Our Perspective is formed by the media that we consume. One of the advantages of having lived in many countries is that you end up having a better understanding of the world. You also end up with various media sources to keep you informed. This benefit is not readily available to people who have lived in the same country and have got used to consuming the media supplied by a local source. Regardless of the efforts of media to be impartial and independent, the methodology and source used to collect news and the context against which the news is presented, colors the discourse.
Out here, the CBC provides my coverage of the refugee crisis. What I see is a huge surge of humanity drowning, crawling, fighting and desperately trying to get into Greece and from there into Western and Northern Europe. The iconic picture of the lifeless body of a little boy being carried off the beach by a cost guard still haunts our collective memory.
Before I proceed any further, I would like to introduce some terms and how I understand them so that you can understand the nature of my argument as you read this article.
Nation: a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory. Put differently, a nation consists of a distinct population of people that are bound together by a common culture, history, and tradition who are typically concentrated within a specific geographic region
Sovereignty: Sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body to govern itself without any interference from outside sources or bodies. It also means the right of a government to protect its people and their way of life by securing the land borders, shorelines and air space. This essentially involves border control and the use of travel documents such as visas and an immigration policy.
Invasion: The term invasion generally means a strategic endeavor of significant magnitude, usually large-scale and long-term. Invasion is generally the process by which a foreign population forces itself on an unwilling local population by destroying their sovereignty and way of life. We are not talking of one or two or even a hundred people here, we are talking about a millions.
News: impartiality, neutrality and objectivity, despite the inherent difficulty of reporting without political bias. News is reporting of observed substantiated facts.
Propaganda: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
The impression I get from the news here is that the European Union has been unfair for entering into a deal with Turkey to send unwilling refugees to Turkey. That Turkey is not a safe country and pushes the refugees back into Syria and into harm’s way. I have seen a lot of interviews of volunteers supporting refugees and those who protest the deportations.
Now let us step back and look at this whole picture again. European Sovereignty was breached when millions of refugees breached the shoreline of Greece and pushed across the Schengen zone over riding local laws and procedures. The European government tried its best to accommodate but the very sight of the many refugee tragedies at sea caused an emotional response. In due course, the local European population began to realize the magnitude of what was happening and found it quite scary. The New Years Eve incidents in Cologne and other European cities did not help much. Finally, E.U member states decided to defend their sovereignty by raising border fences and threatening the Schengen accord.
I think for balanced journalism; we need to hear both sides of the story. I have not yet seen any interviews with local citizens of say Germany, Austria or Greece about how this influx has affected their lives, jobs, community and prospects for their community and children. Do they have any concerns and fears? There is no information about what happened to the large number of victims of the New Year eve outrage or if the perpetrators were punished. Balanced reporting is journalism. However, in this case, it seems that the our media was distracted by the refugee spectacle and glossed over the hardships of the locals in these host countries.
Europe has always aspired for a high value in governance. Europe had to reluctantly take this step because if it continued ignoring the concern of its citizens, the right wing parties were gaining traction. For European Union to get into this deal, it must have taken a lot of pressure from its citizens to justify the move. One would like to see how that process unfolded and what those arguments were.
Answer to these questions will probably not be found in the Canadian media. Our media focus is on how we are playing our part to resolve the issue and how many more refugees we are taking. One has to look at some respected outside media to get the other dimension of the problem. Check out thelocal.de or http://www.spiegel.de/international/ for English news from Germany.
The root of the problem starts with de-stabilization of established regimes (though tyrannical, they maintained order). The old adage is that if you break it, you own it. Whether it is Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. The current problem is in Syria but economic migrants from Pakistan have taken advantage of this situation and merged with refugees. The first two boat loads to be returned to Turkey consisted entirely of migrants from this country.
While there is a lot of good will towards refugees, Governments are constrained by the fact that there is only so much that can be done by accepting refugees. Unless they integrate into the society and have skills that can be employed, they will end up in poverty and ghettos. What we do not want is ghettos like the ones in France or Brussels. In order to avoid that, organized and managed economic immigration is needed. It is also important to recognize that local citizens and their children also deserve an opportunity to be gainfully employed and to enjoy a decent life.
When deficits are high, unemployment is high and infrastructure is crumbling, it is not the right time to open borders and let in a tide with out any control as happened in Europe. At the end of the day, it is the working tax payer who is funding this enterprise of humanity. Their point of view has to be reflected by their governments and that is what EU and its member states are doing now.
If we look at the case in Canada, the tax payer is paying approximately 42% in taxes. We then have property taxes, HST on consumption and also the garbage fees, vehicle license registration fees etc.; all paid from post tax dollars. Finally, any income that comes out of investment from post tax dollars (not sheltered in TFSA) will be taxed. Unemployment rate has increased steadily and is now at 7.3%.
In this environment, it will be challenging to properly assimilate refugees unless the budgeting is holistic and includes essential elements of support to ensure that the refugees have a good chance of success. We are talking about a country where housing is beyond the reach of the working millennial. Rentals are high at high employment locations. Cost of living is high as well.
The average cost of raising a child in Canada is in the vicinity of $244,000. The average size of a Syrian refugee family is six. I would imagine this six consists of parents and four children or mother and 5 children. So you can imagine the magnitude of the undertaking. We in Canada are fortunate to have private sponsors who understand the magnitude of the undertaking and are stepping up as good Samaritans and that is welcome as long as they continue to discharge their undertaking and do not turn to the government.
It is worth noting that the private sponsor is responsible for the sponsored refugees for 12 months or until they become self sufficient, which ever is earlier. We do have ample evidence that many educated migrants who come through the normal process of immigration take more than a year to settle and invariably we do have the urban legends of the doctor who became a taxi driver. Unfortunately, that doctor taxi driver is about to lose his job to Uber.
It would be wise to take limited number of refugees but fund them adequately for success. We cannot afford to forget these people three years down the line when some other crisis takes centre stage, because it could become a foundation of future socio-economic problem.
There are no easy answers. However, it is heartening to see a significant investment in Aboriginal welfare in the current budget because it is the right thing to do. After all, we have to take care of our own before we extend a helping hand to others.
Coming back to the original question, I think any government would have done some variation of the same deal that E.U has done if they were faced with the same problem.