The United Nations first warned over a year ago that more people around the world had been forcibly displaced than at any time since World War II. That figure has since risen from 51 million people to almost 60 million. The main reason behind the spike in refugees is four years of brutal war in Syria, the U.N. says.
Europe has struggled to muster a response. Germany is among a few countries who have have been willing to welcome a substantial number of refugees and sought a common European strategy to deal with the crisis. Other nations have locked down their borders, crammed refugees into transit camps, and said they won't take in Muslims, creating alarming echoes of the past for WWII historians and Holocaust survivors.
In the aftermath of the World War II refugee crisis, the world set up the first legal protection regime for refugees and created a plethora of multinational organizations to assist refugees and migrants. Alexander Betts, Director of the University of Oxford's Refugee Studies Centre and a Professor of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, laid out five history lessons for dealing with the refugee crisis in a Guardian column this week. The WorldPost spoke to Betts about whether the refugee crisis after WWII might shed light on the crisis in Europe today.
Does Europe’s response to the current refugee crisis look pretty lackluster by comparison to the efforts after WWII?
There are more people displaced around the world than at any time since the Second World War, and Syria alone is the largest refugee crisis in a generation.
Until recently, the dominant assumption in Europe was that refugee issues primarily affected other parts of the world. Europe has faced large refugee movements during, for example, the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts of the 1990s. However, this is the first time in its history that Europe has faced a mass influx of refugees from outside the region.
The existing Common European Asylum System was not designed for such a situation. With the notable exception of Germany, few European countries emerge with much credit. Although this is gradually changing, there has been a lack of political leadership and moral courage. Over 2,700 people have died this year at Europe’s borders and a lot of this would have been preventable with more urgency and better political choices.