweet about it. Post it on Facebook.

Whatever the global response is—Canada’s included—the status quo cannot be allowed to stand.

The Liberal government has committed to settle 25,000 refugees by March 2016. Other countries have pledged to take in various numbers as well, both in the U.S. and in the European Union.

The attack in Paris raised the ugly spectre that extremist groups may be using the refugee crisis as a way of infiltrating other countries.

That very well may be true.

ISIL operatives may well be trying to slip through the refugee process, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that fractionally, that  group is extremely small within the context of a large, legitimate majority who are suffering through the horrors of a war they never wanted.

Is resettling millions of refugees in the EU and North America a viable option? Should humanitarian aid at the source be the priority? Will bombing and airstrikes do anything to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence?

All are legitimate questions.

Even if the political will isn’t there to fling open the borders and allow thousands upon thousands of refugees, it still makes a world of difference to those that do get the chance to settle in a new country.

Efforts are already underway even in Cranbrook to bring in a refugee family thanks to the work of the Cranbrook Hub for Refugees, a group that includes church organization and other concerned community groups.

The process has already begun with an Expression of Interest application to the federal government, while groups must also raise $15,000 before they will be considered for sponsorship.

Will bringing in one family make a difference in the refugee crisis?

No, but to that family, it will be a world of difference.