The War comes to an end
The civil war against Islamic State in Syria appears to be dwindling down. Islamic State fighters are driven into an ever-shrinking territory. Their Iraqi capital of Mosul, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the caliphate three years ago, has fallen to the Iraqi army. And recently, their Syrian capital of Raqqa has succumbed to the Kurds. The revenue being generated by the Islamic State has declined by over 80%, greatly diminishing their military capability.
IS’ defeat looks like a certainty, which means Syrians might want to focus on the future. Fighting may continue for a while with the various factions in Syria; but many areas such as Aleppo are increasingly safe. As day to day life returns to the ancient cities of Syria, rebuilding becomes a necessity. Earlier articles discussed that Europe doesn’t need Syrians to fill job vacancies, and that Syrians don’t constitute a reliable plan to save the European pension funds.
One more unaddressed economic argument, however, remains: the Syrian economy itself.
Syria has suffered a brain drain
Wars don’t last forever. Once peace shines its light upon the nation it’s time to rebuild the ravaged cities of Syria. The reconstruction of Aleppo is already being prepared, with the support of Europe. In order to do so, Syria needs capable people; people who can lead the reconstruction of a nation. However, these often also happen to be the people who have fled the violence and made their way into Europe. Those that could afford it were among the first to pay for their journey westward.
Syria, in other words, has suffered a major brain-drain. Western Europe has claimed the moral high grounds and has preached to its citizenry about the great benefits of saving the refugees, praising their high educational credentials and labour capital. Yet, if they really are that qualified, are they not more needed in Syria?
In welcoming the young and energized into Europe, they have been taken away from Syria, while it is exactly these people who are capable of rebuilding their nation. The great flow of migration may have been beneficial for the individuals travelling from the developing world into the wealthy nations of North-Western Europe, it may prove to be destructive for both the European nations involved as well as for the country of origin; Syria itself.
Local refuge is better for Syria
The likelihood of returning to their home country is much higher for refugees who were taken into local refugee camps, such as those in Lebanon and Turkey. Many are already returning to Syria as ISIS has been pushed out of their hometowns. Moreover, it is much cheaper to host a refugee in a camp there, compared to hosting them in a European asylum centre.
Hence, for the same money, we can help and support more people if they stay in the Levant. Europe could be offering more support to Jordan and Lebanon in managing and feeding the enormous amounts of people that they are hosting.
Is it not odd to only help those young, in shape, and above all wealthy enough to make the journey to the West; to give them housing, food and entertainment, while their weaker and poorer countrymen suffer in the camps. Is one refugee worth more than the other, because they have gotten onto the boat, because they have crossed the border and are now in closer physical proximity to Western-Europe?
Some reading this may believe it is cruel to ask anyone to live in a nation so destroyed by war. Those readers may wish to remember what Europe looked like after World War 2. The cities of Warsaw and Dresden were razed to the ground, there was nothing but ruins and rubble. Warsaw was razed by the Nazis at the end of the war after the Polish uprising, Dresden was firebombed by the allies, as described by Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
Today, both cities have not only been rebuild, they’re as beautiful as they are thriving. Was there any other option? Should Europe have been left in ruins? Should all Europeans have fled to the United States of America where they could have had a better life? Syria has a rich history and has been a wealthy area full of industrious people. The challenge faced by the Syrians is to use all their vigour and energy to reinstate that legacy.
The challenge ahead…
The people of Syria have a huge task ahead, and they may need our help in achieving it. However, it is a task that has been completed before, and can be completed again. The worst thing for Europe to do is take away the young and energetic, the bright and vibrant, the intellectuals and determined; for it is those people that Syria requires in this hour of need.