The lifeless body of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed ashore on a Turkish beach, reverberated around the globe last week stirring massive public outrage against European nations with strict anti immigration laws. The toddler was among the 23 people who died when a boat headed from Turkey to Greece capsized in the Mediterranean Sea.
The incident explains the plight of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan fleeing civil war and threat from the Islamic extremists in their countries. 350,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea this year compared to 219,000 during the whole of 2014. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) claims that the death toll has reached 2,500, this year alone. It says that the number could go up to 30,000 if governments in Europe don’t act soon.
With the migrant crisis taking an unprecedented turn, it has put many European nations on a back foot. Although the problem had been simmering since sometime, it has escalated this year. But the European nations should not be surprised. It is facing the brunt of its very own actions. A sizeable number of the migrants come from countries where the United States and its allies had direct intervention. The mass exodus of people thus has a common root of problem: the West’s disastrous foreign policy.
Syria is a perfect example. In the wake of the Arab Upspring in 2011, the country witnessed pro democracy movements against the dictatorial regime of it’s long standing President Bashar Al Asad. The West had already supported the fall of Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak’s despotic regimes despite the two leaders previously being the poster boys for the West in the region. Many thought it was only a matter of time before Asad was next on the list. Little did they know that the ‘time’, would never come. The months of protests and government retaliation led to the rise of a loose coalition of rebel forces, Free Syrian Army (FSA), which was initially supported by the West through non – lethal aid. But as the war got worse, the West started providing training, cash, and intelligence to the FSA.
Instead of subsiding, the chaos paved way for the rise of Islamic extremists, ISIS. By the middle of 2015, ISIS controlled more than half of Syria. The enemy was not Asad anymore. In view of the rising instability, the US decided to train a meagre 5,000 ‘moderate’ rebel soldiers. Surprisingly, the US ordered that the trained soldiers to fight only the ISIS and not the Asad regime. By the middle of 2015, the US supported FSA had disbanded with many joining rival Islamic extremist group. It was clear by then that the West’s policy in Syria had miserably failed. The resulting anarchy led to the deaths of 220,000 with thousand others being displaced and forced to seek refuge.
Syria is not the only victim to the West’s ‘liberation’ and ‘democracy building’ missions, convenient code words for securing access to oil supplies and avoiding Islamic extremist threat. The West’s meddling in Libya has descended the country into a deadly battleground causing thousands of deaths and displacing many others. Afghanistan, which accounts for one of the highest number of migrants in the current crisis, has the West to blame for it state of affairs. In the first half of 2015 alone, almost 5,000 civilian casualties were recorded in various incidents of violence. As the US plans to pull out of the country in 2017, attacks against both the governments and civilians have seen a rise. In Iraq, the civilians and the government are facing attacks by ISIS militants from the very American weapons that were provided to the Iraqi army as ‘military assistance’.
To support Russian President Vladmir Putin’s words, the engineer for one of the biggest human exodus of modern times is definitely the US and its allies. The West, alone, is responsible for providing a solution to the problem. And shooing away the helpless refugees and asylum seekers is not one of them.