What’s the refugee story?

While news media displays images of sullen, dirty refugees amassed at borders, and fear-based rhetoric on morning talk-shows champion the causes of sovereignty, security, and fiscally sound budgets…the desperation of lost people permeates the watery horizons of faraway shores.

Objections to taking refugees are many and varied and include things like where to put the millions forging across borders, and how to perform the administrative tasks necessary for the intake, and especially, whom should cover the cost. Conservative groups push back against Congressional measures that include federally funded FEMA camps being used, while their pundits expound upon the risks of radicals threatening the safety of U.S. citizens. Images of men, mostly young and strong, without their women and children seen sitting in groups, are splashed across social media in protest of refugee internment. Meanwhile, social media is filled with horror stories from Europe where millions of refugees have been given safe-haven, but extremists from the groups inflict harm and terror in their streets.

But, is it right to judge entire peoples by assumptions and the wrongful actions of a few? Many think not.

In fact, the “refugee crisis” is known to be such a serious matter that many leading bodies including the United Nations and other groups, have invested in relief efforts in the heart of war zones. Additionally, The Institute for Global Policy has sponsored the “International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (RTP)”, based on the notion that people have the right to be protected from genocide, war, ethnic cleansing, and other similar atrocities. If the issue is worthy of these large, globally responsible groups to address and fund, it seems only just for Americans to take a closer look at the dynamics involved and the reasons why these people would risk their lives, and that of their small children, and other precious loved ones, to show up at our borders. The problem may just be in the small lens we choose to view the situation…one with no depth and periphery. It’s time to take a fresh look at the R2P…

History of developing nations

To understand the refugee crisis, we must understand the complex dynamics that render a nation/state uninhabitable, and for that Rwanda proves a good example. Rwanda has been riddled with war and destruction, by external forces, for more than a century, which has rendered it debilitated to some degree, and prevented it from establishing sometimes even basic economic, civil, and security infrastructures. Colonial forces that first arrived in the late 1800s, not only changed the landscape of the African content during the “scramble” for land division between European powers, but they changed fundamental laws and policies, that shifted the benefits of production in these states to reward the European powers and the local elites. Some of those very same power structures remain and work against the very matter of human security.

While it may lend to the story that this is an African cultural problem, it should be noted that external forces were involved to promote this genocide, and moreover, to instigate it for their own purposes. The IBRD, for example, while giving aid funds to Rwanda, continued to support the use of ethnic ID cards and quotas instituted during the colonial period. Additionally, they tolerated a subservient judiciary, and brutally squashed any type of government dissenting speech. Worse, immediately before the genocide, the Rwandan (Hutu run) government, staged a false attack and blamed the Tutsi. The complicit media propagated the stories and began outlandish radio campaigns against Tutsis, openly promoting their murder by their own neighbors. Yet, there was no official declaration of war or genocide, no horn that sounded, but a silent slaughter began and swept rapidly across the countryside, taking every-even tiny Tutsi it could find. Children hid alone in swamps, fields, and under bushes…wherever they could and wandered, starved, and mostly died of starvation or at the blade of a machete. But, we stood still.

What’s our problem?

Are we so desensitized to violence that we can ignore the plight of people running for their very lives? Violence is at the heart of the beginning of every empire, our own included. As Americans, we are not afraid to fight, to war, or to kill. We protect our people and our sovereignty and we hold freedom and life as a fundamental value. But, do we dismiss that value for those that we label undeserved? We have been taught to see the lesser developed countries as lesser-deserved. Yet, if we understand that they are also lesser-developed because of the brutality and dominance of external groups, and furthermore, that these wars against civilians are a result of power-struggles between governments, corporations, and more, and that the people are victims of these circumstances that are running for their dear lives. They are brutalized, starved, and terrified and needing shelter from those with the power to give it. We are Americans and therefore we are protectors of the weak, the small, and the innocent. It is our moral duty, our job, and our passion to protect.

Moreover, we must take steps to ensure that the governments of countries exporting refugees are held accountable for their limitations, failures, or criminalities that contribute to high levels of human risk. Foreign Aid through the World Bank (IBRD), and any U.S. bi-lateral aid, must be analyzed to ensure that its funds are not being used to contribute to war, genocide, or similar contribution to warring against citizens.

Additionally, sanctions, military intervention, and diplomatic action must be immediately embarked upon once trigger warnings are received, to assess where the U.S. and allies may assist in quelling violence before it erupts. Ensuring that lesser-developed countries like Rwanda, Syria, and others, are protected, contributes to reduction in local violence and death, as well as to the ultimate safety of America and the rest of the world by preventing the success of radical groups and terrorist government regimes.