Breathtaking European inaptitude and ignorance breeding xenophobia

Old world is working hard to make ideology happen

I grew up in a made-up container-country in the west-Balkans populated by patchwork of nations that often differ only in tiny, microscopic ways. Their languages ranging from similar to practically same, the religions for most just various flavours of Christianity. Post WWII leadership played down hard the ethnic and religious differences, and as a result, the historically divided, poor but newly united place undertook rapid economic growth. Growth was so rapid that in short 35 years after WWII living standards approximated the then average level of today’s EU block. It is worth saying it again: starting dirt poor, 90% illiterate in places and with war ravaged infrastructure a country reached near western European living standards and levels of human development in 35 years.

The contrast: New world just letting it happen

By the end of 1980s we ended up on points of the globe that were about as far as they could be from our home and we didn’t complain about that. In our new living spaces (not homes yet), the culture-shock was profound, but our “New World” receiving countries did amazingly well to help us integrate (without asking to assimilate). We got the same benefits as all the locals: allowed to live with the general population, getting excellent free medical care, free schooling and/or language classes, adequate social welfare net. Maybe just as importantly, in the loose, unscripted interactions with general populace around us encouragement outweighed criticism, and any prejudice was well hidden. Day after day we learnt to relax a bit more, and as we relaxed, we started (unthinkingly) to absorb the habits and mores of our new environment. Immigrants also quickly learnt that getting materially ahead was actually well possible, and motivated by the close knowledge of recent poverty, many quickly excelled in business or academia, further reinforcing the possibilities in our minds. In this environment, integration typically took between ¼ to 1 generation, depending on the age of the individual and cultural distance that was to be bridged. Troublesome differences didn’t need to be managed — they simply vanished on their own.

New worlds’ migrant neighbourhoods

Since the receiving country played their cards so well, low-socioeconomic migrant neighbourhoods did not become dead-end places — they are but a stage to the general dispensation into surrounding suburbs. Migrant neighbourhoods exist, but do not stand for fixed ethnic identities. They constantly change their composition — after 20 years, immigrants move out to more prosperous neighbouring suburbs and the migrant neighbourhood is filled with new people fleeing the most recent migrant-producing hell-hole of the world — Syrians now, Sudanese, Sri Lankans before then, Indians and Afghans before then, Rwandans and Southern Slavs from the 90s, Vietnamese and Lebanese from the 70s, etc. all the way back to Europe’s refugees, a selection from the tens of millions fleeing WWII and its after-effects, from Estonia to the Balkans.

Polish refugees leaving the Europe for safety in the middle east, 1942. In 2016, Poland announced it will not take a single refugee on security grounds.
Australian population increased from 21 to 25 million over the last 20 years. The yearly net immigration numbers averaged around 1% of population in that time. Source: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/migration-australia/2018-19

Old world is shouting “crisis”. What crisis?

This can be compared to the “EU migrant crisis” of 2015 and 2016, when refugees and economic migrants equivalent to 0.25% of EU’s population turned up at the EU block’s doorstep.

Yugoslav migrants in middle-eastern refugee camps (in Gaza and Syria, or this one in near the Suez Canal, Egypt)

Why are Europeans so ineffective?

The thinking of most Europeans is fundamentally determined by their ignorance. They are shown pictures of rows of tents in sand and told the refugees are basically glamping, and they believe it. Because they all carry smartphones (indispensable on a refuge-seeking journey), if someone tells them some rich Sheik pays them to go and wait for a signal to carry out terror attacks, they believe it. More Europeans have seen UFOs than migrants in real life, yet they believe they are being overrun by migrant, not UFOs. They don’t even understand that it is not illegal to cross border to ask for asylum, that it is actually Europe that is breaking the law by not allowing those asking for refuge in to make their case (just say the words “there is no such thing as illegal asylum seeker as per 1951 refugee convention” to them and watch their eyes turn blank). They believe hardships of migrants are made-up, as if the wars and millions of displaced in that region weren’t incontrovertible facts. They don’t know that all refugee claims are examined, and ones found to be disingenuous are deported back. They ask “why don’t other Arab countries take care of them”, as if they don’t already do many times more than the rest of the world combined. The responsibility for this ignorance I lay squarely at the feet of the political leaderships.

The old picture of a village burnt during the Bosnian civil war in the 90s was presented as proof of fake news of migrants (having been given places to stay but not satisfied with the comfort) burning Bosnian villages in 2016, and even the local people believed it

So, why is all this inaptitude and disconnect?

The long-term culture has to be at fault, as self-important Europe has always been a tough gig for outsiders — the Indian migrant who migrates to Australia becomes an Australian in one generation but an Indian migrant who decided to migrate to Europe remains separate, “a Gypsy” even 500 years later.

Murderous irony

Perhaps the highest contradiction is that anti-migrant rhetoric really says that all this injustice and human suffering is justified as protecting higher European values, like Christianity, democracy and its self-perceived “high civilisation” — but it is easy to see that it is exactly those values being destroyed by the current anti-migrant policies.

Hoping To Survive, by Razieh Gholami, painted in Moria Camp, Lesbos, 2019

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