As Europe continues to face an unprecedented refugee/migrant crisis – largely the consequence of illegal wars and disastrous foreign policies in the Middle East – there is a great deal of misinformation, propaganda and racist nonsense now circulating about the refugees, which a lot of people seem overly willing to embrace.
This misinformation war ranges from basic cultural prejudice and the usual xenophobic/tribal fear-mongering to outright lies and fakery all designed to demonise refugees and incite sectarianism and hatred within Western societies. It is unfortunate – and a sad sign of our times – that what should be a discussion about a humanitarian crisis and the appropriate response has instead become a discussion about race, religion and fear.
But in trying here to correct some of the lies about the refugee crisis, there is little choice but to also tackle the subject of what is being rather ominously called ‘the Muslim Problem’ and also the resurgence of Nazism in Europe…
The last article I posted about the Migrant/Refugee Crisis provoked a lot of negative, highly aggressive, responses, the comments section bombarded with some of this extreme xenophobic propaganda and toxic, largely Islamophobic, fear-mongering. These same attitudes and statements are also to be found all over the web; and for this reason I’ve decided to tackle the subject again, this time more comprehensively, partly to expose some of the worst of the lies being propagated.
There is a key point to consider right now: much of the anti-migrant propaganda is being led or controlled by Far-Right movements in Europe. And worse, it seems that the ideas and views of the Far-Right have seeped into part of the mainstream discourse and people’s general views, which could be taken as a troubling sign of where things are going in Europe and the West: specifically towards an age of nasty sectarianism and polarisation that will soon make Europe as toxic as the Middle East.
For example, I want you to read this news post here, which is simply reporting on conditions in the camps in Hungary, and then scroll down to the comments and read what people are saying. The same comments can be found in comments-sections all over the web; not that comments-sections are generally a place to find intelligent, well-meaning discourse (on the contrary, they tend to be the realm of trolls, shills, racists, misogynists and the generally ill-informed), but even so, the bile is pretty severe wherever this subject is being discussed.
It’s as if the anti-refugee movement doesn’t acknowledge that some 2,000 migrants have died this year trying to reach the Italian coast from Libya, or that people, including children, have been washing up dead pretty much every week. Or that a foreign-backed war has been tearing apart Syria for four years, with nearly a quarter-of-a-million people dead. It’s as if such people refuse to acknowledge that there is any humanitarian crisis going on at all and instead seem to think all these thousands of people are simply the foreign equivalent of rabid consumers stampeding the high-street stores on Black Friday. It was also evident from the response to my previous post that there are plenty of people who still refuse to even acknowledge that such things as the Iraq War or the War on Libya even happened; or that they were perfectly neat and tidy little wars of aggression that have absolutely no bearing on the current wave of mass exodus.
But worse than mere ignorance or denial is the deliberate fabrication or tailoring of information or ‘evidence’ designed simply to demonise refugees (surely the most vulnerable of people) and to deliberately stoke the fires of racial hatred and bitter tribalism for the sake of page-views or Facebook ‘likes’. Most of this misinformation can be fairly easily debunked and exposed for what it is.
What now follows are 15 key items or areas of this misinformation and propaganda deconstructed, with their sources and their obvious motives exposed…
1. The Migrants Are Only ‘Fit Young Men – There Are No Women or Children…’
This idea that only healthy young men are trying to reach Europe is being heavily propagated by ‘Britain First’, Pegida and other Far Right outlets in Europe and America and, it seems, readily believed by most of the village idiots. There is PLENTY of footage of women and children among the refugees, but groups and outlets with an underlying racial agenda are careful not to show any of these and instead to show only the images of young men.
This particular element of contrived misinformation is spreading like wildfire on the web, used to justify anti-Muslim propaganda and the resurgence in hardcore European and American nationalism. Here’s a typical example of this propagandizing (the whole site in fact seems to exist exclusively to demonise Muslims and make everyone scared of foreigners).
The fact that this is a simple propaganda myth is further reinforced by the report that Hungarian media (which is a source for much of the refugee footage being circulated around Europe and America and being re-used in anti-refugee videos and images) has been ordered by its government not to broadcast images of refugee children but only of the young men aged 20 – 35. If true, this is clearly a contrived propaganda strategy to suit right-wing Hungary’s purposes; and one which is subsequently aiding Far-Right agendas across the board. It is also true that when the media has published upsetting images of children, they’ve received a lot of complaints from people accusing them of using the children as ‘propaganda’ to make readers feel sorry for the refugees.
According to the UN, more than half of the millions of Syrian refugees are under the age of 18. And according to the recent UNHCR Global Trends Report 58% of all refugees are children. Proof of children being among the waves of refugees have of course been there the whole time; if you choose, for whatever reason, not to see it, that’s your problem – it has no basis in the reality. Doctors visiting the Hungarian border reported on pregnant women being particularly at risk, many of whom have walked for weeks on their journey from the war-zones and danger areas of the Middle East. “We have a lot of pregnant women who are just exhausted and can’t take it anymore,” one medical volunteer from Vienna says, visiting the Hungarian camps. One volunteer described finding a 12-year-old girl who had walked several kilometres with a broken knee after being hit by a taxi in Serbia.
An Amnesty International report claimed that hundreds of people, including pregnant women and unaccompanied children, were being detained in appalling conditions at Macedonia’s Reception Centre for Foreigners without any opportunity to claim asylum. Many are held for months with no understanding of when they’ll be released. There are similar reports of women and children being maltreated at various other points in their attempted journeys.
Children have also been among the victims drowning in the Mediterranean for some time now. While the tragic death of Syrian boy Aaylan Kurdi attracted worldwide media attention, other child refugee deaths prior to this were going largely unreported in most media; and of course are conveniently avoided by the various hate-groups and propagandists. In August, the bodies of five children were discovered off the Libyan coast by the Zuwara coastguard after a boat carrying around 450 people capsized just off the shore.
Photographs of the bodies of the children are available for any of you who’ve suddenly decided to believe child refugees don’t exist. One of them is shown below and was a from a group of photos posted to Facebook by Khaled Barakeh, which was deleted within a day by FB and was never picked up or featured in the mainstream media.
See the dead girl above…? Apparently, she’s a terrible, immediate threat to the West and to the European ‘way of life’. Apparently she’s an ‘extremist’ and may be working for ‘ISIS’! Good job she drowned then – now we’re all ‘safe’.
The same people who keep suggesting that there are only young male refugees were also presumably silent when they saw coverage of many refugees arriving in Germany a two weeks ago, many of them – even most – appearing to be women and children. But, if you’re still convinced there are no child refugees, here’s a few more pictures just to illustrate the point; the first is from one of the Hungarian train stations, the second from refugees arriving in Dresden (Germany), and the rest from either the Hungarian or Serbian borders;
In short, though there are undoubtedly a large amount of young men in the 20 – 35 year-old age group trying to claim European asylum, the whitewashing of women and children by right-wing groups and their sheep-like followers is simply a strategy to incite and justify fear and xenophobia among the European populations. We must congratulate them on this, as it appears to be working very well.
2. Being Anti-Refugee or Anti-Migrant Has Nothing to do With ‘Racism’…
I already actually apologised previously for implying (albeit sarcastically) that anti-migrant attitudes equate to xenophobia. However, the tone and nature of some of the comments I received with my previous post on the subject have made it clear my apology was overly kind, as so many people seem to be viewing the refugee crisis through the lens of their racial or cultural prejudices or football-style tribalism. Of course it shouldn’t be suggested that anyone who dislikes immigration or doesn’t want refugees in their country is therefore automatically racist – but they are, by definition, ‘xenophobic’. So if you have a problem with that, you should probably evaluate your own dispositions rather than whining about the definition of xenophobia.
It is also abundantly clear that a deliberate misinformation campaign is being conducted by various hate-groups and Far Right organisations/websites to demonise the refugees and to use the current crisis as a tool for gaining more support among the wider public. The hand of Far-Right groups in the anti-refugee material gaining such currency on the Internet makes it increasingly difficult to divorce the anti-refugee sentiments in general from their primarily racist origins.
The rise of Far Right politics has been occurring across Europe and the Western world for some time now. In Denmark, the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party is now in a coalition government and the country has recently put adverts in a Lebanese newspapers warning Syrians not to expect a warm welcome. In Greece, supporters of the ultra-racist ‘Golden Dawn’ party make Nazi salutes for the cameras and assault ethnic minorities. Meanwhile politicians in Jobbik, in Far-Right Hungary, are openly anti-Semitic and hold their racist rallies in synagogues.
In Slovakia, there are serious fears that the refugee crisis is uniting and empowering the Far Right factions. Slovakia, which is witnessing resurgence in Nazism and fascist groups, has said it would take only 200 refugees, but has specified it will not welcome any Muslims, only Christians. In June, Neo-Nazis gathered in the Slovakian capital Bratislava for an ‘anti-Muslim demonstration’ and chanted over and over again “Hang the refugees!”
