Ukraine-Russia war shows EU's hypocritical stance on refugees

EU accepted 7M Ukrainian citizens in 7 months of war while only 1.1M Syrian refugees have been accepted in over 11 years.

Ukraine-Russia war shows EU's hypocritical stance on refugees

International bodies and experts decried the unfair treatment of 1.1 million Syrian refugees by EU member states, who have welcomed more than 7 million Ukrainians in the seven months since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war this February. Syria has been embroiled in civil war for the last 11 years, since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

The discriminatory policies of the EU have drawn criticism from organizations like the UN and Amnesty International. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report released on Sept. 6 that 7.1 million Ukrainians have applied for refuge in EU members, especially in Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Romania. The country that accepted the most Ukrainians was neighboring Poland, with 2.5 million, followed by Hungary with 1.3 million and Germany with roughly one million. According to the report, more than 4 million Ukrainians were taken into temporary protection programs.

In contrast, however, during the course of the decade-long Syrian civil war, the EU has only welcomed 1.1 million Syrians. According to UN data, 560,000 Syrian refugees have been taken in by Germany, 560,000 by Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, and France, and 120,000 by Greece. Since the start of the Syrian civil war, it is unknown how many refugees countries like Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova have admitted.

Politicians' remarks and Western media also reflected the discriminatory stance taken by EU nations toward asylum seekers. Speaking to the BBC, David Sakvarelidze, Ukraine’s former deputy chief prosecutor, said: "It’s very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed, children being killed every day, with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's missiles, and his helicopters, and his rockets."

Reporter Kelly Cobiella from US TV network NBC reported on the Ukrainian refugees like this: "Just to put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria. These are refugees from neighboring Ukraine … These are Christians, they’re white."

Lucy Watson, a British ITV News correspondent, also said of the Ukrainians: "Now the unthinkable has happened to them. And this is not a developing, third-world nation, this is Europe!"

Ukraine “isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan this has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European … city where you wouldn't expect that or hope that it's going to happen," said Charlie D'Agata, a senior news reporter for US TV network CBS.

Kiril Petkov, a former prime minister of Bulgaria, contrasted the victims of violence in Ukraine and Syria, saying of the Ukrainians: “These people are Europeans. These people are intelligent, they are educated people … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to."

Petkov also compared the Syrian refugees to the refugees from Ukraine, where there are over 250,000 people of Bulgarian ancestry, saying, "These are Europeans whose airport has been just bombed, who are under fire."

The discriminatory asylum laws of European nations drew fire from the UN. Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, called attention to the discrimination against refugees, saying: "It is irrelevant who they (refugees) are or where they are from. Let's exercise a little more kindness and humanity." According to Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Europe handles asylum seekers "unequally" and engages in competition with one another to reject immigrant groups from the Mediterranean while hospitably accepting Ukrainian refugees.

"Because we didn't know anything about the refugees arriving in 2015, there were suspicions that they might be terrorists. However, a more critical perspective would argue that this is related to the idea that all Middle Eastern-Muslim men are terrorists," said Serena Parekh, a professor of philosophy at Northeastern University in Boston.

“The welcoming nature of Europe for Ukrainian refugees is also influenced by race. Many people may comment that Ukrainians look like us when they see us because we both have blonde hair and blue eyes. This is discrimination since it is founded on the idea that people who are not refugees should receive less aid and support.”

Hüseyin Demir