Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - MERGE - Migration and the Middle East

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Projects | MERGE - Migration and the Middle East | Regional Briefings | Are "White" Refugees Less "Troubling" for Europe?

Are "White" Refugees Less "Troubling" for Europe?

by Y. Emre Küçükkaya


The New York Times points out that while European countries opened their borders to tens of thousands of Ukrainians, refugees from the Middle East had received incomparably less sympathy and support. Al Jazeera adds that some politicians and journalists have expressed support for open borders toward Ukrainian refugees, using jargon such as "intellectuals" and "European" - a complete contrast to the fear-mongering perpetrated by governments toward migrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Similarly, refugees in Libya highlight the unfairness of the EU opening its borders to white people, but not to them.

Almost 20 million Yemenis (66 percent of the total population) rely on humanitarian assistance urgently to survive after more than 7 years of devastating conflict. 4 million Yemeni internally displaced persons (IDP) and 102,110 refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia are among these refugees, UNHCR reports

Due to the recent drop in incomes and widespread hunger, tens of thousands of Afghans are making their way into Iran and Pakistan every day. Many are fleeing due to the immediate economic crisis; however, the prospect of Taliban rule in the long run — including restrictions on women and fears of retribution — has made their decision all the more urgent, as the New York Times reports.

UN sources say with only 3.9 percent of the Syrian population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in November, and with the country's worst weekly case count in October, the pandemic continues to burden the fragile health system. The ability of people to access basic services in Syria continues to deteriorate because of damaged infrastructure, a lack of critical supplies, and a decreasing purchasing power, as well as difficulties traveling freely and without fear.

Meanwhile, one survey study shows that at the sum-of-all-Syria level, 11% of returnees who owned housing in their areas weren't able to reclaim it. Most of the responses cited destruction of their home or an armed group taking control of it. 41% of the Syrian returnees reported that they returned to Syria involuntarily. Among those who returned voluntarily, 42% cite factors influencing their decision such as living conditions in host countries, instabilities in the security situation, and the inability to continue their education. Furthermore, 24% of returnees reported the desire to reunite with their family as their primary reason for returning. A majority of the respondents were returnees from abroad, suggesting that restrictive policies around family reunification in host countries are a vital factor in Syrians' decision to come home, possibly acting as a form of coercion.