Even in more sophisticated countries, such as Germany and France, Far Right movements have been growing, and the migrant crisis has given such groups a perfect catalyst for expansion and support by manipulating and playing upon peoples’ common fears and anxieties. This has been going on all across Europe and the Western world. See these whiny bitches here and here, for UK-specific examples.
A great example of the deliberately false information being circulated to incite racism and anti-refugee hysteria can be found in the actions of the Far-Right mayor of the southern French city of Béziers, Robert Ménard, who used an image of Macedonians preparing to board a train and altered it to appear to be an image of marauding ‘asylum seekers’ arriving in Béziers. This kind of faking of images or information in order to scare people is now commonplace.
‘Britain First’ is an organisation that has been on the front-line of anti-refugee hysteria in the UK.
Britain First’s Facebook page has some 400,000 likes, giving it more followers on the platform than any political party in Britain. What supporters of the group don’t often publicise, however, is that Britain First is simply a BNP splinter group. Its founder, Jim Dowson, aside from being a vehement hater of migrants and foreigners, is also, predictably, a homophobe and someone with a history of involvement with anti women’s rights groups (and with loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland).
This is what you’ll commonly find; it’s never just about ‘the Muslim Problem’ or the ‘Jewish Problem’, but always goes further into other Far-Right staples. The French author Eric Zemmour, for example, whose bestselling book, The French Suicide (quarter of a million copies sold), called for the mass deportation of all Muslims, also insisted – as most Far-Right figures do – that all of society’s problems stem from immigration, feminism and homosexuality.
Getting back to the UK, the treasurer of Britain First is also, unsurprisingly, an ex-BNP man. This article by Thomas G. Clark is a very good analysis of what Britain First essentially is, who runs it and also the tricks and tactics the group uses to attract support (and financial contributions) from gullible simpletons across the country. An example of this is how fond they are of using the name or image of Lee Rigby (who was brutally murdered by two horrendous nut-jobs in 2013) to encourage racist and particularly anti-Muslim sentiment. In 2014, they also used the phrase ‘Remember Lee Rigby’ on their party ballot papers in European elections in Wales. This being despite Lee Rigby’s mother being deeply offended by the use of her son’s name and memory in such a way. “Their views are not what Lee believed in and has no support from the family,” Lee Rigby’s deeply upset mother said.
Britain First, like most hate groups, also uses its platforms to put out demonstrably false information to people generally too lazy to do any fact-checking.
In one widely-shared meme, for example, they claim asylum seekers and illegal immigrants receive £29,900 per year in benefits. This is blatantly untrue, as Mr Clark duly explains; ‘Asylum Seekers and illegal immigrants are not the same thing, so they wouldn’t have the same entitlements. Illegal immigrants are not even entitled to benefits. Given that they are in the country illegally they are extremely unlikely to turn up at the Jobcentre asking for benefits.’
Predictably, the low-IQ people involved in the Britain First campaign aren’t interested in discussion or debate, as this would leave most of their information open to dismissal or ridicule by better-informed people. As Thomas G. Clark notes, ‘The admins on the Britain First Facebook page… whine endlessly that their views are under threat from censorship, however they have a policy of purging their page of any critical comments and banning dissenting voices from ever coming back again. Dozens and dozens of people have told me how they were banned from Britain First for daring to leave non-conformist comments’. They are in fact open about deleting any critical comments so that people viewing the content aren’t exposed to any opposing views or facts. Mr Clark has in fact come up with a useful response (see here), as he explains; ‘The fact that they have censored such a huge number of people has inspired me to come up with this “I’ve been censored by Britain First” certificate which people can use as their Facebook banner image, because it should be a mark of pride that you’ve been censored by a bunch of extreme-right hatemongers.’
In fact all Far-Right hate-groups in Britain appear to be offshoots of the BNP, with former BNP members active in such groups as the EDL and the Nazi National Front. Leader of the so-called ‘English Defense League’, ‘Tommy Robinson’ (real name Stephen Yaxley Lennon), is also a former BNP member, as is EDL founder Chris Renton, and other leading figures, such as North-East ‘organiser’ Alan Spence. ‘Unite Against Fascism’ has most of the basic information on the EDL; a group that has been involved in various violent attacks on Muslims, Sikhs and other minorities up and down the country, various acts of vandalism, hate crimes and incitement to violence.
Then there’s the ‘Pegida’ movement, which started in Germany and then spread to other European nations.
People in Pegida like to claim it isn’t a racist organisation and isn’t populated by Nazis, but is something more intellectually valid. Whether or not this statement was ever true, there’s no question that the movement has since been infiltrated by neo-Nazis in Germany and beyond and is now indistinguishable from any racist organisation. Nazi chants and salutes and clearly racist banners have been present in various Pegida marches or gatherings, with various reports also of mosques being spray-painted with Nazi swastikas and attacked with pig’s heads and even of a former concentration camp site being defaced with swastikas.
Indeed, the notion that Pegida is a non-racist, entirely ‘respectable’ political movement was shattered very early on when one of its senior leaders, Lutz Bachmann, was exposed dressing up as Adolf Hitler. The thin cloak of intellectual logic Pegida likes to use is simply a way to try to gain broader acceptance.
To such movements, the refugee crisis currently unfolding is a dream come true, providing them with a perceived immediate and urgent ‘threat’ to scare people with and to drum up support.
3. The Migrants Are ‘On the Rampage’ and Behaving Badly…
Some other items that show some of the migrants behaving aggressively, rejecting water or food, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’, etc, are being taken as evidence of a violent ‘infiltration’ of the West.
It is easy, however, to compile a video or montage of various incidents of migrants behaving badly and to use this as ‘proof’ of the nature of *all* the migrants. It would be just as easy, however, to compile a video or montage of migrants behaving normally, appearing genuinely desperate or being mistreated, including montages of women and children. You can make a montage of more or less anything and then insert your own narrative over it to paint a particular picture, it’s easy. This video (or variations of it) has been circulating widely across Europe and America to demonise the refugees/migrants, popping up on various platforms, including right-wing or racist platforms and including even platforms that should know better, such as InfoWars, which is unfortunately also doing its part to convince right-wingers that anyone of a different skin colour is automatically an ‘invader’ threatening white societies (FYI, Paul Joseph Watson appears to have lost the plot quite some time ago).
I don’t refute that there are people or elements among the wave of migrants whose behaviour could be regarded as unbecoming, as there are in any large amounts of people; but it certainly isn’t the widespread phenomenon that some like to portray it as, and in all likelihood is a minority. Some of it might be down to genuine ‘bad apples’ who should be dealt with differently to the broader wave of refugees, while some of it could be put down simply to the stresses and deprivations of a very long, difficult journey, and some could be put down to resentment over treatment in particular countries such as in right-wing and highly unsympathetic Hungary. It’s easy for a comfortable European or American arm-chair observer to zoom-in on those incidents and dismiss the rights of thousands of asylum-seekers based on the actions of two-dozen or so people; but I doubt those same commentators have bothered asking themselves whether they’d be behaving like angels in those same conditions.
Spend your life-savings to get on an overcrowded boat with a hundred strangers, make a perilous and potentially fatal journey across the sea, and then spend days or weeks being processed in a refugee camp, or days walking on foot, all the while feeling humiliated and dehumanized, and then see if *you* still have your shiny halo on.
Moreover, what the anti-refugee commentators fail to point out are any of the specific reasons that those specific migrants might’ve been behaving badly at those specific moments.
There are English football hooligans who sometimes go abroad for international matches and behave appallingly, attacking or intimidating people in foreign cities; but no one suggests the majority of English football fans behave that way. Intelligent people have perspective; while dumb people put out dumb memes. In fact European football hooligans are a perfect counter-narrative to all this anti-refugee propaganda: as these are people who aren’t fleeing hardship or trying to improve their lives, but people who depart from very comfortable domestic lives and then go abroad and abuse or intimidate foreigners in their own countries. Most people have seen the recent video, for example, of Chelsea fans racially abuse a Black French citizen in Paris; but that was merely one incident among many such incidents that occur all the time and are usually much nastier.
British Transport Police have in fact stated that English football hooligans are ‘terrorising train passengers every week’ in the UK; I’ve yet to see any evidence that ‘Muslims’ or ‘refugees’ are doing so. But these are the same sorts of people now making a huge deal out of isolated footage of refugees allegedly ‘behaving badly’ in refugee camps. My point is that I could easily put together a montage of football hooligan videos from all over Europe and present it as a Neo-Nazi ‘takeover’ of Europe – but it would be a massive exaggeration: just as these current anti-migrant video-edits are.
