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Refugees: Human Crisis, Political Card

March 7, 2016

As part of our annual International Week, the International Student Exchange Committee invited Younasse Tarbouni to speak to students about the Syrian refugee crisis and its impact on Europe.

Senior lecturer in Arabic in Wash U’s department of Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Tarbouni broadened the conversation and debunked much of the dialog around the topic.

Here are some of the points he made during assembly on Monday, March 7:

  • It is not just a Syrian crisis ... it is a human crisis.
  • While aspects of the crisis have become amplified in the last five years, it is a problem that dates back to the 1940s and 50s.
  • Most refugees are emerging from Syria but there are also large numbers of people fleeing from Eritrea, Qatar, Afghanistan, Mali, Gambia, Nigeria, Somalia, Palestine and Senegal.
  • Most refugees are entering Germany but they are also going to Sweden, Italy, France, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium.
  • Germany and France are opening their borders for largely self-serving purposes; they have labor shortages which the refugees can fill. (Most refugees are from the middle and upper classes.)
  • There is considerable press around the impact refugees are having in Greece and Turkey, but both nations are using the refugee crisis as a tool to secure international funding, and Turkey is using it as a card to try to enter the European Union.
  • Only the BBC reports on the crisis in a reliable fashion: as a true humanitarian crisis, not as a mere sound bite.