Refugees: wide open or airtight borders?

To say that the refugees crisis is shaking the Western world is a bit of an euphemism. Every day, loads of articles are written around the world about people fleeing from war and persecution. Among those articles, many are sharp-toned – and deeply one-sided, whether all refugees should be welcome or kept away from European soil, without any middle-ground. All of them have perfectly valid arguments that strengthen their point – and exaggerations that shatter it. So shall we be generous or cautious ? My point is that we have to be both.

Why do we have to be careful ? First because, as it is rightfully pointed out, potential terrorists are among those people. Even if no reliable figures are available, how unlikely is it that hoards with hundred thousands people leaving a territory partly controlled by ISIS and other fundamentalist groups don’t include some of their members ? The main task of national governments is to ensure the citizens’ safety before everything else. But aside from the terrorist risk, there are other kinds of migrants who could be trouble for the receiving countries.

First, there are some of those people who pretend to be refugees and who in fact are not. Instead, they are migrants who leave their country for economical reasons and who use the refugee crisis in Europe in order to settle down there. Some of them even admit it openly, as they demand the right to chose which country to move to, as CNN reported, or when they try to break onto the lorries and ferries in Calais, causing chaos  . Whereas it is perfectly understandable that people living in misery make attempts to get better life conditions, it is difficult to welcome them in countries which already do not have enough jobs and welfare for its own citizens. To welcome people from abroad, to provide them with benefits, lodging, food and education while natives live at subsistence level – for those who have a home – will only get racism and xenophobia to grow uncontrolled. In Malmö, in southern Sweden, this is what is happening. Consequently, the Sweden democrats, the far-right party in the country, has come third at the last general election and is getting ever more support everywhere in the country. It is up to every country to evaluate how much they can do without weakening social balances.

Second, some people who are let into western countries are blinded with traditions – not rarely based on religion – that might turn out to be a source of problems. What happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve is a new example of a problem civilization gaps can give rise to, as this. There is no reason why generosity should lead to suffering. To allow for those behaviors to happen will only reinforce the xenophobic sentiment that unfortunately is too widespread within the Western world.

But we also have to be generous. We have to, because our civilization, inheriting both from a Christian tradition – and by that I mean the sermon on the mount, not the horrific Old Testament – and from the Enlightenment, commands us to. Those who recall the parable of the good Samaritan will keep in mind that Jesus told us to help whoever needs our help, no matter who they are. Philosophers of the Enlightenment era considered as a duty to bring knowledge and wisdom all around the world. The time seems to have come to prove that both are the pillars of a civilization we are rightfully proud of.

 

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