4. ‘ISIS/ISIL Are Sending Over Operatives Among the Migrants’ or ‘The Refugees are ISIS Invaders’…
ISIL did allegedly threaten to do this; and are almost certainly involved with the traffickers launching migrant boats from Libya to Europe. And Libya, let’s remind ourselves, was a stable, relatively progressive country until 2011 when an international coalition led by France, Britain and the US violently overthrew the government and bombed the country back to Third World status, paving the way for Al-Qaeda, ISIL and other extremist militias to take over.What ISIL and the migrant-traffickers have primarily threatened to do, however, was to use migrants as ‘psychological warfare’ to destabilise Europe. Which is not the same thing as saying that those boats are full of actual terrorists.
There have been some images and videos circulating online to support this claim that the migrants arriving in Europe are ISIS/ISIL infiltrators; however, some (probably most) of these are undoubtedly fake, for example, doctored images of migrants supposedly waving Islamic State flags. ‘Reverse image searching‘ is a way to track where an image has come from, and by doing this you can usually trace the fake images back to their origins.
This piece by Philip Kleinfeld on Vice does a good job of demonstrating how right-wing groups are circulating fake images to create fear, paranoia and outrage among Western populations. Pegida UK, for example, has been circulating a photo on Facebook supposedly showing a migrant ship packed with Middle-Eastern refugees (with commenters calling for such ships to be ‘torpedoed’), but it is in fact a photo from 1991 showing Albanian asylum seekers arriving in Italy. Pegida’s intellectually-deficient followers, however, generally don’t question the reliability of what they’re being fed and so the misinformation flourishes.
The slightly retarded guys from the inexplicably popular ‘Britain First’, to cite another example, put out images of supposedly ‘1000s of ISIS fighters’ heading to the UK’; but as Kleinfeld points out, a ‘quick reverse image search reveals the photo was taken back in 2013 by a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and shows displaced Syrians crossing the Tigris River into Iraq’.
Again, the EDL circulated a Photoshop image of one of the migrants recently accepted into Germany and showed with it an older picture of the same man, telling everyone he was an ISIS fighter; in fact, it was later demonstrated that the man had actually been a Kurdish anti-ISIS fighter and that the EDL, as usual, was simply circulating lies to wind up their followers.
This sort of material generally works though – because people generally aren’t fact-checkers and most of the people swept up in the anti-refugee propaganda are already pre-disposed towards that kind of xenophobia anyway. It is further aided by the fact that most people can’t (or don’t) differentiate between different nationalities and can’t, for example, tell the difference between a Syrian family and, say, a group of people from Pakistan. Unsurprisingly, the manufactured threat of ‘ISIS’ is being used by the Far-Right and by xenophobes as an excuse to demonise all refugees or migrants.
The fact is that while no ‘ISIS’ attack has yet taken place on European soil, plenty of Europeans couldn’t have cared less about the scores and scores of people in Syria, Iraq and Libya who’ve been murdered or persecuted by the Western-backed terror group and instead act as if Europe and the West has somehow been the victim of all this.
The so-called ‘Islamic State’ is not merely a random outgrowth of an Islamist/extremist ideology, but is a creation of US-led Western military activity in the Middle East (and Zionist-led policy for the Balkanisation of the Arab countries), and its enormous number of victims have been Arabs or citizens of the Middle East, Muslim, Christian and other groups alike, primarily in Syria, Iraq and Libya. The brutality of ‘ISIS’ is primarily one of the things the refugees are fleeing *from*: therefore for people in Europe and the West to label the scores of refugees as ‘ISIS’ or ‘terrorists’ is frankly one of the most perverse, disgusting things I’ve heard in a long time.
5. ‘Refugees Refuse Help and Aid From Christians’…
You may have seen this story doing the rounds. It’s just some more very carefully tailored propaganda, most of it based on a particular video from the Greece/Macedonia border appearing to show agitated migrants rejecting water or food. The claim by anti-refugee propagandists is also that the refugees have been refusing any aid specifically from the Red Cross for religious reasons.
The actual filmmaker who recorded the scene has entirely refuted this claim, made by thousands of gullible online meme-regurgitators, that refugees were turning away aid as some kind of deliberate statement or policy. The filmmaker explained that the refugees had spent three days on the no man’s land of the Greek-Macedonian border and, at the time of filming, had been soaked by heavy rain for two hours, not being allowed through by Macedonian police. When the Red Cross did bring water and food, these particular refugees refused as a form of passive resistance. His testimony of events has been corroborated by the Red Cross, who affirm that aid deliveries are generally accepted without problems most of the time.
This was again simply a case of propagandists taking an isolated incident out of its context and presenting it to their sheep-like followers as indicative of the behavior of *all* the refugees. They also present this incident as something that is commonplace and tied up in religion, when in fact it was simply a case of some of the migrants using a form of protest (perhaps unadvisedly) to express unhappiness at the way they were being treated in specific instances.
Of course you wouldn’t know that if you subscribe to right-wing websites or to extremist Christian/White-Supremacy groups like this one.
6. ‘These Are Economic Migrants Looking For an Easy Life, Not Refugees…’
This is another blanket-statement you’ll find all over the web; that most of these people are not refugees but simply people looking for a better life. While there is certainly an argument to be had over whether a number of those arriving in Europe should be classed as ‘economic migrants’, there’s absolutely no question that there is a substantial refugee crisis occurring: to deny it is simply to willfully propagate a lie. And it isn’t just Syria.
The UN insists that Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq account for nine in ten of the quarter-million-or-so ‘migrants’ arriving in Greece this year. Citizens of Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan comprise an estimated 41% of the 119,500 arrivals in Italy. These are citizens from countries that typically obtain legitimate protection as refugees in the EU and they account for 75% of the illicit arrivals to Europe by sea in 2015. According to The Economist, at least 81% of those entering Greece can legitimately expect to receive refugee status or some other form of protection in the EU.
Which is not to say, by the way, that there aren’t also ‘economic migrants’ also trying to take advantage of the illegal trafficking operation in Libya – but then that operation only exists because NATO and the Western governments destroyed Libya and left it in chaos. And furthermore, Gaddafi’s Libya itself used to be an end destination of large numbers of African migrants, but, now that that Libya no longer exists as a functioning state, they instead head for Europe.
Meanwhile the international conspiracy conducted against Libya in 2011 saw NATO and 40 Western nations bombing Libya’s infrastructure to pieces and leaving that nation without a government or a state. Libya, which used to be a stable, secular society, is now characterised by various rival militias, warlords and terrorists, including ISIL and Al-Qaeda. There is no infrastructure, there are no services, no law enforcement. France, Britain, the US, NATO and the EU are all directly responsible for that: for both the suffering of the Libyan people and for the operations of migrant-traffickers and criminal gangs who’ve used the chaos in post-Gaddafi Libya to launch all these thousands of migrants into the Mediterranean Sea from the Libyan coast.
Meanwhile over 3.3 million people have been displaced from Iraq, either from the illegal US-led war or from the rise of the United States’ monster-child ‘ISIL/Daesh’, which was a direct result of both the Iraq invasion and the West’s arming/funding of rebels in Syria and Libya.
The 2003 US/UK-led invasion displaced approximately 1 in 25 Iraqis from their homes, while the subsequent emergence of the ‘Islamic State’ or ‘Daesh’ has created huge additional displacements. Even prior to the ultra-violence created by ‘ISIS’, approximately 1.5 million Iraqis had already been displaced either internally or into neighbouring countries, with over 1.9 million Iraqis reported displaced (as of July 2014).
Beyond that, there is also the matter of Afghanistan.
According to UN statistics, there are some 2.6 million Afghan refugees, fleeing a country that was not stabilised despite a decade of US/NATO occupation, which appears to have accomplished very little.
A quarter of refugees worldwide are believed to be Afghan, and the vast majority of these are in Pakistan or Iran, where their status often remains undetermined long-term. According to a 2012 report by the Feinstein International Center, one in three Afghan children are malnourished, with rates even higher in areas subject to ongoing violence and conflict. Access to health care remains very limited, with 15 percent of the population without access to even basic healthcare services.
According to the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 40,000 Afghans have sought asylum in Europe from January until August this year. Even now, however, the UK has been deporting fully Westernised/Anglicised Afghan youngsters back to Afghanistan, despite having offered them asylum from the dangerous situation they were escaping from. As a result, hundreds of Afghans who have basically grown up in the UK and have no real connection anymore to Afghanistan are being forcibly sent back to a society they are now too Westernised to make any sense of.
Again according to the UN, there are now also some 330,000 displaced civilians from Yemen, due to the relentless bombing by a Saudi Arabia led coalition, which has been creating a humanitarian disaster in the small, poor country with the full support of the United States and using mostly British weapons. This situation in Yemen shows no signs of improving any time soon and the humanitarian disaster – and subsequent exodus – could escalate substantially once the already poor country is left in further ruin. Some suggest that what is currently occurring in Yemen, largely unreported by Western media, is – like Libya in 2011 – a Western-backed genocide.
