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Commentary: The grand refugee debacle!
Published on March 5, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

The refugees are pouring into Europe at the rate of 65,000 a month, coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and a majority of African nations. They are leaving behind countries shattered by war, ISIS, unfinished business of interventions and internal fights of clans or tribes. Greece and Macedonia, the natural port of entry, are overwhelmed by the sheer number of people to process and dispatch to other Europeans countries.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, was a candidate in the last Haitian presidential election. He can be reached and followed at Caribbean News Now/Haiti
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has demonstrated compassion in extending a warm welcome to the refugees last December, but upcoming local elections and migrant fatigue within the German population is compromising this welcoming mat.

There is a migrant summit set for March 18, 2016; as usual it will not go into the core situation of why the migrants are leaving their home and how to stop the flow from the point of origin.

The refugee problem is as acute on this side of the Atlantic, coming from all points of Latin America and the Caribbean, mainly from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Guyana, they are trekking through Mexico or Florida tying to get into the United States. These refugees are escaping misery and drug turf wars where they are caught in the middle.

If the problem is international, it is also national. The flow of refugees, say, from rural Haiti or rural Mexico into the capital or all the major cities in the Western Hemisphere is compromising all durable solution of urban planning. There has been no comprehensive policy of transforming the rural setting into a haven of peace, stability and growth with sane institutions, good infrastructure and wealth creation through incubation.

Why these national and international cultures of hypocrisy are not attacking the problem where it will matter and solving it for good? I am still puzzled by this simple question. Of course, through time, there have been happy results. The Marshall Plan after World War II transformed Europe into an emerging continent. Colombia, plagued by drug and leftist struggle, is now pacified by flowers, driving opium as the main export business.

The open border policy instituted by the Schengen agreement put in place in 1989 has created a Europe free of border control within 29 countries from Greece to Ireland. This policy is being compromised today with one nation after another contemplating big fences to stop the flow of immigrants. According to the Guardian, it has produced lost business at the rate of 19 billion a year with a projected loss of 100 billion in the next five years. Normal transportation of goods and people that usually takes hours now demands days of search and inconvenience.

The wealth of a nation depends on how the governance utilizes its human and natural resources. A Europe with a declining population should welcome this sudden inflow of workforce. Germany, the main engine of the European locomotive under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel may have understood this equation but it is shared neither by her population nor by the rest of Europe.

The crux of the solution to the refugee dilemma is how to reconcile the mathematical formula that skilled and incubated people equals wealth for a nation while the higher aspiration that keeps people at home with decent institutions and excellent infrastructure in a good governance umbrella will finally produce a world at peace and in prosperity.

The unfortunate foreign interventions for democracy in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, without a clear road map on how the situation will turn out when the last foreign soldier has left the soil, have unleashed multiple clan and turf wars where the civilians have been caught in the middle.

The military apparatus did not encourage the policy of nation building whereby the sentiment of appurtenance would be rooted in the ethos of those fragmented nations. A family divided always ends up with its own demise within a few decades. This theory applies also to nations. The essential glue that will stop the refugee debacle at its point of origin is to go back to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and most of the African countries with an army of community organizers to help build communities that will help themselves in building nations.

Otherwise in spite of the forward looking policy of Germany of welcoming some refugees, in spite of the fences at the border, the flow of immigrants with the painful spectacle of babies dying in the arms of their mothers because they are cold and without food for days will continue unimpeded.

The next president of the United States, a Democrat or a Republican, will have to consult with Angela Merkel and the rest of the European leadership to unleash the second Marshall Plan in this millennium to deal for good and for last with the refugee problem, not in Europe but at its point of origin -- the Middle East and in Africa -- in diverting an army of social workers/ community organizers to teach people how to build nations.

My old alma mater, Columbia University School of Social Work, was skilled in that specialty in the 70s. Is she ready to take the lead in convincing the world policymakers this is the way to go? A critical mass of alumni must shout loud, let’s go, and the rest of the world will follow!
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