March 29, 2022 | The Arab Weekly

Can the war in Ukraine breed ‘compassion’ toward non-European refugees?

The war in Ukraine has caused over three million people to flee their homes, ISD’s Jasmine El-Gamal has authored an op-ed regarding the future of refugee interventions.

“As Europe rightly opens its borders to Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s bombs, can European governments extend the same generosity to people who ‘don’t look like them?'” Jasmine wrote in the Arab Weekly.

Governments and media have rallied in support of Ukrainian refugees, highlighting the stark contrast in the dehumanising and ‘othering’ treatment of refugees from regions like Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.

“This rampant view of non-European refugees as “the other” and a potential threat to Western lives and livelihoods has allowed countries to weaponise, monetise and demonise innocent people fleeing violence and devastation in their homelands.”

Jasmine highlights how over half the world’s refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan, many losing their lives trying to enter Europe’s increasingly closed borders. Along with this, non-European refugees are used as talking points by European political candidates to win votes and fuel populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant movements.

However, the war in Ukraine could change the tenor of treatment toward refugees in the future, breeding “compassion” for “human suffering in times of conflict”.

“The response to the war shows that the potential does exist for the same European kindness and generosity that has been so hearteningly on display for Ukrainians can be extended to others that may not look just like them.”

Jasmine El-Gamal is a Senior Manager for Africa, Middle East and Asia at ISD.

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