Accepting Refugees: Don’t Judge Eastern Europe too Harshly…? (2/2)

Accepting Refugees: Don’t Judge Eastern Europe too Harshly…? (2/2)

From last time:

Do you think that Greece can welcome and integrate as many refugees as Germany?

Let’s not forget, at the risk of sounding patronising, that many countries in Eastern Europe are not as prosperous as some of the more fortunate Western European countries.

So, if you have a sturdy lifeboat that can accommodate 30 people, and a rickety one that can accommodate 15, and Libya is currently a sinking ship, wouldn’t you want to take the differences between the vessels of safety into consideration?

The metaphor is problematic in some ways, but I would hope it will be read charitably and in the cautiously openhearted spirit intended.

Of course, it may well be that such discussions have been made already, on a larger continental level. But that brings me to one last point: who decides?

It’s a reasonable question, and I take up the thread again today.

Who decides?

Who decides how which countries accept which number of asylum seekers?

On what basis?

Does everyone have an equal say?

I am tempted to say this issue is a microcosm of larger scale issues about equality and democracy in the European Union. Whether you are pro or anti EU, it is difficult to deny that some countries are likely to have a larger sway in decision-making than others. It’s just too easy to point the finger at some of the less economically prosperous nations, whose governments often appear either reticent or downright oppositional to the demands for accepting asylum seekers.

I think that while refugees certainly should be welcomed, there are practical limits to what can be done. I admit, such limits must surely be vague, hard to discern, and probably mobile and shifting to a degree. There’s no perfect response; only a choice between imperfect ones, some of which will be better, or at least, less bad than others.

So, while we shouldn’t blame the refugees fleeing for their lives, let’s not judge too harshly governments who, in some cases, may be motivated by sincere, honest, and dare I say it… humanitarian concern.

Not all Europeans are equal. At least in terms of political influence and power. So, let’s do whatever each one of us can do, for as many as we can reasonably do it for; bearing in mind the limitations of past, present and future knowledge that pose significant challenges for decision making.

Yes, we can encourage our governments to assist refugees. But in doing so, let’s not forget that even in the EU, some Europeans are more equal than others.

Let’s all do what we can. By all means! Anyone of us can write, speak, petition, volunteer, or do whatever we feel is necessary to work together for a compassionate but practical response. And ultimately, compassion must be tempered with justice… justice for as many people as possible, including a significant number of asylum seekers.

I am sure that asylum seekers do not, in themselves, pose a ‘threat’ or a ‘danger.’ Yet, even in prosperous and low-populated Western countries, the perfect strategy is the enemy of the good strategy.

So, how much more so the other countries in Europe who are in some ways even less well equipped to welcome large numbers of asylum seekers? What of the nations who have limited capacities to reconcile the role of welcoming a relatively higher number of asylum seekers with that of making a joyful and prosperous future, as part of a common life? Each life being one neither of coercive assimilation, nor of fearful separatism and disenfranchisement?

Let’s not confuse the possible with the ideal.

‘As many as possible’ is not necessarily the same as ‘as many as practically possible.’

Perhaps it’s not so much a matter of yes or no?

But of…

How?

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