In terms of Syria, which is regarded the main source of the refugee exodus, it is actually remarkable that this flow of refugees wasn’t occurring sooner, as the Syrian people have been under attack from every direction – domestic rebels and government forces, scores of foreign jihadists and infiltrators, the ISIS/Daesh militants, Saudi and Qatari criminals, US-backed criminals – for years now. The number of Syrian dead is close to 250,000, with the number of refugees or displaced persons in the millions.
But actually it becomes even more complicated than that. A number of the Syrian refugees are in fact Palestinian refugees from the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine (which is a decades-long crime that has, again, been carried out with full Western, American and British support and weapons). These particular asylum seekers have been described as “double refugees” – first from Israel, and now from Syria too.
There are Palestinian/Syrian refugees in Lebanon who, if Lebanon was also to destabilise, might also have to flee again and would then become triple refugees.
But again, to counter the false narrative being propagated that ‘most of these foreigners aren’t real refugees’, United Nations figures insist that by the end of this July, 62% of those who were reaching Europe by boat were from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan: people from those countries, in which they are subject to war, persecution or torture, almost always have the entirely legal right to claim refuge in Europe. Adding to that anyone coming out of Darfur, Iraq, Somalia, and some parts of Nigeria, then the proportion of the migrants likely to qualify for entirely legal asylum is said to rise to over 70%.
Are there also ‘economic migrants’ among those seeking asylum? Almost certainly, yes. But there isn’t evidence to suggest they’re the majority.
7. ‘Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans, etc, Should Sort Out Their Own Problems’ (Otherwise Known as ‘It Has Nothing To Do With Us’)…’
That would be a questionable view even in the best of circumstances for people in Western nations that claim to uphold the virtues of human dignity and freedom and also claim/aspire to be the guardians of civilisation and progress. But in this current state of affairs, it’s a sentiment that doesn’t remotely hold any water.
Firstly, the War in Syria wasn’t solely the doing of Syrians: it was in large part a foreign-orchestrated crisis. Rebels and terrorists, including the Islamic State, have been armed and funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, America, Britain and others, and directly aided by Turkey and Israel, for the purposes of overthrowing the secular Syrian government. On the other side of it, the Syrian government has been aided by Iran and Russia. There’s very little about the Syrian War that could qualify it as a ‘a Syrian problem’ in the strictest sense: it has always been an international battlefield where clashing geo-political agendas have been played out. The Syrian people have been caught in the middle of all this for four bloody, horrific, desperate years.
The 2012 Houla massacre (pictured in part below) was one of the many incidents that came from foreign governments arming and funding ‘rebels’ in Syria. As a policy, I usually don’t show upsetting images on this site, but in this instance it is warranted – if for no other reason than to remind petty people of what it is Syrians are fleeing from; these aren’t people crossing continents in order to ‘get on welfare’.
To shrug and say “why don’t they sort out their own problems?” isn’t just the height of insensitivity, but of stupidity too. The Syrian people didn’t ask foreign countries to send in jihadists or to provide money or weapons to criminal gangs and rebel groups. Just as the majority of the Libyan people – once a proud people in a proud society – didn’t ask France, Britain, America and the rest of the coalition to bomb their country back into the Stone Age or violently overthrow their government.
It’s also not as if this refugee crisis just suddenly appeared and all these Syrians suddenly decided to pack their bags and head for Europe: aid agencies have been warning about the escalating refugee crisis for a long time. Refugees who had been kept in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for years were receiving so little in aid due to Western apathy that it was inevitable many would eventually leave the camps. This lack of care for the Syrian refugees was so severe that the UN’s World Food Programme had to launch an unprecedented public appeal late last year, with a social media campaign to try to convince at least 64 million people to each donate just $1 each in a desperate bid to raise the minimum amount of funding needed to try to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
In other words, the aid wasn’t coming to them, so many have been forced to try to come to the aid; it’s not opportunism, it’s called trying to survive.
The United States, despite being a principal provider of training and weapons to jihadists and extremists based in Syria, has only taken 1,500 Syrian refugees and clearly isn’t doing enough, particularly if we look at it in proportion to US involvement in the arms and the fighting. Britain’s accommodation of Syrian refugees has also been very low.
The chaos in Iraq meanwhile also led directly to the destabilisation of Syria, while also forcing thousands of people out from Iraq too and seeking refuge. The blame for that can be laid directly on the door-step of the American government, with the British government of the time also a major perpetrator (along with the other nations who took part in the illegal invasion and destabilisation of that country for the sake of oil).
And again, even in cases where there is an absence of direct military involvement in the destabilisation of foreign countries, there is still culpability on the part of various Western nations, including the US, UK, France and Russia, for example, when we consider our proliferation of weapons and military equipment around the world. This is essentially the point being made by Caroline Lucas when she says the British arms trade is responsible for the refugee crisis; even if the sale of arms is only one factor among several others for the mass exodus, it’s certainly significant. To cite two obvious examples, there is the amount of British weaponry that was used by Israel to commit war crimes against Gaza in 2014 and there is the ongoing Saudi-led decimation of Yemen which has been carried out largely with British military hardware.
It is sheer ignorance to continue to pretend countries like America, Britain, France, Australia and others don’t have a moral responsibility to the victims of the key crises that are driving this mass movement of refugees: crises that are either wholly or in part the direct consequence of Western policies or wars.
8. ‘We Have No Obligation to Accommodate Refugees…’
Not true. The 1951 Refugee Convention was adopted after World War II, at a time when hundreds of thousands of refugees were displaced across Europe. The treaty defines refugees as those who seeking refuge from persecution or war. It also affords them another very important right – the right to not be sent back home into harm’s way. The treaty was also amended in 1967, in part to include refugees from all over the world. 142 nations (including Hungary, by the way) have signed to both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 protocol and should consider themselves bound by it.
In addition to not getting sent back to their home countries, refugees have several other rights key rights according to the convention, including the right to not be punished for illegally entering countries that have signed on to the treaty, access to public assistance, access to courts, and the right to get identification and travel documents.
9. ‘Why Don’t They Stay Where They Arrive? How Can They Be ‘Refugees’ If They Cross Borders, etc, blah, blah…’
You’ll encounter this comment over and over again in forums and comments-sections and it’s extremely naive. Firstly, there’s too many of them to all stay in one place. If every refugee abides by this demand being made of them by arm-chair commenters, Italy and Greece would be utterly overrun with migrants and would be forced to bear the entire burden on their own. That’s insanity, all the more considering that Greece is in an economic crisis. Many do stay in Italy and seek asylum there; most others move on, hoping to get to Germany, Sweden or other friendly nations where they have a good chance of receiving asylum or, at the very least, reasonable treatment.
Why on earth would they stay to seek asylum in a right-wing country like Hungary that has openly stated its dislike of Muslims in particular and refugees in general? Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s key act of charity during this crisis was to assure detractors that his government had ‘no plans to shoot the refugees’ crossing the fence.
One of the reasons most Eastern European states are not taking non-European refugees is because they are already hosting large numbers of refugees from the Ukraine crisis; but beyond this, these are not welcoming or racially diverse countries and they are not socially capable of hosting large numbers of foreigners. The refugees are also extremely unlikely to be granted asylum in those countries; in 2014, only 10 asylum seekers were granted refugee status in Macedonia and only one was granted asylum in Serbia. There is little point in staying in those countries, where their status could remain undetermined for a very long time in limbo and could easily result in them eventually being deported anyway.
The central and eastern European nations have no tradition of dealing with immigration from non-European, non-white cultures and lack the infrastructure to deal with them. More sophisticated nations like Germany, the UK, France and Sweden, have been working on their assimilation infrastructure for a long time – such as language and translation services, education, healthcare, etc – to accommodate migrants from different parts of the world. Countries like Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia are ethnically homogeneous societies with no history of multi-culturalism and no existing interest in having non-white foreigners in their countries.
Other central or eastern European countries, like the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, have also taken a very intolerant stance against accepting refugees, due to increasingly right-wing and particularly anti-Muslim sentiment. This attitude is particularly ironic, as these are the same governments who insist on the right of their own citizens to freely migrate to Germany, Britain and various other EU countries. Indeed migration from Eastern and Central Europe to wealthier Western countries has been going on freely for a long time; yet these are the same nations most staunchly opposed to any migration into their own countries. But the fact, at any rate, is that these aren’t societies that are socially responsible enough to accommodate foreign migrants or refugees.
