Column: The Syrian refugee crisis and a realistic altruism

Police patrol in front of the main train station in Cologne, Germany, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. A first suspect of the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne was arrested over the weekend. Authorities in Germany have arrested a 26-year-old Algerian man on suspicion of committing a sexual assault in Cologne during New Year's celebrations. (Martin Meissner/AP)

According to The Guardian, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is being urged to close the borders to keep out refugees after the admittance of about 1.1 million migrants that arrived last year.

After the New Years’ incident in Cologne, where a number of men sexually harassed 10 women, and robbed several people, the media and the government received brutal criticisms regarding their handling of the aftermath. The police withheld information on the mass sexual assaults; however, even after the details emerged, journalists were reluctant to admit the possibility of refugees being involves despite numerous witness accounts according to the New York Times.

We see the political left in Germany play down the event by comparing the sexual attacks to crimes that happen every year in Munich’s Oktoberfest, which are shown to be false according to police records. The Cologne police reported to the New York Times that many of the attackers fit the description of those from northern Africa.

Statistics show that 40 percent of the city’s immigrants have become delinquent and faced issues, mainly theft within their first year of being in Germany. Asylum seekers are known for ditching their passports in order to avoid deportation as many countries, especially when countries such as Tunisia and Morocco refuse to accept those individuals who have no papers.

We need to acknowledge that there are some refugees coming from an area of high tension, anarchy, instability, and lawlessness. This, coupled with their previous patriarchal society in which they grew up, can potentially cause issues when assimilating themselves into a different culture in the countries that are providing asylum. This is not to label the majority of refugees, as there are plenty of law-abiding people who are simply seeking sanctuary.

According to Mercy Corps, the U.N. predicts about 4.7 million registered Syrian refugees by the end of 2016. However, it is not perceptive to generalize a group of people that large as either terrorist, nor is it astute to label them all as innocent refuge seekers. Simply being a victim of one horror does not exempt the possibility of people being able to commit their own crimes.

This is even more of an issue for those not aware of all the laws in the country in which they are given asylum. Many issues that may surface could very well be due to misunderstandings or a government unable to provide the basic necessities to the refugees accepted.

Regardless of the vetting processes of the country there are difficulties in administering background checks for all who want to migrate from a region of turmoil. Programs are necessary to help assimilate people into countries while still holding them accountable for any wrongdoing.

There also needs to be cooperation from the people, the media and the government. We cannot simply avoid the truth when it comes to incidences such as what transpired in Cologne, Germany. However, we cannot generalize and label millions of people coming from one region because of the actions of a few.

Hungary taking a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook, erected a steel fence at their southern border to prevent the illegal entry of refugees and to divert them to Slovenia. Meanwhile, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel staunchly refuses to put a cap on the refugees being admitted into Germany.

Both extreme reactions to the situation must be compromised in order to provide for both the citizens as well as the refugees. Once a country’s heart is too big to provide for all whom they want to, the quality of life for both citizens and refugees greatly decreases, as we saw in Bavaria’s Landshut district that sent about 30 refugees to Merkel’s office to protest the lack of resettlement efforts offered, according to NBC News.

The spokesperson for the district states that there is a good chance of many refugees becoming homeless as the housing situation in the district is becoming strained.

Many people believe that a country must tend to the welfare of its citizens before looking outside of the country in order to administer its compassion. However, I believe that a compromise of both are necessary.

While we cannot admonish those countries for closing their borders absolutely to the refugees, we can try to understand the position they are placed in when wanting to ensure the safety and well being of their citizens. There should be emphasized effort on creating a plan or a suggestion for countries to streamline the process of accepting refugees with the balance of the resources available per country in order to create the best environment for all involved.


Jesseba Fernando is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at jesseba.fernando@uconn.edu.