Refugee Crisis in Europe, and the Missing US

David Palumbo-Liu's picture

This is a blog by Mira B and Lisa H, graduate students at the University of Würzburg, who invite your comments:

No matter if one watches TV, reads a newspaper or follows the news online, the Syrian refugee crisis has been a ubiquitous topic during the last months in Europe. It is horrible to experience people’s despair and suffering when they try to escape the ever-lasting war in their home country. They are forced to leave their native country with nothing more than they are able to carry with them. What is even more, if they don’t die on their way to another European country they are confronted with many bureaucratic difficulties they have to cope with before being fully accepted in their new “home country”.

            The longer one follows the news, the more obvious becomes the question whether the refugees and their admission to other countries is actually only the task of some countries such as Italy and Germany or whether it should be a problem concerning the whole world. To say it bluntly, the world asks itself which stance the U.S. is taking in this issue. Germany and the U.S. were once seen as the world’s two largest recipients of immigrants[1]; therefore, it is not astonishing that people in Europe – especially here in Germany – get kind of angry when they hear that the U.S. only accepted 1.500 Syrian refugees since 2011, whereas Berlin accepted 1000 of them in the month of July 2015 alone![2]

            When we searched for “the USA and the refugees” (a query without judging in any direction), one of the first things we discovered was the following cartoon, which is somehow speaking for itself and it does not need any further explanation.

Description: Cartoon: Syrische Flüchtlinge USA (medium) by Schwarwel tagged syrische,flüchtlinge,syrien,asyl,asylanten,asylbewerber,usa,us,freiheitsstatue,freiheit,angst,islam,anschlag,islamisten,karikatur,schwarwel,syrische,flüchtlinge,syrien,asyl,asylanten,asylbewerber,usa,us,freiheitsstatue,freiheit,angst,islam,anschlag,islamisten,karikatur,schwarwel[3]

            Of course, one could argue that there is the ocean as natural barrier between Syria and the U.S. Given this fact, the admission of refugees is not that easy in the United States, but in our opinion this cannot be the reason for the entire non-participation of the U.S. concerning the admission of more refugees. The U.S. government constantly opposes that it is their responsibility to stabilize the situation in Syria. For them it is no priority to take refugees in and help them to start a new life without war and fear[4] – no matter how you look at it, the entire situation totally contradicts Obama’s widespread sentence “Yes, we can!” being said after his first election. To top this all, further military actions done by the U.S. government, as is very well known, turn out to be even more expensive than a resettlement of the refugees would ever be.[5] Nevertheless, if one could believe in the promises of the U.S. to take in about 5000 to 8000 Syrian refugees next year, this numbers are still far too small for such a huge country.[6]

One might argue numbers do not paint the whole picture. Therefore, we aim to compare the situation in Germany and the U.S. in more detail now. According to Eurostat, 110.350 applications of asylum seekers were accepted in Germany. That is the highest rate of the EU altogether and almost three times more than in Hungary, which is ranked after Germany.

The following figure[7] illustrates this fact:






Of course, one could go on and on comparing, but that will not stop the refugee crisis in the next years. It would become even worse for many European countries concerning available spaces and money. However, keeping in mind that we publish this blog on a Human Rights Website, it is very important for us to say that one should never forget that seeking asylum is a basic human right for everyone.


[1]Schuck, Peter and Rainer Münz. “’Paths to Inclusion’: The Integration of Migrants in the United States and Germany.” Migration and Refugees: Politics and Policies in the United States and Germany. Ed. Myron Weiner. New York: Berghahn Books, 1998. Vii.

[2] Weiland, Severin. “Die USA und die Flüchtlinge: Eine Supermacht versteckt sich.“ Spiegel Online Politik. 07 September 2015. Web. 13 December 2015.

[3] “Syrische Flüchtlinge USA.” Toonpool. 07 September 2015. Web. 11 December 2015.

[4]Weiland, Severin. “Die USA und die Flüchtlinge: Eine Supermacht versteckt sich.“ Spiegel Online Politik. 07 September 2015. Web. 13 December 2015.

[5]Thrall, Trevor A. „Let Syrian Refugees In—All of Them: Why resettlement is a cheaper, and morally superior, alternative to Western military action in Syria.” The Atlantic. 21 October 2015. Web. 14 December 2015.


[6]Ignatieff, Michael. „The Refugee Crisis Isn’t a ‘European Problem’.” The New York Times. 5 September 2015. Web. 14 December 2015.

[7]„Infografiken: Zahlen und Fakten zu Flüchtlingen in der EU.” Tagesschau. Web. 10 December 2015. 







1 Comment

Turning away refugees, as the

Turning away refugees, as the U.S. has proven willing time and again to do, is obviously absurd - especially for a country founded as America was.  The actions of governors trying to deny asylum to Syrians contrast sharply with the words on the bottom of the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free".  The ethos that America likes to paint for itself is not the one that drives us to closed borders.  What is it then?

Certainly, it's rooted in some blend of racism and xenophobia.  I do not know if its rooted in hate, fear, or ignorance.  Fear is certainly used by politicians to garner support, but I’m not sure it’s at the root of the problem.  There’s likely also a desire to stop refugees from coming for the same reason that anti-immigration policy gets justified - to keep jobs for nationals.  

But there is also certainly also an element of otherness that drives Americans to offer refuge to so few Syrians.  If a war broke out in Europe, we can be sure more refugees would be accepted.  Part of it is islamophobia, part is white supremacy.  Whatever it is, it is reluctance to extend human rights to those we mark as ‘other'