President Obama declared that the U.S. will accept 10,000 Syrian refugees this year. Although this is a move in the right direction, it is a paltry effort for a country as wealthy as the U.S. Venezuela's President Maduro just announced that their economically strapped country would accept twice that amount. And Germany's Chancellor Merkel declared that there is no legal limit to the number of refugees it could accept, indicating that it would welcome half a million Syrian refugees this year.
The U.S.' current response today is as anemic as it has been since the conflict in Syria erupted four years ago. In that time the U.S. has only given asylum to 1,300 refugees from Syria. In 2013, the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the U.S. was a shockingly low number: 90.
While politicians in Europe and the U.S. twiddle their thumbs, the refugee crisis has provoked compassion in many common folk. Thousands of Icelandic people have offered to house and feed Syrian migrants in the face of its government's paltry offer to accept just 50 refugees. 20,000 Austrians took to the streets to welcome the Middle Eastern migrants who have been blocked from continuing their journey to Germany.
Meanwhile the darkest strains of European racism and hatred have emerged in the wake of the migrant crisis. Anti-immigrant mobs have attacked migrant shelters in recent months, with one group burning down a gymnasium on the outskirts of Berlin intended to house 130 of the 800,000 refugees Germany expects this year.
In the United States, the picture is not much rosier. Spurred on by presidential candidate Donald Trump's hate mongering, two men urinated on and beat a homeless Mexican man in Boston in late August. The attackers reportedly said, "Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported."
The conservative media may not call for beating or killing immigrants, but they help to create the irrational fear of immigrants that spurs on the ones who do the dirty work. In May, conservative pundit Ann Coulter argued that Americans should fear Mexican immigrants more than terror groups like ISIS. Is it any wonder that immigrants are beaten in the streets when journalists like Coulter make such outlandish claims.
Many politicians and journalists have condemned the anti-immigrant ranting of Trump and bemoaned the humanitarian refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and elsewhere but they have focused their rage on the wrong target: traffickers. In response to the news of 71 migrants found dead in a truck in Austria, the White House spokesperson Josh Earnest urged Europe to crack down on traffickers.
Britain and France, for their part, recently announced a joint command to "find and disrupt organized criminals who attempt to smuggle migrants into northern France and across the Channel." The European Union continues to meet the Mediterranean refugee crisis with a militarized response that seeks to turn back and prevent migration rather than helping the people in need.
While human smugglers often put migrants in life threatening circumstances on rickety ships or in sealed trucks, stopping the traffickers does not solve the problems that force people to flee their home countries. Incarcerating traffickers will also not stop migrants from seeking to gain entry to the more developed countries.
Echoing the view that Europe is under siege by refugees, U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage warned, "The problem we've got is we've opened the door to an exodus of biblical proportions, meaning millions and millions of refugees."
The reality is that Europe and North America have done less than their fair share in dealing with this global crisis than those in the Global South. According to the United Nation's latest statistics, the top ten host countries for refugees are in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. When adjusted for population, the only European country to make it on the list of top hosts is Sweden coming in at 10th behind Djibouti, South Sudan, Malta and Iran.
The United States is 74th on the list of host countries and the UK is 54th. Surely Europe and the United States with all of their immense resources can do more to address this humanitarian crisis.