And the idea of a forced quota involving these nations is potentially a very dangerous one in the long-run, as it would be insane to impose large numbers of non-white, non-European refugees onto unwilling countries with growing Far Right, racist movements and racial intolerance in their societies. That only creates the ingredients for very dangerous problems down the line (see further down this article).
Further to that, the conditions in camps in, for example, Hungary, almost guarantees that no one wants to stay. Medical workers at the Hungarian border were warning of desperate conditions for pregnant women and the serious risk of diseases spreading due to non-existent sanitation.
The generally hostile attitude towards the refugees in Hungary was exemplified by the Hungarian camera-woman who was filmed tripping and kicking Syrian refugees a week ago. The refugees are simply not welcome in a country like Hungary. It is therefore in the more developed, sophisticated societies – again, such as Germany, Sweden or the UK – that most of the refugees are seeking asylum: it’s entirely logical. Furthermore, Syrian refugees know that they have been welcomed in places like Germany and Sweden and that when they get there they’re not going to be put in unsanitary or humiliating conditions, nor bribed, assaulted or misled.
The oft-repeated sentiment that the refugees are ‘treated well’ in Eastern or Central European countries and therefore should be forced to stay is simply a fallacy being perpetuated by ignorance or by deliberate denial of the truth.
According to an Amnesty report, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants – including children – making dangerous journeys across the Balkans have been suffering violent abuse and extortion at the hands of the authorities and criminal gangs for some time. Amnesty says the refugees are being ‘shamefully let down by a failing European Union (EU) asylum and migration system which leaves them trapped without protection in Serbia and Macedonia’. At Macedonia’s border with Greece, and at Serbia’s border with Macedonia, refugees and migrants are routinely subjected to unlawful push-backs and ill-treatment by border police. Many are forced to pay bribes. One witness told Amnesty International that Serbian Border Police near the Hungarian border threatened to return his group to Serbia if they refused to pay €100 each.
Many refugees and migrants are arbitrarily detained by the authorities. Hundreds, including families, pregnant women and unaccompanied children, were being detained for prolonged periods at Macedonia’s ‘Reception Centre for Foreigners’, with no indication of when they’d be allowed to move on. Former detainees told Amnesty International that they had been beaten by police officers, with some reporting that they’d been told “If you die here, nobody will come and ask about you. We will throw your dead body out.”
Violent xenophobic attacks on Syrian refugees were being reported from much further back and said to have been occurring in Bulgaria. A Human Rights Watch report details physical abuse of Syrian refugees by Bulgarian police (including beatings and the use of electric shocks), and the confiscation of personal possessions and money by border guards. There have been stories of the refugees being either robbed, assaulted or deliberately misled in various European countries. Meanwhile, desperate to escape beyond the ill conditions of the Hungarian train stations, migrants who pay money to criminal operators promising to smuggle them across the border or even all the way to Germany are often tricked and left nowhere near where they were supposed to be going; or worse, simply abandoned.
In many instances, gullible refugees have paid virtually their entire wallets to European criminal gangs who’ve promised to take them to their desired destinations, only to in fact leave them stranded in the middle of the nowhere; the worst case concerned the 71 Syrians who recently died horribly, sealed into an abandoned lorry in Austria a few weeks ago.
Why – and how – on earth would they stay in places like Hungary or Macedonia? And again, they can’t seek asylum in places like the Czech Republic or Slovakia, where they are liable to come under attack from Far-Right groups and where they are extremely unlikely to be granted asylum anyway. So they keep moving… in order to reach a place where they have a reasonable chance.
10. ‘This is Nothing Like Past European History’ or ‘There is No Comparison to 1930’s Fascism…’
When I suggested in this previous post that today’s refugees being pushed around, unwanted, by various European countries was comparable to various Western governments’ treatment of European Jews 70 or so years ago, a number of people jumped down my throat and called it nonsense, in spite of this being the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
What I wrote was; ‘As Jews fled Hitler’s Europe, representatives from Britain said the UK had no room to accommodate Jewish refugees. Australia (a country built on immigration and theft) told them “We don’t have a racial problem and we don’t want to import one.” Canada said of the fleeing Jews that “none was too many.”
Anyone who doesn’t see any echo of that in the attitude of some governments today must be deliberately not seeing it; particularly when Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary, for example, which are all countries rife with anti-Semitism, all also say they ‘don’t want any Muslims’.
As if those allusions weren’t troubling enough already, a far-right Czech politician then recommended placing the refugees in a concentration camp, while the Hungarian government pulled refugees off trains to Germany, detained them, often separated the men from their wives and children, and wrote numbers on the refugees’ arms.
One Hungarian Jew certainly saw the worrying echoes. “It was horrifying when I saw those images of police putting numbers on people’s arms,” said Robert Frolich, the chief rabbi of Hungary, a country also teeming with anti-Semitism. “It reminded me of Auschwitz. And then putting people on a train with armed guards to take them to a camp where they are closed in? Of course there are echoes of the Holocaust.”
“I cannot call them anything other than concentration camps,” said Gabor Gyulai, refugee program coordinator for the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Budapest. “These refugees arrive, in horrible condition, and then you put them in this concentration camp…?”
The French author Eric Zemmour apparently didn’t see the troubling connotations of the word “deportation” (or worse, maybe he did) when he advocated mass deportation of France’s Muslims, unconcerned about the echoes to one of the dark chapters in French and European history: specifically the sending of hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Second World War to death camps across Europe. France’s Far-Right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen appeared to be one of Zemmour’s supporters.
Even aside from the concentration camp ideas and the deplorable anti-refugee propaganda, the resurgence of the Far-Right in Europe in general is extremely worrying and is in itself an echo of the era in which Nazi Europe came into being; particularly the accompanying financial crisis and era of ‘austerity’ (with all the resentment it has provoked) and the easy cultural/racial scapegoat (i.e: ‘the Muslims’). It is only those with very little understanding of history who somehow fail to see the problem.
Parties thriving on anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic ideologies have also in recent years spread beyond their long-held centres on the fringes of politics in France, Italy and Austria and further in to generally more liberal societies in the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Moreover, they are no longer on the fringes, but have made serious parliamentary inroads in several countries. There is also a marked rise across the board in nationalist street movements similar to England’s fascist EDL, and a growing interconnectedness and coordination between such groups in different European nations.
As is worryingly noted in this Morning Star article, “The growth of a Euro-league in a time of economic crisis threatens to resurrect fascist street armies such as those that destroyed European democracies in the 1930s. The development of this network allows fascists and right-wing populists to share ideas, finance and experience in a way that should worry us all.”
In regard specifically to this refugee crisis, the Far-Right groups are simply using their much-cherished Islamophobia to demonise thousands of refugees (Muslim and non-Muslim alike), while using thousands of refugees to incite further hatred and mistrust of ‘foreigners’. Again, this present crisis has simply gifted the far-right with a massive recruitment and propaganda opportunity, as standard immigration fear-mongering is generally their life-blood anyway.
There are growing ultra-fascist movements right now in Europe that, to be frank, would be more than capable of carrying out a future Holocaust should they ever attain enough power and control.
Some might take offense at someone like me saying that; but it is also the view taken by, for example, Jewish businessman Moti Zisser, who has businesses in Israel as well as Poland and other European countries, and who has predicted that Europe will carry out a second Holocaust, but that this time the victims will be Muslims and not Jews. “I think another Holocaust is brewing in Europe,” he recently said. “The new demon in Europe is the Muslims, and it is being built up just like the Jewish demon was built up at the start of the previous century.”
Interestingly enough, his prediction was covered in this article. And then scroll down and look at some of the comments. Here’s one; ‘I really hope the author is right about this….filthy muslim pigs..get the fuck out of europe..bloody terrorists…shoot the fucking boats with live ammo…lay mines around europe’s shores… NO dirty muslims in Eastern Europe!!’ And here’s another; ‘We need new holocaust, europe need be clean from muslims filths, detonate all mosque, hope new Hitler will raise soon angain fu****ing Islam anf fu***ng Mohamed, btw greeting from Slovakia clear land in EU not a single mosque here, god help us!!!’ Again, comments-sections are not the place for intelligent discourse; but they are a good measure of popular sentiment. And popular sentiment appears to be fucked beyond all repair.
This is one major reason why it is a bad idea ultimately for some of the aforementioned eastern or central European countries to be forced to take in refugees and is also a justification for why the refugees are entirely right to keep moving until they reach Germany, Sweden or some other safer haven.
11. ‘The Migrants Are Just Coming to Steal Our Benefits’…
This is old hat, of course. But however true or untrue it might be in normal circumstances, the suggestion that all of these people presently getting packed into inadequate, unsafe boats and risking death at sea in order to reach Europe are all on some kind of mass benefit-scam is just pathetic. It actually says more about the puerile mentality of those who make that accusation than it does about those being accused.
