Iran has done more to help refugees than the US: Here's why

Iran has done more to help refugees than the US: Here's why

In the wake of the Arab spring, and the rise of extremist groups such as ISIS, it's safe to say that many far-right groups, and Europe and the US, have managed to drum up support by preying on a paranoia regarding refugees. Right-wingers purport that immigrants from Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere, fleeing the desolation and destruction wrought against their homeland, will be bringing with them dangerous terrorist agitators with a violently anti-western agenda. This attitude, which often preys upon xenophobia and racism, has discouraged many people in the effort to help refugees. These people claim that helping refugees would play into the hands of terrorists around the world, allowing insurgents to slip through the cracks and plan more atrocities against innocent people.

But is this demagogue's vision, of unchecked aggressors flooding into the US and elsewhere, the reality of the situation? Well, to be quite honest, not really. It's fairly easy for people to bemoan the relief effort as pointless. There have been many altruistic attempts by various Western cities to house immigrants who have been displaced by warfare in the Middle East and abroad, but all evidence points to a truth that is more than a little surprising. It seems like the First World is doing comparatively little to shoulder the burden of the Third World, and in countries like Iraq and Syria, where the fighting is fiercest and the most bloodthirsty, the asylum-seeking masses are mostly finding sanctuary with their neighbours, rather than in the West.

According to a recent report from the UNHCR - the United Nations Refugee Agency - more than 50 per cent of the refugees who fled from Syria in the first half of 2016 moved to countries in the immediate region: Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iran. The majority of refugees did not cross over to continental Europe or to the US, as several news sources have erroneously reported in the past.

The United States accepted 18,007 Syrian refugees between October 1, 2011 and December 31, 2016. Furthermore, we know now that the US will not be accepting any more in the near future. In January of 2016, newly-elected Republican president Donald Trump enacted a notoriously-controversial travel ban, which he claimed was a congressional measure taken to ensure national security. The executive order banned anyone from six Muslim-majority nations (Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) from entering the United States.

Across the pond in the United Kingdom, things were much the same. According to a report by FullFact there were around 39,000 applications for asylum in the UK last year, out of approximately 600,000 immigrants. Of these 39,000 applications for asylum, around 21,000 were summarily rejected by the Home Office in the first stages. The former conservative  Prime Minister David Cameron solemnly pledged to resettle 20,000 displaced Syrian refugees in September of 2016. As of September 2017, a report from Oxfam has revealed that Great Britain has only managed to house approximately 4,000 people, less than 18 per cent of last year's target.

Yes, it seems that the poorest countries in Asia and the Middle East are being forced to shoulder most of the burden, when their infrastructure is barely able to meet the demands of their own population. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi stated in March 2017 that: "Today we face not so much a crisis of numbers but of cooperation and solidarity – especially given that most refugees stay in the countries neighbouring their war-torn homelands ... The biggest contributors providing a safe haven to the world’s uprooted people are poorer communities."

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, concurred with this, stating: "Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialised countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. Meanwhile, it's poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden."

For example, Iran alone has sheltered more than 978,000 refugees: an order of magnitude more people than the United States, and the influx of families and individuals fleeing death or persecution in Syria, or Afghanistan, shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. This refugee crisis is particularly crushing since Iran suffered a profoundly destabilising economic crash in 2015. The economy was in such poor shape that the purchasing power of workers fell by 73 per cent, while the minimum monthly salary is $170.

Yet despite this, it is estimated that a family of four requires approximately $400 US Dollars to feed a family of four for that period of time. This economic burden is nigh-insurmountable for countries with such high rates of inflation, and yet they have to provide for so many. Surely having wealthier nations looking after others is a more sensible solution than asking the bankrupt to bear the brunt of aid efforts and asylum. What's even more remarkable is that Iran is taking in refugees from Iraq, as well as Syria and Afghanistan - despite the fact that animosity has existed between the two nations ever since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980, declared by Saddam Hussein in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

In fact, this year the United Nations explicitly praised Iran for the country's efforts in sheltering Syrian and Afghan refugees. Sivanka Dhanapala, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Tehran stated in March 2017: "The leadership demonstrated by the Iranian government has been exemplary in hosting refugees and keeping borders open. It's a story that's not told often enough."

The Western world often exudes self-righteousness, and America, in particular, has a reputation as the world's policeman. Donald Trump is content to close borders in the interests of freedom, but how much is that freedom worth when people are dying on the doorstep? There are some people who have worked hard to help refugees, including noteworthy celebrities such as George Clooney.

But the starving masses aren't just going to disappear if we ignore them for long enough. If more of an effort was made by economically advantages nations to solve this crisis, the global repercussions would be far less damaging. Unfortunately, it seems that many politicians have no such interest in a practical solution, and are content to exploit these unfortunate people in the name of an anti-immigration agenda. To learn more about how you can help refugees, not just from Syria but from all around the world, then please visit the following link.