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Leaving home: It's time for immigrants to help refugees

Leaving home: It's time for immigrants to help refugees

If Facebook likes and tweets could be the solution, Aylan Kurdi, the toddler whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey, and thousands of unknown others, would not have died an unfortunate death.

The recent refugee crisis, exacerbated by the civil war in Syria, requires the international community to do more to assist the globally displaced.

Even a bigger responsibility rests with those in the West, who emigrated from the war-torn parts of the world, to find refuge for millions escaping hunger, poverty, and wars.

Also read: 'No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land'

The shocking image of Aylan’s body lying face down on the beach alerted the world to a crisis that had largely gone unnoticed. Aylan, his brother, and mother were among the 12 refugees who drowned near the Turkish resort town of Bodrum.

Another six million Syrians are displaced within and outside of Syria. Because of global apathy, the World Food Program has been “struggling to meet the urgent food needs of close to six million displaced people in Syria and in neighbouring countries.”

Germany has risen to the occasion and offered to accept at least half a million Syrian refugees every year for the next few years. Others in Europe are under pressure to reciprocate the German philanthropy.

Britain has grudgingly agreed to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. France has committed to accept 24,000 refugees. At the same time, numerous Western countries, including Canada and the US, have been reluctant to accept a large number of Syrian refugees.

The above graphic is generated from 1,670 news headlines that appeared in major English language newspapers between August 25 and September 9, 2015.

The size of each word is determined by its frequent appearance in the headlines. The graphic highlights the absence of Canada and the US from the global discourse on Syrian refugees.

Canada and the US must do more to assist the Syrians. It was primarily an American driven initiative to dislodge the Syrian President Bashar al-Asad that resulted in the refugee crisis. The US did so to appease the Israelis and Arabs (mainly Saudis) who were becoming increasingly wary of the Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon.

The US establishment was so eager to destabilise the Asad regime that it allowed fake experts on Syria to influence the American legislators. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Senator John McCain presented a 26-year old quack, Elizabeth O’Bagy, as an expert on Syria and quoted her Wall Street Journal op-ed in Senate hearings. She had lied about her doctorate and hid her paid assignments for Syrian rebels.

Ms. O’Bagy encouraged the American legislators to support the rebels whose ranks were increasingly filled with the Al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists. She misled the American media and the US establishment when she wrote in WSJ: “The conventional wisdom holds that the extremist elements are completely mixed in with the more moderate rebel groups. This isn't the case. Moderates and extremists wield control over distinct territory.”

While the rest of the world could clearly see that a weakened al-Asad regime would likely be replaced by brutal jihadists – now known as ISIS, which is led by the self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi – the US and Canada willfully ignored the larger threat to global security.

Canada first imposed sanctions and later broke off diplomatic ties with Syria. In 2011, the former Canadian foreign minister, John Baird, accommodated a Syrian rebel group in the Canadian Embassy in Turkey. In an interview in December 2011, Mr Baird declared that the Assad regime had “lost all legitimacy and its abhorrent behavior will not be tolerated.”

By 2014, both the US and Canada had to reverse their support for the Syrian rebels as it became increasingly obvious that the jihadists had assumed control from other rebels and claimed large territories in Syria and Iraq. The jihadists were staging attacks across the Middle East and beyond.

The Europeans, however, were better informed about the Syrian conflict.

Also read: Why don’t Gulf states accept more refugees?

In the summer of 2013, a comprehensive report commissioned by the European Parliament (EP) accused Wahabi and Salafi groups, based largely out of Saudi Arabia, of supporting and supplying arms to rebel groups around the world. I covered the EP report in July 2013. I wrote:

The European Parliament’s report estimates that Saudi Arabia alone has spent over $10 billion to promote Wahabism through Saudi charitable foundations. The tiny, but very rich, state of Qatar is the new entrant to the game supporting militant franchises from Libya to Syria.

With six million Syrians displaced and no end in sight for a resolution of the Syrian civil war, the western world needs to step up efforts to find refuge for Syrian migrants.

While the Canadian federal government is negligent and reluctant to realise the urgency, ordinary citizens, municipal and provincial governments, and others have launched several initiatives to bring over Syrian refugees to Canada.

One such initiative has been launched by the Ryerson University in Toronto. Ratna Omidvar, executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange, and Professor Wendy Cukier, vice president of research and innovation, started the initiative to help resettle 44 Syrian refugees. Within no time many, including the University’s President and the Provost, signed up to offer financial and other help to settle Syrian refugees.

It costs approximately $27,000 to support a refugee family. Because the Canadian government wants 60 per cent of the 10,000 Syrian refugees to be supported privately, there is an urgent need to raise large sums to settle refugees in Canada. Canadians will have to raise over $40 million to settle approximately 2,500 refugee families.

The Canadian Census in 2011 recorded over one million Muslims in Canada. For such a large community, raising $40 million should not be a difficult task. It boils down to just $40 per Muslim Canadian to help resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in Canada.

In his tragic death, Aylan Kurdi touched the hearts of millions resulting in hundreds of millions of tweets and Facebook Likes. It’s time to do more than click on social media.

Let us donate to honour the memory of the young Kurdi and millions more like him.


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