While in reality some of the migrants might possibly have the benefit/welfare system in mind, as the (UK) Refugee Council explains, most refugees don’t even know about the benefits system (despite what readers of the Daily Mail or Daily Express have been led to believe). ‘Asylum seekers do not come to the UK to claim benefits. In fact, most know nothing about welfare benefits before they arrive and had no expectation that they would receive financial support.’ They continue, ‘Almost all asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support – this can be as little as £5 a day to live on. Asylum seekers do not jump the queue for council housing and they cannot choose where they live. The accommodation allocated to them is not paid for by the local council. It is nearly always ‘hard to let’ properties, where other people do not want to live.’
The favorite myth of anti-immigration propagandists is that asylum seekers come to Britain and are immediately given free homes and full benefits. This isn’t true. In the UK, asylum seekers in fact are not allowed to claim mainstream welfare benefits; their benefits are paid by National Asylum Support Service (NASS) and not from local council taxes. The benefit payments they receive are minimal and they generally remain below the official poverty line. A national report on asylum seekers and refugees suggests that 85% experience hunger, 95% cannot afford to buy clothes or shoes and 80% are not able to maintain good health. Also asylum seekers aren’t entitled to council housing – it is only once their right to remain in the UK has been confirmed that they can enter the queues for council housing.
A UK Parliament briefing paper, 2012, also dismisses the notion that asylum seekers receive more benefits than pensioners in the UK.
All of that aside, it is simply stupid to think that all of these thousands of people are *all* risking their lives (and their childrens’ lives) and enduring so much hardship and humiliation in their journeys just to come and fleece the benefit system. For the record, the welfare system in Libya (before we destroyed it and replaced it with Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia) was one of the most generous in the world. But at any rate, Syrians are fleeing war, devastation and the brutality of ISIS/Daesh, Iraqis are fleeing persecution and violence, and most of the refugees currently arriving in Europe are extremely unlikely to be dreaming of the £40 or so a week they might receive in benefits. In fact, in regard to most Syrians and Iraqis, they are more likely to be dreaming of their old lives and would’ve had little desire to leave their countries had those countries not been torn apart by foreign-backed wars.
Many of those now risking their lives to reach Europe were professionals in their own countries; the migrant camps are full of doctors, chemists, engineers, architects, translators, academics, graduates, etc. Once in the UK or other European countries, they’d be lucky if they can even get a minimum-wage job. Many of these are highly skilled professionals from the middle classes, as in most cases (particularly in regard to those coming out of Syria, Iraq, Egypt or Afghanistan) it’s only the middle-classes that can afford to flee and buy passage.
12. ‘Arab States Do Nothing to Help the Refugees, Yet Europe is Expected to Help…’
This isn’t precisely true. Jordan has an enormous number of Syrian refugees in its country, and has in fact been hosting them for years already. Approximately one in every 13 people in Jordan is a Syrian refugee. And Lebanon, a country with only 4.5 million of its own citizens, is holding almost 2 million Syrian refugees, and is itself a country beginning to destabilise. There is a growing fear that Lebanon too might soon collapse in a Syria-like situation: were that to happen, the millions of Syrians already in Lebanon would be forced to flee yet again, this time from their place of refuge; which – along with a potential outpouring of Lebanese refugees in a worst-case scenario – would drastically escalate the existing migrant crisis.
The numbers of Syrian refugees in Lebanon puts the relatively minuscule number of refugees taken in by countries like Britain and France (and America) and various EU members into proper perspective; even if an EU country was to take in 20,000 it would be just a drop in the ocean compared to the amount in a poorer country like Lebanon.
There are even Syrian refugees in Iraq, which itself is an unstable country in a state of war; and therefore hardly a safe-haven for people fleeing Syria.
It is true, however, that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Gulf States have taken in NO refugees, even though they have donated aid money. But Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both immensely wealthy nations and both regional allies of Britain, America and the West, were chief financial architects of the War in Syria in the first place. In the first instance it was Saudi and Qatari money that was funding the armed militias, including ISIS/Daesh and the Al-Qaeda affiliates, and it was Saudi and Qatari weapons flowing into rebel hands – both in the case of Libya and of Syria. Most Syrians know this and would naturally not seek refuge in the countries that have funded and helped orchestrate the destruction of their nation. The striking painting below, by the way, is by Salim al-Salimi and has appeared in much of the Arab media in recent weeks, expressing the selfishness and uncompassionate behavior of the rich, Gulf States.
The Gulf States are also religious supremacist states whose ruling class look down on other Arabs and regard Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and others as ‘unclean’ or second-rate people. These are also corrupt, totalitarian states – and who would seek asylum in a totalitarian state?
Besides this, the Arab states don’t portray themselves as humanitarians or as shining beacons of liberty and freedom: countries like Britain, France and the European nations do, and so should naturally expect to be the destination when people are fleeing persecution, death and war. It should, for that matter, be something to be proud of.
Also the argument that ‘fellow Muslims’ like Saudi Arabia should take responsibility for ‘other Muslims’ like Syrians and Iraqis is misguided and uneducated; the version of Islam practised by the Saudi and Gulf State ruling class is not the same version of Islam generally practised in Syria or much of the rest of the Arab world. Besides that, despite popular misconceptions, not everyone coming out of Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere are Muslims, but also Christians and various minorities.
Wealthy Israel, like wealthy Saudi Arabia and the wealthy Gulf States, also takes absolutely NO Syrian refugees, despite being a primary contributor to the arming and aiding of anti-government terrorism in Syria. Israel’s reluctance can perhaps be understood, as it has always had an antagonistic, unfriendly relationship with Syria and would consider Syrian refugees a security threat (remember many of the Syrian refugees are in fact Palestinian refugees originally); though Israel generally has a poor record with asylum seekers and its politicians are known to regard even asylum seekers from Africa as “infiltrators” and a “cancer”.
Israeli politicians have in recent days in fact spoken of creating a wall to keep out refugees from neighbouring countries; which is particularly ironic, given its massive export of refugees across the region in the past few decades (in the form of displaced Palestinians).
At any rate, the popular rhetoric that Europe is being forced to bear all of the refugee burden is false. In addition to the refugees being hosted in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, Venezuela, which is on the other side of the world and has no connection to the Middle East, is taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees (and Venezuela already has something like 5 million Columbian refugees already). And Brazil has accommodated over 2,000 Syrian refugees from the very earliest days of the Civil War in 2011, with President Dilma Rousseff saying they welcome Syrian asylum-seekers with “open arms.”
But still, a comment I’ve encountered a lot (and have been personally challenged with several times) is ‘well, if Saudi Arabia won’t take any refugees, then why should we?’ My only answer to that is this: the only way that question has any merit is if you want to model the behaviour and integrity of Europe, America or the UK on that of Saudi Arabia. If you don’t, then it’s a meaningless question.
13. More Scare Stories: ‘Muslim Migrants Throwing Christians From the Boats’…
Another widely-shared story among anti-refugee groups is the claim that ‘Muslim Migrants Are Throwing Christian Migrants Off the Boats’. This claim is frequently regurgitated amid Far Right forums, especially in America. In actual fact there was only one known incident of this, and it involved an alleged 15 African migrants allegedly killing 12 African Christian migrants by allegedly pushing them overboard after a dispute broke out (presumably a religious dispute). The perpetrators were arrested by Italian authorities and no other such incident has been reported, despite the claims being made online that this is some kind of commonly occurring thing.
It is also worth noting that no such incident has to date been reported regarding refugees coming from the Middle East, despite the same overly excitable online ‘sources’ trying to suggest otherwise.
A similar point can be made about the claim, readily propagated by many online regurgitators, that ‘Muslims Are Raping Swedish Women’ and that this is the somehow the only result of immigration in Sweden. This video tries to portray a ‘rape crisis’ in Sweden and states that ‘Islamic Invasion Of Sweden Has Led To Rape Crisis’. This, according to the uploader, is proof of Muslim immigration does to European countries; he concludes that we can ‘either have women’s equality or Muslim immigration’, as if it’s as simple as that. The video, however, only refers to one rape case. Granted, it appears to have involved up to 11 perpetrators, but it was still one incident. Aside from this one case, the video then makes a vague, unverifiable analysis based on ambiguous statistics and then comes to an obviously pre-fabricated conclusion that basically amounts to ‘Brown People Rape White People’.
14. ‘All the Refugees are Muslim Extremists’…
This is one of the primary fear-mongering strategies propagated by movements like Pegida in Germany or the EDL in England and various other xenophobic or anti-Islam movements in Europe and the West, many of whom seem to not be able to tell the difference between a drowning toddler and an Islamic extremist.
