SEATTLE — The debate over accepting refugees has always been a contentious issue in international politics. It affects both a nation’s internal and external sovereignty. Such matters will almost always divide political parties, which often leaves the public likewise divided. Concerned about losing their jobs to refugees, many citizens believe accepting refugees would be detrimental to society. However, it is important to examine how nations may benefit from accepting refugees.
1. Accepting refugees reduces the likelihood of a threat to international security.
If refugees can escape from their situations, then they are less likely to join the fight (whether by choice or coercion). After experiencing the violence caused by war—whether by Assad regimes’ brutal crackdowns on domestic uprisings or the 1970s wave of Vietnamese fearing reprisals for their close ties to Americans—refugees are more likely to avoid the conflict. By showing generosity and compassion to refugees, Western nations will be able to alleviate their own fears of radicalization.
2. Refugees can provide useful information about the conflict.
If a country accepts refugees, its government could gain intelligence about the nature of the conflict. Therefore, the nation may become privy to exclusive information that would otherwise be difficult to ascertain. Refugees can have personal experience with important details that they can share from first-hand experience of the conflicts. This can help a country to better understand the situations they are fleeing from.
3. In terms of economic development, the average citizen can benefit from accepting refugees.
Citizens may be correct in assuming that refugees will enter lower-income jobs in their new country’s workforce. However, this may present economic opportunities for the nation’s current population. Many Americans worry refugees will only consume welfare and burden American taxpayers, but many of these refugees have different skill-sets that may not cause competition with current citizens at all. The concept of complementary task specialization also predicts benefits for American citizens. Simply put, an increase in the number of non-English speaking immigrants who specialize in manual labor jobs will push Americans who speak English but have few other skills into higher paid jobs that require that kind of communication.
4. To accept refugees would promote an acceptance of their culture.
By refusing to accept refugees, nations threaten cooperation between cultures. For example, there are 3.3 million Muslims currently living in the U.S. Accepting Muslim refugees could contribute to dismantling anti-Muslim sentiments. Instead of denying refugees because of a specific aspect of their lifestyles (such as religion or country of origin), a nation would instead promote more empathy. Projects like Amnesty International’s “Look Beyond Borders” are designed to create this empathy. By seating refugees across from regular citizens, the project shows how easy it is to relate to a refugee simply as another human. People often lose the idea of the individual person when they think of the sheer number of refugees. As a result, they may feel intimidated and make hasty and generalized assumptions. Accepting refugees would promote an effort to better understand and respect their cultures.
5. There is a moral obligation involved.
Western intervention can often create conflict in its attempts to resolve them. Without the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and many subsequent interventions, extremist groups such as al-Qaeda (or any of its offshoots, such as ISIS) would not have formed or gained quite as much power. As a result, many feel morally obligated to help the nations in which intervention led to conflict and chaos. Moral equanimity is therefore yet another benefit of accepting refugees.
6. The screening process is incredibly effective.
The program for admittance into any nation is quite extensive. In the history of the U.S. refugee program, the vetting has been a proven and effective deterrent for terrorists. Since 1980, the U.S. has invited in millions of refugees, including hundreds of thousands from the Middle East. Not a single refugee has committed any recorded acts of terrorism in the U.S. Traditional law enforcement and the security screening processes have a proven record of handling such threats.
– Veronica Ung-Kono