Editor’s Note – The following opinion article has been sent in by Katie. She passionately argues that the West, and Britain in particular, need to do more to assist and welcome refugees. Do you agree, or are we already doing too much?
Should Britain be a place for refugees to call home?
Today across the world there are more than 22 million refugees. These are men, women and children who are fleeing persecution and bloody conflict and who find themselves very quickly alone, with no place to go. Currently the United Kingdom is home to approximately 118,900 refugees, many of whom have not been successfully integrated into our society. This is an unacceptable number and situation. The British economy is the fifth largest in the world which means it has the resources to take care of many of the refugees that are in great need of a home. Even so, many people in the UK, and Europe as a whole, are apprehensive about the introduction of refugees to their cities and towns. Why is it that xenophobia is defeating moral decency and hatred reigns far above compassion?
People are afraid that refugees entering the UK will have a negative effect on our economy, jobs availability and that some could even be members of Daesh (so-called Islamic State). These fears and misconceptions have led to a hostility towards refugees which is based upon fragile evidence and very limited facts. Professor Alexander Betts, Director of Refugee Studies at Oxford University, used his 2014 study entitled ‘Refugee Economies: Rethinking Popular Assumptions’ to outline the economic reasons as to why hosting refugees is beneficial. He concluded that as most European countries are currently facing the issues of an ageing workforce and declining birth rate they would benefit greatly from an increased youth population. The refugee crisis provides this opportunity as over half of those who have been forced to escape from their home countries are under the age of 18.
Not only would Britain benefit from the manpower of refugees, but they would also make financial gains due to refugees potential purchasing power and ability to create employment opportunities. Refugees engage in trade and entrepreneurship and it has been widely agreed that the impact of refugees on a host nation’s economy relies not on the refugees themselves but on the policies of the host nation. If Britain allows for swift integration of refugees into society, encouraging their education and involvement in the workforce, the positive impact of refugees on the economy will much sooner than if refugees remain segregated from the rest of the society. This tendency of refugees to remain separated may stem from hostility that some British people have towards refugees as they fear those from countries such as Syria and Iraq could be members of Daesh. This is once again a misconception and the facts are that many of the refugees from those nations are fleeing the brutal persecution of the terrorist group.
Britain has a moral obligation to welcome refugees. They are people who would be at great risk if they returned to their home countries, many of whom have already suffered devastating personal loss. Women who have suffered rape at the hands of violent militants and men who have watched as their young child drown in the treacherous Mediterranean Sea. The figures show that 8,500 people have either died or gone missing on the journey across the sea since three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body washed ashore in 2015. All those people and their families were making the most dangerous journey in the attempt to reach safer and more welcoming lands. Instead they are met by neglected camps in Europe, police brutality in Britain and animosity everywhere. This harsh treatment of refugees and asylum seekers is completely intolerable and British Citizens and authorities should keep in mind the response they would expect if this country was up in flames.
This need for change is even more vital as another refugee crisis unfolds, with Rohingya Muslims fleeing from radical Buddhists in Myanmar to the neighboring Bangladesh. Once again makeshift camps are being set up, able to take in only a proportion of the 35,000 people that are arriving every day. But meanwhile the West watches and does nothing. People have no place to live, no access to medicine and no running water but Britain does not offer a helping hand. This country needs to change its path, stop being insular and instead look out to the world and help.