As war and poverty continue to plague the peoples of the Middle East and other affected areas, thousands of displaced citizens are fleeing to neighboring countries in Europe. The European Union (EU) is struggling to decide the best way to handle the influx of immigrants. Some governments, such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, are less willing to take on the challenge of additional immigrations.
Dr. George Kieh, professor of Political Science at University of West Georgia (UWG), has followed the situation closely. As an immigrant to the U.S himself, originally from Liberia, Kieh also knows a great deal about the naturalization process.
“In defense of the European countries, [the influx of new immigrants] is overwhelming,” he said. “Wars lead to that. When you bring in more people, it stretches your social services, law enforcement, all that. In saying that, I would say that the European countries have done a good job handling [the crisis], with the exception of Hungary.”
Hungary has put up large sections of tall barbed wire around its perimeters in order to discourage more refugees from entering their country. In September, they removed the wire from a section of its border with Slovenia, due to its violation with EU unrestricted travel laws. Other Eastern European countries are discouraging further immigrations as well, though they tend to use more traditional border patrol.
Kieh has some insight into the emotional state of refugees because many of his family members have dealt with displacement. He came to the United States for college before the first civil war in Liberia. His family experienced the tribulations of two civil wars in Liberia, and some of them passed away during that time.
“It behooves us as human beings to help anyway we can,” said Kieh. “[As a family member], it can be agonizing, because first and foremost you have to be worried about their safety. You have to worry about whether they have access to food or clean drinking water.”
Britain has taken its own path in trying to deal with the flood of immigrants from Syria and other places seeking asylum. The British government refused to join into the EU’s quota system of distributing 160,000 people who have already arrived on the continents shore’s, according to the Washington Post. Instead they run a parallel program in which over five years, 20,000 people from the Middle East will eventually relocate to Britain. Many European leaders see this cautious policy as Britain taking advantage of the fact that they are geographically farther away from the issue and therefore, are shirking much of the responsibility.
Not unlike the British, as Americans who live far off from this European immigration crisis, it can be easy to think that ordinary citizens might not have much of a role to play in alleviating these people’s plight. Kieh suggests donating money to organizations that are helping to feed, clothe and medically attend to those in need. Additionally, he suggests writing to Congress in support of sending more aid, as well as taking in more European immigrants in America.
In general, however, Kieh sees the immigration problem as “the brother issue of the nature of war itself.”
“People talk about war, making as if it’s a birthday party,” he said. “You start to wonder if these people really know the kind of devastating consequences that war creates in our society.”