Support refugees fleeing for their lives, not ‘refugees’ fleeing poverty

Pradip Rodrigues

Last week I spent an hour poring over pictures of Syrian refugees streaming into Europe. As I studied their faces, looked into their sorrowful eyes, I began to feel a deep sense of empathy for their plight. I scanned faces in the pictures and embedded among them were also ‘refugees’ from Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries trying to pass off for Syrians who are widely seen to be therefuge true genuine refugees. Why do I feel a deep and genuine sympathy for this wave of refugees has probably to do with the fact that there are thousands of middle class, professionals who chose to make a perilous journey across the sea with their families and infants. Obviously these families had to choose between the devil and the deep seas. Usually many who claim refugee status are men who once settled call for their families to join them. Which goes to prove that their lives weren’t in such danger after all. This is not an option for so many young Syrian families and their young children who’ve joined the exodus.

Europe is performing a commendable feat

It is unbelievable that not so long ago, headlines suggested that Europe had lost its taste for immigrants, especially Muslims, and here today they are in the process of accepting millions of refugees, mostly Muslims. Even the Pope has urged Catholic families to host one or two refugee families. I wholeheartedly support any calls to show compassion to genuine refugees and I worry that the goodwill for Syrian refugees may be eroded by the hordes of economic refugees from other nations who are taking advantage of the situation. Already there were riots among some Afghan and Pakistani ‘refugees’ over a Koran torn by one of them.

Economic refugees ruin it for real refugees

I have met several such ‘refugees’ from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh right here in Toronto. I was livid one time when I watched a so-called refugee from India on television saying how dangerous India was and that he was fleeing for his life, he lived in Delhi. He was giving India a bad name and I do agree that India can be a dangerous place for women, such fears are mostly overblown. I have family and friends who are living quite happily in India despite its reputation.
There are scores of South Asian ‘refugees’ who’ve come to Canada using fake documents and filed bogus refugee claims stating they fled in the middle of the night because their families were involved in politics and that political opponents were bent on taking them out. Funny thing is that  the man who fled for his life had no qualms leaving his family behind because he knew they were safe. Safe for the ‘refugee’ claimant too so much so that once most of these terrified ‘refugees’ gets their permanent residency, they buy tickets and goes back home to visit family and sponsor them all. Because I’ve met and read about so many frauds making tall claims about being tortured and discriminated against, I’ve rarely been sympathetic toward ‘refugees’ who fly into Canada because to me the real genuine refugees are the ones stuck in camps and don’t have the means to pay for a ticket, they often can’t even afford to get passports.
And I do believe that fake refugees prey on the generosity and naïvety of Western countries, while genuine refugees languish in awful conditions in camp and tent cities around the world.

Syrians are the true refugees

The plight of middle-class educated Syrian refugee families forced to leave their homes because their country is now a battleground is particularly heart wrenching. Just five years ago, many of these Syrian families looked forward to visiting Europe as tourists and here they were forced to settle for handouts. They had dreams and aspirations until the war destroyed it all.
But I find it hard to feel sorry for economic refugees or for that matter those fleeing poverty in their homeland. The reason is that they atleast have a homeland. There are poor and destitute people in every country of the world but they cannot and should not be qualifying for refugee status because it simply takes away spots from genuine refugees who are in real danger of being killed if they ever went back home.
I take a particularly dim view of Indians who’ve filed for refugee status and claimed their lives were in danger. These are the ones who apply for an Indian visa the day after they get their permanent residency and fly out to the country they ‘fled’ for a holiday. Some of these ‘refugees’ even invest in land or houses in the same region they told the refugee board was dangerous. Such ‘refugees’ should really be stripped of their status and genuine displaced refugees can get the opportunity to start their lives afresh.
Meanwhile we Canadians should continue to open their doors and hearts to genuine refugees in need of a home. Refugee families who will be filled with gratitude and embrace their new country.
The EU is right to insist that only refugees fleeing for their lives would be allowed to stay, not those fleeing poverty!

Pradip Rodrigues started out as a journalist at Society magazine, part of the Magna Group in Mumbai. He wrote extensively on a variety of subjects. He later moved to the Times of India where he was instrumental in starting the now defunct E-times, a television magazine. He conceptualized Bombay Times and became its first assistant editor where he handled features and page three. Since coming to Canada in 2000, he has freelanced for newspapers and magazines in India and written autobiographies for seniors.

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