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And yet I will write them here.

Aylan’s death galvanized the world to pay more attention to the humanitarian crisis going on in the Middle East and Europe. As a result, Germany and Austria are generously (or finally) opening their gates to the throngs of refugees who have walked through hell to get there. The world has criticized European nations, especially Hungary, Bulgaria, and other Eastern block nation-states for squabbling for months and years to set a cohesive immigration policy.

On a macro-level, I can understand why the EU is hesitant to take any real action to address the migration crisis – should they take Germany and Austria’s lead, but potentially encourage more immigration? Or do they continue to build higher walls and ignore one of the most tragic humanitarian crises so far in the 21st century?

Here’s a thought experiment – if Europe completely closed its borders, would these would-be immigrants place greater pressure on the groups to resolve their differences either by blood or compromise? Would they themselves take up arms and try to end it? Would, then, the war end as more people – women and children included – enter into the bloody fray to survive?

I began thinking of these questions after reading Ross Douthat’s really interesting piece in the NY Times on how difficult it is to answer the question, “Who failed Aylan Kurdi?” When a baby dies, our instinct is to express our outrage at the world, spitting invective at the easiest targets – we can cast stones at the United States, with its inexhaustible resources and irresponsible meddling in the Middle East; we can also target bumbling Europe for their inability to create a comprehensive and cohesive immigration policy; we can blame the Gulf states for not doing anything.

But, in reality, how do we assign any responsibility? Ultimately, “the world failed Aylan” somehow points an accusatory figure at those in charge, or at least those with more power, and, as a result, we expect them to shoulder a greater responsibility in caring for the refugees. And, in fact, Germany, Sweden, and Austria have done just that. In Douthat’s article, he observes that Germany’s “utilitarian universalism” agrees with this mindset – the richest and the most powerful ought to take the most responsibility, and they have accepted it in the form of raising refugee quotas. While I agree that those with more power ought to help more, this theory of moral obligation does not help these countries set any limit or quota on their obligation. Should Germany accept 60,000? 100,00? How long can they sustain their humanitarian services? How will the refugees acculturate, if at all? If the refugees become more of a nuisance, will Germans tire of playing Good Samaritan? It is well documented that there is such a thing as “aid fatigue“, where, the world’s atrocities cause “burned out” people to tune out from the world. When that happens, will they vote in their own version of Donald van Trump?


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