For one thing, as already stated, many of the Syrians or Iraqis in exodus are Christians or other minorities who are no longer safe in territories taken over by the ISIS/Daesh militants. They were perfectly safe there prior to American/NATO military interference in Iraq and Syria, but are subsequently victims of persecution, expulsion and very real death threats. There are Iraqi Christians who’ve been literally crucified by the manufactured terror-group, ISIS/Daesh, in Iraqi towns that used to be safe and in militia-controlled parts of Libya.
As far as the Muslim migrants are concerned, they are the majority: but in actual fact are unlikely to be extremists. Because in actual fact the extremists are the ones who have no reason to flee – they’re perfectly happy living under ISIS/Daesh controlled areas. It’s the moderates who flee. Most perverse of all is the fact that scores of people are migrating FROM Europe, Britain and the West and INTO SYRIA in order to join or live under the newly-formed ‘Islamic State’.
In other words, the extremists are migrating OUT from EUROPEAN NATIONS and colonising Syria, while moderates – actual SYRIANS, Iraqis or Afghans – are being forced to flee their own countries and seek refuge in the West because their country has been taken over by terrorists. Scores of radicalised people from Britain, France, Scandinavia and other places have been going into Syria for years now, allowed to cross through NATO-member Turkey’s border and join the ‘Islamic State’. Most Syrians, including even those who were initially opposed to the Assad government, complain of their cities or towns having been taken over by European or Western born Muslims who speak French, English or in European accents and attack government forces and terrorise the indigenous populations. EU officials have said at least 6,000 European ‘jihadists’ have gone into Syria to fight against the Syrian government – and even this, they admit, is a minimum estimate, with the true number likely to be much higher.
Very little effort was made to prevent this migration of European jihadist invaders into Syria, because most Western governments have been desirous of a regime-change in Syria and have broadly supported the armed rebellion against the secular Syrian government. What Western media failed to report for a long time, however, was that a large percentage of the so-called ‘rebels’ fighting in Syria are not Syrians but foreign infiltrators, many of whom are now part of ISIS/ISIL and many of whom have been openly armed and funded by Western agencies.
Again, the extremists are most likely to be the ones *GOING TO* Syria, not the ones fleeing *out of* Syria. Syria was generally a secular state with very little extremism or fundamentalism… until the extremism was imported into the country. With NATO member Turkey playing a central role, the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the other anti-Syrian parties have been deliberately flooding Syria with radicalised individuals for the past four years in order to try to bring down the government of Bashar Assad. It was the same strategy that the same nations used to bring down Gaddafi and the Libyan government in 2011; a country that wasn’t at all ‘Islamist’ or sectarian prior to that. As a result, large areas of Syria, Iraq and Libya have been transformed into extremist ‘caliphates’ populated largely by foreigners, and where the native Syrian, Iraqi or Libyan communities can no longer live safely.
It is therefore entirely logical to suggest that it is the moral responsibility of those nations most involved in the destabilisation to now take care of the innocent Syrians who are no longer safe in their own country; and likewise for Iraqis and Libyans, whose domestic lives have been shattered by foreign military interventions.
15. ‘All Muslims Are Extremists Trying to Take Over Europe’…
This one is so basic that I find it ridiculous that I even have to include it in this article; but it has become clear that so many people believe this idea of the ‘Muslim Takeover’. In terms of the general propagandising against Western Muslims, Far-Right commentary is simply able to make easy work of equating all followers of the religion with the extremism that is followed by what is still a small minority. In the UK, this is made all the easier by mainstream newspapers like The Daily Express and The Daily Mail thriving on their lifeblood of ‘Muslim Scare Stories’ every day of the week, most of which are either half-truths or outright fabrications, and all of which are designed to play into existing prejudices (here’s a random, typical example). Those prejudices have been exacerbated – or even created – by the past decade-plus of the so-called ‘War on Terror‘ and all the accompanying polarisation.
Islamic extremism is certainly a real problem. But actual acts of Islamic ‘extremism’ in Europe or the West have been minuscule in number; the places where the extremism really does thrive and where untold numbers of people have been killed or persecuted by extremists is in the Muslim world itself, particularly in war-torn Syria, post-war Iraq and post-war Libya, all of it occurring in environments that have been destabilised by Western wars or policies and in which this new brand of ultra-extremism has filled the vacuum. It is precisely this situation that so many refugees are fleeing from: if you’re a Far-Right xenophobe, of course, you don’t care about that – you just seethe with rage at the sight of brownish-skinned children.
According to recent statistics from Europol, less than two per cent of all recorded acts of terrorism are perpetrated with religious motivations, with an even smaller percentage being committed by ‘Muslim extremists’. As far as the UK is concerned, there have only been three incidents that would qualify as Islamist terrorist attacks; one of these, a failed 2007 attack on Glasgow Airport involved only a handful of people, with another, the horrific killing of Lee Rigby in Woolwich in 2013, could just as easily be regarded as a murder rather than an act of ‘terrorism’. The latter was carried out by two people only. The 7/7 London Bombings is the major Islamist terrorist attack in Britain and – assuming that really was a terrorist attack, which many would refute – involved only five people.
The total number of Islamic terrorists who may have carried out attacks on UK soil therefore is under 12. Hate crimes by Far-Right groups in Europe would dwarf this. The Far-Right and neo-Nazi groups may in fact be a bigger threat to European life and democracy than the much-maligned cultural group they are most insisting is the problem.
Statistics released by the Metropolitan Police reveal that the number of Islamophobic hate crimes in even just London (one of the most metropolitan cities in the world) has increased by 70% in the past year, putting the number of such crimes at 816. The staggering expansion of the Far-Right in recent years suggests this trend may continue across Europe. It’s particularly relevant to make that connection, because football hooligans tend to be intimately linked with Far-Right and fascist organisations: and both are at the forefront of the anti-migrant, anti-refugee propaganda. The English Defense League, for example, is entirely grown out of the most extreme English football hooliganism and in fact uses football hooliganism as a vehicle for mobilisation. These violent, intolerant Far-Right organisations have always existed, of course, but the post-9/11 growth of Islamophobia and now the unprecedented refugee crisis have given them an extraordinary amount of recruitment and propaganda material to work with. Both of those have been an absolute gift to Far-Right extremists; but if there wasn’t the Muslim scapegoat around, the target would just be ‘the Jews’, the Sikhs, the LGBT community or some other minority.
This link between football hooligans, neo-Nazism and anti-migrant activity is actually very relevant. There have been concerns that football hooligans in Germany have been heavily involved with the neo-Nazis and the anti-Islam movements and demonstrations and may in fact be leading the charge. The same is true elsewhere too. In Hungary recently, refugees were assaulted and verbally abused by gangs identified specifically as Hungarian football hooligans.
A Europe-wide, violent Fascist movement called ‘Blood and Honour’ is also an umbrella organisation for British racist groups such as the National Front and National Action. One Hungarian-based activist, Tompos Von Wewelsburg, has called for Syrian refugees to be massacred. ‘Blood and Honour’ activists in the Czech Republic have been charged with attempted murder following arson attacks on ethnic minorities. There are now fears the group’s UK arm will focus its hatred on Syrians coming here.
Some newspapers are now also reporting that English Far Right groups are planning violent attacks on Syrian refugees.
Again, the view that the Far-Right and white supremacist groups are in all likelihood a bigger long-term threat to Europe than any ‘Muslims’ or refugees is also echoed in America, where white supremacist or right-wing violence is far in excess of any real-world threat posed by the demonised Muslim minority (a minority which is, in fact, extremely tiny in the US).
Meanwhile, the growing belief in an imminent ‘Islamification of Europe’ was partly triggered by a highly popular You Tube video some years ago called ‘Muslim Demographics’, which used clever graphics and dramatic music to make (mostly unbacked-up) claims and predictions about ‘Muslim population growth’ in Europe. Such facts are cited as the idea that 25% of the Belgian population is Muslim; when in fact the Belgian office of statistics points to a 2008 study which suggests the real figure is just 6%. The video largely puts forth various demographic observations and predictions (of variable reliability); but it has been enough, along with the sorts of ideas propagated by Pegida and others, to cause widespread anxiety and anti-Muslim feeling that has now spread beyond simply the seedy realms of the Far Right and into part of the mainstream.
In essence though, the ideas aren’t dissimilar to Nazi propaganda concerning Jews in the 1930s and are chiefly driven by intense xenophobia, rejection of ‘multi-culturalism’ and a belief that European societies should remain purely white, homogeneous countries without diversity and without ‘inter-breeding’.
