Thursday, September 10, 2015

Who Is Not Doing Enough?

Please, let’s cut all the political crap about how Canada is not doing nearly enough to help the millions of Syrians caught up in the world’s worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Politicians and their supporters are spinning this nightmare of human suffering into a dreamcatcher in which they hope to snag more votes on Oct. 19.

Saying that Canada is not doing enough is an insult to every Canadian. Perhaps we can do more. I don’t know. Our current federal government and a new federal government, whoever forms that next month, has the responsibility to figure out how much more we can afford to do.

Also, thousands of individual Canadians, groups and organizations are doing more than their share to help ease the suffering of these people.

For anyone, or any international organization, to say we are not doing enough is a slur against Canada and the Canadian people, who have an outstanding record of helping the world when it is in crisis.

Some facts and figures:

-       Under one UN Refugee Agency plan Canada has pledged to resettle 11,300 refugees. The U.S. figure is 16,200. France 1,000.

-       Canada is among the top contributors to Syrian refugee relief aid. It has provided more than $500 million dollars, just a bit less than two of the richest Gulf oil states. We rank 7th among the top 20 givers.

 Anyone who wants to talk about who is doing what for the Syrian refugees needs to turn their attention to the richest countries in the Arab world. The total number of Syrian refugees resettled by Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain is – zero. Not one.

Four million Syrians have been forced to flee their country’s civil war and these rich nations with their gleaming towers proclaiming disgusting wealth, have not taken one. Neither, incidentally, have Russia nor China.

Most of the refugees are stranded in squalid refugee camps in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey. Those who find the camps unbearable try to get to Europe, mostly across the Mediterranean Sea. Thousands end up drowning, like the three-year-old boy who washed up on a Turkish beach last week.

The rich Gulf states have contributed money to help the people in the refugee camps. A cynical person would say they are sending money to keep them there. However, it should be noted that the good old U.S.A., the country the world loves to dump on, has contributed four times more aid to the refugee camps than Arab Gulf states.

The rich Gulf nations are believed to have a military budget of around $100 million. They have never signed the UN 1951 Refugee Convention which is aimed at helping the world’s displaced people.

The Gulf nations certainly have been contributors to creating the hell that exists in Syria. They have funded and armed some of the factions fighting in the civil war.

“The records of Gulf countries is absolutely appalling, in terms of actually showing compassion and sharing the responsibility of this crisis,” says Sherif Elsayid-Ali, head of Amnesty International’s refugee and migrants’ rights division. “It is a disgrace.”
The Gulf states take in thousands of migrant workers but almost all come from the Indian sub-continent and southeast Asia. Any Syrian who wants in has little hope. Most Arab countries require Syrians to obtain visas, which are seldom granted.
Israel also refuses to take in any Syrian refugees saying Israel is “a very small country that lacks demographic and geographic depth.” It plans to build a fence along its eastern border with Jordon, which now has about 750,000 displaced Syrians in refugee camps.

Canada has a responsibility to the world to help displaced people. It also has a responsibility to its citizens to ensure that aid and resettlement efforts are balanced and paced to ensure changes to the country are gradual and do not become unmanageable.

Canadians governments of all stripes have done a decent job of that over many decades.

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