The International Refugee Crisis: Why countries still seek to avoid taking responsibility

June 9, 2015

st0609-03The mass departure of people who have reasons to leave their country of origin due to fear of persecution on cultural and political grounds is by no means a recent phenomenon.

Even though Western countries such as the United Kingdom publicly support the protection of basic human rights for refugees, these countries seem to have a problem in following up with their promises to provide crucial aid and shelter for those who are fleeing from persecution.

In recent times, many news articles have surfaced on the cramped and squalid conditions of the detention centers that refugees are forced to live in as well as the dangerous trip these people make in order to reach some sort of haven for themselves.

Despite this unfortunate trend, not only are regular citizens of Western countries apathetic to the plight of fellow human beings, but there also is a rise in popularity of anti-immigration political parties such as the United Kingdom Independence Party, which secured 3.8 million votes in the 2015 British Elections.

Why is this phenomena occurring in advanced democracies?

The main reason seems to be that the general public perceives these refugees as a serious threat to the jobs to which they feel entitled. With UKIP and other anti-immigration parties, the support of booting out refugees is based on the platform that all the refugees and immigrants will eventually compete for and take the jobs that the public desperately needs.

This highly damaging perception is unfounded as the integration of refugees into the workforce is much more useful than funding overcrowded refugee camps and the fact that local demand for services will increase the need for goods, thus fueling and supporting local economies. In the Voyage of the St. Louis, almost all the passengers were fleeing from xenophobia in Nazi Germany because of their Jewish origins.

However, these endangered passengers were turned away from Cuba and the United States because of the same perception that the refugees were competitors for scarce jobs.

Only a little more than half of the passengers survived the ensuing Holocaust, a disaster that could have been well prevented.

We, as citizens of advanced countries, have failed to look back to disastrous prior situations identical to the refugee crisis of the present. In order to overcome irresponsibility, we must deny the false perceptions of refugees being a burden on society as well as competitors.

If we cannot, then we will certainly have more humanitarian crises and guilty consciences on our hands.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by the Korea Times.


st0609-03-1 Sejun Oh
Northwood High School, 11th Grade

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