Saturday, August 29, 2015
It's Time to do More for Middle East Refugees
This lorry left Budapest for Austria early Wednesday morning, August 26, 2015, with a cargo of 59 men, eight women, three children, and one baby girl. They were from places yet unknown. They reached the border at 9:00 a.m., where the lorry held up. The truck slipped into Austria at nightfall.
Who were these refugees, what was their suffering? What were their stories? Who was this driver? What is his story? Who were the hard hearted men who collected the money and provided the truck? How much money did they collect to smuggle these 71 people into Europe?
The cargo bed lacked adequate ventilation. Sometime during the night the driver parked the truck on the side of the A4 motorway near picturesque Neusiedel am See.... and escaped, back to Hungary.
The 71 migrants were dead by then. Did they pound on the cab? Did they plead for light and air? How could they be refused?
Thirty years ago I read Russel Banks's Continental Drift, about the tragic intersection in the life arc of Haitian refugees and a working man-come-human-smuggler down on his luck. It sent me into a depressive funk for a month. Is it the story of this driver? He's in custody of the Hungarian police. Perhaps we'll learn more. Almost certainly there is a criminal syndicate with blood on its hands.
On Thursday morning, an employee mowing the grass noticed a putrid liquid dripping from the back of the truck. The stench of death was thick in the air. He called the police. The bodies were so badly decomposed the body-count was grossly underestimated at first. Syrian travel papers were discovered in the heap of rotting flesh, guts, and intestines of men, women and children.
They say half of the Syrian population is displaced, trying to stay out of the way of the war between ISIS, various Al-Qaeda offshoots, militias, and the the regime of Bashar al-Assad. It was a vibrant country of 17 million with infrastructure in 2003. But today the country is destroyed by the civil war that broke out following the United States war on Iraq (2003-2010), the United States war on Afghanistan (2003-present), revolution in Egypt, and Europe's armed intervention in Libya and the toppling of Gaddafi. More than 250,000 are dead as a result of this war. More than 3.5 million refugees have fled the country. Where can they go? What do they find? What sufferings and uncertainties do they experience?
What is the alternate history where Al Gore is elected President in 2000? What is the alternate history where the United States does not launch two destructive 10 year wars in the Middle East in 2003? How much of the current refugee problem in the Middle East and North Africa is traceable to our actions in these wars?
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are on the road in a continuous stream heading for Europe. Through the Balkans they head for Austria and Germany; across the Mediterranean they head for Italy and Germany. Approximately 300,000 refugees have made their way across the Mediterranean this year. Nearly 3,000 have drowned or were murdered along the way.
What is our collective responsibility towards these people?
Germany has agreed to resettle 30,000 Syrian refugees in this crisis so far, and this week Germany suspended the European conventions designed to limit refugee immigration with respect to Syrian refugees. With its move, Germany (for now) will no longer send Syrian refugees back to their first point of contact, and will instead permit them to apply for asylum in Germany. That is good news. In the meantime, Britain has closed its doors and accepted just 90 refugees; Denmark just 140; and Spain just 130. See RT News. The U.S. has not done its part. We have accepted 350 Syrian refugees this year, although this will be increased to nearly 10,000/year. France has accepted 5,000 (as of June 2014).
It's time to do more.