In listening to all the furor over the NYE attacks in Cologne, I’ve come to realize that Canada’s cautious approach to taking in refugees is warranted. Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, took the bold step back in 2015 of presenting a carte blanche (read: open door) entry to almost all refugees, in order to try to mitigate some of the refugee and migrant chaos that Europe was experiencing that summer.
Honestly, I’m not sure how the screening for entry into Germany is happening. I know that refugees entering Europe from any geographic/national point are able to apply for entry into Germany, contrary to the EU regulations that would rather have refugees be accepted in whichever country they first appear. Apart from being rubber stamped at the various fringe countries, I have a feeling very little security checks are actually being held of those wishing to seek asylum in Germany.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to fulfill a campaign promise to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees (note, only Syrians are included in this number, as opposed to Germany who is accepting refugees from any war-torn country, again, as I understand the situation). The first 10,000, brought in by the 2015 year end, were refugees who had already been sponsored from within Canada by either private citizens or private organizations, such as churches, and whom had already been on the Government of Canada’s radar for the past few years as Citizenship and Immigration Canada conducted its normal security checks.
I’ve had some discussions with individuals who claim that this initial 10,000 shouldn’t count towards Prime Minister Trudeau’s 25,000 count as the 10,000 had already been approved under the auspices of the previous government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I feel that’s just politicking numbers – at the end of the day, whomever is being admitted into Canada is being admitted by the Government of Canada, regardless of who is Prime Minister or which party is at the helm of the country.
What is important is that the Government of Canada remains committed to conducting thorough security clearance checks on each individual who is applying to become a citizen of Canada. All refugees accepted to Canada have gone through these checks. Some pundits have scoffed at Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to 25,000 refugees, which really is a drop in the bucket in comparison to Germany’s acceptance of over 1 million refugees in 2015, but that is a manageable number, especially in light of the Cologne attacks.
I wonder if Cologne would have looked different on New Year’s Eve, if the refugees accepted into Germany, carte blanche, had to submit applications, had actually been screened, and had trickled into Germany, rather than flooding into Germany through Chancellor Merkel’s kindness and courage in throwing the doors of Germany wide open to over a million refugees? I do understand that Canada is in a different place, quite literally, than Germany, as we don’t have a war (or wars) on the doorstep of our continent, so that we can take an arm’s length approach to refugees. However, the clash of cultures that occurred that evening of December 31, 2015, perhaps may have been mitigated through a more conservative approach to the refugees.
One might argue that Europe does not have the luxury of being able to deal with a conservative approach to accepting refugees, as Canada is doing. We selected handpicked refugees, and are handpicking refugees out of the camps in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan, rather than having to deal with desperate people who have trekked thousands of kilometers in order to find stability and peace. Certainly, most of the refugees whom Germany will have accepted are also not misogynistic bigots who think it their right to grope and rob women in public (and worse); as Deborah Orr, of the Guardian notes:
…it’s silly to pretend that the word “refugee” is synonymous with the word “saint” anyway.
Only a simpleton – or, more commonly, person driven by instinct and emotion – thinks you can counter the uncompromising prejudice of “all immigrants are bad” with the uncompromising prejudice of “all immigrants are good”.
Point taken. Refugees are a slice of a population, and every slice of a population will have its devils and its saints, and everything in between. And yet, the method encouraging people to go through the proper refugee application process certainly seems to have its merits.
I understand that Chancellor Merkel is doing her best to save German face and to instill tougher rules on criminals who are also refugees, and to instill some bureaucratic brakes on the 2015 ‘open door’ policy, so that the influx of refugees slows down in 2016. However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we keep being reactionary to incidents with these refugees, whether it is the drowning of a refugee toddler, the Paris attacks, or this latest clash of cultures.
The root(s): the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya; the tensions between Sunnis and Shias as played out through Saudi Arabia and Iran; and of course, the spread of the Islamic State through various regions around the globe. That’s what stable countries like Germany and Canada need to focus on, how to resolve these conflicts in order to mitigate the refugee crisis.
Until these various crises are somewhat ameliorated, we will keep having refugees, and keep reacting to refugee issues: it’s time to stop taking a tactical lens to what is a strategic issue.