Policy Alert: European Refugee Crisis Provokes Reactions from Rising Powers
Europe is currently witnessing a massive refugee influx as millions of people flee war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya. While Germany has taken on leadership by welcoming 800,000 migrants this year, European countries have yet to come up with a unified EU policy to address the refugee issue. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil on the ongoing refugee crisis.
Chinese commentary blamed the United States and the European Union for causing the refugee crisis as a result of U.S. intervention in the Middle East.
- “The ongoing refugee crisis is the bitter fruit of the US-led West’s interventionist policy in the Middle East,” argued one China Daily editorial. “Western countries, the United States in particular, should shoulder their due responsibilities in both preventing the humanitarian disaster from worsening and restoring peace and stability in the Middle East.”
- “If the US and the EU want to cool down the refugee crisis and prevent a new crisis, they will need to strive to reduce the sources of regional chaos and military conflicts,” added theGlobal Times.
- Liu Deshou, research fellow at the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out that “it wasn’t until Thursday that the Obama administration agreed to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the fiscal year 2016. This is merely a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria. There is no doubt that Europe is disappointed at U.S. flinching.”
- “The international community should address the root cause of the refugee crisis as soon as possible; otherwise, the influx to Europe will only go from bad to worse,” opined the China Daily. It added, “The United States needs to shoulder its responsibilities in this regard and put more energy and resources into combating the IS group…And it should rethink its Middle East policy, which has largely led to the ongoing refugee crisis.”
- An Huihou, former Chinese ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Algeria wrote, “It seems all sides are making efforts to eliminate the IS but still differ on how it could be done best. Let’s hope they settle their differences soon, because as long as chaos continues in Syria and Iraq, more refugees will flee to Europe.”
Reactions to the refugee crisis evoked mixed commentary in Russia. Some used it as an opportunity to blame the United States, while others criticized Russia’s involvement in Syria.
- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated, “We expect that for the most part that expenditures [for dealing with refugees] will fall on the countries linked to causing thecatastrophic situation.” Asked whether Russia would join any program to help refugees, Peskov replied: “It’s hardly likely.”
- Alexander Golts, deputy editorof the online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal criticized Russia’s involvement in Syria. “the Kremlin risks involving Russia in yet another grueling conflict. It is a not-so-clever attempt to save face by starting a new war as a cover for pulling out of the current war in Ukraine. Not having finished the first major conflict, the Kremlin will get itself involved in a second. And as everyone knows, it rarely ends well for those who fight a war on two fronts.”
- Journalist Natalia Antonova wrote in the Moscow Times, “You can’t have a multipolar world by being reactive. You must be proactive. Russia has an opportunity to be proactive on the refugee crisis. It could do wonders for Russia’s image abroad.”
- “At first sight the United States’ official stance looks paranoid,” assistant professor Andrey Fenenko, of the Moscow State University’s world politics department, told TASS. “In other words: we wish to fight against the IS but at the same time to oust Assad, who is the Islamic State’s main opponent. One has the impression they do not realize that should Assad step down, the Islamic State will be in Damascus the next day.”
Newspapers in India critiqued the lack of response from European and other countries to the crisis.
- The Indian Express argued that European powers “must follow” Germany’s example in welcoming refugees and reach a consensus on an EU-wide refugee policy. “Europe’s politicians have no time to lose. If they do not reach a consensus soon, they will be guilty of failing to live up to European values.”
- The Hindu criticized European countries for constantly calling the crisis a “migrant” crisis. “By referring to those reaching Europe’s shores as migrants, the European Union’s leaders are trying to mislead the public about the real nature of the crisis.”
- Dhananjay Tripathi, assistant professor at Department of International Relations in South Asian University, New Delhi, blamed the series of Western interventions in West Asia as the “root” of the crisis, arguing that Western countries have “all responsibility” to help the refugees.
- The Business Standard claimed that “the biggest tragedy” of the refugee crisis is that “it is being perceived as a European problem,” as this perception detracts our attention from the fact that Turkey, Egypt, Jordan-countries that are suffering severe economic problems just like the Europeans-have welcomed the refugee influx without complaint, while richer countries, including the Gulf states, Australia, and the U.S., have offered little help.
- “What did the rich Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates do for these [Muslim] refugees, most of whom are Muslims themselves?” commented The Daily Pioneer, noting that some of these countries have contributed to the worsening of the Syrian civil war by funding and arming rebel and Islamist factions fighting the Assad regime.
Japanese newspapers called for the strengthening of humanitarian efforts by European countries and by Japan to help the refugees.
- The refugee crisis “tests EU solidarity and human rights principles” as European countries disagree over refugee quotas, posited the Yomiuri Shimbun, while emphasizing that it is “necessary to differentiate between refugees seeking protection from persecution and illegal migrants seeking jobs in EU countries.”
- “The most important task is eliminating the instabilities that force people to flee. That means tackling more aggressively the civil war in Syria, the continuing deterioration in Libya and the chaos in Iraq,” argued The Japan Times. “Europe has kept its distance from those crises…The result has been the creation of new crises within Europe itself, however.”
- The Mainichi Shimbun criticized the Japanese government’s reluctance to accept Syrian refugees, citing its “extraordinary low” refugee acceptance rate-only 11 out of 5,000 asylum seekers were accepted last year.
- The Asahi Shimbun called the refugee crisis a “test” of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “proactive pacifism” diplomatic strategy, urging the administration to “fulfill its international responsibility” to help the refugees.
- Hiroaki Ishii, executive director at Japan Association for Refugees, claimed “By exclusively providing monetary aid, the image of Japan as having a frosty attitude toward refugees is becoming even stronger…Political decisions need to be made to relax existing restrictions on refugee acceptance.”
Korean media outlets argued for the need for a more unified response by EU countries and a more active involvement by the Korean government.
- The JoongAng Ilbo argued that the EU “must come up with guidelines to appropriate acceptance of refugees among member states. Germany’s leadership is needed, in particular.”
- “As the crisis unfolds in Europe, Korea should think about how it can contribute,” claimedThe Korea Herald. “While two Syrians have been granted refugee status so far, a more practical measure can be taken in the form of greater assistance for countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan in supporting the Syrian refugees.”
- In remembrance of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old toddler who was washed up on a Turkish shore, The Korea Times emphasized that the tragedy reminds us not to become “a tourist in other people’s reality.” “For a crisis that threatens lives of fellow human beings, we can no longer remain reduced to being a tourist because the big reality is that it belongs to all of us.”
The refugee crisis in Europe received significant coverage in the Brazilian media and provoked a response from the government.
- President Dilma Rousseff declared in an Independence Day message that Brazil “will have our arms open to receive refugees” and continued by emphasizing the diverse origins of Brazil’s population and the contributions of immigrants to the country.
- On September 8, Beto Vasconcelos, the president of National Committee for Refugees in Brazil said in an interview that the committee would hold special meetings to investigate the actions the Brazilian government could take to assist refugees. He noted there is no quota for refugee admittance, only the government’s capacity to process documentation. He added that Brazil, “with its history of receptiveness, a history built upon inflows of migrants, a mixed society, has every ability to receive” refugees.
- In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Oliver Stuenkel, an assistant professor at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas, argued that Brazil should increase the number of refugees it receives from the current 8,000 and claimed that it could receive up to 50,000 refugees without risking a surge in xenophobia while having a positive economic impact on the country. He called for all of the large economies in Latin America to do more, saying that “the refugee crisis in the Middle East is not regional, but global, requiring a broad response.”