Are there Muslim extremists? Of course there are. Just as there are Neo-Nazi extremists and white supremacists and just as there are still Christian extremists (Andres Brevik, anyone?). The majority of Muslims of course don’t engage in extremist acts or subscribe to extremist ideologies; if they did, Europe and the West would be like Iraq and Libya now are, with daily bombs, killings and terrorism. But large sections of the populations in Europe and the West have been programmed into an anti-Muslim frenzy over the last few years, to the extent that many can no longer differentiate between extremists/terrorists and normal, law-abiding members of the community. Much of the reason for this has been a feeding frenzy by a number of low-quality, but widely read, newspapers over the last few years, which revel in anti-Muslim (and often more broadly, anti-immigrant) stories; in the UK, papers like The Daily Express, The Daily Mail and The Sun are so unrelenting in their daily scare-stories that many people have been left with a vastly exaggerated sense of the reality.
All of it serves to marginalise peaceful, moderate Muslims and make them feel backed into a corner, and it is in reality merely a mask for basic racism and dislike of ‘The Other’. It is, I would further argue, a form of verbal, social terrorism.
Such outlets revel in vague or unverifiable stories about ‘halal’ foods or ‘Muslim demographics’ while feeding readers a daily stream of ISIS horror stories (mostly without mentioning where ISIS came from or why it exists). The low-brow media also loves to go to extreme ‘preachers’ like Anjem Choudary whenever possible, while being much more reticent in going to more sane, moderate preachers, Imams or Islamic scholars, who far outnumber the radical speakers, but make for less exciting material. Extremists are often put forward as the ‘face’ of the Muslim world (which is like putting forward the Klu Klux Klan as the face of American Christianity), as opposed to, say, the Tunisian hotel staff who put themselves in the line of fire to form a human shield around British tourists, or the Muslim Youth League campaigning and urging politicians and leaders from the Muslim faith to condemn all violence and extremism. Or again, the scores of young, British Muslims who ran the ‘Not in My Name’ campaign in condemnation of ISIS (thus answering the frequently asked cliché/question of ‘why don’t Muslims speak out’?) but received very little media coverage.
And yet not a week goes by without the pointless choruses of ‘why don’t they speak out against the extremists and show their love for the West?’ Who? All Muslims? Which ones? The cab drivers? The doctors or nurses? The children? Why should they have to? And what would happen if they did? Moreover, the sorts of people who eternally repeat that demand ultimately *aren’t actually interested* in seeing it met and pay no attention when it is. Examples of how this type of demand is really just, as I said, a mask for racism are again provided by the way people react (or don’t react) when moderate, even liberal, Muslims do try to make a stand or make a statement of solidarity with the democratic society they live in.
Another perfect example of that is this article, written by Manda Zand Ervin and published in American Thinker. In it the author talks about how a group of liberal, moderate Muslims staged an event in New York to celebrate diverse and constitution-loving American Muslims who entirely reject the Islamist ideologies; but not only were they given practically no media coverage – they were actually treated with hostility by passers-by and by the media. Here you have a group of moderate Muslims who believe in American ideals trying to come out and express that – just like all the entirely unreasonable Islamophobic commenters keep demanding – and no one was interested. Worse than that, if you scroll down from the actual article and read the responses in the comments section, you can see perfectly how deeply embedded and unshakable the hatred is and how uninterested people actually are in moderate, peace-loving Muslims. Here below are some extracts from some of the commenters;
A ‘TPDanbo Gunner57’ says; “ALL Muslims must go back where they came from! If Muslims want any respect or freedom they should renounce that evil, false religion and spearhead the fight against it if they want to be accepted”. A ‘chichilouise’ adds, “Your religion, Manda, was invented by Lucifer.” While another remarks, “There won’t be many native Americans who will be willing to trust any Muslim for years and years to come.”
That’s just a taster; there’s more and worse, of course. And just to correct that last comment in the interests of clarity, ‘Native Americans’ – as in the ones who were virtually annihilated by modern America’s white European immigrant founders – probably don’t have a problem trusting ‘any Muslim’, but have more of an issue trusting white, mainstream immigrants.
All of that perfectly illustrates the impossible position many Muslim communities in the West find themselves in; it is demanded of them to ‘denounce all evil’ done by people on the other side of the world who just happen to follow a version of the same faith, but when they do try to do this, no one is interested. Frankly, if I was a Muslim I wouldn’t bother trying to apologise or justify anything. And the oft-repeated complaint that ‘they’ don’t ‘integrate’ has also always been a little confusing. Integrate how? What precisely does that mean? Because, in reality, the same people who complain that ‘they’ don’t ‘integrate’ are the same who are horrified by the notion of ‘inter-breeding’ or of the ‘demographics’ changing. So what does ‘integration’ really mean then?
The European Jews were very well ‘integrated’ in the past, especially in Germany, where the Jewish population was a proud and firmly embedded part of the society. They were inter-married and inter-mingled with the German population and most of them considered themselves more German than Jewish. That ‘integration’ was worth absolutely nothing when it was time for them to be rounded up and exterminated by Fascist, Right-Wing governments across Europe. The Nazis didn’t care that these citizens of Jewish descent loved Germany or were fully ‘integrated’ into the society; and the racists and xenophobes now don’t care whether Muslims are ‘integrated’ or not.
And it seems increasingly clear that there is absolutely nothing that any moderate, peaceful, hard-working Muslim European/American or immigrant can do to change that.
In conclusion, this wasn’t intended particularly to be a defense of ‘Islam’ itself; rather a defense of what is an extraordinarily marginalised and demonised group of very diverse people in European and Western societies, and more broadly and more importantly a defense of those most vulnerable of all people in world terms – the refugees.
The debate about the refugee crisis or the migrant crisis should’ve been a humanitarian discussion and should never have turned into a debate about Islam or Muslims; unfortunately that is what it has become, and that is therefore what I have largely had to address.
And this is also intended as a warning; a warning to remember history, to be wary of the growing danger of the Far-Right, and a warning to not believe every anti-refugee meme or article you come across, as most of it isn’t true. In the burning, rabid hatred of the Far-Right and various Neo-Nazi movements lies a far bigger threat in the long-term to Europe than the much-maligned Muslim communities; they are the basis of our very own, European ‘ISIS’ some dark day in the future (do a Google search on Neo-Nazis in Ukraine, for example – the difference between European Neo-Nazis and Middle-Eastern Islamist extremists is disappearing), or perhaps simply a rebirth of the kinds of forces and ideologies that shaped Nazi/Fascist Europe eighty years ago. I wrote at the beginning that this widespread anti-refugee could be heading ‘towards an age of nasty sectarianism and polarisation that will soon make Europe as toxic as the Middle East’ – that may well be the longer-term legacy of these wars of aggression that have broken the Middle East: the entire world might eventually be destabilised, and conscience and morality might be extremely warped or even lost entirely.
There is a threat from political Islamist extremism and its sources; some of that stems from the most extreme version/interpretation of the religion and some of it is also largely a threat manufactured by various, disastrous geo-political enterprises of recent history, the result of which has been the rise of the Islamo-Fascist entity we call ‘ISIS’ or ‘Daesh’. A large percentage of the refugees are in exodus because of that brutal Frankenstein’s Monster that was born from our destructive campaigns in the region. Those governments and alliances that have been most responsible for the destruction of these societies have every moral responsibility to offer haven to those now fleeing the nightmare.
Does that mean every migrant seeking asylum should be given it? No, probably not. Some are no doubt opportunists taking advantage of the broader exodus. And where some migrants or even refugees are found to be ‘undesirable’ in a real sense or problematic to security, then perhaps (humane) containment and possible eventual deportation might be necessary. But the current tendency for many people – including governments, such as Hungary or Slovakia – to dismiss the entire movement of refugees and migrants as some kind of disease or hostile invasion is frankly disgusting and is simply part of a policy to maintain their own homogeneous, insular, racially segregated societies and avoid all humanitarian responsibility. If that is their wish, and the nature of their national attitudes, then they are entitled to that position and no forced ‘quotas’ should come into it; instead the more mature, responsible and moral societies should take the larger responsibility onto themselves, as Germany and Sweden are doing.
Sweden has been one of the most generous European countries after Germany. With an indigenous population of just 9.8 million, Sweden has nevertheless taken over 50,000 refugees in just 2015. In 2013, Sweden also offered permanent residency to all the Syrian refugees already in the country, which is something like 8,000 people. “After the Second World War, we said we would never again discriminate against people,” a Swedish politician explained. “Now we must again decide what kind of Europe we should be, and my Europe takes in people who flee from war, my Europe doesn’t build walls…”
Ultimately, when all is said and done, if – if, as so many people fear – this refugee crisis really is a ‘Trojan Horse’ to smuggle a handful of ISIS/Daesh members or dangerous extremists into Europe… I would still rather let them in than let children drown in the sea or let thousands of desperate war-refugees suffer on the side of the road in order to keep those terrorists out. And I would rather live in a Europe and in a Western world that put humanitarian concerns before national self-interest and that acted as a moral entity willing to look out for the vulnerable and the needy and to set a moral standard for the whole world. And in a Western world that took responsibility for the victims/consequences of its own actions and misadventures.