From the National Economics Editorial’s report on the Ukrainian refugee crisis.
You may not know this, but the Ukrainian Civil War, which the media either completely ignores, or refers to as the Donbass Rebellion, has displaced millions of people, and left thousands dead.
In fact, there are up to 2.6 million Ukrainian refugees (Germany accepted 150).
So here’s my question:
Why did Europe open its doors to Syrian refugees (read: economic migrants from indeterminate locations), and not Ukrainian refugees (read: Ukrainian refugees)?
After all, Ukraine’s physically in Europe, and it shares cultural links with places like Germany and Sweden, who seemed so eager to help the Syrian people—Kiev itself was founded by the Vikings.
Not only that, it can be argued that the European Union is morally culpable for the Civil War, given their support for the coup which ousted Ukraine’s democratically elected (and pro-Russian) president.
It’s a good question, and I’m not sure I have an answer.
But I’d like to raise the point, because no one else is.
Background: The Ukrainian Civil War, AKA The War In Donbass & the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis
I realize this subject may be unfamiliar to you, so I’ll just give you some background real quick.
The pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych won Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election over the pro-EU Yulia Tymoshenko. No one disputes that.
However, the country was highly divided: the West heavily favored Tymoshenko and the EU, while the East (where the fighting broke out) heavily favored Yanukovych and closer ties with Russia.
That’s not exactly surprising, given the economic and linguistic links between Russia and Eastern Ukraine and Crimea (there is a large Russian minority in the region).
Anyways, jump forward to 2014.
After Yanukovych refused to sign the negotiated Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement, which realigned Ukraine with the EU as opposed to Russia, the Ukrainian Parliament voted to impeach him.
They then ratified the agreement.
This sparked both a constitutional and political crisis (remember, Ukraine’s a very new country, and this was without precedent). Many in the east felt that Parliament was stuffed with Western puppets, bribed by the EU.
To people in the East, this looked a lot like a coup.
That’s when war broke out. Violence centered on Donetsk and Luhansk, where support for Yanukovych (and Russia) was strongest.
Since then, there have been 11 unsuccessful ceasefire attempts, but the conflict continues.
I don’t want to get into the details of the conflict, and I don’t really want to get into a big debate over who’s to blame.
What matters for our purposes is that:
- There is a conflict in Ukraine.
- This conflict has created millions of refugees.
The Syrian Refugee Crisis
Everyone knows about this one because the media covered it (albeit with a great deal of bias).
Long story short, there’s a civil war in Syria between the president (dictator) Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Russia, and various rebel groups (including ISIS), some of whom are supported by the USA.
Although the conflict’s been endemic since 2011, it wasn’t really until 2015 that hundreds of thousands of refugees left their safe havens in Turkey, and migrated to Europe, along with millions of other economic migrants from as far afield as Somalia and Afghanistan.
They did this at German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s behest, who basically said that if you could reach Germany, you’d be given asylum (and a plethora of welfare benefits, which she’s now regretting).
Of course, they’re no longer technically refugees after they reach a safe harbor (Turkey and Jordan), since they’re not in immediate danger. They’re migrants, or illegal immigrants.
Regardless, there are many actual Syrian refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 4.8 million Syrians fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq, and 6.6 million Syrians are internally displaced within Syria.
That’s a lot of people.
Germany Invited Syrian Refugees, Turned Back Ukrainian Refugees
Why Germany (and Sweden) accepted so many refugees is beyond me: it makes no rational sense from an economic, cultural, or political perspective.
Just look at the damage that’s been done in Sweden, for example—you could see it coming a mile away.
And don’t tell me that Europe has also been helping Ukrainians: that’s just not true.
Germany invited specifically Syrians, not Ukrainians. Furthermore, of the 2,705 Ukrainians who sought asylum in Germany, only 150 were accepted.
Compare that to Germany’s policy with Syrians (and their friends): first come, first serve.
The message was clear: Ukrainians need not apply.
Assuming they thought it was Germany’s moral duty to help refugees, the question becomes why did they invite refugees and migrants from the Middle East, and beyond, rather than from Ukraine?
After all, Ukraine is right next door, and the conflict was (in part) caused by Germany and the EU’s machinations to steer Ukraine away from Russia—if it’s a question of moral duty, Germany owed that duty to Ukraine, not Syria.
Beyond that, Ukraine is actually in Europe (logistics would’ve been easier), and Ukrainians have soft skills that Syrians lack (ranging from better facility with the language, culture, religion, work expectations etc.).
And everything else aside, it would’ve made more political sense: if the EU wants to strengthen ties with Ukraine, then it would make sense to help the Ukrainian refugees—it’s not like Syria’s going to join the EU.
Why Didn’t Germany & The EU Help Ukrainian Refugees?
We may never really know the answer, but I think Bogdan Bezpalko, the deputy director of the Center for Ukrainian and Belarussian Studies at Moscow State University, makes some good points.
Europe needs Ukraine only for its resources and as a market – it needs a semi-colonial state and doesn’t care about the people who live there…
…It becomes clear when you see how Germans treat the refugees from Africa and the Middle East, even though there’s no civil war in some of those countries, unlike Ukraine. This is a fine example of how Europeans really feel about Ukrainians; it shatters all illusions about Europeans treating Ukrainians as equals.
Basically, he argues that it’s to Europe’s advantage to keep Ukraine weak and in turmoil, both economically (so that it can get cheap resources) and presumably politically (to keep Russia busy).
So much for morality.
I think there may be something to that, but I also think it has to do with political correctness and virtue signalling—it’s not a strictly economic issue.
Frankly, it’s just not sexy to help white refugees, since, according to leftist political theory, white people are privileged—even if Russians are shelling their homes with artillery.
Social justice warriors, be they in Germany or Sweden just wouldn’t get any brownie points for helping Ukrainian refugees. In fact, they’d look racist for helping white people, when there were brown people in need.
I know this sounds callous and stupid. It is.
But it’s also true. It’s how these people think.
And until the culture shifts, I think it will only get worse.